Posted in From Kentucky

On Marshall County High, Parkland, and the NRA

I remember the Heath High School Shooting of 1997, mostly because my babysitter at the time went to Heath. She lost people she knew, and when I asked her about it, she sobbed in the car on the way to her house. I felt guilty for days about it. I didn’t mean to make her cry, I was just curious, “Did you know them?”

Of course she did, it was a small school. Nicole Hadley, Jessica James, and Kayce Steger were known if not by name then by face. It was a small school in a small town, everyone kind of knew everyone. Shortly after that, our Hendron Lone Oak Elementary School principal gave speeches and had us go through lock down drills to “feel more secure.” Every year, those became an annual drill, just like a tornado or fire drill. I can do it all by rote with my students today. The sad thing is, our principal probably assumed he’d never see another school shooting like that in his lifetime.

Poor man couldn’t have know that only two years later, we would have the Columbine Shooting. Instead of three, the number went to fifteen. In response:

In 2000 federal and state legislation was introduced that would require safety locks on firearms as well as ban the importation of high-capacity ammunition magazines. Though laws were passed that made it a crime to buy guns for criminals and minors, there was considerable controversy over legislation pertaining to background checks at gun shows. There was concern in the gun lobby over restrictions on Second Amendment rights in the United States.[133][134] In 2001, K-Mart, which had sold ammunition to the shooters, announced it would no longer sell handgun ammunition. 

In other words for Heath High School, the big topics of debate were mental health and video games. For Columbine, the topic switched to gun control measures to keep guns out of the reach of teenagers. However, the gun show loop hole remained, and still remains to this day.

And then fast forward to now. Marshal County lost two of its students, Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, to a shooting. The conversation on gun control was minimal, much like before with Heath. Only recently after the Parkland shooting did a father of a gunshot victim, Jeff Dysinger, speak up and call the mass shooting crisis what it really is: an epidemic.

It is a stark contrast to the Parkland shooting. The conversation changed from “thoughts and prayers” to gun control with furious passion. Friends of the victims have stood up and demand action, legislative or otherwise!

Why? Why does Kentucky continually fall silent on gun control? Or so vehemently against it?

Comments on both the Marshall County High and Parkland shooting for both Lexington and Paducah outlets show people continually arguing for more guns. “Put more security in schools! Train teachers to use guns!” or “What about abortions?! Planned Parenthood kills more babies every year than mass shootings!”

Both arguments are seriously flawed. Putting more guns in schools won’t decrease threat levels, it will only increase the threat levels. Putting guns into the hands of any human, be it a security officer, a teacher, a principal, or a cop means there are higher odds of teenagers getting shot, not less. All of these roles are filled by people, humans who get angry, hold secret grudges, carry ill intent unknown to others. We’re demanding that we put more potential murder into schools to prevent potential murder, and that seems unsafe in the extreme.

The argument of Planned Parenthood “killing babies” is deliberately falsifying a comparison. Planned Parenthood is an organization that must abide by the laws of each state, and commits legal abortions with the authorization of doctors. We can argue morality or ethics on the termination of fetuses, but these procedures are often medically necessary. Sometimes fetuses cannot make it, sometimes the mother has cancer, we as citizens shouldn’t be judge and jury on women’s lives or their medical charts.

But we as citizens should be worried about another mass shooting.

Kentucky has twice lost children to shootings, and the odds of those being the last are slim. Although most other crimes in America continue to decline, mass shootings continue to increase every year.

The idea that children should be able to go to school without fear of getting mass murdered should be a common sense/bi-partisan issue. The Parkland Shooting victims deserve to have laws put on the books in remembrance of them, same for the babies we lost in Sandy Hook, same for the victims of the Orlando shooting, the Las Vegas shooting, Columbine, Heath…

All of these victims deserve better than our current state of legislation.

The second amendment exists for the purpose of a militia, to defend our own country against dictators (or would-be kings, actually). It wasn’t originally intended to be used for the purposes of our modern era (i.e. gun collecting, sharp shooting, etc.). Additionally, as gun tech continues to grow, as in we can kill a lot of people with a very simple automatic rifle or handgun, and our legislation should be updated in accordance with the leaps in these advances.

Yet, they haven’t, and that is in no small part thanks to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA holds a strong sway over the politicians currently elected into Congress, with its millions lobbied into politicians’ pocketbooks to keep the gun laws lax. Why? The reasons are varied.

Many average gun owning American citizens are under the impression that if legislation goes through, their guns will be “taken away,” or that it would spell the end for guns at all. In response to the Sandy Hook 2012 shooting, actually, NRA donations surged in response to the gun control debate following the tragedy. Propaganda made the rounds on the internet and paid for commercials from the NRA that the government would reverse the second amendment entirely.

According to CNNMoney:

The call for stricter gun control laws from leaders like President Obama in the wake of this tragedy fueled these fears and prompted the NRA to rally its members to fight against new regulations.

As a result, gun sales soared, and so did donations.

These donations are why even petitions get signed and protests get marched it seems like the NRA only gets stronger and stronger, not weaker. In the 2014 election cycle, over $22 million came from individual donations.

And to be clear, yes donations. According to its own website, “The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.” The NRA isn’t a corporation, it’s not a company, it’s a “charitable organization.”

The NRA’s charity efforts are…few and far between. Most of the information online routes the viewer to gun safety classes, but in actuality the charity really goes to, well, politicians and congress. The NRA focuses on this aspect the most, for while the individual donations are rising, the corporate sponsors are the consistent source of income.

The “Friends of the NRA” has both a corporate and industry supporter page. Industry supporters include affiliated knife companies and (a bit depressingly) YETI coolers. Smith & Wesson, Baretta, Midway USA, and Ruger are a few of the names listed as sponsors past and present. Technically, they sort of sponsor each other. “NRA APPROVED” gets a banner here and there, as if it’s the ultimate seal of approval for their firearms and firearm supplies. Interestingly, the company Baretta has stores around the world, from Paris to Moscow, selling not only firearms but also clothing for “hunting” (i.e. safaris). The NRA approved safaris include Ibamba Safaris and Numzaan Safaris.

Basically, the NRA speaks not really for the average Kentucky Joe with his one barrel rifle, it speaks for the companies that need lax gun laws to sell more guns. There are “international interests” at stake for the NRA, not just domestic. The whole argument for Second Amendment rights is really just a smokescreen to try and increase stock value.

They increase the fear mongering of “losing your guns to the government” so people will donate, they make arguments after tragedies that “more guns for security” in schools is the answer to all problems so they can sell those guns to schools, and they will encourage people to get all those “nice safety accessories” not for safety in hunting but because it’s just more money in the bank.

The NRA cause is just…money.

After the Parkland Shooting, everyone wants to know what they can do to prevent another tragedy. The answer lies in cutting off the funds from the NRA to Congress.

One answer is of course to vote out the ones who are already backed by the NRA. In other words, GO VOTE. But we also need to stop funding the NRA ourselves. Look over the lists of industry and corporate sponsors, don’t give any money to them or their affiliations. Call, email, Tweet, get the attention of these sponsors that you boycott them until they divorce from the NRA.

And lastly, we need to have a conversation about gun control. Not take away all guns, not all people who own guns are bad people discussion, a real dialogue about gun control. We need to change the legislation to reflect the times. Guns will only get progressively more deadly, easier to conceal, easier to pick up and shoot.

If we don’t make the laws now to prevent further tragedy, we will have one again and again. We’ve seen from the past two years alone that mass shootings have increased. Without gun control measures to limit guns sold at gun shows (perhaps along with caps on gun production) and more stringent background checks, we’re not going to see any change in that upward trend.


Posted in From Kentucky

A Letter to Transylvania University from an Alumni [UPDATED]

Paola Garcia is a current student at Transylvania University, my alma mater, and a DACA participant. Recently, she was a victim of getting her Facebook profile posted to a hate group by one Taylor Ragg, also a current student. Ragg told the members on the group to “go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law.” Garcia is now being inundated with harassment, and the University has done nothing to protect her besides a “meeting to discuss social media sharing” and that’s about it. And so, I sent an email expressing my displeasure.

Dear Transylvania University Administration,

It’s come to my attention that a possible injustice is occurring on campus. Recently, I discovered via social media that a current student, Paola Garcia, has been subject to an extreme case of harassment by another student, Taylor Ragg.

Taylor Ragg
Taylor Ragg (Right)

According to the information provided by Ms. Garcia publicly, she is a senior working towards her degree who so happens to be enrolled with the now politically heated and news media buzzword DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). As she’s been in the United States since she was two, she knows no other country besides America and wishes to remain here. 

Paola Garcia.png
Paola Garcia (via CBSThisMorning)

Mr. Ragg, as I understand it, then proceeded to post doxing information about Ms. Garcia to a hate group called the “10th Crusade Enthusiasts.” If you aren’t aware of what the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts stand for, allow me to explain. 10th Crusaders are groups of people who believe they are on a holy, just, and “patriotic” mission to wipe out ISIS and all radical Muslims from the Middle East. Over the years the groups have become steadily more radical and hateful, often overlapping with other hate groups. These groups often target those they perceive as “foreigners” for harassment, abuse, and other less savory things.  

Inline image 1

When Mr. Ragg posted to this group, he demanded a call to action. To quote from the screenshot, “Everyone go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law.” 

[Editor’s Note: What I meant to say here was that by posting this call to action to report her he must’ve known he would open the doors for harassment and abuse to get thrown at her. On a group that’s known for its xenophobia, he can claim ignorance and his words don’t specifically say to harass her, but he must’ve known that would be a consequence of his posting her Facebook profile onto the group.]

As I understand it, that call to action [i.e. putting her profile up] asked others from a hate group that demands the killing of thousands in the Middle East to then harass Ms. Garcia.  This harassment –according to Ms. Garcia’s plead for help on YouTube – included images sent to her private inbox of members from the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts “threatening her with ICE” and sending “tips to Homeland security.” 

Under the discrimination policy crafted by the university to protect students, as I understand it. Here is the first line from said policy: 

“Transylvania University is committed to ensuring that the institution is free of harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, citizenship status, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief or veteran’s status or any other category protected by applicable state or federal law or local ordinance.”

Ms. Garcia claims she went to the administration to report this harassment, but was met with a negative response. Somehow, Mr. Ragg’s actions don’t violate the discrimination policy, which I find interesting considering the very first line in the policy states a person can’t harass another based on citizenship status. Ms. Garcia quotes the administration’s conclusion as, “Mr. Ragg posted your comment with a recommendation to readers about how to respond to it.” 

If that is indeed the response the administration gave to a student who was clearly under threat from a hate group, I find it quite disturbing then that Transylvania University would condone the behavior of Mr. Ragg. Allowing a student to not only call for discrimination and harassment, but even deportation of a student attending the university seems point blank against the non-discrimination policy. As I recall, violation of the policy would require probation or expulsion from the campus.

However, as I am only an observer to the situation, I can’t claim that I will have all the information at hand to make the best call to action myself. Ms. Garcia would like Mr. Ragg expelled, and such an action would be understandable considering she fears that her and her family could very well be taken away without warning thanks to Mr. Ragg’s post. I would call for expulsion if indeed all of his actions have met the criteria for violating the safety and well-being of another student, one who would live the rest of her senior life in fear of being deported or harassed before completing her degree. 

Please review this case, interview the students once again. Just so you are all aware, the 10th Crusader Enthusiasts group has been closed down. Ms. Garcia claims to have screenshots of all the materials she gathered to make her harassment report. I urge and plead with you to rethink how Transylvania University wants to respond to blatant racism and xenophobia. In the past, we’ve had a tumultuous history on protecting the minority students on campus, even though at the same time we have heroes on staff willing to battle a man who comes to attack students on campus. Whether or not Transylvania will continue to fight for what is right, I’ll wait and see. 

Thank you for your time,

Jessica Gordon

Response from the University:
Dear Jessica,
Thank you for your email.

Transylvania University does not condone or tolerate hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form and will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a University. We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or legal status. As per University policy, however, we cannot comment on any specific personnel or student issue. 

Thank you again for reaching out. We appreciate you sharing your concerns.

Michele Gaither Sparks
Vice President for Marketing & Communications
Transylvania University

The Kentucky Herald Leader has now posted ‘Report this illegal.’ Student seeks help after classmate targets her for deportation.  which includes an excerpt from President Seamus Carey:

“It is essential to remember, however, that the way we pursue justice is as important as the outcome we seek,” Carey said. “If justice is to be lasting, the means by which it is achieved is as important as the achievement itself. As a country and as an institution, we are governed by laws. These laws protect the freedom to express one’s viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are different from our own. Thus, there are times when our laws seem like an obstacle rather than a support. If we want justice to endure, however, we cannot succumb to frustrations that would have us break the law or violate policies.”

I’m not entirely sure what he means by this. Did Ragg violate the non-discrimination policy? Or not? What will happen now? Is Paola Garcia going to graduate with Ragg? I expect that nothing is going to happen, which is immensely disappointing.

I would prefer President Carey and his administration create a safer environment for Garcia, and see this incident for the violation that it is against policy. Claiming, perhaps, that it’s just a “freedom of speech” issue is understating the danger Garcia could be in thanks to this post and the fallout from their own decision. 

Transylvania University’s President’s Email to the Community in Full: 

Dear Campus Community,

Over the weekend, one of our female students posted a YouTube video asking the community for help in having another Transylvania student expelled from school.  The reason for this request is harassment she has suffered online.  This harassment has come from viewers of a website known for white supremacist sentiments.  These viewers responded to a post by the other Transylvania student that included a statement from the female student that she is undocumented. We have received reports that viewers of the You Tube video are responding with similar vitriol towards the male student.

Transylvania University does not condone hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form. We will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a University.  We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or legal status. Actions are legal or illegal, not people.

As I wrote last week in my message to the community, we fully support our DACA students.  We are doing all we can to make sure that Congress passes sensible, humane legislation so that our DACA students and families can move past the uncertainty they are currently experiencing.

In a recent post addressing the controversy of moving Confederate statues from Cheapside Park, I emphasized that as an educational institution, Transylvania is guided by the pursuit of truth.  We are also guided by the pursuit of justice. A Transylvania education is characterized not only by the knowledge we create and share, but the values that shape our character.  Bigotry and bias are not among those values.  Compassion, generosity, and justice are.

It is essential to remember, however, that the way we pursue justice is as important as the outcome we seek. If justice is to be lasting, the means by which it is achieved is as important as the achievement itself.  As a country and as an institution, we are governed by laws.  These laws protect the freedom to express one’s viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are different from our own. Thus, there are times when our laws seem like an obstacle rather than a support.  If we want justice to endure, however, we cannot succumb to frustrations that would have us break the law or violate policies.  The pursuit of justice is a long-term battle that requires insight, endurance, and resilience.  We are here for the long run.

I invited both of the involved students to meet with me this morning to discuss the uses and impact of social media and ways we might move forward. The student who posted to the white supremacist website has been in contact with our office but has yet to accept this invitation. The student who experienced harassment did meet with Vice President Sheilley and me this morning. We had a productive and positive dialogue with that student.  We will continue to work together with the involved students to arrive at the best outcome.  

Seamus Carey

As of September 13th, Taylor Ragg is no longer enrolled at the university. Herald Leader’s Linda Blackford reports

“Spokeswoman Michele Sparks said senior Taylor Ragg left campus following a grievance process performed by school administrators. Citing federal privacy laws, Sparks said she could not say whether Ragg had been expelled or left voluntarily.”

Taylor Ragg has since deleted his Facebook profile (oh, the irony) and left with only one quote to his name: “the Herald-Leader is ‘fake news.'” The MAGA and 10th Crusader Enthusiast will be running around to find a new university to graduate by next May, so…good luck to him on trying to find a campus in Kentucky that didn’t hear about this whole situation.


It could be that perhaps Ragg left because he himself was doxed. His contact information was spread around, which included his cell and home phone numbers as well as his home address. Paola Garcia had this to say about it:

On doxing Taylor.png

Garcia will still have struggles ahead and possibly backlash from groups for the incident along with the subsequent leaving of Ragg. Already, her YouTube comment section is full of the words “wetback bitch,” “cunt,” “filthy illegal whore,” and etc. With the press releases, the story will only gain more traction in the next six months with DACA becoming more and more of a political talking point, so I don’t expect the comments to get any better. 

So many, many things went wrong with how the university handled this situation. 

First, by ignoring the blatant violation of policy on targeting a student for her immigration status that was concluded as not a violation. It was, it’s the first line in the non-discrimination policy. How someone could look at that post and not find it a violation is disturbing, because it shows the administration must have a pattern of avoidance behavior for other violations as well. How many other students have come to the administration and received similar results? It seems to me the administration could do with some reeducation on what it means to protect minority students and perhaps even some better training on diversity issues in general. 

Second, the administration failed Garcia in supporting her with the harassment and her fears of deportation. This young woman felt so desperate for help that she posted a YouTube video, because the administration essentially told her she was on her own in dealing with this situation, a situation in which she was terrified meant dealing with a virtual angry mob and their subsequent abuse along with the very real possibility of getting removed from the country before getting her degree. Why didn’t the administration assure her they’d support her? Why didn’t they connect her to campus security and get her set up with a report (you can inform them you fear for your safety, I did once, long story)? She was left bereft and scared, so she reached out to outside of campus for help. The administration should’ve done better by her. 

Third, they wanted her and the one who brought harassment on her to have a group discussion, as if this was some playground kindergarten fight. Now I could be reading the President’s email he sent out wrong, but it seems as if he’s suggesting everyone sit down and talk it out. No, no, no, sir, you don’t have a harasser and their target sit down to talk it out, whether the topic be social media sharing or what you’re all having for lunch on Tuesday, you don’t have the harasser meet with their victim. Two separate meetings? Fine, but having the guy who wants her deported come in so both of them can get a lecture as if they both deserve equal reprimanding for wrongs done. 

He tried to get her deported, she pleaded for help, the two are not on equal grounds for a lecture or discussion. No to mention, yes Garcia is a minority student and Ragg is a white student, that matters, especially when Garcia could be in a room with two white males versus herself. That wouldn’t be a room she’d walk into expecting good times to happen, and she’d come in ready to be dismissed, belittled, or otherwise harassed again. Not to mention, while Transylvania University’s history of predominant whiteness doesn’t mean it’s malevolent or intentionally racist, there is a system in place that favors the white over the others just by virtue of legacy students and through “traditional” ways of doing things there. Garcia is at a disadvantage, and trying to make it appear she doesn’t is problematic. 

From here, I’d like to see changes implemented by the university that better support minority students, especially ones like Paola Garcia, as well as protect them from harassment. We’ll see how things go, but I’m sorry to say, I’m not hopeful. 

 *Updates will continue as this story progresses 

Posted in From Kentucky

A Salute to Transylvania University

I want to talk about a small campus in Kentucky. Established in 1780, its one of the oldest universities in the United States. Transylvania taught me how to not only have a voice, but also how to use it effectively. The professors engaged me in every subject, as it is a liberal arts institution, and so I became more aware and open minded than I’d ever hoped to become.

See, when I say engaged, I don’t mean they simply lectured and forgot about the students. I regularly talked with professors outside of my classroom. My friends at other colleges and universities complained they never saw their advisers or professors. Meanwhile, I constantly had access to both.

I talked with Anthony Vital for hours about how Wordsworth was an absolute traitor to the Romantic cause, and that’s why Byron was obviously the superior Romantic writer, if only in spirit.

I discussed with Scott Whiddon about the rhetoric of, not joking, dating sites and the whole language of advertisements in conjunction with selling a romantic narrative.

Martha Gehringer believed that I wasn’t a serious writer, but she supported my efforts in writing none-the-less, and thanks to her I knew about Strunk’s “Elements of Style” and “The Handmaids Tale.”

Elizabeth Corsun taught me to see through narrative structure, to read between the lines and see the history behind the words in a sentence.

From the Registrar to the whole Financial Aid Office to Herr Weber to Tay Fizdale to Mike Vetter (sorry I still became an English Major, sir) to President Shearer himself, I could pen a hundred different love letters to so many people on that campus. I even became a part of a Love Letter in a project helmed by Professor Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde. The love and support on that campus makes it one of the best places to learn in the country.

Every single moment I spent on that campus made me a better person, and I felt secure there to become that person.

And even outside of the classrooms, the staff were like family. I knew Miss Erika and Marcia from Jazzmans, the same Erika who is now also a hero. I got coffee and a lot of great advice from both of them, as they helped me through some tough study sessions in the cafe. When I heard that Miss Erika picked up a chair to wield off an attacker, I felt too proud for words. She was quoted saying, “These students are our babies. Nobody’s going to hurt one of them without a fight.”

I cried when I read that line, because I know she means it. She and Marcia are there for every student who needs them, in the good times and the bad. They are amazing women, and they are a part of what Transylvania so great, what makes it feel like a home and not just some dorms and old buildings.

I applaud Joy Henderson, how she stayed with the stabbing victim from the attack, holding the wounds until paramedics arrived. It takes a strong person to go into the fray to stay and help in an ongoing attack, not to mention courage. Her fortitude amazes me, as well as her caring so much for someone in need of dire help.

Campus security men and women are dedicated to helping students. You call them and they are there. These same people would drive me to my dorm in the dark of the night from campus parking and start my car if my battery died to go home for winter break. They tackled the attacker after entering the coffee shop, refusing to let him harm any more of the students.

To top it all off, President Seamus Carey assisted in the take down. Humbly omitting that fact from his letter to the campus, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming pride that my alma mater chose this man to represent us. A man who values the students more than his pride and ego is exactly what Transylvania is all about.

I am so unbelievably proud of my alma mater. I know that perhaps current students might not feel that way, with maybe their sense of security gone. Yet, the swift response from the staff to security to the administration all coming together to stop this senseless act of violence is astounding. I have to respect the actions taken by all of the people involved, and also recognize that these people were heroes long before this news hit.

Many will want to talk about the attacker, feed into a vicious news cycle that wants to give more focus on the violence than the school. I refuse to be a part of that cycle. Call him terrorist or by name, no one should be given fame for doing something so horrific. I would rather focus my narrative on the people who mean the most to me, and the ones who deserve recognition.

Everyday, Transylvania University endeavors to be the best place for its students to learn. From the classrooms to the cafes to the offices, this university is built on foundations of compassion as well as liberal education ideals. Not all people have felt as secure as I did, or as welcome. Every institution will have its faults, but I can honestly say that Transylvania was the best choice I could’ve ever made. Even years later, I’m proud to say I’m a Pioneer.

Hail Transylvania, thine own are we.


Posted in From Kentucky

How You Can Support Muslims and Refugees in Kentucky

Needless to say, I disagree with both the Muslim travel ban and the executive ordered refusal of refugees into the United States. As such, I want to endeavor to help those who are in need of aid.

Luckily, there has been a stay on the executive order that allows legal Muslim citizens to return to the U.S., but what about when they return to a country that has seemingly targeted them as enemies? Refugees who will feel isolated and cut off from home? There are things we Americans, and specifically Kentuckians, can do to help them.

Contacting Politicians

Having our voices heard is a vital part of our democracy. Governor Matt Bevin needs to hear the stories and know that people care enough to call. If you disagree with the ban and the turning away of refugees, call him at (502) 564-2611. If you have Twitter, his handle is @GovMattBevin. He also has a Facebook page to which you can send messages. You can also send mail to:

700 Capitol Avenue
Suite 100
Frankfort, KY 40601

If you’re not a citizen of Kentucky, you can go to Refugee Council USA to find contact information for your state governor and legislators. They have a sample script for phone calls that you can use:

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State], and I support refugee resettlement in the U.S. I am strongly opposed to President Trump’s decision to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, pause the refugee resettlement program, and reduce the number of refugees we welcome. This discriminatory announcement is morally reprehensible, runs counter to who we are as a nation, and does not reflect the welcome for refugees I see in my community every day. I urge you to do everything in your power to see this announcement reversed.”

As well advice for tweeting out to Presdient Trump and your state representative.

Tweet @realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, and @ your Senators/Representatives: “.@[HANDLE], my community stands w/ ALL refugees! Support refugee resettlement & reject discrimination! #RefugeesWelcome”

One of the best ways to make your voice heard is by sending the White House a message via Facebook message at or submit an electronic message at

Help Refugees in Your Area

There are four refugee resettlement agencies in Kentucky. In the Louisville and Lexington area, we have Kentucky Refugee Ministries Inc.  KRM seeks put employers to make employment services. Over 200+ Kentucky employers hire refugees, and they help refugees support their families in their new lives. There is also a call for volunteers, perhaps by “tutoring kids after school, practicing English with adults, or helping someone find their first job in the U.S.” However, do be aware that there is an application process, so please be patient with the organizations if they don’t return your queries to help right away.

Two really interesting ideas from the site are writing welcome cards to refugees and showing support through multi-lingual signs. Since the order bars refugees from arriving for 120 days, you can write cards or letters “for those families who are already here and for those who will arrive after the suspension is lifted. On the cards, you can write welcome in different languages. Get the kids involved by drawing pictures and adding stickers. Drop them off at KRM or deliver them to [KRM] offices so staff can get them into the hands of refugee families.” It’s a nice little gesture that might not change the world, but it could mean the world to one family.

KRM suggests putting up “a sign of welcome in multiple languages outside your home or business showing your support for your neighbors to see.” The link above is for the PDF versions of the various multilingual signs. After all, America has no official language, no official religion, and we shouldn’t be banning anyone based on religion or creed.

On there you can also sign the Kentucky-wide petition calling to keep Kentucky welcoming. The petition is organized as part of KRM’s coalition organizing a statewide event, the fourth annual Refugee and Immigrant Day at the Capitol on February 16th at the capitol Frankfort.

In the Bowling Green and Owensboro area, we have the International Center of Kentucky. They provide many of the same services as KRM, including helping refugees find employment, legal aides, translation services, and so on. You can apply to be an individual volunteer, but there is the option to do group volunteer activities as well.

The International Center has a Mentor system, wherein you can apply to help a specific refugee family get back on their feet. The application process is a little more rigorous than the volunteer one, so please be aware of that. However, if you live in these areas and wish to help, fill out the application in the link above. If you have any questions about the mentor program, you can call or visit one of the offices below.

Bowling Green Office
806 Kenton Street,
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101
P: (270) 781-8336
F: (270) 781-8136

Owensboro Office:
2818 New Hartford Road, Entrance N
Owensboro, Kentucky 42303
P: (270) 683-3423
F: (270) 683-3425

For those looking for refugee aid centers and resettlement organizations, here is the list of refugee resettlement agencies by state. Please, find the one close to you and offer your support to help keep services for refugees to continue rebuilding their lives.

Give Donations

In Kentucky, there are various ways you can give. KRM has a donation page that requests for both donation items and funds. The donation items are helpful in refugees starting a new life, and the funds will be helping KRM to assist refugees in the state. The Int. Center of KY also have an easy donation page where you send support them via PayPal.

If you want a site that’s multi-lingual, then head over to the Refugee Center Online. It has up to date information on the ban and what refugees can do now to protect their status. You can also donate to the Refugee Center here.

For these organizations, every little bit helps. Please consider giving to help those who really need it right now.

If you can’t do everything, do what you can. Take some time on Saturday to help someone learn English. If you can’t volunteer, send some blankets or preserved food. Give just $5 to one of these organizations. Take a moment to lambaste a governor or a president on your lunch break. Or just put up a sign that you’re in solidarity with the freedoms America was founded upon, and tell the world you stand on the right side of history. Past, present, and future.

Posted in From Kentucky

Kentucky Laws on Abortion: Worse Than Ever for Women

I remember sitting in the pews of a Baptist church as a pastor condemned abortions, because “baby killers don’t deserve heaven.” In true hypocritical fashion, I knew the adults refused to let most of their precious children learn learn about sex ed. But abortions? They dedicated a full hour, because it’s easier to condemn than understand, easier to villianize than to empathize.

The sermons have made their way into Kentucky General Assembly, where a 20 week abortion ban was just approved. I’m not claiming surprise, as the Republicans have been biting at the bit for years to get this legislation passed. Bevin and his followers want to paint the picture of loose women who want to kill babies, that they’re just trying to “save lives and do God’s work.”

This is a false narrative, because if Bevin wanted to save lives then he wouldn’t be repealing Medicaid, he wouldn’t be putting people in more dire straits with Right to Work. He’s essentially stripped away the possibility of getting- already low bar- healthcare and taking money from women’s pockets.

Kentucky has been consistory ranked low on healthcare in general, with women’s healthcare even lower. Right now the state is ranked at 44 (it was 47), with Louisiana being the worst at 50. Kentucky ranks at 47 for Women’s Life Expectancy at Birth, with a 45 for socio-economic and wellbeing, but a 35 for overall care. In other words, basic healthcare is livable, but having a child is dangerous. After having a child, a woman’s economic hardships will be a harsh reality.

Did you know that it on average costs over $300,000 to raise a child in America? Republicans will tell you that you can’t put a cost on a life, but that’s easy to say if one’s world isn’t based primarily in agriculture and coal mining. Kentucky farmers and miners don’t even reach to $20,000 annual these days for household income.

And now let’s get into the pre-birth costs. Prenatal vitamins with health insurance are covered, but without it you’re looking at a $2,000 expense. Then, add in about $450 dollars for bottles, maternity clothes, etc. In addition, add in cost of taking days off from work or having to quit work altogether. With no standard maternity in America, women will have to either use vacation days or just not get paid (or lose their jobs because a boss expects her to be a full time mom now).

“What to Expect” gives great advice for mommies to be, and prepares women for the sticker shock of having a child. With insurance, a baby can cost between $5,000-10,000 for birth alone. But then:

While maternity expenses for insured moms might seem high, the numbers are far higher if you have no insurance at all. The Truven Report put the uninsured cost of having a baby at anywhere from $30,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth to $50,000 for a C-section. And those prices have increased dramatically in the last four years. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, the cost of having a baby increased 50 percent between 2004 and 2010, and they’ve likely increased since then.

Maternity costs can also vary from state to state by 50 percent and even more within some states, according to the Truven report. A 2014 study by the University of California, San Francisco found that hospital charges for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery ranged from $3,296 to $37,227, depending on the hospital. For a C-section, costs ranged from $8,312 to nearly $71,000.

Legislators don’t want this narrative. They want to pretend that all moms have magical karma that will prevent them from coming into economic hardships. The fact is though, it’s getting to the point where debt and motherhood are intertwined together as a moral must, that a woman must be expected to carry and birth and raise without mentioning that she can’t afford to even feed herself, how can she afford a child?

How can she afford even an ultrasound? Under the new law, a woman must receive one before she can move forward with the abortion procedure. “The bill requires a physician or qualified technician to perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman may view the images.” Already the ACLU has deemed the move reprehensible enough to sue, but in addition to that,  “The medical staff will be required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible.”

Ultrasounds are expensive, and ultimately unnecessary for abortions in the first trimester. However, Kentucky legislators want women to “make the best medical choices possible,” by shaming them into seeing a fetus most women in Kentucky can’t truly afford to bring into the world. There are conflicting articles that report the ultrasound might be an intra-vaginal ultrasound, which is not only highly unnecessary, but also more expensive that the average over the belly ultrasound. Also, an intra-vaginal ultrasound is an invasive procedure, one that even one woman said felt akin to being raped.

So let’s put money aside and wade into darker waters. Rape, sexual assault, and incest are not exclusions to the new 20 week abortion limit. Kentucky ranks 41 in rape crimes, with over 997 reports. One would imagine that women after being raped would be given information about abortion procedures after a rape, but they’re not (bold added by me):

Every hospital with emergency room services shall have a physician or sexual assault nurse available to examine victims of sexual offenses reported to a law enforcement agency. Such examinations must include emergency room treatment, evidence gathering services, tests, and information about services for treatment of venereal disease, pregnancy, and other medical or psychiatric problems. The pregnancy counseling provided to victims of reported sexual offenses may not include abortion counseling or referral. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 216B.400 (Enacted 1974; Last Amended 2006).

Women who have been raped may be given the Plan B pill, but that’s not guaranteed. In the event a teen is raped by her father, well, she will have even worse problems:

Written informed consent with 24-hour waiting period of mother; of one parent or guardian if mother under 18 and unemancipated, except when medical emergency or by judicial proceedings for court to waive parental consent; doctor must notify spouse if possible prior to abortion, if not possible, within 30 days of abortion [notification of spouse has been held unconstitutional by the attorney general. OAG 82-97.]

Let’s paint this picture then: A young girl is raped by her father/brother/uncle, so she goes to the emergency room. When she does, they test her, patch her up, perhaps get her in contact with counseling and police. They don’t mention where to go for an abortion. She discovers she’s pregnant, but her father/brother/uncle won’t give her consent to get the procedure.

Without consent, she would need to find a judge who will believe her, within 20 weeks. The judges will all have waitlists and backlogs. She needs to find a place to get one, unaware that Kentucky only has two abortion clinics in the entire state. Someone has to drive her to Louisville, to EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which has a waitlist and a back log. Not to mention the money, to the tune of over $650 (not including the drugs and consultation fee). How to get that as a teen with no money?

On top of all this, she must go through an intra-vaginal ultrasound, reliving the trauma of her rape, while a doctor tells her what the fetus looks like, and shows her the image. Basically, at this point, it’s state required torture and trauma. These narratives aren’t what get heard at the $70,000 tax payer cost emergency sessions. No, these narratives are called “rare,” blatantly ignoring that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted before reaching 25, some statisticians calling that number hopeful.

Bevin has made it very clear in the fine print of his 20 week abortion limit that he thinks men should have the right to a final say. In here, its stated that a man can sue if a woman gets an abortion without his notice. In other words, a rapist can sue his rape victim over an abortion. A victim of rape can be attacked again, and have her life ruined, and it’s perfectly legal.

Women deserve better, we deserve to be treated as equal citizens, with full control over what happens to our bodies. Treating a fetus with more respect and love than for the women that hold them isn’t godly, it’s tyrannical. Taking away Medicaid, forcing women to pay out of pocket for every single step of a pregnancy isn’t pro-life, its pro-birth. Forcing women to accept a baby from rape and incest is asking her to go through hell, and pay money for the experience for the rest of her life. Giving men a revenge clause for women taking control of their lives and their bodies is beyond shameful, it’s disgusting.

Pro-choice doesn’t mean anti-birth; it means seeing the world as it is, seeing the cruel realities women live with. We need better protections for women to get all the medical treatment they need, and that includes abortions, that includes Medicaid and affordable healthcare, that includes being able to have full access to information at hospitals. We need to start preaching for women instead of against them.

Posted in From Kentucky

Kentucky Judge Calls Out Mistreatment

“Am I in the Twilight Zone?! What is happening?” Judge Amber Wolf proclaims, “This is outrageous!”

After being held in a jail for three days, a resident of Louisville was refused both pants and feminine hygiene products. Judge Amber Wolf didn’t waste time and called up the jail she served time in, and let them have her wrath. Due to the inhumane treatment, she dropped the charges to a $100 fine with time served.

I have got to applaud Judge Wolf for her reaction to an obvious injustice and putting it to rights. Kentucky unfortunately has a bad reputation for being a backwards thinking state (here’s lookin’ at you Kim ugh Davis), but here’s an example of someone in the court system in Kentucky fighting for decent treatment of women.

It’s becoming more well known that the United States prison system is not exactly kind to female inmates. Only just this year, a New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras formally introduced her long-awaited package of bills that would “make menstrual products free and accessible in correctional facilities, as well as in public schools and homeless shelters.” These bills came in response to complaints from inmates about being denied feminine products either due to lack of supplies or from abusive guards who refuse to give them in order to punish inmates for slights. It’s a nationwide issue that few states have bothered to made any progress or change on.

On top of this feminist issue, during a time where #BlackLivesMatter is all over the news, it’s good to see a judge taking a look at this black woman and deciding with authority over the sentencing to treat her as an equal, of a person deserving to have humane treatment, like it’s just plain old common sense. People might argue “anyone would’ve thought this was outrageous,” but remember that Bill O’Reilly just commented that the slaves who made the White House were “treated fairly.” There are some racist idiots out there who still cling to prejudice like a smoker with lung cancer clutches cigarettes.

I hope Judge Wolf’s actions inspire others to do like her: To see injustice and speak up, hold others accountable for their actions, and change the world for the better. Even if it’s just one person, black or white or male or female, everyone deserves justice. We should all be treated equally in the eyes of the law or otherwise.

Posted in From Kentucky, Japan News

Oh Dear Sweet Jesus, Japan Reported the Ark

For all of you people who live in a very well grounded reality, or are otherwise Christians that don’t have beef with science, Creationism sounds like madness…because it is. I was going to try and sound nice about it, but no, nope. Creationists are deliberately in denial, they hold on tightly to the Bible (that was never, ever in any point in history supposed to be taken literally) and call it absolute FACT.

And to my horrified surprise, the Japan Times didn’t decide to remind the world that for whatever reason Ken Ham (yeah that guy who did a debate with Bill Nye) and his cult decided to spend over $100 million on an Ark.

modern day golden calf.jpg
Behold! A modern day Golden Calf! 

That eyesore is embarrassing, as in absolutely astoundingly humiliating. It wasn’t enough that Ken and his cronies got that stupid Creationist Museum put up, now they’re getting a tax sales break (UGH) to the tune of $18 million. The only religious thing this inspires me to do is pray for a flood to come wipe it out. It’s foundation is blatant ignorance, it’s structure held up with arrogance of superiority, and it’s message is nothing about God but everything about the folly of Man.

What really twists me up about all of this nonsense is that people will definitely go to there. I had two Germans who told me they’d been to Kentucky and went to the Creationist Museum. They recalled the “hilarious” tour guide and the “morons” who believed that Adam and Eve co-existed with dinosaurs. I tried to tell them not all Kentuckians believe in Creationism, but apparently more than enough to get an Ark built with all Christian staff.

Kentucky already has a joke of a reputation that’s stereotyped in movies. I remember wincing when I watched Kingsman: The Secret Service at the maniacal, hateful church goers depicted in Kentucky (obviously a Westboro parody, but they’re based in Kansas). This reputation is only getting worse as time goes on. Apparently, separation of church and state isn’t as separated as it should be in Kentucky, but then again we’ve got Kim Davis winning on the marriage certificate thing with the awful Governor Bevin making sure bigotry continues against the LGBTQA+ community. Bevin is also determined to cut as much funding for education as he possibly can, but note that an elective Bible course was approved by the state.

For all of this, I’m proud to have been born and raised in Kentucky. The people who aren’t creationists, who don’t want to make huge and useless Biblical theme parks for “tourism,” are generally amazing. Also, there are plenty of other, better reasons to visit Kentucky than to go see that monstrosity.

Kentucky has the best horses in all of America, and you can’t tell me otherwise, don’t even try. The Kentucky Derby is still a joy to watch every year. The Appalachian Mountains are gorgeous, and definitely worth hiking and camping up in the summer time. Mammoth Cave is one of my all time favorite tours ever, as it shows and explains just exactly how long it took to make (no, not 6,000 years Creationists, try over 100,000 to a million depending on how far down you go). It’s very educational about the structure of the earth, and will make you smarter for going there, not dumber.

Basically, there are so many other places to go, and I beg of you Japan and other people of the internet, don’t give any more money to Ken Ham or his cult. Don’t visit this thing, don’t let them win. Please and thank you!


Posted in cultural differences, From Kentucky, Japan News

My Students are Scared of America

The Orlando shooting at gay club Pulse is now the largest recorded mass shooting in the United States. It comes right on the heels of another shooting in the same area, where Christina Grimmie was shot and murdered right after a concert. My students know all about both incidents, although the Japanese news has been leaving out that the club was “gay” for some reason and instead just calling it a club (because I suppose viewers wouldn’t sympathize with hate crimes? I don’t know).

When I ask them nowadays where they want to go abroad, most of them respond, “France! Phillipines! Canada!” If anyone says, “America!” There’s an automatic reaction of shock and cries of, “No! No! America kowai! Sugoi abunai!”  America is scary, dangerous, especially at the schools.

Ever since the Sandy Elementary School shooting in 2012, my schools in Japan prep students going to America about what to do if a shooting occurs while they’re abroad. I didn’t realize it was standard procedure until I accidentally walked in one a PowerPoint presentation, with pictures of guns and videos of lockdown drills. I remember looking around the room and feeling such shame. I left to go cry in the bathroom.

Some schools in Japan have started dropping exchange programs in America out of these fears, and also because less students want to sign up for America. Australia, Britain, and Canada are becoming the top picks for English speaking countries. The schools are safe there, people with guns aren’t going to come in and shoot them.

People will disagree with me about the idea of gun control. I’ve heard all the arguments, that it never works, look how prohibition turned out, blah blah blah. I’m tired of it. I’m exhausted with listening to people try over and over again to justify keeping assault rifles legal, that we can’t even bother to try saving lives on the off chance that we might fail.

“Bad people are always gonna do bad things!” Right, but I counter with, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Staying stuck in our ways isn’t solving the problem. Allowing the NRA to have such a big hold on our government and its decisions on gun control is outrageous.

Florida NRA control.jpg
Washington Post

In Japan, firearms are illegal. The only legal gun allowed within the country is a shotgun, and it’s an expensive gun to get, have, and continue having. The yakuza don’t even like to use guns because of the immediate imprisonment sentence attached. When caught with a gun and you are foreign, it’s deportation and blocked from the country, end of story. I don’t know if that’s ever possible for my homeland.

That doesn’t excuse America from at least trying. We should make it more difficult to get a firearm, as in heavier background checks and longer waiting periods. Every single person should be required to go through a gun safety course, and if you’ve been arrested for precious violent activities, ban them from entering a gun store. These are all easy and simple steps to take, but America refuses to budge on the Second Amendment, calling it their “God given right to bear arms!”

Meanwhile, in Japan I can go to work every single day knowing that the odds of my students getting gunned down is near nil. I don’t live in fear of having to barricade a door and use my body as a human shield to protect them. It’s a shame America not only allows that fear, but that its politicians profit from it.

My students shouldn’t have to consider getting shot and killed en masse as part of their pros and cons options for first world countries to visit. We keep trying to give people leeway to clench onto deadly weapons instead of trying to think about protecting the lives of the children, teens, minorities, LGBTQ affiliated persons, and so on. There are people praising the attack on the gay club, as in there are people who consider this guy a hero.

It’s only a matter of time until another school, another club, another event is the next “record breaking” massacre. When my students go to the United States, I don’t tell them that I fear for them, that I worry about it just as much as they do. I don’t believe in allowing that fear to control our lives, though. We all need to go out into the world and see other cultures, and many countries have their own sorts of dangers to face. At the same time, mass shootings seem to be a contagious and consistent problem in America, one that could be solved if we’d just try.

Posted in From Kentucky

Dear Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin,

I understand you have a reputation to uphold, and that you have very important issues to worry about such as education, the arts, and the disabled citizens of our shared state. I understand that you perhaps don’t share my stance on LGBTQ rights, being that they should be treated as equal people without the government allowing religion to rule on what should be a purely governmental process and procedure, one now protected by the United States constitution. All of this I understand and grieve, because it is very apparent that you will never extend any semblance of understanding to the transgender community.

When I heard you joined North Carolina and 10 other states in a lawsuit against the Obama administration, I cannot say I was shocked. Hardly, I was merely exasperated. Not even five months ago you called the topic “nonsense,” and that debating over the use of bathrooms was not something that Frankfort should waste a day away that could be spent on other, more important issues. Yet of course you changed your mind stating, “the federal government has no authority to dictate local school districts’ bathroom and locker room policies” along with “The Obama Administration’s transgender policy ‘guidelines’ are an absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”

Is it absurd though? In a world where one state, your buddy North Carolina, decided that they had to put down a ridiculous law making it illegal to use a bathroom not of a person’s assigned gender from birth it seems very much not absurd for the federal government to step in and call such an action (correctly) as discrimination. Transgender citizens already face great obstacles and don’t need politicians stepping up to make them second class citizens or criminals because of some ill believed panic frenzy that some “perverts” may or may not look up a woman’s skirt in the bathroom.

Were you aware that as of November of last year, transgender homicide hit a historic high?

“The Human Rights Campaign report documented 21 transgender homicide victims so far in 2015, almost all of them transgender women of color, and likely an underestimate due to the difficulty of tracking the homicides. Among all 53 transgender murders from 2013 to 2015, not a single one was prosecuted or reported as a hate crime, the report found.” -The Guardian

Putting a law in place that requires a man who was born with the gender woman will only increase the violence, not decrease it. It will make vigilantes take action, where none needs to be taken. Transgender people don’t want to commit crimes, as landing in jail or prison increases the chances that they will be abused and killed if they ever end up behind bars.

Perhaps you disagree with North Carolina’s law but disagree with the “over reach” of the government. I hate to tell you, but bathrooms and being able to use them is a right that is not a local issue. All fifty states have bathrooms, all government buildings have bathrooms, and all public facilities have bathrooms. In the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” When the bathrooms were segregated by color, was it an overreach of the government to do away with “separate but equal?” And now, to say that one must use a bathroom that is by assigned gender only and not based on physical and psychological changes? I think the Obama administration reacted reasonably given the historical president set in place by allowing discrimination to become law.

Assaulting anyone is illegal, rape is still illegal, peeping in on a woman when she uses the bathroom is illegal, all the laws are already in place to protect and serve citizens. What is not yet put down is the protection for transgender people to not become criminals because of irate men who refuse to understand that they are making policies that harm, not help.

In conclusion, I ask that you take your name off the lawsuit. I know you won’t, you will see it through, but I ask all the same. I ask that you try to defend the people who need your help the most, instead of aiding in the discrimination against them.

Thank you for your time,

Jessica Gordon

Posted in From Kentucky

Lexington House is More Than Meets the Eye

My friend and poet Bianca Spriggs shared this neat house listing from Lexington, Kentucky. The house on the outside might seem like your every day usual suburban home, if a little more roomy and with a nice yard. Usually, homes like this one have a couple of normal bedrooms, a spacey kitchen with perhaps a breakfast bar, and a tastefully decorated living room.

Idle Hour House

But the inside is shockingly different from what you’d think.

Living Room

It’s like if Santa were a millionaire, this is what his house would look like. It’s jaw dropping, for both amazing and terrifying reasons. Amazing as in, “Holy moley, that is something to see! It’s so different!” And then terrifying as in, “How do people actually live in this place and not get headaches?”

Breakfast bar

The kitchen continues this pattern of white and Santa red with gold for highlights here and there. Hey, there is in fact a breakfast bar! How about that? Well, at least when company comes over to stare at the place in amazement, there’s more than enough seating space to eat.


It’s admirable how white the kitchen is. Somebody in this household must have been magic, because the fact that nothing looks stained, burnt, or used at all. It’s like prestigious museum quality preservation here.


Assuming this is the master bedroom, this is where the owners of the house slept. With wallpaper that must reflected the sun into every corner of the room and no dark curtains, you can bet they were probably up from the crack of dawn and onwards. Once again, vanity seems completely untouched. Maybe rich ghosts lived here?

Bedroom 2

And then we come to the possible guest bedroom, which for some reason changes to a toned down all gold set up. Definitely a huge shift from the red and white, but why? Is it perhaps an acknowledgement that some people aren’t Christmas folk and would want to sleep somewhere a little less bright? We may never know the answers to these questions.

The property is being sold at $310,000. If you’re interested in it, and who wouldn’t be, go here to contact Terra Long. Make her an offer, sit down in your new home, and then email me about how it feels.

*Photo Credit: Lexington Bluegrass Association of Realtors