An Open Letter to Jeep in Regards to the Super Bowl Ad “The Middle” by Christina Knowles

After viewing your recent ad, “The Middle,” which aired during the Super Bowl and claims to be a “healing message,” I was left feeling repulsed and excluded. I found your ironic attempt at “unifying” the country while airing the most divisive anti-inclusive ad possible, extremely bigoted and tone deaf. Your ad assumes we are all Christians and seems to embrace Christian Nationalism, the movement responsible, along with the former president, for the failed coup attempt and the storming of the Capitol on January 6th.  As an atheist, I felt as if the ad negated my existence as an American citizen, at least in your eyes. The religious iconography, especially the cross on the flag, is extremely divisive and promotes the idea that religiosity is our way forward to reconciliation. I would argue the opposite, especially in regards to government. Government should be inclusive and not promote any religion, or religion in general, over secularism. As a private company, your response to a divided nation is inappropriate if creating unity is your goal. You’ve merely taken sides and added to the divide.

At the very least, this Jeep ad was in particularly poor taste after the attack on the Capitol by a MAGA cult in a religious fervor. There is no “common ground” to be found with religious terrorists. If you are attempting to reel them in to find common ground with the rest of us, validating their bigotry is not the way forward. I, as an atheist, won’t be visiting the little chapel where liberals are accused of being vampiric pedophiles, where faith is valued over reason, where science is dismissed as conspiracy theory, and where homosexuals are considered an abomination.

With this tone-deaf advertisement, you have alienated both non-religious people and those of other religions, and even those religious individuals who honor and respect the beliefs, or lack thereof, of others, and you have continued to tear at the fabric of our fragilely held threads of unity. Your ad is not a healing message.

I do not own a Jeep, and if this is your view of what America looks like as a group, I won’t be buying one in the future. I don’t believe in cancel culture, but I am choosy about where I spend my money, and I choose to support companies that do not exclude me or others as a group and do not promote Christian Nationalism as the American way of life.

Tired of the Bullshit?

I’ve seen enough false claims and heard enough lies during this election season to last a lifetime, but there is too much at stake, and this one is too incredulous for me to go idly by without addressing a few things. Out of respect for my very sweet friend who posted this, I chose to rebut these issues in a blog, rather than engage on her social media page. The following are my layman responses to this meme.

Business owner: Contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, Joe Biden will not shut down the country, at least not unless scientists say there is no other option, and it is much worse than it is even predicted to be. Biden wants to listen to scientists’ recommendations and open everything safely. Yes, there will be required masks, but I’d rather wear a mask than have the country shut down again, and masks have absolutely been proven to be the best defense against the virus in public spaces. Also, Biden takes science and the health of our citizens seriously. Even young people who recover quickly from Covid 19, often have lasting damage to their lungs or hearts. This disease should not be taken lightly as Trump encourages. Biden also has many plans to jumpstart the economy following the devastating economic downturn due to the coronavirus.

Taxpayer: Trump has done a very foolish thing that will help no one. He has frozen the federal taxes from being removed from our paychecks. This isn’t a tax break. We will owe it back when we file our taxes at the end of the season. Unless you are putting several hundred dollars a month in savings to cover your taxes, this will be a major strain on Americans. Additionally, Biden will only raise taxes on those who make more than $400,000 per year. The middle class has carried the tax burden too long. The rich are only rich because of the middle class. The middle class are their workers and their customers. The poor don’t consume a lot of products, and the rich are too few to keep themselves in business. Destroying the middle class by having them carry the majority of the tax burden is biting the hand that feeds them. From the 1930s to the 1980s, the rich have paid more than 50% taxes, and they still prospered hugely. They’ve had forty years of not paying their fair share, and it’s time for them to step up. Under a Biden/Harris administration, the middle class will not have their taxes raised except to end having their current taxes deferred.

One thing that should always be funded and protected is Social Security. It is the single most important thing that has protected the elderly in this country and kept them from starvation, homelessness, and poverty. It is not a handout, but is an investment you pay for your entire life, and no one should have the right to put it in jeopardy.

Christian: I don’t even know why people think Biden and Harris would be a threat to Christians. They are both Christians. The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is meant to prevent what Trump is currently trying to do, and make no mistake—Trump is not a Christian and doesn’t care about Christian issues. He’s pandering to a group who is scared of losing privilege based on unfounded rumors and direct lies. I’ve been an educator for 18 years in public schools. Prayer, reading the bible, and talking about your beliefs is allowed in all schools. The only rules are that teachers or school officials cannot endorse any religion or appear to favor any religion (The Establishment Clause) by leading prayer or requiring prayer or bible reading, etc. Of course, students can’t read the bible when the math teacher is explaining fractions, but they certainly can in their free time. They can have after school bible studies on campus and choirs often sing religious songs as cultural education. This is true across all government institutions. Keeping religion out of government protects Christians as much as anyone else. Without the Establishment Clause, if the current leader favored Islam, Christians might be forced to kneel to the east, wear head coverings, and celebrate Islamic holidays. It is short-sighted to want your own religion favored because your preferred religion may not always be the most popular, and there is a multitude of evidence that the founders wanted to avoid this mixing of religion and government. Also, no one is against Christmas. I’m an atheist and Christmas is my favorite holiday. If there ever is a war on Christmas, I’ll be the first to defend it.

If you want more hard facts about the founders wanting to ensure a religion-free government, check out this wonderful book. The Founder’s Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American by Andrew Seidel.

Parent: I really don’t see where this criticism comes from, so I’m not sure how to address it, so I’ll just guess. Raising your kids, sending them to school, keeping them fed and safe, not separating them from their parents are all at the forefront of Biden’s plans. One thing about Biden is that he has a great deal of empathy and compassion for the American people and that certainly includes children.

Police Officer: As Biden has stated many times before, he is against defunding the police. In fact, he believes the police need more funding for training and to add social workers and counselors to take some of the load off of them. Biden and Harris are both strong on law and order and want to improve the system without abolishing it. They take a strong stand against looting and rioting, but also do not defend racist militia groups who want to antagonize and create violence or add to violence.  They intend to work on systemic racism within the force, rather than throwing it out and starting over. They also take a hard line on national defense and love and appreciate our military, giving them the respect they deserve, unlike Trump.

Gun Owner: Biden and Harris support the 2nd Amendment and do not want to abolish gun rights, collect people’s guns, or put gun owners on a list. They only support common sense legislation that requires background checks to prevent the mentally ill or violent criminals from owning guns and would only support restrictions on paramilitary-type weapons. Almost every American agrees with this. Fully automatic weapons are already banned. It’s true that restricting sales of paramilitary-type weapons won’t stop all mass shootings, but it would make them more difficult for the un-savvy troubled youth or mentally ill to get one. If restrictions stopped one mass shooting, it would be worth it. Biden and Harris support the rights of Americans to defend their homes, to hunt, and to shoot for sport, and do not want to take your guns.

Unborn Baby: This seems pretty much a moot point right now since it appears the new justice will be confirmed before the election in the biggest display of hypocrisy ever seen in the Republican party. However, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the states would make the decision about whether or not to allow abortion. It is true that Biden and some Democrats support a federal law allowing abortion that would supersede state intervention, but legal or not, abortions will likely not stop, but just become more dangerous. 

I have never met any liberal or Democrat in my life who likes abortion, thinks it should be used as birth control, or thinks there shouldn’t be restrictions on late term abortions. Late term abortions are not abortions at all. They are surgical procedures to save a mother’s life when the health of the baby is unquestionably compromised and the mother’s life is in danger. Choosing to save the only viable life capable of being saved at that point is no different than triaging patients in a hospital. You treat the ones you can save first. It is also a fact that free and accessible birth control and education are the most effective ways to reduce abortions. Most Democrats and progressives are perfectly willing to have common sense restrictions on abortions, such as when late term abortions would be denied. The Right to Life movement is largely a religious movement and legislation that affects others cannot be made on the grounds of religious preference. No one likes or wants abortions, but physical autonomy over one’s own body is probably the most important freedom someone can have, and thus makes this issue, and whose rights are maintained, a complicated one, and wherever you stand on this issue, it can’t be the only deciding factor for your vote. Is anyone else’s life less important than unborn children? Pandemics, economic crises, healthcare, and Social Security are all life and death issues. Without Democracy, which Trump is quickly eroding, we won’t get a say in anything.

Immigration: This meme did not mention immigration issues, but this is a common talking point among conservatives. Biden supports Dreamers and so do the majority of Americans. The United States has a long history of immigration, and all of us descend from immigrants at some point. Immigration has only helped America throughout our history, and there are so many myths about it. For one thing, immigrants pay more taxes and Social Security than Trump, yet they don’t collect anything from it. Biden and Harris support legal immigration, help for political and religious refugees, and a reasonable and compassionate path to citizenship for those who were brought here through no fault of their own. They do not support open borders and unlimited immigration.

I hope I dispelled some of these mistaken ideas regarding Biden and Harris, but don’t take my word for it. Visit BBC’s “Where Does Joe Biden Stand on the Issues”or Joe Biden’s website to see what he and Harris stand for. There are so many other issues and lies involvingTrump that are not covered here, such as Trump’s claims of the illegitimacy of science, his tax evasion, his collusion with foreign powers, his use of the office of president by his family as a business opportunity, healthcare issues, his negligence regarding global warming, our status in the world and our relationship with other countries, and so much more. Please go beyond social media and visit some sites that don’t just validate your own bias. It’s just too important this election year.–Christina Knowles

Have a Healthy New Year, or Else . . . by Christina Knowles

I’ve been counting the days until 2019. Why, you ask? Because I’ve been in extreme pain for five months, and I naively thought I’d get treatment once the new year kicked in, and my meds would count toward my deductible. How idealistic I was.

I have no cartilage in my knees and have had four knee surgeries throughout my life, beginning when I was just 22 years old. In the past, I have been able to manage my knee problems with spinning, yoga, and had even worked my way up to walking for an hour three times a week. But then, I pulled something in yoga class in July and haven’t been able to walk (for exercise) since. I’ve been to physical therapy, got a cortisone shot that only helped for a few weeks, and have been faithfully doing my exercises at home, but sometimes the pain is so bad that I can’t sleep. When I stand up after sitting for any length of time, I can barely walk.

My doctor wanted me to get shots of hyaluronic acid to lubricate my knees and relieve some of the pain. Eventually, I will need knee replacements, but I’m trying to hold off as long as possible. With these shots, the doctor says I will be able to work out again, building muscle that will help me when I finally get my knee replacements. I told my doctor I needed to wait until January because I figured the procedure wouldn’t be cheap, and I have a high deductible plan, so I wanted to take advantage of meeting any deductible for a longer portion of the year. I had no idea that the prescription for the injections alone would cost $2900.00. This is not something I can make payments on either. It’s due up front before the injection. I was told that if I had a copay plan, the copay would be $684. Even that is insane.

One month ago, I was talked in to trying CBD oil to treat the pain and inflammation. This oil, which you can hardly find any information or studies on, at least in the United States, is not cheap–$100 for one ounce of full spectrum 1000 milligram tincture. I was very skeptical and did not want to put out that kind of money for something that is not approved or recommended by the general medical community, but while in excruciating pain, I decided it was worth a try. I honestly didn’t expect it to work, but within 10 minutes of taking one dropper of the tincture, I was walking almost pain-free and without a limp. It lasted a few hours, getting progressively worse and wearing off completely in about five hours. I don’t think it helped me enough to go hiking or on a long walk, but it relieved the worst of my pain and allowed me to get around without looking like an old lady. Of course, this one hundred dollars a month I will be spending on CBD oil does not count toward my insurance deductible. Our government would rather approve opioids and deal with the epidemic of addicts than legalize and research CBD or any cannabis related medicine.

But what bothers me the most about this whole situation is that I work a full-time job with benefits and so does my husband; we have insurance, and I even have additional income on the side from teaching college classes and writing, and I still can’t afford to buy the medicine I need. At this point, I’m wondering how the United States is even considered a first-world country with its barbaric health care practices. At 17th in health care quality, it isn’t worth the price. I’m starting to consider medical tourism or even emigrating to a country that has single-payer nationalized health care. I’m not even retirement age yet, and I have perfect blood pressure, low cholesterol, and no sign of diabetes. I’m in good health now, but what in the hell am I going to do when I am old and need lots of medical care and am on a fixed income?

Even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the Trump presidency, it does not go far enough. Drug companies need caps on what they can charge, insurance premiums need to be affordable to everyone, and doctors should make a reasonably good income like other professionals in a public service position, like say–teachers. Well, maybe a bit more than that.

If working two jobs, having a professional degree, and medical insurance is no guarantee of receiving adequate health care, it may be time to dispel the myths and get on board with Medicare for all.

For now, I’ll wish you, and me, a healthy, hospital-free new year.–Christina Knowles

Book Signing Party

If you are in the Colorado Springs area on January 14th, please join me for a book signing party, celebrating my brand new release, Signs of Life, A Memoir in Poems! I’d love to meet you!

knowles-book-signing-flyer-2

Copies of The Ezekiel Project and Signs of Life will be available for purchase, and I’ll be signing those and any you bring in. While you’re there, enjoy a wonderful homemade Mexican meal from the Hernandez family, featuring old family recipes from Señor Manuel, himself. You will receive a discount if you purchase a book or bring in one to get signed.

It’s sure to be lots of fun, so I hope to see you there at Señor Manuel Mexican Cuisine!

Alone, I Thrive by Christina Knowles

I wrote this poem in 2009 during a time of struggling to believe in the unbelievable, trying to make sense of a cruel or absent god with no evidence to support that this god existed at all, and finally coming to the realization that God was not cruel; he just did not exist. This was not the beginning of my struggle, nor was it the end, but looking back on this time, I realize that facing the reality that God probably does not exist, I, indeed, am thriving. I say “probably” because I cannot know he does not exist, but I have no reason to believe he does, and living my life based on my best assessment of reality has freed me to blossom and grow with the confidence that I won’t drown when the waves of trouble crash against me; I can swim.

Ocean Storm

via free-download.com

“Alone, I Thrive”

Once again I’m drowning

With You nowhere to be seen

Can’t You see I’m floundering

In the open sea?

 

In my doubt I’m sinking,

Not knowing if You’ll come.

I just can’t help but thinking

More faith would help me some.

 

Could it be Your purpose

To let me drown again?

I think You are not merciless;

There must be a higher end.

 

I reach out to You, Oh Lord,

Grasping at Your hand.

I can see the distant shore,

The fabled Promised Land.

 

I feel Your hand is slipping

There’s nothing I can do.

I feel my heart is ripping,

But Your plan was all You knew.

 

Gazing at the inky sky,

I see the moonlight shine.

I tell myself I shouldn’t cry

For Your will be done, not mine.

 

I tell myself, someday, You will let me see

The purpose in Your plan,

And I’ll understand why You let me

Sink, slipping from Your hand.

 

I’ll understand Your absence

In time I’ll comprehend

Why You don’t come to my defense

No doubt your reason will transcend

 

The silence from You is deafening

Abandoned once again

My hope in You is lessening

My withdrawal from You begins

 

I don’t blame You for Your failure to assist

Me, You are unable to respond

You simply don’t exist

I should have known it all along

But the idea— impossible to resist.

 

So alone in the water, I struggle to survive

Rising to the surface, surging

Forward, I arrive

To the shore emerging

In tact, alone, I thrive

—Christina Knowles (2009)