Kaylynx: A Preface?
What is The Prose?
Seriously, I'm still trying to figure it out.
A friend suggested it to me. As someone who has tried all the typical platforms, from Wattpad to FictionPress, Royal Road, Quora, and literally everything in between, I immediately cringed at this suggestion.
While some places have value, a majority of them are cringe fests with angsty teenage writers who don't know our from are.
Still. I am quite literally a starving artist who has been working for 10+ years trying to make it as an author. So I said, what's one more website to try.
I've been here for... a week? Almost two? And here's what I've seen so far.
The people behind The Prose. Who tf are they and wtf do they do?
Well, according to their profile, they have made 535 posts, have 125.4k followers, and are following 69 people.
Their last 'update' post was April 10th of this year, mainly addressing bugs.
They supposedly have some kind of publishing service, last mentioned in March, announced in February. But their press page has literally 0 information on what they offer as a supposed publisher. While I have literally no opinions on this website so far, I would say as a seasoned writer who has been in the publishing arena for a long time, this is not exactly a reassuring sign and I would caution anyone who thinks they're going to get some big break out of this press.
But, again, I literally have no opinion yet on this website and also have no other information about the press to go off of, just basing this off the information that is publicly available.
Maybe I'll make it a point to look into it just for my own curiosity, but that kind of circles us back around to my first point of discussion...
Who are the people behind The Prose? And thus, that leads me to a second topic...
Is this even an active website?
Sure. On the one hand, I see a lot of content being posted and shared daily. So, for the users, it certainly is active.
But, again, back to point 1: what even is this website? Who's running it? Is anyone from the team actually keeping things up to date here? Or was it a Covid pet project that they ultimately got tired of and just happen to have enough money to keep the domain going while people continue to write and post on this otherwise unknown website? (I actually did go pretty far down their page to the end and saw posts from 2014 so clearly this place has been around a while... but dying out now, perhaps?)
I realize that may sound negative and harsh. These are just thoughts in my head as I actually take a little time to explore. Truly, I have no solid opinion on this website yet. Simply, some things I have noticed and that cause me to question.
What really began my questioning was the fact that I joined, published a few chapters of my novel, then got a bunch of followers.
Naturally, this was exciting, so I signed it to see what the fuss was about.
But here's the thing: my chapters have no views, no comments, no likes.
And one of my followers is... The Prose?!?!?! I am one of their 69 followers????
Okay, but for real. WHAT??? Why would they only follow certain users. Am I *Special*?
Anywho. I have a pretty decent understanding of how these places work. But to get followers with no actual views, likes, or comments on what I had posted is... odd. And not that I'm one to judge, but some of the names of these followers are... odd. Spam/bots, perhaps? I don't know. I haven't been here long enough to figure that out.
Which, really, is why I started this post. I thought - hey, if these people are legit - if this site is legit - maybe I can try one of these posts things and see if anyone reads it and has anything to say about my thoughts here.
Maybe things work differently here than what I'm used to. Maybe my stats are off? Maybe they are bots. Or maybe I could actually find more success here then I will on any of those other crappy websites.
I'd be happy to hear people's thoughts, successes, failures, things they learned, etc, on this mysterious place. If anything, it'll just go to prove if these things are actually read, particularly by my 10 new followers or whatever the number is at the moment. And if the number continues to go up, hey, it'll be good for my self confidence, anyway. So thanks for that xD
The world does enough damage on it's own. It doesn't need the extra help.
“Thoughts are Not Feelings” is Shitty Psychological Advice
If you have been in therapy before, or have ever picked up a cognitive behavioral or dialectical behavioral therapy book, you have likely encountered the adage that “thoughts are not feelings.”
This observation is often intended to help a therapy client distinguish between their interpretation of a situation (and what their thoughts are telling them about that situation) and the emotional reality of how that situation affected them. Take for example this passage from the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Bipolar Disorder by Sheri Van Dijk:
Van Dijk does on to explain that this patient is actually feeling angry or disappointed by how she was treated. But as Van Dijk acknowledges in her own text, determining the difference between a thought and a feeling is really quite difficult. Our emotions shape how we perceive the world, what we think about, how we evaluate information, and how easily we can “break away” from repeating an upsetting idea to ourselves over and over again.
Conversely, the content of our thoughts impacts our emotions. When we dwell on unhappy subjects, we make ourselves physiologically and psychologically more sad. When we are used to interpreting others’ behavior in the most negative possible light, we move through life routinely feeling belittled, judged, and alone. The relationship between affect and cognition is a two-way street that is never shut down. So why do we even bother trying to cleave thinking from feeling in the first place? They don’t operate separately. They bleed into one another, shift and intertwine and progress in parallel, always.
“Thoughts are not feelings” is also something that patients who heavily intellectualize and analyze their emotions tend to hear from their therapists — especially when a therapist thinks all that analysis is blocking the patient from sitting with how they truly feel. Take for example this exchange I had with a therapist many years ago:
If my therapist’s goal was to help me connect with and validate my own emotions, she could not have done a worse job. Rather than hearing the anguish and panic evident in the metaphor I provided, my therapist decided to correct me for expressing my emotions in a way she didn’t approve of. This made me trust her a whole lot less, and it made me feel that the way I emote is somehow “wrong” in her view, and that I shouldn’t open up to her judgmental, censoring ass anymore. (Though I’m sure she’d want me to just say her actions made me feel mad or ashamed).
When therapists chide their patients to share a feeling, and not a thought, they are typically requesting the patient provide a straightforward affect word such as “joyful”, “irate,” “disappointed,” “bashful,” or “sad.” And if I pondered it for a moment, I could explain in this case that seeing so many friends suffering did in fact make me feel both guilty (because I could not help them all sufficiently) and sad (because witnessing their pain brought me sorrow).
However, in that therapeutic appointment, I did not feel that emotion words such as “sad” or “guilty” did justice to the enormity of what I was going through. My mood was not just a tiny bit struck by my friends’ crises. I was alarmed and had been alarmed for weeks, and quite literally could not stop thinking about it. My mind kept generating panicked thoughts about how much was on my plate, and how little I could to do to make a difference in the lives of others. Emotions were embedded into the content of my thoughts. My thinking was clearly quite subjective, flowery, and intuitive — it was emotional. Yet my therapist shut me down for conveying my feelings by sharing my thoughts.
Unfortunately, this approach is very common under a variety of therapeutic approaches. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches patients to avoid so-called cognitive distortions by identifying whether their thoughts line up with reality. If a patient’s thinking is not strictly rational or grounded in evidence, then they are encouraged to dismiss or set out to “disprove” those thoughts. In this therapeutic approach, any and all emotions are considered valid, and to some degree unavoidable — but inaccurate thoughts are treated as a problem a person must train themselves out of having so often.
Since our feelings and thoughts are impossible to fully untangle, it’s hard to put this approach into practice fully. How can I really allow myself to experience my sadness without also observing that my mind is flashing with images of my family members dying? How can I find space to acknowledge my anger, when that anger primarily takes the form of internal rants about how misinformed everyone is and how nobody ever listens to me? Those thoughts also reflect my emotional reality. If my therapist were to neglect them because they aren’t “really emotions,” they’d overlook a huge part of my interior experience.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (or DBT) also involves instructing clients to draw a firm line between their thoughts and their emotions. Returning again to the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Bipolar Disorder, Van Dijk tells the reader that a statement such as “I’m an idiot!” is a thought, not a feeling. But is there a more emotionally charged thought to have than one that rejects your entire selfhood like that? It’s hard to imagine ever thinking of oneself as an ‘idiot’ and not experiencing a flood of negative emotions at the same time.
To say merely that one is feeling ashamed and embarrassed is to lose specificity in this case. “I’m an idiot!” (or “I feel like an idiot”) conveys that a person is experiencing profound negative emotions directed toward themselves, and that those negative emotions are connected to concerns about intelligence and capability, probably provoked by a perceived-screw up. That says a lot about why the client is upset and what past experiences and future concerns are being activated by their present situation. Why would a therapist ever want to replace such a rich, contextual discussion with vague faffing about their feelings?
Another reason that therapists and self-help books distinguish between thoughts and feelings is because many people do try and use their intellects to push unpleasant yet unavoidable emotions away.
Take for example my old colleague Brendon, whose parents had expected him to serve as their translator and unpaid employee when he was very young. Helping to manage a small business’ legal documents and keep its operations afloat at the age of ten years old had been incredibly stressful to Brendon. He had stomachaches and anxiety migraines as an adult that dated back to the experience. Yet whenever Brendon discussed his past, he was quick to dismiss his own trauma by highlighting all the generous things his family had done.
“My childhood was not perfect,” he’d say to me, after describing a harrowing encounter with government officials that he was forced to navigate on his parents’ behalf as a child. “But my family paid for my college, and they love me, and they moved to this country when they were in their mid-thirties and the adjustment was so very hard.”
It’s clear in this case that Brendon was engaging his intellect in order to keep feelings like resentment and sorrow at bay. In social psychology we sometimes call this motivated cognition — the practice of using our thoughts to arrive at the conclusion that we want. This is yet another way that thoughts and emotions cannot be cleanly severed from one another. We often try to think our way into feeling certain things — just as we often feel our way into specific thoughts.
Would it have been helpful for a therapist to redirect Brendon away from his motivated cognition with the phrase “thoughts are not feelings?” I don’t think that it would. Because in addition to the intense emotions Brendon was experiencing, he was going through a variety of meta-emotions too. Meta-emotions are the feelings we have about our own feelings, particularly feelings we’ve been socially conditioned not to discuss.
For instance, if a boy grew up learning that it was unacceptable for him to cry, he might become angry with himself for experiencing sadness as an adult. His anger is a meta-emotional reaction to his sorrow. I happen to experience this one a lot, by the way. It’s only in the past year that I’ve finally learned that when I feel the desire to go on snarky, cruel social media rants it’s often a signal I’m burying some sadness I think is too ‘pitiful’ to feel. I’m a toxically masculine man who hates his own weakness, and so I start intellectualizing away from my sadness by thinking very deeply (and very emotionally) about all the bad takes on Twitter that piss me off.
Brendon felt bad about resenting his parents. But he did not believe resentment was an emotion he deserved to have. And so he covered up his resentment with the meta-emotion of guilt — and that meta-emotion came with a series of specific, corrective thoughts. His parents did so much for him. His parents struggled so much more than he had. Their needs should always come before his own.
Brendon probably heard these messages from his parents as he was growing up — or he had it reinforced for him by the surrounding culture. There are a lot of conflicting influences and contradictory emotions swirling around inside of Brendon — and if we focused only on his emotions, and not on his thinking, all that complexity and personal history would be missed.
Many Autistic people are highly familiar with the complicated meta- emotional and cognitive maze that Brendon found himself wandering. We tend to live largely in our own heads, detaching from an overwhelming world by dwelling on our ideas and personal interests. We also are quite accustomed to being told that our reactions to things are incorrect.
One interview subject that I spoke to for my book Unmasking Autism, a young woman named Crystal, told me that she would experience meltdowns as a child when an unexpected change of plans threw her for a loop. If her elementary class had field day instead of indoor recess, for instance, she’d thrash and cry on the pavement in distress. Another interviewee, Eric, told me he used to get cranky and snap at people when he was at busy work conferences that became too noisy — particularly when the sound system made crackling feedback sounds that only he seemed able to hear.
None of the neuro-conforming people around Crystal understood she needed a consistent, predictable structure to her day, and no one planning Eric’s professional conferences recognized that Autistic people like him often require safe places to retreat from social data and sound. And so instead, both Crystal and Eric were frequently told by others that they were explosive, being sensitive “babies”, or making their feelings up. Experiences like these teach Autistic people that we cannot trust our own feelings, and that we should always closely analyze our reactions and make all our “wrong” emotions go away.
Because of these numerous invalidating and censoring experiences, most Autistic people are quite bad at knowing how they feel — especially in the heat of the moment. Scientists often call this inability to recognize emotions and body sensations alexythimia, and it manifest in many ways.
Autistic writer and researcher Stevie Lang has observed that during sexual encounters, Autistic folks can’t always tell if they have genuinely consented to an activity, or if they merely want to want something for the sake of pleasing their partner. During an argument with a loved one, an Autistic person’s speech might become clipped and loud without them even realizing that they are angry. An Autistic person I spoke to told me that she needs days to process and reflect on an experience before she can tell how it made her feel.
I am often the same way. Big losses and surprises throw me for a loop and leave me numb. “I’ll think about this and get back to you” is a life-saving phrase in such cases. My partner knows that when we experience any challenge, I’ll probably send them a lengthy text message explaining my true perspective and needs after a day has passed. It’s just the way I work. It’s how I and many Autistic people cope with the fact we reflexively censor and block our feelings. And have been blocked.
Thinking is part of how we arrive at how we feel. So for a therapist to tell us that all this crucial interior work is invalid because “thoughts are not feelings” is devastating. It shuts us down and makes us feel like we are wrong about ourselves all over again. This is only compounded by the many other invalidating experiences Autistics have in a standard therapy office, such as being told that our emotions look too “flat” or that we explain experiences in too much detail. We are always to much or too little. We truly cannot win.
Most therapists are non-Autistic white women who, for a variety of cultural and sociological reasons, believe that empathizing with a patient by looking at their face and instantly identifying how they are feeling is key. But Autistic people don’t work like that. Non-Autistic people are bad at detecting our emotions. Our facial expressions and nonverbals don’t look like theirs. We often convey our inner truth through lengthy stories, elaborate analogies involving our special interests, complex systemic analyses, and media references that echo how we feel inside.
Thoughts are feelings. And feelings are thoughts. Just as behavior is communication. Many decades ago, psychologists and neuroscientists did away with the concept of Cartesian Dualism, which tried to look at the mind and body as separate entities. The philosopher René Descartes believed the body was physical matter, and that it operated on animal instinct — which is still how many people talk about emotions today. He also claimed the mind was entirely spiritual, not physically instantiated, and that it was rational and moral in ways the body could never be. None of this is actually true.
Don’t Believe The Hype, The Billionaire Space Race Is Killing Earth
We know we must be living through a revolutionary time in history when billionaires are the ones pushing the frontiers of space rather than the government. For the most part, these billionaires seem to be doing an incredible job. Access to space has never been so cheap and widely available, allowing for blue sky ideas like space tourism, Mars missions, NASA moon bases, and the development of copious numbers of satellites to become viable.
Moreover, these new-age rockets can be powered by carbon-neutral fuel, meaning we are now capable of exploring the heavens without damaging the Earth. Right? Well, a recent study has shown that even these revolutionary “do-gooder” rockets are harming our precious planet. But how? And how will this affect the space race?
Let’s get something out of the way first; to develop an understanding of the environmental harm posed by the space race, we need to know which rockets use which fuel, and how much carbon they emit.
Firstly, SpaceX (Elon Musk’s company). Their Falcon 9 rocket uses kerosene fuel and emits around 425 tonnes of carbon dioxide per launch, along with water vapour, soot, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides (NOx). Their upcoming Starship also runs off methane, and will produce a whopping 2,683 tonnes of carbon dioxide per launch, along with even more water vapour, soot, carbon monoxide and NOx. Both kerosene and methane can be manufactured as carbon-neutral biofuels, but SpaceX doesn’t do that yet.
On the other hand, Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos’s company), is very different. Their rockets (both New Shepard and New Glenn) run on pure hydrogen and oxygen. This means that when they launch, they only produce water vapour and NOx. But hydrogen takes a lot of energy to refine, so most sources have a huge carbon footprint. Contrastingly, green hydrogen is a healthier alternative to regular hydrogen, given the environmental benefits involved in refining with carbon-neutral power. Yet sadly, Blue Origin does not use green hydrogen, meaning that even though their rockets don’t emit any carbon during launch, they still have a sizable carbon footprint.
So if someone tells you that these new-age rockets are carbon-neutral, you can politely remind them that they aren’t yet, and the fact that they aren’t yet should be raising eyebrows. If it is so easy to save thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions, why aren’t they? Well sadly the most likely answer is cost. To have the cheapest launch costs (and therefore get the most launch contracts) they are turning to dirtier fuel that throws a lot of carbon in our precious atmosphere.
However, a recent study has shown something astonishing. While each individual launch emits enormous amounts of carbon, that isn’t actually a problem, as launches are so infrequent (for now) that they are only a drop in the ocean compared to our total carbon emissions. The real issue is all the other emissions that are so high in the atmosphere. Let me explain.
We know what carbon monoxide, NOx, carbon dioxide, and water vapour do in the lower and middle atmosphere. But very little is known about what they do in the upper atmosphere, as our typical emissions never get that high, and none of those gases occur naturally up there. Rockets have pumped literal tonnes of the stuff into the exosphere, and this study finally figured out their massive effect on the globe.
So what did they find these emissions were doing? Well let’s start with water vapour, as is possibly the most interesting one of the lot. We often forget that water vapour is the most potent greenhouse gas, locking in an incredible amount of heat,because clouds (which are made of water vapour) dissipate pretty quickly. But water vapour turns into fine ice crystals in the upper atmosphere and dissipates slowly, staying up there for much, much longer than it should, and trapping heat in our already warming world.
It’s the same story with carbon dioxide. But because atmospheric density is far lower when you’re that high up, their emissions can cover a much larger area and can have a much more significant effect than carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere. This means that even if a rocket uses carbon-neutral fuels, it might not offset the carbon-driven climate change the rocket produces.
Then there is carbon monoxide and NOx. Carbon monoxide reacts with oxygen and other gases, messing up the atmospheric composition. This effect is magnified in the upper atmosphere, as the lower density means a single gramme of it can screw up a much larger volume of gas, causing more harm. But NOx is also reactive and is a very potent greenhouse gas. Yet again, because the upper atmosphere doesn’t mix much with the lower atmosphere, this horrific gas stays up there for far longer, causing much more damage.
But the study also pointed out that this abundance of greenhouse gases will affect how the different layers of the atmosphere mix. This is because they trap more heat in the upper atmosphere, making it ‘float’ to the top (hot air rises) and avoid sinking back down through the lower layers. This could dramatically affect weather patterns and the climate globally.
All of this means that, even though rockets emit a minuscule amount of CO2 into the upper atmosphere, their effects can be devastating and far-reaching. This makes a fairly compelling argument that even if a space company claims to use carbon-neutral fuels, they could still be causing significant damage to our precious Earth. But this study is far more comprehensive than just lifting the lid on the space industry.
The space industry is currently undergoing massive growth. This means that every government, rocket manufacturer, and satellite provider wants to launch more rockets every year. Right now, the environmental impact of these launches is relatively minimal as there are so few launches each year. But if we let the space tourism market take off, the Mars colony blossom, and new space stations flourish, then the number of launches will need to increase exponentially. This study has shown that the atmosphere might not be able to take such a monumental increase in launches.
If you consider that we aren’t yet on target to keep climate change to only 1.5 ° C, then it is easy to see a future where the space industry, and therefore the new age space race, has to be massively restricted to save the planet.
So don’t believe the hype. Every rocket harms the environment, even the carbon-neutral ones and hydrogen ones. We are only just understanding how these upper atmosphere emissions are changing our planet, but so far, it looks like it is definitely for the worse, and on a widespread scale. Could this put a pause on Musk’s Mars ambitions, or Bezos’s space station plans? Possibly. I at least hope they are discussing how to mitigate these problems, but looking at their track records, I very much doubt it. Instead, the burden falls on us, the public and the government organisations that regulate these space companies, to ensure that reaching for the heavens doesn’t cost the Earth.
Words of mine are spattered with bloody coughs, full of harsh truths coughed up in sanguine
The Absurdity of Arming Texas Teachers
It’s been just over two weeks since two Texas teachers were murdered in their classrooms. Before families could even bury their dead, our Texas leaders began a predictable and pathetic call heard all too often after these tragedies in Texas: we should arm teachers.
The Texas terrorist who came to kill these educators and their students intimidated an entire police department who stood outside the hallway. This was a well-trained police force (trained on active shooter drills as recently as March of this year), heavily armed, and heavily funded (40% of the city’s budget). But even they hesitated to face the threat of a high-powered AR-15 and the homicidal maniac who possessed it.
Besides the obvious dystopian reality that arming teachers would create, there are several logical reasons why this is an inappropriate and immoral response to this uniquely American problem.
#1 Arming teachers defies our training
A few year ago, the Houston Police Department sent a representative from the Special Operations Special Response Group to talk to me and my fellow Houston ISD teachers about how to handle an active shooter situation.
Training for these tragedies has changed a lot in my 16 years of teaching. Where we were once encouraged to merely hide, the officer explained that if it’s safe to run and exit the building, we should. He showed us different ways to lock or barricade doors. He walked us through how to distract or overwhelm a shooter if they make it into our classrooms.
But one particular instruction stood out to me that day.
“If you’re able to take down the shooter,” the officer explained, “if you can tackle him or disarm him in some way, I need you to kick his weapon far away from you. Do not pick up the firearm and point it at him. Do not touch the gun at all.”
I’m playing the scene in my head when he clarified his point: “When we enter the building, if you are holding that gun, we will shoot you. We will shoot anyone holding a weapon.”
And it makes sense, right? These response teams do not have time to discern who is a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” trying to kill everyone. Their job is to stop the massacre as quickly and efficiently as possible. Arming teachers in an active shooter situation puts our lives at risk. Full stop.
#2 Overwhelmed teachers don’t have time to train for war
The Texas legislature butchered school budgets during the 2011 session, and most districts have never recovered. At that time, I worked for Humble ISD where high school teachers only taught 5 out of 7 class periods. Two conference periods afforded us time to plan and prepare for classes, grade stacks of essays, and contact families about their student. Our district, like many others, cut one of those conference periods in order to balance tighter budgets.
Not only did this mean that teachers lost 5 hours of planning and grading time, but we gained 5 hours of work. Many of us went from teaching 150 to juggling 180+students. So, let’s practice some math. If an English teacher has a 180 student load, a stack of essays — if we give each essay 10 minutes for reading and leaving feedback — is 30 hours of grading outside of class time. I don’t know an English teacher who doesn’t take these hours home (because if we only use our conference periods to grade, that means students don’t get their essays back for 6 weeks).
Between caring for ourselves, our families, and grading just one stack of essays, when are educators like me supposed to find the time to become expert marksmen? Any responsible gun owner understands the time, dedication, and practice required to develop and maintain the skill of shooting a firearm.
In a war-like situation it’s even more complicated. My husband explains that when he joined the military, it took 2 weeks of 8 hours a day of training just to be allowed to begin to use the weapons the military issues soldiers. This doesn’t include the proficiency training required for someone who would be expected to shoot a firearm down a crowded hallway in a stressful situation at a shooter who could be wearing tactical, bullet proof gear like the killer in Buffalo.
Expecting overworked, overburdened, and underpaid educators to have the training required of our armed forces is not only unfair, it’s unrealistic.
#3 An AR-15 is no match for a handgun
Or are our Texas leaders seriously considering arming educators with assault and military-grade rifles?
My husband watched the video of the shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo. I have no desire to witness the massacre, but his retelling of the events made it clear that even the highly trained former police officer, Aaron Salter, didn’t stand a chance against the firepower this young man brought that day.
Within seconds of exiting his vehicle, he murdered three people and wounded one one just outside the store. Despite Officer Salter’s shots, the killer’s body armor protected him, and he killed the security guard. The terrorist went on to murder six more shoppers and wound many more.
“They didn’t stand a chance,” my husband explained. “It’s not like the movies. They didn’t have a moment to react. When those bullets hit you, you just drop.”
So if Texas legislators really want teachers to act as law enforcement or soldiers to protect our students, will we all be issued AR-15s? Because that’s what Texas leaders’ rhetoric suggests. If they truly want us to be at the ready at any moment to play war, we would need the same firepower as these terrorists, right?
And it can’t be just a few of us. We would all have to store AR-15s in our already packed cabinets, right? We can’t wait for the few trained educators who think they can play Rambo to get to us. We would all need to be prepared for war at all times, right?
The shooter in Uvalde — though he did find a door to access — could have shot his way into that school at any place and at any moment. A locked door was not going to stop a terrorist like him. He was in a classroom within seconds.
Reject the dystopia and embrace the data
Arguments to “harden schools” are beyond immoral; they’re ignorant. So-called “soft-targets” are a myth. Schools aren’t “gun-free zones.” We have trained, armed officers. Courthouses aren’t “gun-free zones.” They have armed bailiffs. These spaces are already protected by trained personnel, so to argue that they’re targeted because they’re unprepared is inaccurate.
If a “soft-target” is any place targeted by these terrorists, then churches and supermarkets and concerts and hair salons and garlic festivals and newspaper offices and night clubs and virtually any aspect of public life in America is a “soft target.”
What does hardening schools even mean? We already have single entrances for visitors and anonymous reporting systems and doors that lock from the inside. Since the shooting of Columbine, schools haven’t been twiddling their thumbs. From administrators to architects, teams charged with securing our schools have used all available funds and ingenuity to try to save lives. Keeping kids safe is, after all, our most basic and sacred duty.
But how much more can we “harden?” Do we install a TSA check-in line at every school? Do we have tanks parked in the front ready to out-weapon the AR-15s causing so much chaos? Do we need marines sitting on a stool at the corner of every classroom?
Militarizing our schools and corrupting our current culture of education truly sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. The rest of the world certainly looks at us like an parody of a Wild West film. And the dystopian data does reveal that we’re an anomaly.
If our Texas leaders refuse to take action, if they continue to blame doors or suggest anonymous reporting systems that Texas schools have already been using for years — if these lawmakers dare argue that “laws don’t work” — then it is up to Texans to take action in November. We know exactly what the Governor Abbotts and Lt. Governor Dan Patricks will do because they’re doing it now like they’ve done it before: more committees and roundtables driven by circular, empty talk.
We must be the ones to take action and vote them out.
Vote for a return to a responsible gun ownership instead. Vote to protect Texas teachers instead. Vote to protect little Texas hearts walking outside of our bodies instead. Reject the rhetoric, and vote for the Texas our children truly deserve.
Renata stood before the grave, careful to not crush the lilies and roses underfoot. Etched upon the stone was the words for a dead man. ”’Here lay King Elwin Niall, beloved ruler and father.’ I can tell Ophelia wrote it, didn’t she?”
The Third Princess of the Alkine Empire, more commonly the Forgotten Princess, couldn’t help but leak a visceral bitterness into her voice, Her stormy gaze shifts to the figure to her left, her brother, Lucian, the 1st prince of the empire, so to be king.
He shifts is head, a hand fiddling with a strand of coffee hair. The prince doesn’t return his sister’s bitterness, instead speaking in a calm voice. “I won’t defend her words nor our father’s actions, but at least to us he was a proper father.”
”At least to you,” Renata scoffs, Lucian flinches at her words. “I guess it’s easier to pretend he was a good man then remember what he did.”
Renata’s grey eyes return to the grave, millions of memories fighting to come back to the surface. The king was well known to love his first two children, always making time for them, always spoiling them. Never was this true for his last child, the one who was born at the cost of his soulmate’s life. The one he left to rot away and only bringing her to court as an act of torture.
Jealousy was a good way to describe Renata’s feelings towards her siblings. Watching as the king set aside time for them, never bothering except to scold Renata. Never once speaking a world of kindness about his youngest, raising up his older children. Always believing Ophelia’s lies about her younger sister’s falsified missteps.
Lucian and Ophelia reacted every differently to Renata’s arrival. The older kept his tongue unlike his sister, stopping her if she goes to far but never stopping her to begin with. Ophelia was a master of words, knowing how to make her words hurt. Renata’s cheek faintly stung with a ghost pain from when the woman threatened her just for daring to talk to another noble.
Lucian’s voice found it’s way into her rapidly spiraling thoughts. “-nata! Renata, you need to breath!”
The woman’s vision came back into focus as she found herself being supported by Lucian, the prince easing both to sit down in the dirt, ruining was is probably highly expensive fabric. His words are calm and quiet, but loud enough for her to hear. “Sister, if you can hear me, are you able to tell me five things you can see?”
She pauses as her grey eyes focus, she lefts a sweaty and shaking hand to point. ”The grave...Ms. Deidra’ tower, the valley lilies, my hand…and…”
Renata looks around again, settling on her brother. “You.”
He smiles, gently grasping his sister’s hand. ”Now four things you can feel.”
What can’t see feel? Everything burns her raw…”My clothes, the dirt beneath us. This breeze. Your hand…”
Lucian pushes on, a voice in the back of Renata’s mind says that maybe this is how he is trying to repent for his inaction. “You are doing great, now what is three things you can hear?”
”My breathing, your voice, a…the leaves rustling.”
His thumb starts to gently rub her hand, aiding to ground her more. “Wonderful, now can you tell me two things you smell?”
Renata manages to find the energy to snort while she continues. “Your terrible smelling cologne and the roses by the grave.”
He laughs while he finishes. “Is there one thing you can taste, Rena?”
A metallic tang fills her mouth, when did she have time to bite her tongue? “Blood.”
The Princess heaves in a labored breath as they just sit there infront of the grave, pondering the duality of the man who raised them, one raised by his kindness and the other by his neglect. It was Lucian who spoke first. “I know you love to write, unlike them I listened to the words you wish to share behind closed doors.”
”Why….” She trailed off, to tired to move away from her brother. She felt wetness hit the top of her hair, the unfinished question cracking her brothers facade.
”I was scared. A bad excuse I know, Rena,“ He all but whispered, daring to share the truth not even his closest confidant knows. “I didn’t want to admit it. Face the reality of who my father is.”
”I understand,” Renata consoled her brother, gripping his hand back. “The man you and I know where to very different people, yet the same man. You don’t have to feel guilty for how he treated me compared to you. Mourn the man who raised you Lucian, the man who loved you.”
She feels the tension in him collapse. He speaks again in a whisper. “What was the poem you wrote before this happened? The one you were going to show Ms. Deidra.”
She pauses. “Equivocal. To be unable to formulate an opinion on.”
Thus, the Forgotten Princess speaks words to a repentant brother, hope for the future filling the space.
The Princess’s Gold
Suzie looked dreamily out a window of the third story of her father’s mansion, her golden hair fluttering as the wind blew into her room. She looked at the fiery red leaves adorning the woods on the opposite side of the quiet street below. Then she noticed something unusual, a ragged man walking the street. Her eyes were drawn to the man’s opened golden pocket watch. It glittered in the morning sun. Suzie smiled slightly, then frowned as he kept walking away. She slammed the shutters and window closed as her breathing grew heavy. She looked into her golden mirror, and by the firelight of the golden candlestick on the adjacent table she saw herself incomplete without the golden watch in her collection.
****** ****** ******
The ragged man walked down the street, staring down at the road. He noticed a long shadow on the ground and looked up. In the middle of the street there stood a small figure silhouetted by the setting sun. The man stopped. A girlish giggle that normally would have made him smile left his body tense. The shadowy figure circled him, and as it was illuminated, he saw a young girl with golden hair and a white sundress.
“Hello. I’m Suzie Slasher. I saw your golden pocket watch this morning, and I really like it. Can I have it?” The smooth voice was not a young girl’s, but a full-grown woman’s.
“No, you can’t. It was my fathers. And that’s a rather rude question.”
Suzie clenched her fists. “My daddy will pay you for it. How much will it cost? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Just name your price.”
“I’m not selling it to you. Now why don’t you leave me alone?”
Suzie pointed at the ragged man, “There’s something you need to understand: I get what I want. You know, when my little sisters and brothers went to live on their own, I thought it was funny. Those fools had to work for themselves. But I’m especially youthful, so I’m my crippled old father’s favorite. When I make a demand, I get what I want.” She walked towards the man. “Now give me the watch.”
As Suzie’s walk turned into a run, the man turned and sprinted into the woods. He did not look back. As he dodged branches, fallen trees, and rocks, his feet started to burn. He stumbled and fell, slipped off his inexplicably flaming shoes, and stood and ran through the pain. Suddenly the path was cut off by a wall of fire, as was any escape to either side. He turned around, and Suzie was standing, staring intently. He grabbed a knife out of his jacket but was abruptly unable to move. The small smiling figure now held the open stopwatch. She took the knife from his still hands and examined it. “Blades are so boring,” she said as she tossed it aside. She walked away, everything frozen in time, except the flame now melting the ragged man into eternity.
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