2016 was a year of extreme contrast. It was red against blue. It seemed to each of us that we were the most “purple” of all Americans, but anyone who saw things differently was either redder or bluer. There was divisiveness, name-calling and a lot of animosity throughout the election season.
During most election years, there might be a few entertainers who speak their minds in public forums. However, 2016 was not just any election year. Musicians, actors, athletes and social media “stars” made their convictions known on a daily basis.
The election is over now. The inauguration is behind us. Yet, the divisiveness, the name-calling, and the animosity continue. In an effort to help each side — left and right, blue and red, conservative and liberal — understand the other’s point of view, two UFC fighters have agreed to discuss their beliefs and how they view the world.
These two women are hard-hitting bantamweights who have a lot of similarities. They both have spouses who have served in our military, they both have sons, and they both have been single mothers. They are both fairly outspoken via social media and have never pulled any punches in interviews or in fights.
They are both thoughtful, considerate and respectful role models, even if they probably would shrug that idea off as horse pucky. Neither of them planned on being professional MMA fighters, and both of them are over the age of 30. (A lady never tells, right?)
They are Marion Reneau and Lauren Murphy.
On paper, the one who is biracial and from California — that would be Reneau — ought to be the more liberal of the two, right? And the one from Alaska who is rather white and who served as a forestry firefighter is more likely to be the conservative one, eh?
Well, for these reasons and more, I asked them each to answer questions about the state of our excellent union and how they see themselves as well as the “other side.” Let’s get into it.
How do you see/label yourself?
Marion Reneau: I don't label myself as anything in particular. I am a person who wears many different hats. I adjust when I need to.
Lauren Murphy: Politically: Liberal-leaning. I’m pretty open to some conservative/right-wing ideas. I really, strongly believe that there aren’t many, if any, black-and-white issues. Most are in these grey areas and a lot of the fucking problems we have are people who only see them in black and white.
Financially: We’re doing just fine. Sexually: I think my husband is sexy (as fuck), so I guess that makes me heterosexual. Ethnically or Ancestrally: White. Emotionally: Yes, very. Educationally: Some college.
How do others label you?
MR: As far as others labeling me, I wouldn't know and, to be honest, don't really care.
LM: Probably pretty damn liberal, if we're talking about politics. I'm not as liberal as people might think, but I feel very strongly about certain issues, which makes people think I am totally liberal.
Why do you choose to fight professionally?
LM: I like winning, and I like learning and practicing martial arts. The life of an athlete is better than a life at an office, for me. I also love a good, crazy fight.
MR: I started fighting because I needed the money. I was a single mother at the time, and although I was a teacher, I was struggling. It was a very bad time for me. I'm very fortunate that I found fighting! I feel like it saved us!
How do your parents feel about that decision?
LM: My mom gets into it. She watches all my fights and throws punches and kicks in the air at the TV. She also likes it when I win. I think she’s proud I took my own path. My dad died when I was a kid, but I am guessing he would be proud.
MR: At first, my parents were unsure of my decision to fight. My dad hated the decision! In fact, he refused to go to any of my fights or support them. I think he was just more afraid that I was going to hurt myself. When he did watch me, he realized that I had the fighting bug. It's what the Reneaus call it! From that point on, he trusted in my skills and my ability to fight and has been one of my biggest supporters since.
MR: I have only one sibling. And that is my younger brother. And he thinks it fucking rocks! He has been such a huge supporter. In fact, he goes to as many of the events that he can go to. You'll probably hear him in the crowd; he's the loudest one [laughs].
LM: They think I’m a little nuts, but I think they are too, so we’re even.
MR: My fiancé is one of my biggest supporters as well. However, at first he was just like my dad. In fact, there was a period of time where we split up. He told me to choose fighting or him — I chose fighting! I was at a point in my life where I couldn't allow somebody to dictate what my life would be like. I don't think anybody should have the right to tell somebody else what they can and can't do with their life. [A] few months later, we got back together. He ended up just becoming one of my training partners and biggest supporters. It's made our relationship stronger. I guess the old motto goes: if you can't beat them, join them!
LM: My husband thinks it’s great.
LM: My son is 15. I honestly think he’s a little conflicted about it all. He understands the competitive aspect of fighting, but he does not watch me fight and doesn’t really talk to his friends about it. One time, he did tell some kids at school about it, after I won the Invicta championship, and they didn’t believe him and teased him a little, so after that he kind of quit telling people. Kids are assholes.
MR: My son is on the line of whether he likes what I do or not. I think it all stems from the first and only match he attended in person. It gave him butterflies in his stomach and he was scared and nervous and, I think, more anxious than ever. And I don't believe he liked that feeling. So he chooses not to watch. He just chooses to find out if I won or lost at the end. But if you ask him, he'll tell you he's very proud of me.
So far, so similar. Interesting. Let’s get a little bit more political.
Are you willing to share who you voted for in the presidential election?
LM: I really wasn’t excited about either candidate.
MR: I voted for Donald Trump!
Was it different from past presidential elections?
MR: This presidential election has been different than past elections because it was more emotional for people. I think nowadays people get their feelings hurt too easy off of what is said, and some things were taken out of context and they got their feelings hurt. I think this election was very personal for a lot of people!
LM: I usually don’t even vote. Being from Alaska, we literally know who the president is before we are even done voting. So I always figured, what’s the point? But this year I did vote.
How do you personally feel about racism in America?
LM: I think it exists, and I think people are foolish to act like it doesn’t. It wasn’t really that long ago that we had to actually make it a law that black and white people could go to the same schools, bathrooms, businesses, et cetera. Segregation, Jim Crow, redlining, et cetera, were not very long ago — only like two generations or so. It takes a long time for ideas like racism and racial superiority to be weeded out of a society. We’re getting there, I think.
I grew up in a house that had an adult in charge, who raised us, who is still to this day quite racist. I mean, this person refused to hire a house sitter who was black because they didn’t want a black person in their house, and they didn’t feel any conflict with that decision. That’s pretty racist. I recently just spoke to a guy on Facebook who doesn’t like to rent to minorities because he claims they bring down the value of his rental property, and he also claimed he could tell the general income of someone by the color of their skin.
So, racism is alive and well in the U.S., although I like to think it’s less common now than it used to be. Hopefully.
MR: The question on how I feel about racism in America is pretty obvious. I was born into it. My father is black and my mother is white and they got together in the '70s. That was a time when that was not appropriate. It was a hard time, not only for me but my parents as well. There was a time when some family members didn't even accept their relationship or even me.
I remember a time my dad took me and my brother to the mountains and we were really enjoying ourselves, and this man drove by and yelled n***** out the window and told him to go back to his country. I was young at the time and didn't really understand it. My dad's response to him was, “Jesus loves you, man!” My dad showed class then, as he does now. To this day, my parents are still together — 40 years going strong!
So my thoughts on racism is, it's wasted energy. No matter how much you try to track somebody down, they will find a way to fight through it.
Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter?
MR: All this bullshit about “black lives matters” and “blue lives matters” is just fucking a waste of time as well. Everybody's lives matter! Stop labeling everything! It's like the doctors, they have a diagnosis for everything. So annoying! Just fucking be nice and obey the law!
LM: They do.. Both of them fucking matter.
Honestly, we wouldn’t have Black Lives Matter if we hadn’t treated the whole situation like black lives didn’t matter for over 200 years. Of course, all lives matter, but that’s not really the fucking point. And blue lives do matter — of course they do.
The Ku Klux Klan?
LM: Idiots. With all we know about race, melanin, genealogy and DNA, how could anyone still be bent on a “master race” or the idea that one race is better than another? Seems ignorant.
MR: I fucking hate the KKK! Nuff said!
MR: I'm on the fence about abortion, especially when it comes to women who have been raped and are carrying their rapist’s child. I feel they should be able to rid themselves of that child. There's other circumstances where other people shouldn't judge what the woman decides. However, when your child is full term, should you be able to abort it? Hell no!
LM: Umm, OK, look, this is one of those things I think conservatives have right in one sense: That is actually a little tiny human in there. Science says a fetus is a little tiny human, OK? It’s life. It grows and responds to its environment. It metabolizes matter and reproduces its cells. It has 46 human chromosomes, produced by two other humans. How is that not a human? Science says that’s a human.
So if a liberal refuses to believe in Christian values because they are not religious, they need to recognize that science, not religion, recognizes that fetus as a human being from the moment of conception, really. Sorry, liberals, but when you talk about fetuses not being people because they’re not viable outside the mother’s womb, or because they can’t love yet, or haven’t experienced life outside the womb… Those are all philosophical ideas, not scientific ideas. So if you want religious nuts to keep their religious and philosophical ideas out of politics, you all have to as well.
That being said, I am pro-choice, because when abortion is illegal, women die in fairly large numbers due to trying to give themselves abortions or by getting them done in some less than appropriate setting.
We need to take into account pregnancies that endanger a mother’s health. We also need to take into account that sometimes wires get crossed and the life created in a pregnancy isn’t viable.
Pregnancies are not always planned — sometimes they do occur through rape, incest, accident, even when the woman is on birth control or whatever. They do occur even in the most responsible settings, and sometimes parents are just very, very ill equipped to have children. In my opinion, it’s better in some cases to not bring a child into the world that cannot be cared for, or that is unwanted.
I see conservatives rallying against abortion, but I don’t see conservatives trying to make adoption a little more streamlined. It’s an incredibly difficult, expensive, long, shitty process. There’s a lot of people out there that would love to have lots of children and cannot afford to adopt. And there are a lot of great adoptable children who could be in good homes, but they are unaffordable. Can we talk about that?
We take human life all the time when we feel it’s justified — whether it’s through the death penalty, or assisted/compassionate suicide, there are many instances when people, even conservatives, feel it’s acceptable to take a human life.
So, I think this is an issue that isn’t black and white. There’s a couple sides to the issue with the truth in the middle.
LM: The earth is important. We only get one. What’s the fucking hold up with investing in renewable energy? What’s the hold up with recognizing global warming? Why aren’t more people invested in making our world a better place?
I don’t know everything about renewable energy or the sciences behind it. I don’t know why it seems to be so difficult to move toward, or why the United States wouldn’t want to be a leader and example in that area to the rest of the world. It just baffles me.
MR: Environmental issues have been around for years. We just have too many idiots out there who just don't pay attention. Until something drastic and devastating happens to this earth, they will not listen. It's coming.
MR: We can sit here and say and cry about women's rights. We've come a long way, but it will always be a fight. We are the minority. But compared to some other countries, we have it pretty damn good!
LM: This is a hard question to answer with a short description. I think as far as women’s rights, we’re about on a level playing field these days [with] Title IX, voting rights, laws against sex discrimination, et cetera.
That being said, sexism still exists in our society, and it goes all ways. Men to women, women to women, men to men, and women to men.
Basically, men need to stop treating women like they are inferior because they are women. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to every woman I know. It happens when men sexually harass women, [which] also has happened to every woman I know. It’s a real thing. It happens every time a woman is judged by her looks rather than her skill, every time she gets paid less to take a fight or make a movie than a male counterpart, every time she gets treated like she doesn’t know what she’s talking about or told that she’s “too emotional.” I think it was clearly on display during the presidential election this year.
Women need to stop treating women like shit, too. Men see how we treat each other and follow our examples. So when you get a woman in a position of power, for example, that talks about how she sees a lot of women as “Do Nothing Bitches,” men then feel empowered to call those women “Do Nothing Bitches” too, and we’re back to fighting for our right to fuck whoever we want, for whatever reason we want, and it being nobody’s business except the two people doing the fucking.
There are lots of examples of sexism going the other way, too. There’s a great book called “Save The Males,” by Kathleen Parker, that talks about the dangers in punishing men with feminism, and how it’s not only unnecessary, but can also be dangerous in some situations. I think all feminists should read that book just to get a look at a different perspective that’s intelligent and based on facts, not some dude’s hurt feelings.
So we all need to calm down and look at reality. Biologically, men and women are different. We are equal in mind and heart and spirit, but our bodies are built differently, which is obviously going to make men and women suited for certain jobs and activities differently. Quit it with the “Anything men can do, women can do better,” because until women start shooting sperm and producing large amounts of testosterone, and until men start getting pregnant and having babies, our bodies are going to be different and capable of different shit.
LM: I don’t know. I hate trickle-down economics — I think it’s bullshit. Look at the UFC and how much of the income goes to the athletes.
In general, my opinion is that people can’t be trusted, especially when it comes to money, so expecting rich people to do the “right” thing is ridiculous. And the government is made up of people making decisions about money, so I’m not necessarily convinced the government can spend it any better. I think, currently, the economy is doing all right, which I suppose means we’re about due for something shitty to happen.
MR: The economy has gone downhill. Everybody sees that. But, then again, this nation has become a nation of lazy cry-babies! You see it everywhere you go! It's sad. Nobody wants to work for anything anymore. They want handouts.
On a regular basis, you're dealing with people who get butt-hurt over the smallest things and make the biggest issues out of it. Take the election, for instance. Hillary [Clinton] supporters went at it after the election! Are you fucking kidding me? That display right there proves my point. We've become a soft nation. It's kind of embarrassing when you think about it. It fires me up a little bit. I hate how Americans have become so weak and lazy!
MR: National security is a must. I think it's something we need to be more cautious about.
LM: Sure! Tighten it up! Just don’t be a racist, riot-inciting fuck when you do so. Everyone stay calm and don’t get all fucking crazy, and we’ll be fine.
Deportation of illegal immigrants?
LM: Seems like a pretty complicated issue. Do they have children here they are raising? Were those children born here? Are those immigrants working? Contributing to society somehow? Why didn’t they come into the country legally?
I’m all for tightening borders and being stricter with immigration, but if we’re not going to welcome the tired and poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we should take the damn poem off the Statue of Liberty and put it in a museum somewhere. Quit talking about how this country is proud to be a melting pot and all that if you want it to be a white Christian nation.
MR: Deportation of illegal immigrants is also a gray area. This is another subject people are afraid to talk about because feelings get hurt so bad. But I'm talking first-hand, because I have a father who came to this country as an illegal immigrant. However, in order for him to become a citizen, he had to fight for our country in the Vietnam War. Which is exactly what he did. From his stories or what he will say, it was a devastating war. It was ugly. And when he came back home, the Americans were even more ugly to our veterans. But he did this so he could become an American citizen. He studied for the test and he went through what he needed to in order to become an American citizen. More people need to do this!
If you want to move to our country and reap the benefits of our country and what could be in our country, you need to go through the right hoops to become a legal citizen. Take Cris “Cyborg” [Justino], for instance. She has done a tremendous job in women's MMA and has lived in this country and loves it. Does that mean she loves her country any less? Absolutely not. However, she went through the right protocol in order to become an American citizen. Everybody should have the same accountability!!! Otherwise...
Muslims in the United States?
MR: I don't mind having Muslims in the United States, just so long as they become American citizens or are here on visas. Plain and simple.
LM: They’re fine. I’ve shared the mats with many Muslims, and they’ve been just as gracious, kind, funny and hardworking as anyone else on the mat. I was never treated poorly by any Muslim. When people start talking about Muslims as being dangerous, violent, et cetera, I always think of the Christian white people who have committed atrocities — the Catholic priests convicted of molesting children, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, et cetera. Most religions can be taken to a place of hatred and violence, or they can be used for inner reflection and peace. I suppose it’s up to the person.
ISIS in the Middle East?
LM: They sound like some bad, bad dudes.
MR: As far as ISIS goes, those people need to suffer the worst death possible! They need to be wiped clean of this earth! They should not be given any leeway. They need to all die! For what they have done to their fellow countrymen, to innocent women and children, to the fathers who they made watch — man, that kind of [in]humanity and cruelty should not be let born on this earth.
Whew! Those are just the basic “getting to know you” questions. When I conceived this idea, I had no idea how long it was going to be. I tried to make it shorter, but in order to be thorough, this turned into a term paper for these two fighters. Let’s take a break and recap the “score.”
Murphy and Reneau have fairly opposing views, right? On the surface, yes. But if you dig deeper, they both abhor the KKK, ISIS, racists and candy-asses. They both agree that fetuses are babies and women’s rights still have some ways to go, but they admit we have come a long way. They agree that deportation of illegal immigrants really is a complex issue that needs thought and common sense, and they (probably) agree that this turned out to be a really long exercise.
The biggest difference, so far, is in how they view the economy. Murphy feels that the trickle-down economics from Ronald Reagan and subsequent GOP presidents doesn’t work. Reneau feels the economy was getting ready to implode had it been left in Democratic hands.
If you’re willing to continue reading — and we thank you if you do — you might be surprised at some of the answers from both ladies.
Let’s delve into some more specifics on this past election.
What were the top three issues for you in this election?
MR: The three issues for me for this election were: 1) The economy. What do you plan to do to change the economy and how can you make it better?; 2) Education. My son will be going to college soon — well, in three years — and the cost of college and education has gone up and it just keeps rising. It's ridiculous. To this day, I am still paying on a school loan. I don't want that for my son. Not to mention the common-core standards in each state that they have for each school district is ridiculous! We need change in that area. We have too many legislators and senators voting on things they are not aware of and have not been around for many years. Just ask any educator. Keep it simple, stupid!; [and] 3) The last major issue for me was a toss-up between healthcare and criminal justice.
LM: Trump’s treatment of women and minorities, and how that would affect our attitudes nationally; Clinton’s dishonesty and sleazy style of politics, and how that would affect us as a nation; and whether one candidate would start a war with another country or not. I kinda think Clinton would have probably gone to war with Russia, and Trump may start a war with... who knows? Either way, it didn’t look good.
How did your candidate promise to address those issues?
LM: They both avoided them at all costs.
MR: Over the years, I have followed many, many presidential elections and the promises they made. I am not naive to believe that their promises are going to be fulfilled. Whether my candidate said it or not, that's to be seen, but those were issues for them as well. The changes that Trump wanted to make on these issues, was exactly what I wanted to see. However, politicians are politicians. Actions will speak louder than words.
What did you think the opposing candidate would do regarding those issues?
MR: I [spoke] with many people who voted for Trump. They are the hard-working Americans that have worked their fingers to the bone, so to speak. They are the Americans who have not been given [a] handout, and don't expect to get handouts. They are the people who want to see a change in this economy from the ground up.
On the flipside, all the promises that Trump made almost seemed impossible. But even if he can accomplish a sliver of what he said, that's the change that we want to get started. We want America to be strong again. Sure, it is a great nation; many dreams can come true. I am living my dream! However, I still work my finger to the bone, and I feel that I'm giving handouts to those who don't give a damn. I feel there are too many handouts here in America and people need to own up to their own responsibilities.
Everybody's responsible for themselves. Things need to change. Whether Trump can accomplish that is to be seen. All I know is that I did not want to see Hillary as president of the United States. That would have been trouble at its highest degree!
LM: I was hoping Trump would keep his promise about draining the swamp, but he seems to just be filling it.
How can we heal the divide between ideologies?
LM: I think people need to put down the pitchforks and listen. Most of us hate being wrong and will cling to a belief even if it makes no sense. So I think we have to find a way to be a little more open-minded to both sides. Again, it’s about living somewhere in the grey and not getting caught up in the black and white.
Both sides practice a fair amount of hypocrisy, and both sides also tend to promote ideas that are completely out of touch with reality. I think if everyone could work on themselves a little with the goal to grow and find their own truth, no matter which political ideology it follows, we would be much, much better off.
MR: I think one way to heal the divide is to truly listen to the people. Listen to what it is that they want and how it is affecting them. I think were we able to do that and the people in the White House can actually overcome the power that being in the White House gives them, [then] we can truly become a nation again.
Interesting. Both fighters agree that listening is the key. Did you know that listening is the skill we use the most as humans? As babies, listening is how we learn to talk. As students, listening is how we learn subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic. As adults, listening is how we conduct business, and how we interact with friends and loved ones.
According to these ladies, listening can heal the nation.
You know what class I have never attended? A listening class. I have taken plenty of the other classes — reading, writing and arithmetic, and, heck, even a speech class — but never once have I had a chance to take a listening class. Educators, can we fix this?
I must admit a grave error: all of my questions were sent to Murphy, but only some of the questions were sent to Reneau. Here are the few bonus questions for Murphy. Let’s call them extra credit, shall we?
What do you think influences your leanings more: family, career, spouse, education (formal and informal), social media or mainstream media?
LM: I think my personal experiences influence me the most, and my friends and my own research influence me second most. Social media plays a part, in that it brings things to my attention that I might not have thought about before, issues I didn’t know existed, and points of view I hadn’t thought about.
I have friends who have very different views than me, and when we talk about them, it forces me to read up on what they think, why they think it, what the facts/statistics/experiences of other people have been, et cetera. It’s hard to stay informed on every issue. I have changed my mind a lot about all kinds of things over the years — racial issues, gun control, abortion, et cetera.
Do your coaches and teammates affect the way you see the world?
LM: Not really, to be honest.
Have any of them changed your view of the world?
LM: Yeah, I’m sure they have. I can’t think of a specific instance off the top of my head, but I am sure some of them have, and I think it’s probably extremely healthy to have fluid and changing views. Not very many things in this world are really black and white, so it pays to live somewhere in the grey.
Have any of your opponents or fans changed the way you see the world?
LM: Yeah. Maybe not fans, really, but I’ve had opponents in the past that I really respected their views and intelligence, so I listen to what they have to say when they offer opinions about the world around us and the people in it.
If you have made it this far, I would like to thank you for your patience and perseverance. I would like to thank both Marion Reneau and Lauren Murphy for their time, candor and opinions. I hope you listen to both fighters with the same enthusiasm and open-mindedness and that maybe we can all heal the divisiveness from 2016.
It’s been my experience that MMA fighters, coaches and fans are some of the most educated, thoughtful and respectful folks in the world. We appreciate learning for the sake of learning, hard work for hard work’s sake, and competitiveness without disrespect (well, most do). It’s up to you and me to set examples for those who have forgotten how to keep insults out of debates and condescension out of discussion.
Reneau (7-3) is scheduled to face Bethe Correia (10-2) on March 11 in Fortaleza in Brazil. It’s going to be shown on Fox Sports 1. The fight has “Performance of the Night” written all over it.
The strongest of cases could be made that the judges got it wrong in at least two of the three losses on the record of Murphy (9-3). She is ready for the UFC to give her her next test and wouldn’t be upset if she got to face Correia.