Ever since the British people voted 51-49% in 2016 to leave the European Union, the status of their departure has been in turmoil. Now, almost four years later after numerous delays and extensions from Brussels, the United Kingdom appears poised to finally make their official exit on January 31st. It is fitting that Boris Johnson, one of the most vocal advocates for Brexit, will be the Prime Minister who ushers Britain into this new era, although the road to his crowning achievement has not been simple.
Johnson became PM after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned following numerous rejections in Parliament of her deal with the EU for post-Brexit relations. Unlike May, who often pressed the importance of negotiating a deal for Britain’s departure, Boris spoke at length about his willingness to leave the Union without a Brexit deal in place. He was elected by the Conservative Party as PM in June 2019, but his plans for a no-deal Brexit were quickly derailed. Shortly before the departure deadline of October 31st Johnson called for a suspension of Parliament until late October to nullify any chances of a Brexit deal passing. The move was highly controversial and eventually ruled illegal as Parliament gathered again on October 8th.
After reconvening, several members of Johnson’s Conservative Party defected and voted with the opposition to pass the Benn Act which forced the government to ask Brussels for an extension if a Brexit deal was not approved.
After this setback Johnson began calling for new general elections hoping to regain his majority in Parliament. The election, held on December 12th 2019, resulted in a landslide victory for the Conservatives who gained 48 seats while their primary rival, the Labour Party, suffered a humiliating turnout, losing 60 seats. This victory gave Johnson the Parliamentary majority he desired, allowing him to declare that Britain would finally leave the European Union in January 2020. Yet this departure will not be the no-deal Brexit that Boris wished for, instead Britain will be departing under a revised version of the deal that Theresa May initially negotiated.
The primary change under Boris’ deal compared with May’s regard the so called “Irish backstop.” The backstop was intended to resolve the border question in Ireland resulting from Britain’s withdrawal and the Republic of Ireland’s status as an EU member-state. Specifically, the backstop was a plan to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which would result from the UK’s withdrawal as Northern Ireland is a province of the United Kingdom. A hard border within Ireland was outlawed under the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Troubles. The Troubles were a thirty year ethnic conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland over the unification of the island. The backstop would have essentially acted as if there was no border between the two nations in Ireland with customs checks between the islands of Ireland and Britain. Johnson’s Brexit deal removes the backstop and institutes a customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland which might unintentionally inflame Irish nationalist tensions. The new agreement does give the UK the added ability to negotiate its own international trade agreements which was a major complaint regarding May’s Brexit deal.
Though Brexit remains controversial in Britain and Europe, both parties will likely be
relieved to see this saga end. Voters for the withdrawal should be delighted with the deal Johnson put together and EU citizens who generally opposed the withdrawal should be glad it’s actually over. As for the potentially catastrophic results many foretold during the Brexit referendum in 2016, only time will tell how Britain’s departure affects both their economy and
The concept of self is an axiom that seems concretely fixed in the understanding of existence. We categorize the world in factions of two: that which is within us and that which is without. In the former, is the infinitely small content of matter that provides the opportunity for awareness. It is the component within life that allows for reality to simply be real to us. But what is this thing? What truly is within the articles that make up the self that we experience? Thought, thinking, is to be our only answer, the only justification for why we feel confident that we even exist at all. It is here in this place, that we find solace, comfort, and peace, in the chaotic reality surrounding us. It isn’t simply the explanation for the idea of self, of being an I. Rather it is something much deeper, something much more real. It is who you are, it is how you make sense of your being, of your individuality. Thought, and therefore the opportunity for it, allows you to feel that your consciousness is your own, that you really are a you. In the absence of it, we are mere computers, destined only to fulfill the programming that is already created within us. Yet, this programming isn’t one that was created by a mad scientist calvinistically attempting to control the ways of our life. Rather, it derives as a by product of life adapted. Squirrels don’t run around to strut their prowess, or as a means of exercise to slim off excess weight. No, they run to eat. Eating is their only desire, their only purpose. All that they do in their lifespan occurs for a sole purpose: to survive. Nothing more and nothing less, simply to perpetuate their existence of life on this Earth. We too would be doomed to the same fate if it wasn’t for the ability of consciousness, awareness. Thought provides us the opportunity to live a life of substance, not just survival. We can differentiate our cognitive being from that of a squirrel because thought is present within us. Yet, not just thought, but autonomy of thought, creators of it. In the absence of him, we are no more than a sciuridae. The ability to think, the ability to be an I, is what makes you a distinguishable being. Thought provides us a chance to call ourselves human, allowing us to experience and respond to reality in the modes that we do see fit. What is more powerful than any in this ability, is the metaphysical opportunity to amend the pattern of reality. We don’t have to live in a reality that was already determined from the word go. Rather, we have the force to decide it, to create it. Thought is what permits us to not be observers, but deciders of the world.
With thought, we set the course, because we are the drivers.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL: NEXT WEEK
Yet, beneath this axiom, lies a corrosive tinge of deceit that all but none try to hide from. It is the rodent in the attic, the ghost in the closet, that we fearfully don’t allow ourselves to address.
Thought is yours, and yours alone. It is your private quarters, your personal canvas, that ensures that only you can draw the painting on it. But what makes you think you’re controlling the brush? Close your eyes, and stop the talk, quiet the thinking. You can’t can you? The Buddha himself determined such a feat the pinnacle of his existence. But why? Are you not the thinker of your thoughts? Are you not the dictator of your own consciousness? No. You can’t stop them, you can’t control them. They simply arrive despite any attempt to make them. Thoughts seem to exist independent from your conducting of them. Rather, they form without your direction and without your doing. So what is this to mean to us? If we don’t control our own thoughts, then what is it that we do control?
Jen Baldo, also known as Mousie, was born in Indio, California on August 3, 1979. Mousie is the
Daughter of Denice O’Shane and David Baysinger, and sibling to half-sister Dawn. “Have you
ever heard the song, ‘The Wanderer’,” Mousie asked me. I nodded my head. “I like to consider
that to be like my life song,” she said. Mousie has been on the road nearly her whole life. She has
been all over the United States, living her life with a very practical set of rules in place, “Do not
lie, do not steal, do good, help out when you can, and do not take a handout, but if you do,
swallow your pride.” Mousie lived most of her early childhood in California before she moved in
with her grandparents in Arizona. She loved this time in her life; this was truly a period of
tranquility. Some of her favorite memories were shared with her grandparents. She said with a
smile, “I remember chopping wood with grandpa, and going outside to help grandma in the
garden.” I guess the simpler things in life truly can be enjoyable when we are doing them with
people we love. She stops me as I am writing, “Chopping wood was fun, but the most fun I had
was when I was fishing with family.” She proudly says, “I can bait, hook, throw the line, reel it
in, but not touch the damn fish.” Most of her youth was spent with her grandparents. “Oh man
they would spoil me so much,” she said and soon broke out into a loud laugh. She told me a story
about how her grandma would ask for her grandpa to spank Mousie; Mousie’s grandpa would
take her into a separate room and tell her to fake-cry and would take his belt and hit the wall.
Soon after Mousie moved to Arizona, Denice and Mouise’s stepdad moved out to join Mousie.
While staying with her grandparents, Mousie pursued an education and eventually got a degree
from a trade school in 1994. After very many long conversations with her mom and
grandparents, Mousie found out that her biological dad still lived in California. Mousie had been
lied to her whole life and was told that her stepdad was her biological dad. Feeling betrayed and
desperate, Mousie left Arizona for California in search of her real dad, she had just turned 16.
“It was the worst trip ever,” says Mousie. She had been told that her real dad was not a
very good person, but Mousie said her only goal was to form her own opinion of him. Sadly, her
grandparents and mother were right, he was not a very good person. So, after six months back in
California, she moved back to Arizona to be with her grandparents again. The timing could not
have been worse. When she got back to Arizona she discovered her mother had left, and her
grandparents getting ready to move as well. Being that Mousie had only completed trade school
and still needed to complete high school, her grandparents put her in Homebase Youth Services
before leaving. I asked her to describe her experience at Homebase Youth Services, her response,
“It was hell.” She goes on to say that people were very mean to her and did not treat her kindly.
She was only in the shelter for around a year, before deciding to leave to go and be with her Aunt
Debbie who lived in Buckeye, Arizona. Leaving the Homebase Youth Services was very good
for Mousie, she really felt like she had found a home with her aunt. However, soon the calm
waters of Mousie’s life would be disrupted. While staying with her aunt, Mousie was molested
by her Uncle Les, she was just 17.
What started out as a tranquil, peaceful place for Mousie, soon turned into a world of
darkness. Mousie desperately wanted to leave her aunt’s house, but with nowhere to go, she was
stuck. She told me that this time in her life was very hard for her, she resonated with the song
“Pretty Girl,” she quoted it saying, “There’s more to me then people know.” After staying with
her aunt for half a year, she left to live with her grandparents in Showlow, Arizona and moved in
with them. While living with her grandparents, she mainly worked around the house. Her
grandfather worked as an 18-wheeler driver and was gone for many days on end, and her
grandmother needed help around the house. She lived with her grandparents for about two years
before moving back to California. Following one of her rules for life, she moved back to
California to help her half-sister with her home. She said that her sister was falling on hard times
and needed some help taking care of the kids. She stayed there for one year before moving up to
Chugiak, Alaska in 2002 to help take care of her mother who had recently broken her wrist. I
asked Mousie to describe her stay in Alaska to which she said, “It was cold and boring.” Yet, she
was with her mom which was important to her. She ended up staying in Alaska for 9 years, her
longest time in one place since childhood. It seemed as though she had finally found herself a
home. Yet again, the calm waters would be disrupted, Mousie’s stepdad, Herb, started molesting
her. When I asked how old she was she said, “I have no idea, I do know that Santa Clause 2 had
just come out.”
After being molested by her stepdad, Mousie moved back to California. She moved in
with her Uncle Harvey, to whom she lovingly nicknamed ‘shithead’. She said that she had so
much fun getting to stay with her Uncle Harvey, had two kids named Sunshine and Angel. She
loved them very dearly and would play many games with them throughout the day. She recalled
her favorite game being, ‘monkey,’ which would entail the kids hanging on her arm and being
swung around. But, yet again, Mousie’s life would soon be disrupted. Aunt Debbie got in touch
with Mousie to inform her that she was dying. Mousie soon left her comfortable life in California
to move back to Arizona to take care of her dying aunt, forcing her to face the man who first
molested her. Mousie said that life back in Arizona was hard, Les and Mousie would take turns
every night checking Debbie’s blood pressure. Mousie said, shaking with rage, that just before
her aunt died she remembered Les stopping her and saying that if he stopped giving Debbie
insulin at night that no one would be able to prove it was his fault that she died. Mousie believed
that this was evidence enough to prove that Les killed her aunt by not giving her insulin. Debbie
died on January 5 th , 2015. Mousie soon bounced from place to place in Arizona for a couple
years before meeting Cristal, who is now her girlfriend. Cristal is eventually what led Mousie to
move down to the Bryan/College Station area. She now resides here and is hoping to make this
area her home.
I am so thankful that Mousie would trust me with her life story. She truly is a remarkable
light in the midst of a life surrounded by the darkest of events. Mousie has been through what so
many others already have. Millions of females around the world have been victims of sexual
assault and molestation just like Mousie. Yet, through all the pain, Mousie stands as a pillar of
hope. With a life consumed by desperation and sadness, Mousie pushes on throughout it all. She
truly is the epitome of selflessness, leaving comfortability and security to be there for family.
Constantly she showed love, when love wasn’t shown to her. Endlessly she offered grace, when
forgiveness was anything but easy to offer. Always she emanated happiness, even when
happiness seemed impossible to show. Mousie’s story has given hope to the hopeless, peace to
the peaceless, and joy to the joyless. To the women who are struggling, and to the victims who
are hurting, we hope you can read this story and know that you aren’t alone. But more that, that
you’re going to make it through. Latch onto those around you that make you feel full, and let go
of the pains that bring you to emptiness. Take the words from Mousie to heart, do good for
others and help when you can. But never forget that this life is worth living, and this struggle is
worth the pain. Because through it all, throughout all the brokeness, you can stand as a voice for
love and as a symbol of hope, in the same way that Mousie has done for us, and so many others.