Fall 2015: "Justice For All" Powerful Voice Winner Karen Jordan

Read Karen's essay, "Love: Free of Fear and Judgment," about how feeling better in her own skin has helped her see the potential in our society.
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A Milwaukee Black Lives Matter march. 

Photo by Light Brigade.

Karen Jordan read and responded to YES! Magazine article "I Can't Breathe Until Everyone Can Breathe," by Gerald Mitchell. In this story, author and entrepreneur Gerald Mitchell wrestles with the enormity of the situation in Ferguson and the unjust deaths of so many unarmed Black Americans by police. He takes an honest look at himself to see how he’s part of the problem, and commits to joining others in building a better world of justice for all. 

Writing Prompt: Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?


Love: Free of Fear and Judgment

Who we are, where we grow up, what we look like, even our names are all factors in the tangled clutter of how and where we fit into society. Fortunately, we have done away with, for the most part, caste systems and other unfair segregation hierarchies. However, we have not even begun to address the biases we still embrace for each other.

Instead of owning up to these unrealistic standards we place on the people around us, we suppress them while exploitative subliminal messages placed throughout the environment bore their way into our treatment, or mistreatment, of others. It seems as though we prefer to passively slam our equals down every chance we get. Why are we acting this way towards one another? This nasty movement of hatred and rebellion is transforming from crude jokes and callous bashes from teenagers and TV shows to a society where every human must fend for themselves in this apparently unforgiving world.

I, for one, have not been the most cooperative in creating a safe and respectful environment for those around me to enjoy the real virtues of life. I have made crude jokes and comments, and have smoked pot—among other drugs—leading me to act selfishly and unjustly towards others, as well as outwardly bashing our government and America on social media. I paid no attention to how my actions might be affecting my country, let alone my own community. I didn’t give anyone a chance, especially myself, at possibly being someone great one day. In my mind, the world, as well as the people who live on this seemingly miserable planet, was already doomed for mass obliteration. I gave up. In doing so, I disassociated myself from everything, continuing to suffer apathetically in a society that propelled me further and further into a dark, depressing oblivion.

After the hammer came down on my own life in the form of a wilderness treatment program and a therapeutic boarding school, I saw a clear picture of what it might look like for this figurative hammer to come down on our society making everyone more aware of their unpleasant surroundings. I stopped laughing at mean-spirited shows including adult animated sitcoms and became unamused with the arbitrary songs playing on our radio stations about “throwing our hands in the air,” which I believe promotes ignorance. Instead, I started paying attention to the substance of this planet and everything that comes with it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I started thinking for myself and almost immediately felt better being in my own skin which was something I felt I was not allowed to do during such a shameful time in my life. If we allowed for change to take place, judgments aside, we might actually really enjoy what this new world might bring.

Almost every action we commit on a daily basis affects others and the majority of us purposely leave that out of our thought processes. If I don’t think about the pig that was immorally butchered while hanging upside down from a rusty hook, then I can take a moment to enjoy this delicious applewood smoked bacon. If I ignore the fact that the homeless are more than just drug addicts, then I won’t feel so guilty about not giving them a mere 50 cents out of my wallet. If I use a magnifying glass on my world, then I can forget about the injustices being committed outside of this small town I live in.

These limited thoughts are exactly what’s wrong with this culture. Because of our lack of empathy and our want for momentary indulgences we miss out on perspective which can be found all throughout this planet. It’s not just us who can help the world, but matters like global warming, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, public shooting and killing of unarmed black people, and extraordinary space discoveries that can help us bridge the gap between indifference and understanding in our own worlds. As humans, we learn by visually observing the atmosphere that surrounds us and using what we’ve seen all throughout our own personal lives. We can look at these vast mistakes and address them by promising to do better within our own community. If we make a valiant effort towards world enlightenment, then maybe we can live in an environment that fosters peace, free of war and terror.

We need to promote mindfulness, and transcend to the simplest actions of kindness and respect in order to thrive in this superficial, hate-filled world. There are many things humans don’t have the ability to see. One of these is potential. It seems as though we have taken our tokens of hope and optimism and thrown them on the floor, shattering any chance they had to guide us through life. Our world may seem miserable and filled with animosity, but in reality we carry so much potential. All we need to do is stay conscious and be tolerant toward anything—and anyone—we may encounter on this expedition. This is one of the many definitions of love.

Love freely what you love. This is our world and nobody else’s.


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