Holidays without her

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We’ve gone on without her.  You start to laugh again. You start to plan for events.  You start to live and all the while, in the back of your head, you know that she is still gone.  It’s Thanksgiving and she isn’t here.  I still remember the last time I saw her and think about all the things I could’ve said to her and didn’t because we would see her again.  Except, we didn’t.  Her absence reminds me of how short life is and how trivial my troubles are in comparison to what has occurred.  How does one carry on when something like this has happened?  Life goes on and yet, it seems so strange that it does.

Still, there are no answers.  Nothing to say what happened to her.  I’ve supplied statements to the media, appeared on television, and posted many things about her, and it has been emotionally exhausting to try to continue fighting for her, but fight I will.  The investigation continues and all I can hope for is the truth.  The truth may not be what I want to hear, but it will be found out eventually.  In the end, I hope I have done enough by her to in her death to make up for what I could not do in her life.  There are so many regrets and what ifs and it keeps me up at night thinking about what I could’ve done.  I don’t think about saving her, but I think about how I could’ve gotten to know her better.  In death, regret robs you of all your options, for you can’t take anything back.  She is gone, and so is any future of reconciling my thoughts about her.

And soon, her birthday will pass, as will Christmas and New Years, and she’ll still be gone.  We continue to wait for answers, but I realized we haven’t had a chance to say good-bye.  I’ll be doing that soon privately.  I didn’t get the chance to say that the last time I saw her and no one got the chance to say good-bye.  I want to tell her that we still love and think about her.  I want to tell her that she is not forgotten and that I will continue fighting for her.  I may not have known her as well as I should’ve, but she was my family and I will fight until my last day for my family.  I hope you know that Caitlyn Xiong.  I hope you know.

 

The Logic of Fear

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Fear is one of those archaic primal instinct that has kept humans alive for over centuries.  Fear is ingrained into our DNA whether we like it our not, and although we like to believe we are move evolved than that, we simply are not.  We seek out fear.  We court fear and we can influence people through fear.  The more we deny this small truth, the more those who understand the power of fear can use it to control us.  What is at the root of fear is the desire to stay alive.  To stay alive, we will do almost anything and everything to assuage our fears, such as lynching black men in the 40’s and 50’s because we fear they are taking over.  Fear is stalking Muslims who are our neighbors after 9/11 because we think they may do us harm.  Fear is closing our borders because we are told that foreigners are meaning to do us harm.

To understand fear, we must understand how the instinct has worked for so long. We as a race have used fear to survive and thrive, and because of it, we seek out fear to keep us alive.  We want to be scared to within an inch of our lives on roller coasters, haunted houses, and paint ball games.  We want to know fear, but a controlled fear because it is exhilarating.  I saw a post on Facebook where someone said a group of men were trying to kidnap children into sex slavery.  There were various comments stating the police had already investigated and saw that it was merely a bible group who was aggressively trying to recruit, but many people did not heed these messages and continued sharing.  We live for fear because it keeps us alive and we excuse those that  rile up the fear in us because we thrive on it.

Those who understand what a powerful tool that fear is use it to control the masses and push their agendas.  Some ask how people can be so easily fooled when history has proven these tactics over and over, but these people underestimate the power of fear.  Fear will trump logic and it will continue to happen as we progress as a race.  The answer is not to bring more logic, but to understand how fear really works.  If you know that logic is usually thrown out the window regarding fear, you will see how people will use fear as grounds to do unspeakable things. I don’t know how to counter fear, but I know denying it will not help.  Fear is innate and will always be with us, so we might as well acknowledge it for what it is.

In Search of a Killer

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I first found out about my cousin’s disappearance from a random post one of my Facebook friends shared.  It was one of those things people like to share without really thinking about who the subject was, and the prettier they were, the more it was likely to to be noticed.  I did a double-take when I really looked at the picture because I realized I knew that missing girl.  That girl was my family.  I had just seen her at another family member’s birthday party last month.  And here was this picture of her saying she was missing.  I was dumbfounded that this was happening.  This happened to other people, but not to us, and we hoped that perhaps it wasn’t true.

When your loved one is missing and you’re faced with the options, you will pick anything over death.  You want them to be missing.  You want them to be stupid and careless like I was once when I was her age, not caring about my parents and making rash decisions because I didn’t know any better.  We thought maybe she was trafficked.  Perhaps she did run away.  Anything other than the idea that she was dead.  It’s hard to imagine a mother hoping that her daughter is trafficked instead of being dead because the first leaves room for her daughter to be alive, and the other doesn’t.  However, when you’re in that situation, you’ll take any  shred of hope that you can hold on to.

As the days slipped away and the circumstances of her disappearance came to light, we realized that things did not add up.  The way she went missing seemed very suspicious as her mother was the last to see her late Wednesday night.  By early Thursday morning, she simply vanished without a trace.  She left behind her phone, her money, and everything else that mattered to her.  It was as if she never existed.  How do you track down a ghost?  Someone who simply isn’t there anymore.  You start to question if you really even knew them.  With each day, we tortured ourselves with the details and re-examined what little we knew over and over until the items themselves didn’t make sense anymore.  How do you make sense out of a life that vanishes into thin air?  What do you have to hold on to except for the memories?

Then we heard the police pulled a body from the Fox River and we waited for what seemed an eternity for the news.  Some of us suspected it was her.  Some of us hoped for the best up until the very moment the words escaped the detective’s lips.  It was her.  There is a strange sense in knowing.  In not knowing, you could imagine she could be out there somewhere, alive. In knowing, we knew that her last moments would’ve been hell.  We knew she suffered.  We knew she was gone.  But we also knew that some families never get their loved ones back, and at least we did.  The investigation is ongoing, but there is a killer out there and we are looking for them.  Who the killer is is anyone’s guess.  It could’ve been herself.  It could’ve been someone she knew and trusted to leave in the dead of the night without her phone.  It could’ve been a stranger that abducted her from her room.

Caitlyn Xiong was a kind and gentle soul who loved children and wanted to be a teacher.  She hated bullies and wanted to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.  She was an underdog and rooted for people just like her.  She was also very strong-willed and independent.  Although she and her boyfriend had just broken up a few days prior, her mother said she didn’t think she was suicidal.  She wasn’t planning her departure from this earth.  She was planning for a future.  She had gotten a job so she could save money for a car and attend school.  She was on the verge of becoming an adult and reaching her full potential, but that was all taken away from her.  She will never fulfill those plans and we will never see them come to fruition because she was taken.

We are looking for a killer.  A killer of hopes and dreams. A killer of family relationships and bonds.  A killer of possibilities.  Because when she was taken, all of these things were also taken.  What happens to a life that is unexpectedly stopped?  Do the answers also stop?  In reality, what we really need to come to terms with is that once we do finally get the truth, it may come with justice, but no comfort, for it will not bring her back.

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Get Comfortable with Rape

Rape, molestation, and sexual misconduct thrive in our culture because we all choose to remain silent about it.  We stay silent in the name of ‘protecting the victims,’ but all it does is enables the predators to continue to prey.  Silence comes in many forms.  After a rape occurs, we do not talk about it, which causes a veil of shame to form around the victim.  When something is not talked about, the issue festers and the blame is internalized, causing the victim to question their own beliefs, while the perpetrator counts on the silence for their conscience to be free.  However, there is a silence most are not aware of.  We do not talk about what to do before a rape occurs.  Because we do not, there is shame involved with being raped and those who are raped are less apt to come forward.

When we start a new job, they tell you about what to do if you are not able to come in, but not what to do if you are sexually assaulted. When our children attend school, they teach them how to add, but not how to report being molested.  We do not talk about this subject because it is unsavory and hope that it does not occur, which causes more harm than good because in the end, it creates a culture of silence, where no one really acknowledges that these things happen and sweep them under the rug instead.  From before being raped to after being raped, we as a society do not talk about it.  We’ve got to realize that after centuries of experience, this is not working.  Being silent does nothing.

Every time a foster child is placed, we must talk about rape.  Every time we have a new wave of incoming freshmen at college, we must talk about rape.  Every time we we start a new summer camp, we must talk about rape.  Every time we start a new job, we must talk about rape.  The more comfortable we get with the notion that rape exists and occurs openly, the more we will allow victims to open up about it because they know they will be believed.  When perpetrators know that there is no more silence, they will also realize that they will face consequences, but if we continue not to talk about it, everything will remain exactly the same.

I’ve known many of my friends and family who have been raped or attempted to be raped, and rape is everywhere, but no one talks about it because we’ve been conditioned not to.   It is not up to the victim to report the crime.  It is up the society they live in to make it a welcoming enough environment for them to talk about. When you realize that you can be the difference in changing rape culture, you realize the importance of knowledge.  The more we can accept that rape happens and should be talked about BEFORE it happens, the less rape will become foreign and out of our lexicon.  We as a society need to acknowledge that rape is a very uncomfortable subject to bring up, but that what we’ve been doing has not been working.  Get comfortable with rape.  Get comfortable about talking about it and know change starts with you.

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The Idea of Marriage

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I’m nearing that age where the talk of marriage looms indefinitely in the air.  My friends and family ask if this is a thing that will ever come to fruition.   I tell them no, that marriage is not in the future for me; not because I don’t want it, but because my relationship does not warrant it.  My partner does not desire to be married and we’ve had  long talks about it, but it is not something he would like to do.  I’ve pestered him to the point where he has  said, “if you really want to get married, I guess I’ll  marry you.”  And that was when I realized that I don’t want to marry someone just for the idea of getting married.  I had to re-evaluate what my needs were and gauge it against the needs of my partner.

I asked myself what was really in a marriage.  Some people think a marriage will tie a neat bow on a present and that is the end of it. I get it.  They want me to be ‘settled’ and happy, but even those who are married are not guaranteed happiness.  No one is.  As a child, I’ve always had plans of being married in a beautiful, white gown.  Being proposed to.  Taking engagement photos.  Having a wedding song to dance to.  I’ve had to acknowledge that it is incredibly sad to let those dreams go, but at the same time, I’ve seen that it was simply that: an idea.  The idea of marriage is to bond two people romantically and legally, but it does not guarantee that that marriage will work out.

I know that he will not leave me.  I know that he would not cheat on me to the best of his abilities.  I know he would stay by my side if I got sick. I know he would stay by deathbed and hold my hand when I am old and fragile like the dreams I hold on to.  These are tangible things that I know will happen.  Being married does not necessarily grant that these things will happen, but we all like to hope that it does.  In my case, I would not want to force someone to marry me just because I thought it was socially appropriate to do so.  If marriage was important enough for me, I would simply leave, but I would never press that person into an entanglement they did not desire.

There are more and more people who are staying unmarried in committed relationships.  Perhaps it is because of the economy.  A telling sign of the times.  Or the changing morals and values they carry.  Or lastly, I want to believe it is because the notion of marriage is changing.  When you are looking at a 50% divorce rate, do you blindly put on that ring, or do you search out if you truly have a solid foundation to stand on?  It seems many people whose relationships are faltering are buying into the idea of marriage, but they  have not investigated if they are truly ready for the commitment or even try to invest time in trying to build the relationship from the ground up.  Often enough, they are broken individuals who are searching for something to make them whole, and finding it never does until they are whole themselves. For me, I have a solid base from which to build on, and if a marriage happens, I would be happy, but if it does not, I will be just fine. So you don’t have to ask anymore.

What leads good people to follow bad people and ideas?

When I watch the news and see all that is happening, I wonder how there can still be those who support the President? What can possibly happen so that not another person attends his ridiculous rallies meant to bolster his fragile ego? There are always those hold-outs who astound me, such as the people who continue to defend Cosby in the face of so much evidence.  What leads good people to follow bad people and ideas even when it is clear to so many people how bad these things truly are?  The same reason why cults still exist like The Church of Scientology and why people still fall for nationalist ideals.  When we fall for an idea, a religion, or a person wholly, we tie ourselves into that ,and we feel as if we are denouncing ourselves when we denounce what we have bought into.  Instead, we continue on blindly in hopes that there is a higher purpose, being, or meaning than us.

We tend to make gods out of mere mortals because we like to follow.  When someone gives your life meaning, you will view them as a god.  We want to believe in movements and religions larger than us because we want to belong and feel alive.  These things make us susceptible to those who pander to us because we want to believe in the goodness of others and man.  When we start to believe, we sometimes immerse ourselves wholly and don’t know where the idea starts and where we end.  When this happens, we find it hard to extricate ourselves from things that are no longer healthy.  If we can accept this truth about ourselves, it will be easier to swallow the truth that we have taken the wrong path.  If we never face this truth, we will be doomed to follow in the footsteps of so many that have come before.

Lust and the Objectifier

Lust, in it’s most carnal form, is desire.  It is coveting something that is currently not in your possession, for lust seeks to devour and possess all that is the object of obsession.   When a person lusts, the sentiment consumes all of who they are, and they make rash decisions because they can see no others but their beloved.  In actuality, lust has nothing to do with the object, but only the objectifier.  We seek to make sense of our lust by placing the onus on the object because it takes the weight off of us, but they may feel only apathy for us.  In truth, we revel in our feelings of lust because we build it ourselves.  We induce our own pain and suffering in the name of ‘love’ because we feel as if we are the jilted lover, but love is something different altogether.

Love is when you want to live with someone, but lust is when you can’t live without them.  We like to confuse the two to make ourselves feel better, but lust is a different animal that wants to possess wholly, whereas love is when you set someone free because that is what is best for them.  The truth is we like making ourselves feel sick with lust because it feels better than nothing at all.  We like the intensity and drama it brings into our lives and how it makes us feel.  It gives us a purpose and we read fate into it because we want to.  Love is great, but there is no other feeling like lust, for lust is really just unrequited love.  And a lover in agony is always the best sort of protagonist.

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