Goodbye Christopher Robin

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“But it isn’t easy, said Pooh. Because poetry and hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”

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I recently watched the film Goodbye Christopher Robin. I’m a sucker for movies that are based on a true story and given my love for Winnie the Pooh, the film was instantly added to my must-watch list.

I grew up watching the show Welcome to Pooh Corner, as well as the animated Winnie the Pooh episodes. Needless to say, I was already familiar with the iconic characters. What I wasn’t familiar with, however, was the backstory of A.A. Milne, the author of Winne the Pooh, as well as several other children’s books.

Before I started watching Goodbye Christopher Robin, I was under the assumption that the movie would go into detail regarding the origins of the beloved characters that we’ve all grown to love such as Pooh, Eeyore, Rabbit, and others. Although this is the case, I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

Goodbye Christopher Robin not only sheds light on A.A. Milne’s life, it dives deep into his relationship with his son (hence, the title). Viewers are quickly introduced to flashbacks of Milne’s time during WWI. These flashbacks are spread throughout the rest of the film, mirroring events that occur in the present day. This is when the film began to touch me to my core.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie portray Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in such an accurate way. From loud noises to flashbacks, viewers spend quite a bit of time watching Milne struggle to go back to “normal” life after coming home from the war. What started as an interesting film in my must-watch list, ended up being a movie that shed light on mental illness, featuring an accurate portrayal of a person struggling with the effects of PTSD.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, especially if you’re not familiar with the backstory of author A.A. Milne’s life. However, I think it’s important to note that this movie is so much more than it seems. It touched my life and spoke to me, which is what art is supposed to do.

If you’re interested in learning the origins of Winnie the Pooh and watching a story unfold onscreen that is based on a true account of someone’s life, then you will absolutely enjoy this film. It is sure to stick with you for an incredibly long time.

6 years

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6 years.

Condemned to Hell. Fought the flames.

Beaten by the Bible. Learned to read.

Bullied by peers. Alleviated by love.

Lost in space. Part of the same star.

Hurt by family. Healed by each other.

Death threats. Lived our truth.

Rights taken away. Married anyway.

6 years of love.

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Hope

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Courage.

Heart.

Empathy.

In the past year, have you determined where you stand? Have you opened your eyes to the sexism swirling around every aspect of our country? Have you noticed the discrimination against LGBT people wrapped in the disguise of “religious freedom?” Have you finally seen how racism has shaped our country and continues to shape it? Have you vowed to take a firm stance against sexism, racism, ant-gay prejudice, and xenophobia? Now is the time. If you pledge allegiance to the flag, don’t just pledge to the white stars. You pledge to make this country a place of love, not hate. You pledge to make this country a place where hateful ideals end. You pledge to take a stand for equality and against discrimination of any kind. America can be great – with hope and love. Take a stand today. Bring love now. Bring hope for future generations. 

 

A Jedi. A Mockingjay. A Wizard. A superhero. Who are you?

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Star Wars. Star Trek. The Hunger Games. The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Superheroes. Why is it that we’re attracted to such epic stories? Why do we rewatch and reread our favorite tales? Surely any Star Wars fan realizes that the Empire created a galaxy that was unfairly ruled. Surely fans of The Hunger Games recognize that President Snow is a dictator and the districts are treated unfairly. Surely Sauron and Voldemort are seen as villains, right? Why do we read these books and watch these films over and over? What’s the point of having knowledge of these stories if we don’t take what we’ve learned and apply it to our lives? We can reread and rewatch all we want, but who is that helping? Are we simply using our favorite tales as an escape?

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On some deeper level, we’ve connected to these stories. We’ve rooted for the underdog, for those facing adversity. We’ve immersed ourselves into these worlds, but it’s time to acknowledge the world we currently live in. Isn’t it time to apply what we’ve learned to the world around us? If we want to prevent all the horrors rebels fought against (poverty, inequality, prejudices, and so forth), why aren’t we using what we’ve learned from these stories? Why can’t we make the world a better place now? The thought of wielding a wand, bow, phaser, or lightsaber is exciting, but we already have weapons we can use. Our voices. Our votes. In order to prevent Emperor Palaptine or President Snow from leading our country and the world into total chaos, shouldn’t we be applying the knowledge we’ve learned to prevent things like this from happening?

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If we want a progressive, Star Trek future, its time to work toward it. While we sit and dream about better futures, the world keeps spinning and we miss our chance. If we want to change the world, now is the time to understand the morals and meanings of our favorite films and books. What are these stories trying to tell us? Don’t be a villain. Don’t give in to greed and hatred. Stand up for acceptance and love. Stand against prejudice and hate. Sacrifice yourself, money, and time for a greater cause. We write our own stories each day. Will you be rooted for or rooted against? We’re all flawed, but we can still be heroes. Make sure your story is worth reading.

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The Tin Man

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The Tin Man has always been my favorite from The Wizard of OZ (and Dorothy, obviously). I’m not sure if others have noticed this or not, but I love this scene:
 
In this scene, Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow gaze upon the Emerald City for the very first time. As everyone stares in awe at the beautiful city, the Tin Man keeps his eyes on Dorothy. As we all know, the characters in OZ possessed what they were searching for the entire time. The Tin Man ALREADY had a heart – and this scene proves it. As excited as he was to see Emerald City for the first time, he was more overjoyed to see Dorothy and her excitement. He was excited to soon get the heart that he was searching for, but he was more excited to see the look on Dorothy’s face when she realized she would soon get what she had wished for. In this moment, the Tin Man isn’t immediately focused on the view of Emerald city and achieving his goal, but Dorothy and the look on her face as she realizes she will soon achieve hers.

Let’s Be Real For A Second

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I’ve numbered my thoughts. Here you go:

  1. Stop saying you don’t care who wins the election. By constantly posting pictures like “I don’t want to vote for any of these candidates” and “Wake me up when the election is over,” you are BEING LAZY. The future of our country is at stake. You can sit through sporting events for HOURS and SEASONS, but suddenly thinking, filtering through fact and fiction is just too damn much for you to handle. While you’re busy trying to avoid any conversation of politics, others have their livelihoods at stake. By sharing such photos, you’re also perpetuating the belief that both candidates are equal. You’re wrong.
  1. Stop comparing Hillary and Trump. One candidate has more experience than ANY previous president ever. The other candidate has ZERO experience. One candidate is a racist, sexist, anti-gay, transphobic, xenophobic bigot. The other isn’t. This election is about human rights, not policies. A Trump presidency would hurt women, minorities, the poor, LGBT people, and other groups.
  1. Stop bringing up Hillary’s emails. George W. Bush lost 22 MILLION emails. Other elected officials in the past have also had issues with emails. You keep bringing up this flaw in Hillary because SHE’S A WOMAN. You don’t say a word when a man loses an email (or discusses sexually assaulting women for that matter), but damned if you stay quiet because of Hillary’s emails. And, what’s the harm? Do you think all 33,000 emails are suddenly in the hands of terrorists and now the terrorists know everything about America and are just waiting to take us over? I mean, seriously? That type of thinking is xenophobic and it needs to stop. While you’re contemplating the fear of other countries, why don’t you consider Trump?
  1. Stop giving Trump a free pass (on literally everything). Trump has close ties to Putin and Russia. Articles come out daily that shows Trump’s close relations to countries and leaders who aren’t allies with America, but you turn a blind eye. Trump says that he can walk in the middle of the street, kill someone, and won’t lose any followers. You still turn a blind eye. Trump says horrible things about black people, women, other minorities, LGBT people, the disabled, and more. You still turn a blind eye. Trump is caught joking about SEXUAL ASSAULT and you (even many women) still turn a blind eye! Trump gets a free pass on everything – including the most recent bombshell.
  1. Trump stole a billion dollars from America. Yes, Trump STOLE ONE BILLION DOLLARS from America. He admitted that he hasn’t paid a billion dollars in taxes. Schools. Healthcare. Infrastructure. The environment. Numerous parts of America’s society could’ve been helped with his billion dollars that he STOLE from America. You learn this. You hear him ADMIT it. BUT – you still turn a blind eye.
  2. Don’t you EVER blame the “lazy blacks” and the “lazy people on welfare” EVER again. Don’t do it. You’re being racist. You’re demonizing and dehumanizing the poor. If my tax dollars can help feed one family, then it’s worth it. Yes, some people might scam the system – maybe they’re hurt, hungry, and are trying their best to stay alive. What I have a problem with is people like Trump who are part of the 1% and think they can STEAL ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Anyone who pays taxes in America should be FURIOUS. Don’t you understand that the game is rigged for the 1%? Blaming the poor and using them as a scapegoat only helps the 1%! Why do you think they spend so much time pointing the finger at welfare recipients?
  1. Recognize your prejudices.

    A. Why are you so offended by “Black Lives Matter” when all they’re literally trying to say is that their lives matter and they don’t want to be murdered anymore? Why does that bother you? Why aren’t you supporting them? Saying “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean we’re saying other lives don’t matter. We’re not saying police lives don’t matter. We’re saying that black people shouldn’t be murdered. Many black people have been murdered by police for committing no crime. And the last time I checked, committing crimes in America doesn’t give officers the right to play judge, jury, and executioner. Police officers, firefighters, and others have very dangerous jobs. They are respected jobs, but they aren’t above the law. People in these professions should NOT put civilians at risk – even if that means to save themselves. If they can’t make that choice, then they shouldn’t be wearing the uniform. Wearing that uniform means that they put others’ lives above their own – that’s the honor in the job.

    B. Why will you let sexist language slide? I’m offended at hearing a man say he can “Grab women by the pussy.” I’m not offended because I have a mother. I’m not offended because I have a grandmother. I’m offended because when a person brags about committing sexual assault, I am disgusted and angered as a HUMAN BEING. It’s despicable and deplorable. It should not be tolerated. Period. Sexual assault is serious. Because as a society we’re so eager to chalk it up to “locker room talk,” we have rapists who serve a few months in jail (if that) and are then released. Meanwhile, the rape victim struggles physically, emotionally, and mentally to go on with their life, living each and every day one at a time in hopes that they can forget the horrible abuse that was done to them.

    C. Stop the anti-gay prejudice. That bullshit is REALLY getting old. Being gay isn’t a sin. Eating shrimp isn’t a sin. Having tattoos isn’t a sin. Being in an interracial relationship isn’t a sin. The Bible is STILL being used as a tool of hate and it’s SO last century. We don’t care what an old book says. We really don’t. The book that supports slavery, promotes rape, condones sexism, and enjoys war? Yeah, I’m going to choose not to listen to that. Do research about LGBT hate crimes, suicide rates, and discrimination. Listen to people and learn their stories. I’ve shared mine, as heartbreaking as it is. I have empathy, compassion, and love (which is why I’m writing this damn post because if no one will stick up for the oppressed, who will?) and I don’t need a book to tell me how. Stop using the Bible for hate. You shouldn’t even have to ever tell anyone that you’re a Christian. Your actions should speak for themselves.

  1. Your silence is LOUD. Not posting anything political when you know people in your life will be greatly affected by the outcome of the election? You’re being heard. Your loved ones are listening to your silence. Start standing up for the oppressed. I’ve just given you reason after reason to get involved with this election. Do research. Read articles. Be vocal. You have one month left. Stop worrying about what people think. Being silent is biblical. Being silent doesn’t help. Being silent is choosing a side and that isn’t the side I’m on.
  1. Be nice. Thanks.

When An Online Friend Dies

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In September 2014, a very dear friend of mine passed away. It came as a complete shock to all who knew her. I found out about her passing through social media. Reading tragic news on a computer screen about a friend who passed away suddenly is an experience that I do not wish on anyone. You ask yourself, is this real?

I’m sure by now, many readers have heard of the hit television show LOSTLOST has a huge fanbase from all around the world. It is a deeply thought-provoking show that touches on the “big” themes in life – science verses faith, family, destiny, fate verses free will, redemption, hope, love, and death. LOST was an inspiration to many people. -This is how I met my friend Bonnie. We followed each other on Twitter, became friends on Facebook, and carried on lengthy conversations and theories about LOST. We became particularly close because I was from Alabama, and she lived in Tennessee. We constantly messaged one another through Facebook and texts. We enjoyed collecting LOST memorabilia and helping each other find cool items. Bonnie had an extensive collection that she documented. You can view her impressive collection here.

Bonnie and I continued our constant conversations for years. We became interested in each other’s lives. As a gay man living in Alabama, it’s rare to meet someone who knows who you are and instantly accepts and loves you. Bonnie was like that. She supported and loved my partner and I. She knew details about my life and vice versa. When I would come in from classes at school, I would always check my notifications to see if I had missed a message from her. I always kept track of her posts because she was always crafting some new LOST project with her action figures. We were both nerds at heart and enjoyed the time talking about action figures, trading cards, books, and prints – all LOST related of course.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie in person in March of 2014. It was the first LOST event that I attended and I knew she would be going as well. There was a LOST cast reunion in Los Angeles. It was also the first time I had been to California. Bonnie stayed in the hotel across the street from my partner and I. I had talked with her online for years and the day finally came that I would meet her in person. She was as radiant as she had been online. She was the kindest person to my partner and I. I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to meet Bonnie in person.

In September 2014, Bonnie passed away. Since we lived just a few hours away, my partner and I attended her funeral. Although this gave me some closure, the grief process has been the most unexpected. In a way, I think I’m still in shock. You see, when an online friend dies, the fallout is different. Even though I had met Bonnie in person, our relationship was primarily an online one. This did not make our relationship any less real, only different.

Having very few true friends in person, Bonnie was as close to me as a best friend. I talked with her more online than I did with other friends in person. We knew each other’s likes, dislikes, etc. Since LOST touched on the “big” questions in life, our conversations relied heavily on philosophy and meaning. Whether we were discussing geeky topics such as collectibles, or details about family issues, our conversations always seemed more raw and real than the conversations that I have in person sometimes.

As for the healing process – it’s slow. Really slow. My childhood best friend passed away when I was a senior in high school and my uncle passed away in 2012. Their deaths were hard and still are, but I have closure. As for Bonnie, I still find myself checking my messages. Each time I see where a LOST cast member has been cast in another show, I want to message her. Every time I scroll through eBay and see a LOST item that I think she would enjoy, I’m reminded that I can’t contact her. For years, I would find a LOST collectible or book and instantly contact her to see if she had it. I see items and I think, “Bonnie would love that.” Every single time, I remember that she’s no longer here and it’s as if I experience her death all over again. It’s gut-wrenching every time. I stop in my tracks and have to remind myself that she’s no longer here.

For those of you who have also experienced this, I understand. I know the feeling of seeing profiles on Facebook, knowing that you can’t contact them. I know what it’s like to still follow someone on Twitter when you know that they’ll never tweet again. I still keep Bonnie’s LOST blog in my bookmarks tab. I know the feeling of -even just for one second- thinking that someone is still alive when they aren’t. During that second, you relive their death all over again. The feeling comes out of nowhere. Whenever I see anything that reminds me of Bonnie, I go to message her, but soon realize that I can’t. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. If you have an online friend, don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not a true friendship. Friendship happens in the most unlikely places. A friend is a friend is a friend.

I remember Bonnie not by her death, but by her life. Even though remembering her death hits me like a tidal wave every now and then, I hold on to the memories we shared – both online and in person. I find peace by enjoying the life that I have left. Bonnie was an absolutely kind and generous person. She touched so many lives while she was here. LOST fans around the world knew about her and her amazing collection. I honor her memory by continuing my love for LOST and remembering her each step of the way. LOST and Bonnie touched my life in numerous ways. If there’s one thing LOST taught me, it’s that love is stronger than death.

*In loving memory of my dearest friend, Bonnie Craft*

Originally published on Liberal America here: http://www.liberalamerica.org/2015/07/02/online-friend-dies/