Author Archives: roianna

About roianna

Professionally I am a counselor, but I love writing so much I'd wish I'd given thought to it as a serious career when I was younger. I am liberal Secular Humanist who feels rather estranged from society given that I live in Texas. I married a Catholic of all things, and we have two children, Buddy and Sissy. Buddy has autism, Sissy appears to be developing typically, so things are never boring!

Evangelicals Were Never Worthy of My Friendship

I’m an atheist. Born and raised. And being a good person has always been a deeply embedded value for me. Growing up I was the goody two shoes who never talked in class and was careful to follow the rules. I was the kid teachers told my parents they wished they had a thousand of in class. My atheist parents are good people, my mom worked for nonprofits, I remember how when my mom heard that one of my sister’s classmates couldn’t afford a band instrument and was bullied for having to use the schools my mom went and donated an instrument to her. I remember them pulling over to help a stranded motorist when his tire blew, and my mom administering first aide when someone had a seizure in a movie theater. I also can’t even begin to count the number of stray dogs, cats, even hamsters we have rescued. Moreover, while my friends didn’t get along with their parents or found their parents abusive, I got along with mine and they were loving. We were a family that had a lot of fun together.

So, growing up in the Bible Belt, it hurt a lot when people told me that families like mine were immoral, that we couldn’t be happy or loving, that only Christians could be moral, happy loving people. For one thing is invalidated my whole life experience. For another it attacked the core of who I consider myself to be: a good person.

I believe Christians can be good people. But I don’t believe they have the monopoly on morality. Muslims can be good people. Jews can be good people. Pagans can be good people. Atheists can be good people. And, growing up, the way Christians would claim the moral monopoly, and on such scant evidence, hurt.

It felt as though no evidence of morality on the part of my family and me was enough. Because of what we believed we had to be evil. None of us have been arrested, I don’t even spank my kids (and was not spanked growing up) much less hit or attack others. We volunteer, especially because we believe that there’s no magic god who will fix the world’s problems, we believe we have to act to fix things. And in a lot of ways, this made it harder for me, because I was known as a good kid in school, and the dissonance that Christians who found out about my atheism felt was such that they would stop having anything to do with me and would shun me. They couldn’t point to concrete ways I was destroying my life. My family was more functional than theirs. So I was proof that everything they had been taught was wrong, and for that they had to cut me off. For being a good person who happened to be an atheist I was shunned.

Because of this, I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to see Trump come to power, enabled and supported by those evangelicals who would shun me for having beliefs they disagreed with while upholding good moral values. It’s taken me this long to write about it without feeling overwhelming hurt and anger. Still, hurt doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t think there is a word that can describe it. It is beyond hypocrisy. It is a focus on appearance and conformity rather than genuine compassion and caring, because apparently professing belief is what matters to evangelicals. Lying, philandering, inciting violence, enabling antisemitism and racism, bullying, tearing children from their parents and locking them in cages, etc, that is all okay to evangelicals, as long as someone professes to have a special relationship with Jesus.

Those evangelicals were never worthy of my friendship.

 

Advertisements

How We Failed the Franks

AFS_A_OFrank_III_001.013

This Father’s Day I’d like to talk about a man I admire. His name was Otto Frank. After his two beloved daughters were murdered during the Holocaust, he made it his life’s work to see that it would never happen again by publishing and promoting the diary his daughter, Anne, wrote while they were in hiding. Most people are familiar with Anne Frank’s diary. Not a lot of people are familiar with Otto Frank’s story. And given what is currently happening in the United States with the detaining of migrant children, we need to learn more about Otto Frank’s story.

Otto Frank was a man who loved his daughters very much. At a time when men weren’t expected to take care of children, he was noted for doting on his daughters, and Anne talks about him fondly in her diary. As the daughter of a father who was like Otto Frank in that he doted on his daughters, I related to that aspect, and I can only imagine how painful what Mr. Frank went through was by imagining how it would be for my dad.

Here’s the other thing people don’t know about Otto Frank. He tried hard to out run the Nazis. The Franks were from Germany, and with the rise of Nazism, they fled to Holland. They had thought Hitler would never have succeeded in conquering Holland and that they would be safe there. Only they weren’t.

When it became clear that they weren’t safe, Otto Frank tried hard to get his family out. One thing he tried was to get them to America, and even had family living in America advocate to get them there. The Franks were denied asylum. I strongly urge you to watch the documentary No Asylum which chronicle’s the Frank’s failed attempt.

Why were they denied asylum? Fear. People has made Jews the boogeyman that we continue to make immigrants today. The language people used against Jews then is the same language people use against immigrants now.

“But wait! The Franks didn’t break the law!” you might say. Yes, they did. Going into hiding was illegal. Failing to report to the concentration camps was illegal. Miep Gies, who helped to hide them, had to use counterfeit food ration cards to feed them. It was illegal.

When the law is not just and when the law does not allow for your survival, then you have to break the law or die.

“But wait! No one is being killed in the camps!”

The Holocaust didn’t start with people in camps being killed. At first Hitler just wanted Jewish people outside of his borders. But when no one else would take them, killing them became the final solution.

Here’s what wounds me. Otto Frank went to extraordinary lengths to keep his family safe. And he failed. When he was liberated from Auschwitz, he was hopeful he would be reunited with his family. He knew several of the men he had hidden in the annex with were dead. On his way home to Holland, he learned that his wife had died, but he was still hopeful for his girls. He spent six months hopeful that Anne and Margot would come home as he gradually learned one by one that he was the only one of the eight to survive. He eventually tracked down someone who had been at Bergen-Belsen with his daughters. He came home from that meeting heartbroken and told Miep Gies, “Anne and Margot will not be coming home.”

When I think of the pain of what that moment would have been like, I break down. And he turned that pain into the cause of seeing that it never happened again. I admire that about him.

And then when I look around and I see the path this country I live in is going, I despair.

Watch “No Asylum.” Read Anne Frank Remembered. Read The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. Look at what happened then and see what is happening now. For the longest time I told myself that if we could take something so tragic as the Holocaust and see that it doesn’t happen again then there was hope for redemption. I’m starting to think that we just don’t learn.

This Father’s Day, a lot of men who, like Otto Frank, love their children and went to extreme measures to give them a better life are now separated from them. We need to do better than this.

A Religious Change I Never Expected

For nearly 11 years of marriage, and sixteen years total of being together (dating/engaged/married), Andy and I have been in a mixed race, mixed faith marriage. He is a Roman Catholic, I’m an atheist. I was raised in an atheist family, and never saw the need for religious rituals and the like. Going into the relationship I had to accept Andy was going to remain Roman Catholic and that he was not going to change. For him accepting that I was going to remain an atheist was harder, but I think last year was when he realized the extent of the damage he was doing to our relationship by not accepting it. And the result of this was something I would never have anticipated.

Continue reading

March for Our Lives-FW

 

Marching was the last thing I wanted to do today. But I did it anyway. I joined the March for Our Lives protest in Fort Worth. I was tired, burned out from work, and would have much rather have slept in. But, after years of trying, and failing, to get people to care, now that people are finally giving a damn I can’t in good conscious sit at home and do nothing.

I graduated high school in the much hyped year of 2000. And I wanted to change the world. I wanted to organize for feminist causes. I wrote letters to my representatives, lamented that there were no organizations of like minded individuals in my school. Aside from me, no one seemed to care. Even in college, when the US invaded Iraq, I went to a peace rally that had a grand total of maybe thirty students. Even getting my fellow college students, who would complain about the campus housing constantly (there was only one campus housing complex on my campus, and they took full advantage of that)  to just sign a petition to have more than one option for campus housing was pulling nails, and this was something that impacted us directly! It felt like I was the only one who cared about anything, and trying to get other people to care and organized just got me branded as a nuisance. To this day I just accept that I’m going to speak out alone because no one will stand beside me. It’s lonely, but I can’t in good conscious stay quiet.

I know these movements come in waves. The 90s were a quiet decade to grow up in. I often feel like I was born at the wrong time. Now I have two small children and it is hard for me to join protests and be as active as I would like because of it. And it also feels like it’s never been more important to do so, because the changes I make now can benefit my kids in the future. Consequently, if we DON’T do something about gun violence, global warming, getting Trump out of the White House, etc, then my children are going to suffer greatly.

Yesterday I had a client in crisis, which as any mental health professional will say, is extremely emotionally draining. But the upcoming generation is doing something that people of my generation failed to do: give a damn. So I made a crappy poster even though I was exhausted last night. I put a lot of thought into the words but obviously, not the design. When I woke up I found my son had added his signature on the bottom, which is charming in it’s own way. He’s part of the reason I’m marching, so it was good to have his endorsement. It’s not the prettiest sign, but what matters is that I was there.

And so were thousands of others. Crowd estimates were between 7,000-8,000. There was one counterprotestor, spewing bile on a megaphone he did not have a permit for. While one of the students who organized the march (Lillian Scott) read the names of the Parkland students who were murdered and observed a moment of silence, he kept talking. When Lillian Scott started speaking, she raised her voice to drown him out, and we clapped. He was another example of right wing hypocrisy that will hopefully soon go extinct. The people leading the march are the future.

I used to be proud and excited to be class of 2000. We were supposed to lead the way and usher in an astounding new millennium. We haven’t. Right now I would have traded the empty prestige that came with being the class of 2000 to join a generation that is actually making a difference. I wish I were a part of this new and upcoming generation. Because when I read the multitude of scary headlines the plague our news, reading about them gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

But I’m the One Going to Hell

I was five when I was first told I was going to Hell. A friend’s mom said it to me. A grown woman said that to my five year old self because my parents had recently explained atheism and that they were atheists to me. Let’s just say, I was completely unprepared for the vehemence and hatred with which people would respond when I answered their questions about my belief system.

Continue reading

Of Wounds and Scars

For the past 4 years I have been angry. Raising a child who is disabled has forced me to confront a lot of the traumas I faced growing up while disabled, and then if that wasn’t enough, the 2016 elections happened, which were triggering for me on a whole different level. I was bullied in elementary school, and some people who worked in the schools told my parents it was the worse case of school bullying they had ever seen. Because of this, I never thought of Trump as a joke, I found him triggering and terrifying. And that anyone could vote for him, let alone millions, has brought a lot of trauma to the surface. Basically the message everyone who voted for him sent was that it was okay for him to bully and degrade people, and that so many people in the United States believe that and that I walk among those people has been disillusioning. For the past 4 years I have been angrier than I have ever been, and I’ve had good reasons to be angry. But it is not a natural or a normal state for me, and it’s not how I like to live.

They say write from a scar rather than a wound. And I’ve been writing from wounds until the point where I couldn’t anymore, especially as I don’t think I am terribly effective when writing from a wound, and also because doing so is so painful. Still, time goes on, scars form. I’m still attending protests, voting, and calling my representatives, doing what I can to fight the most dangerous administration I have seen rise to power in my life time. But the anger I feel is no longer as strong. It’s faded to a grim resolve. On the one hand I am horrified that I am no longer furious, because it means that something atrocious has become normalized. On the other hand, anger was consuming me.

I’m a long way from wanting to build bridges, especially as harmful people are in power, people who only care about the rights of rich, white, evangelical men. When people in power want to take away the rights of people who don’t have it, bridge building isn’t going to happen. There are still a lot of fights coming up. I am marching next week against gun violence. I will be voting for leaders who reign in a dangerous despot rather than enable him. And I’m at the point where I can write from a scar.

Either Inspiration or Failure, and Never Normal

The death of Stephen Hawking stirred up some things for me. Seeing him described as so inspirational because of what he did while disabled struck a nerve. Like Hawking, I am disabled, but in a very different way. I am autistic and I have several learning disabilities. Unlike Hawking, I am not a brilliant scientist and I haven’t contributed something amazing to the world.

Continue reading