Saturday, February 17, 2018

Crying for the Winds of Change

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

Want a factual argument? Here's one.

A Continental Solider would have been outfitted to fight by the government (he also would have taken guns from the British along the way). However, a militiaman would not. He would have been told what to bring, such as his own rifle, thus "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." James Madison knew how important it was to fend off tyranny, to always have those militiamen at the ready, so this amendment made it into the Constitution.

However, We The People know the Constitution is a fluid document. How else did all those amendments get added after the original document was ratified in 1788? People of color can vote (the founding fathers said African-American men couldn't, and that law stood until 1870, and African-American women couldn't until 1920). Women can vote (those same founding fathers said women couldn't, and no woman could vote until 1920). We don't have to pay a poll tax to vote (there was a charge to vote until 1964). The VP can take over presidential duties in case of emergency (the founding fathers never foresaw an instance to set this up; maybe they didn't see everything coming. The VP couldn't officially do this until 1965). These were not always laws. They were added after ratification.


Did you hear that?

The Constitution can. be. changed.

Article V of the Constitution even allows this. The Constitution itself allows for change. Congress proposes an amendment. If it passes with a 2/3 majority in the House and in the Senate, it then goes to the individual states. It takes 3/4 (38 out of 50) of the states to ratify the amendment. As soon as they do, it's done. Changed. (please understand this is an incredibly simplified version of the process.)

Do you know what this means? This means that if we find our society has outpaced the original laws that were written 230 years ago, we can do something about them. Just as we have protected people of color. Just as we have protected women. Just as we have protected our voting process. Just as we have ensured the successful continuation of governance if our President should fall. It's time we look to protect the rest of society as well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking At Me Now...

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote Me too as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Alyssa Milano

Looking at me, no one would know.

No one would know just by looking at me that my me toos started in sixth grade. Seeing me smile today, no one would know that beginning when I was 11, when I had to ride the bus to and from school, one of the boys on the bus used to grope me. I would cringe away, would tell him to stop, but he wouldnt. Not until he wanted to stop. His guy friends saw what was happening and did not speak up on my behalf. They allowed it to happen.

Looking at me now, no one would know that in my freshman year of high school, a long-term substitute teacher in algebra made inappropriate advances toward me. I was a quiet, shy kid, and I have no doubt he saw me as an easy target. After he delivered his lesson, he would stop by my desk, ostensibly to ask what questions I had, rub my shoulders, sometimes rub my back, and stand close enough to my seated body to press the standing length of his body against mine. This meant that his groin was at head height, and he made sure it was right there. I cringed away. My body language was clearly unwelcoming. He ignored my body language and kept one arm clamped around my shoulders. Other students saw it. We were not hidden from view. No one spoke up for me. But of course, he was the teacher; what could we say?

Looking at me now, as a successful educator, you would never know that in my late teens/early 20s, I was a waitress. One day, an overly inebriated customer seated at the bar was gesturing with his adult beverage and spilled it on my shirt as I was passing. The spill happened to be at chest level. I headed toward the back to borrow a shirt from the managers office. On my way, a customer stopped me. He looked at my shirt, looked at me, and said, Hey, darlin, looks like you got a problem. You lactating? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge to all his guy friends at the table.

If that wasnt disgusting enough, before I could give a simple explanation, he then continued with, I could help you out with that if youd like, accompanied by a chuckle and a suggestive wink at me. I told him that was inappropriate. He told me it was a joke and I needed to lighten up.

It is not possible for that to be justified in any way. If you dont understand why, message me, and I will explain how many levels of wrong that is.

Looking at me now, no one would know that in my mid-30s, I became a statistic. I wasnt wearing a suggestively short skirt and tube top (and would it matter if I were?). I was wearing jeans, a short-sleeved pullover, and Converse. Hearing me laugh today, you wouldnt understand the violence of that night. The brutality. The pain. You wouldnt have suspected the bruises I had on my ribcage and lower back for the next couple of weeks, the abrasions on my knees, the lump on the back of my head. The two small bare patches of scalp where he ripped out my hair. I said no. Im sure he heard; I was screaming. But just like all the others Ive written about, he didnt listen.

This is the problem: the not listening, the not respecting boundaries.

Women make up 51% of the population, so how is it that we are the less heard? How is it that our opinions, our viewpoints, our leadership counts for less?

Why is our autonomy less respected? Our boundaries are every bit as important as a mans. Men, I do not have to hug you just because you want a hug. I do not have to smile for you just because you think I should smile. I do not have to wear makeup just because you think I would look better with a false face.

Its interesting that (generally speaking) men only seem to want to hug when there is a woman involved. They are less keen when it comes to hugging another man. And they are less inclined to wear makeup themselves, as well. Until they are willing to practice what they preach, they need to keep their double standards, and their hands, to themselves.

Guys, if you arent willing for that experience to happen to you not the filmy, porny version you have in your heads, but the real-life edition you are acting out then you need to reverse your actions. You need to be the change, effective immediately. Men, teach respect. Show respect. Earn respect. It is a simple chain. Stand up to your friends when they tell sexist jokes, when they make wife jokes, mom jokes, rape jokes. Do not normalize rape culture. Dont make it easier for these lines to be crossed.

There are too many #metoos out there, male and female. Respect. Listen. Observe. When you see something wrong, stand up for the person being victimized. It may be scary. You may be afraid of being bullied, too. But when you stand up for someone, then there will be two of you. Thats a team. The more of you there are, the stronger you will be.

Looking at me now, you would never know that I used to be quiet, that I used to worry about rocking the boat, that I was afraid to speak up. That scared, harassed girl, that violated woman turned into an outspoken advocate so every person out there in need can look at me now, and know they have an ally in me.

I am just one of many #metoos in the world. That does not make me unique, but if we all join together, it does give us power: it gives us the power to make a change, to affect the discrimination and objectification of men and women that occurs in so many places. We have a golden opportunity to take a horrific negative and turn it into something positive. We have a chance to find beauty in the horror when we all work together. But it will take us all. There is no room for division here.

Speak up for a stranger.
Speak up for a friend.
Speak up for your female coworker.
Speak up for your male coworker.
Speak up for your boss.
Speak up for your husband.
Speak up for your wife.
Speak up for your date.
Speak up for your partner.
Speak up for your mom.
Speak up for your dad.
Speak up for your sister.
Speak up for your brother.
Speak up for your son.
Speak up for your daughter.
Speak up for the transgender.
Speak up for your niece.
Speak up for your nephew.
Speak up for your cousin.

Speak up for police officers, and teachers, and retail workers, restaurant workers, and military, and everyone else you can think of, even if they don’t look like they need help, because one day, you may need someone to speak up for you. One day, you may need to be defended, aided, helped. One day someone may be coming after you and a little extra backup could make all the difference in the world. Speak up, speak out, and join the community. If #metoo became a closed club, and no one else ever joined, I would be okay with that.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers

When that first truckload
Of thoughts and prayers arrives
See how much help they need unloading.

How many needy flock to its arrival,
Hands out in supplication,
Faces slack with relief,
Throats loose with moans of joy.

When the tailgate rolls up,
And shows that empty trailer,
And the wounded look with eyes burning in disbelief,
Remember: thoughts and prayers.

“People sent their deepest thoughts and prayers to you,”
They will tell them.
“In your time of need, here they are.
These prayers will fix all your problems.”

The hollowness of that trailer stares back,
Unable to offer help,
Unable to change a thing.

But people still send them,
Those thoughts and prayers,
By the truckload.

-       Karen Peterson