Why Rejections Aren’t Enough

Dee Richards
4 min readNov 2, 2023

I want to talk about my failures. I want so much to say that my MFA application rejections in March and April were devastating. The multiple publication rejections I’ve recently received are humiliating. I can’t even express the crushing weight of getting rejected into workshops that are intended to help me figure out why I can’t get publications. My heart is so unsure and I feel like a complete failure. But, I can’t turn inward right now.

Despite having meticulously searched for all possible avenues for my MFA (the single most important goal of my lifetime), I come up again and again about the genocide in Gaza. While I am happy that my children are alive and (mostly) safe, I can’t help but weep in the deepest parts of me about the children dead in Gaza. Children. Not terrorists or antisemites, just kids.

In my daughter’s class, some kids say: “Gay people are gross.” Mind you, these are 10- and 11-year-olds. Puberty begins at 11 1/2, as we have recently been notified. There is no real reason that these kids have explored their sexuality and determined that being queer wasn’t right for them. Their community (family, social upbringing, religious doctrine) has communicated to them that being “gay” is “gross” or maybe bad. I don’t want to even go into how detrimental it is to a queer child to be brought up with these messages, maybe read my last post, How State Laws Affect MFA Applications.

Still, despite hating the message, I am completely aware that the child themself doesn’t necessarily understand this message; they are simply repeating a doctrine that was pressed into them by their community. I hold them completely blameless unless they act in a way that is harmful to another, such as bullying or physically attacking someone based on this idea. That being said, I still understand why they might become violent as a conditioned response to challenging their community’s teachings.

Sometimes, I see kids on street corners holding “ban abortion” signs. This should be considered child abuse. I could almost grasp the concept of childbearing at age 16, and advocatesforyouth.org states that a clear understanding of sexuality and pregnancy occurs between 13 & 17. The kids I’m talking about are 7–10, at best. Their cognition doesn’t even allow them to understand child-rearing or the option of pregnancy termination at those ages. But, they are there. Why? Same as above: community-based social pressure and propaganda.

Even if there were CHILDREN who claimed to hate Israel’s policies, or repeated antisemitic remarks, they should not be held accountable by death. My above examples illustrate how even the most deplorable statements and acts of kids below the age of 13 can be understood in the context of social upbringing. There is no way to guarantee that a child will grow up to support or reject these beliefs, only that they understand them due to positive reinforcement in their social sphere: if gay is socially bad, then parents will praise/reward anti-queer rhetoric. There is, however, plenty of social science experiments illustrating the devastating effect of negative reinforcement of oppositional beliefs in a social sphere. Does it determine a child’s development of sexuality? Not really. Does it foster emotional disturbance if a child departs from this social understanding? I can speak to this and say, at least for me (and many others I’ve read): yes, very much so.

The children of Gaza have been tried. There is a judge, he is the leader of the Israeli government. There is a jury, it is the community both in Israel and the world. The judge only listens to those who agree with his judgment. Those who do not are victims of the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. So, there’s no real room for a hung jury before the sentence is carried out in expansive directions. The sentence isn’t a death penalty for those responsible, like the outdated practice of capital punishment. No one is sat in an electric chair or strapped to a table for lethal injection. No. Instead, the sentence is equal to the blindfolding and deafening of a firing squad, and sending them into a busy city street to shoot the condemned. Of course, it will be a bloodbath, there is no way for it not to be. To believe that to be the best course of action in stopping terrorism is foolish. Blind killing is terrorism.

A simple cycle of reasoning would suggest that the blind, blunt attack is not a “whoopsie we killed kids” (again and again) sort of situation. It wasn’t “terrorists might be hiding in this hospital, so let’s blow up the whole hospital” situation, either. There is no law or reason behind these murders that doesn’t conclude with intentional murder. What is the intentional murder of many people in a specific area or culture? Genocide.

If genocide doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I worry for those around you. I am very much a supporter of the idea that you should not devalue your problems in lieu of the problems the world faces. People have often said to me: “You shouldn’t be sad, some people have it way worse than you!” I reject this idea, not only as a person diagnosed with depression, but also as a person who understands more than one tragedy can exist in the same place, same time, and within the same person. I feel sad that inflation is harming families AND I feel sad I am getting rejections. I feel broken about the loss of rights occurring so frequently in America right now AND feel shattered over my failures. However, rejection just isn’t enough. I HAVE TO stop, push my head toward the news, toward genocide. It is an inhumane horror that supersedes all other sorrows, and I can’t say I need self-care by not looking at genocide. This is not a matter of ordering sorrows, it is one of basic human decency. I must bear witness to atrocity, no matter my circumstances. Sorrow isn’t enough. Outrage is needed.

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Dee Richards

Dee is a writer, parent & educator. Dee has a BA in English, with honors, from UC Irvine. Dee has 8 anthology pubs & 3 awards in CNF.