Posted by: minnow | January 6, 2018

Out Stretched Hands

The following words from someone I do not know captured my attention today. Their simplicity and tenderness stopped my scrolling though my FB feed full of status updates and political posts and caused me to consider how I generally move through my day.

“Lately I’ve been replacing my “I’m sorry”s with “thank you”s, like instead of “sorry I’m late” I’ll say “thanks for waiting for me”, or instead of “sorry for being such a mess” I’ll say “thank you for loving me and caring about me unconditionally” and it’s not only shifted the way I think and feel about myself but also improved my relationships with others who now get to receive my gratitude instead of my negativity.” –vijara

I was similarly stopped by a stat I read just before the holiday break from school. According to the article 60 percent of the population cannot go 10 minutes without lying and they average 2 to 3 lies in that time frame. Most of these lies are relatively unimportant and generally told to help us fit in or make oneself look better such as, adding an inch or two to our height, taking five to ten pounds off our weight or saying we watched the movie everyone else is talking about when we only know a few of the most quoted lines. After reading that stat, I tested myself. Sure enough, within minutes I heard myself saying I was ready for Christmas when in fact I had done nothing to get ready–no decorating, no shopping, nothing. And moments later I dutifully answered “fine” when a colleague asked how I was doing. In truth I was fighting a cold and all I wanted was a comfy blanket and my head to stop pounding.

Little white lies–some, like the one I just mentioned, might even be called a nicety or the polite response to the extended greeting of “how ya doing?” which we know is never really meant as a sincere question.  I don’t know if the article I mentioned counted these types of lies but they truly come out of our mouths every day. “You’re lookin’ good!” when really we think they need to put on some weight, or take some off. “How’s that granddaughter of yours?” when in fact we never think about the granddaughter until we’re face to face with an acquaintance and feel pressure to make conversation.

Do these falsehoods actually hurt anything? I don’t know, but I’m beginning to think they might actually be damaging to our mental health. When we don’t trust others enough to be truthful with them, when we’re always only positive or only say what’s politically correct, [Given the group we find ourselves in PC might be politically, religiously, culturally, professionally, or economically determined.] we isolate ourselves. We build emotional walls to keep ourselves safe but they also keep others out. When one wall gets built in front of another wall which is built in front of another wall, some taller and thicker and more important than the first couple, the isolation turns to loneliness and the loneliness becomes filled with doubt. We begin to wonder if we will ever be understood, valued, or loved, if we will ever feel free to be the mixtures of flaws and ordinaries, and spectaculars that we truly are.

Human relationships are full of unintended and insincere communication.At least, this is the conclusion to which my experiences have brought me. The quote I used at the beginning of this post caused me to think about my own relationships in a new way. Outside of my immediate family, I do not have many close ties but I want the relationships I do have to be less polite and more straightforward. I’m not talking about becoming more critical (heck, I probably wouldn’t have any friends left if I did that). I just want to be more intentional with my words. I want others to know they can trust what I say to be what I mean. And when I change what I say or ask their forgiveness for what I’ve said, I want them to know I am truly repentant and am walking in a new direction.

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Posted by: minnow | December 31, 2017

Maybe I Am a Heretic

Interesting word–heretic. It’s definition runs the gambit from dissenter to idolater.  I guess the intended meaning depends on who uses the word. When I first started blogging I wrote about politics, the Church, and my personal journey. I spent a lot of energy warning fellow Christians about becoming judgmental, twisting scripture to fit their singular bias, and driving people out while intending to love them in. Their reaction was less than receptive. I was told I sounded angry, warned to tone it down or risk offending my “brothers (and sisters)”, and in extreme cases labeled a heretic destine for hell.  Some who knew my situation pointed out my lack of regular church attendance as further evidence toward my ultimate destination. Though truth be told, I left the building in search of God, not because I’d lost my faith.

It has long been my not so humble opinion that rather than being havens, buildings with the primary function of a once a week gathering, have become millstones around the necks of their congregants. The larger and more glorious they are, the less cost effective. The classic pyramid leadership structure embedded in most of these organizations is equally restrictive and consumptive. Not only do they provide little opportunity for more than the same couple voices to be heard they swallow up the little remaining resources generated from the tithes and offerings of their congregations in order to keep the few at the top of the pyramid employed.

Like me, a growing number of men and women have responded to those problems by blazing their own spiritual trails. Some continue to infiltrate more traditional circles in order to reroute stuck thinking and provide safe places within hostile waters but most have formed alternative fellowships, like The Refuge in Broomfield, CO, where the marginalized are welcome, valued, and nourished and where ministry to the marginalized is on-going. Individuals who have not found like minded faith fellowships plug in to non-religious organizations which are focused on positive participation in the greater community. Their faith is fed by joining with others to practice the Gospel Jesus preached. The overarching connection among these new expressions of the Church is their inclusive nature, outward focus, and fellowship in action.

The emergence of a reformed expression of the Church has caused some confusion and more than a little frustration within traditional ranks. As their numbers decline, those left behind instruct one another to reject the legitimacy of these new trail blazers.  Leaders like Franklin Graham, Denny Burke, John Piper, and James Dobson feed fear and distrust. They have labeled this new wine as worldly, deceived, or worse.

Last August this division came to a head. A group of self-described evangelical leaders produced a document called the Nashville Statement. In its preamble the statement asks, “Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life?” These are profound questions. I wish the authors of this statement would ask themselves the same thing, for they have missed the mark.

Not only does the Nashville Statement fall seriously short of Christ’s example of love–so powerful it casts out fear and cannot be destroyed, removed, or diminished–it focuses almost exclusively on policing human sexuality, specifically within the LGBTQ communities. So, before you embrace the judgment of the Nashville edict, consider what a friend I met on FB has to say regarding good and bad fruit. And remember, Jesus promised to send the Spirit to each of His followers. You should trust the Spirit to be your teacher as you read or listen to any teaching from Man. Also remember, scripture is full of parables and passages designed to help us discern between good and evil. For example, as parents, we are warned not to exasperate our children and reminded that when they ask for bread we do not give them a stone. More than once we are told, forgiveness (when there is something we must truly forgive) is meted out to us in the manner we bestow it on others. And love, scripture reveals, covers a multitude of sins.

Sins–individual acts of wrong doing. These are harmful. They damage our relationships and impede our progress toward becoming the people God called us to be. Left to multiply they can consume a person’s life. But sins and Sin are not necessarily one in the same. Sin separates us from God. The real “spirit of this age” is the same “spirt of this age” Jesus warned against when he called the teachers of the law and the Pharisee blind guides and hypocrites. Ego, lust for power and position, greed, a judgmental heart–these are the sins of separation, the attitudes that keep us from building relationship with one another and trusting God to do the rest. These are the sins that become Sin by destroying the unity of the Body and feeding us verses them mentalities. So, if I am a heretic for standing against that which divides and embracing that which brings together then AMEN to heresy, for all are welcome at the table laid out for Christ, including the heretic.

 

Posted by: minnow | December 26, 2017

Compassion

The sympathetic concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others. Empathy. Warmth. Humanity. Charity. As a little girl I was taught the definition of COMPASSION could easily be applied to America. We were, according to my childhood education, a Christian nation built on the principles of freedom, justice, and equality. In world affairs my childhood placed America on the good, Godly, righteous side of every conflict.

I attended high school in the seventies, had government with Miss Kennett, a stanch Democrat who put a picture of her cat in the yearbook because having polio as a child left the right side of her body weakened and she couldn’t smile. (We never saw her smile anyway). Miss Kennett was tough. Raised by fiscally conservative Republicans, I assumed her class would be difficult for me. It was, but for other reasons than our differing political views. Miss Kennett insisted we understood how our government worked. If we wanted a voice she wanted us to be able to use it well. Her goal was not to tarnish the ideal of America but she did want us to understand the reality of America.

In addition to the ins and outs of government, I vividly remember three things Miss Kennett told our class. One was a story. As a child, she attended the Summer Olympics in Germany with her father. He snapped a photograph of Adolf Hitler turning his back to the awards podium when Jesse Owens, a Black American, won his gold medal for the 100 meter dash. Later, when her father had the film processed, that photograph was the only picture from the roll that “didn’t turn out”.

Another memory of Miss Kennett was of a scolding she gave one of the students in my class and the lesson she taught the rest of us. Known for her left leaning political views this student probably felt safe referring to President Nixon as “tricky Dick”. Miss Kennett immediately interrupted his rant saying, “Young man, you might get away with that kind of verbiage out there,” waving her good left hand to the world beyond her classroom door, “but you will not get away with it in here. That type of language makes you sound uneducated and small minded. You may not agree with what another person has to say. And, if you plan on being successful you may have to put up with people calling YOU names and slandering YOUR reputation. Even so, if you stoop to that level, if you lower civil discourse to meet some vulgar individual slight for slight you will have lost something much more valuable then an argument. You will have lost your integrity. I do not demand you agree with, or even respect the individual you just mentioned, but in my classroom you will respect the office the man holds by referring to him as President Nixon.” More than the Golden Rule taught to me in Sunday school or my mother’s mantra that “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” Miss Kennett’s words that day reached my core.

So why are these stories significant now? Haven’t I written rants criticizing 45, the GOP, and conservative Christians? Isn’t this post somewhat hypocritical in light of those? No. And although the third lesson I remember from Miss Kennett might bring me right up to the line, I still believe I haven’t crossed over to the dark side. Miss Kennett’s final instruction was reinforced in several political science classes I had in college. Simply stated she insisted we know our opponents. In fact, we should know our opponents’ points better than our opponents knows them. “If you do,” Miss Kennett asserted, “you will be able to counter whatever they did or said. If you’re ready, you’ll win the day.”

The only exception was if our point was indefensible.

Advocating for compassion, insisting we be civil even when the opposition isn’t, refusing to engage in name calling, slander, or deceit, is not the same as our allowing people to pretend two equally valid points exist to every argument. THAT is simply untrue. Most of the behavior of the far right over the course of the last year, actually over the course of the last nine years, is indefensible.  The rhetoric coming out of the current administration is both harmful and dangerous. However, returning hate for hate, using cutting sarcasm and dismissive satire, or engaging in vitriol and advocating for violence will not advance a cause rooted in principled values. Unless we are willing to exchange our frustration for compassion and return to civil discourse, we will never to get back to the business of solving problems.

Posted by: minnow | December 18, 2017

Banning Words? Seriously?

45 and friends have turned our world on its head. Sometimes they seem hell-bent on throwing us off balance simply because they can.  Other times their smoke and mirrors, card tricks, and vaudeville act is simply a distraction from more sinister activities. They banned certain people from entering the country (mostly Muslims). They tried banning transgender people from serving in the military though the courts have temporarily blocked them. Back in February they blocked certain media outlets–CNN, The New York TimesPolitico, the BBC and others–from specific White House news briefings.  They believed they can create their own facts and now they think they can control language.

Friday’s announcement is not the first attempt by the administration to control what government agencies can and cannot say. Back in March the Department of Energy’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy was told to refrain from using: climate change, emissions reduction, and Paris agreement, in any official communication.  It was claimed then that this was not “official” but the word science was also removed from the EPA’s mission statement and the administration ordered a temporary media blackout at the agency. To avoid further inquiries, perhaps? On Friday, officials informed the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) they should not use the following words and phrases: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based, in their official communication.

Immediately social media irrupted! CENSORSHIP!  How dare they?!

Deep breath, let me remind you–censorship is not a vile concept. The censorship of certain words and phrases has long been a part of polite society. Of course, it was usually limited to vulgar jokes, slang, and profanity. And, these were regulated by an unwritten though time honored code which was well known and generally accepted. But, with the development of radio, film, and television for entertainment the FCC created a profanity list–words deemed too offensive to be heard on public airways. Eventually movies, television, and music began to receive ratings so viewers and listeners could be warned about their content yet still choose to view or listen to them if they wanted. Daytime and prime time TV (when most families and children watch) were “protected” from inappropriate language and images by FCC regulations. Generally, the public asked for or was consulted before these restrictions were implemented. Some protested, of course, but most people felt served.

We don’t need to be geniuses to realize the words on the list to the CDC and the 4-letter variety we typically censor on our own differ considerably. Two things about banning this list: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based, are especially disturbing. Consider what banning these words says about our current administration, the GOP, and perhaps a much larger part of society then we want to admit. What possible reason would a government agency not want to talk about evidence-based research, vulnerable groups of people, or the impact of a given situation on a developing fetus or the transgender community? My second concern was actually raised by The New York Times. Their attempt to address the question I just raised was to indicate that the authorities they spoke to suggested the word ban is not so much about how scientists at the CDC should conduct their work but rather about how they should word their requests for funding from Congress.

WHAT THE…WHAT? Seriously folks, if that explanation doesn’t grab your attention it is time to take your pulse.

The New York Times is reporting that officials at the CDC are nervous about the wording of their funding requests. The CDC is afraid if their research requests sound too science-based, they might be denied by Congress or thwarted by the administration. In other words, they are being coached to dumb-down their requests and avoid certain buzz words because those words are controversial red flags for the powers that hold the purse strings.

Public Service Agencies should not be self-censoring their research language because they fear the people who control Washington! Not only does communication become more difficult within the government but it interferes with their ability to serve the public. When the public isn’t given correct information the public is left at risk. If the CDC can’t tell us how the Zika virus effects a fetus or what people groups are vulnerable we have a serious health problem.

I’m angered by danger of censorship. But the issue facing us in this hour goes beyond censorship. Government agencies with the swore duty to protect the welfare of the American people feel intimidated and threatened by the very government which employs them. Let that sink in.

The people these agencies serve–we, the American people–must send the bullies home. We cannot afford the narrow minded worldview of a few wealthy self-righteous Republicans to threaten the security of our whole society.

We must demand our representatives represent the people who elected them and not their own self interests or the interests of their wealthy donors. OR, we must replace them!

Every single one of us is at risk. If not from the misinformation perpetuated by language censors, then  because of the massive tax cut which benefit the top 1% permanently but will phase out for the middle class. And if not from the tax cuts per se, then we’ll be hurt by the hit to healthcare which is also buried in the GOP tax scheme, or their refusal to defend net neutrality, or their plan to come after Social Security and Medicare in order to bring down the deficit their tax cuts just increased by more than a trillion dollars.

Please, please, see the writing on the wall. This isn’t fake news but it’s starting to look an awful lot like Orwell’s 1984. We must become engaged–2018 elections are right around the corner! Find a candidate you can trust–and VOTE! Tell your neighbors to vote! Change what’s happening in Washington!

Posted by: minnow | December 11, 2017

Dear Alabama Voters,

I’ve never been to Alabama. In fact, the farthest south I’ve been is Kentucky unless you count Southern California when I was five, which would probably make most true southerners jeer. I have, however, had the pleasure of meeting a few Alabamians via Facebook and those I’ve met give me hope. I hope in your goodness, your true family values, your neighborliness, and your personal integrity. Because I’ve gotten to know pieces of their stories–one’s a school teacher, another us a youth orchestra director, and another a Vietnam veteran–I feel I can relate a little because I hear from them the things I want for my own five children, my own circle of friends–safety, health, enough food to eat.

I come from Montana. We’re a red state, too, and we had a special election back in May. I’m grieved to say it, but we got it wrong when we went to the polls. The man we elected, Greg Gianforte, should never have won. The night before the election he assaulted a reporter, threw the man to the ground. That behavior should have cost him the election. It doesn’t belong in government and it sure as hell doesn’t represent Montana, not the Montana I love anyway. There were lots of reasons why Gianforte won but they don’t excuse the fact that it was a bad decision and I will do everything in my power to see that he doesn’t get a second term.

Tomorrow you have a serious decision to make, a decision that will impact our entire country, a decision the world will be watching you make. As a deeply red state I’ve heard it claimed about you that even electing a pedophile is better than electing a Democrat. I don’t believe that’s true about most Alabamians. I pray you prove me right tomorrow. I know this has been a contentious election. I know outsiders have called you names and made you feel small. And, I understand the temptation to tell us all to take a flying leap. I’ve felt that way a time or two myself, when outsiders thought they knew what was best for me and tried to tell me what to do without asking me how I saw things.

I am almost 60. Right up into my 50s I followed the fiscally conservative, family values thinking I’d been raised with and voted Republican. But then something started happening in the Republican party, something I couldn’t recognize. Threads started rising to the surface that I never knew were a part of the cloth. These threads turned their backs on those who were struggling, hard working men and women who just wanted to keep a roof over their children’s heads and food on the table. 46% of the population, according to the Republican presidential candidate at the time, could be ignored. They simply didn’t count. In his mind they didn’t pay taxes and so they shouldn’t have a voice.

But 46% of the American people do count and most of that 46% do pay taxes!

46% accounts for all the unemployed, even if they are unemployed due to disability or age (which by the way is less than 5%). 46% accounts for all the working poor and a portion of the middle class. 46% covers everyone who makes $40,000 a year or less. When the GOP candidate discounted 46% of the population, he was talking about me and nearly everyone in my family. And he was talking about an awful lot of Alabamians, too. That candidate lost his bid for the White House but his attitude toward the 46% remains deeply entrenched in the new Republican party.

I could go on about all the ways the GOP is no longer grand but that isn’t really what this post is about. Tomorrow, you, Alabama voters, have a chance to go to the polls. You have the opportunity to tell your party whether you think it’s heading in a good direction or whether it needs to readjust its course. When Democrats stayed home or voted for a third party in 2016 they told their party it was veering off in a direction they didn’t like. A low voter turn out cost the Democrats the presidency.

I believe Alabama actually cares about family values. I hope you have the courage to say as much with your vote. 59 Alabama pastors from several different denominations and non-denominations have joined together to state unequivocally they believe Roy Moore should not be elected to the US Senate because he doesn’t have the moral character to honestly represent Alabama.  As an accused pedophile he and his advocates have tried to use scripture to justify his lewd behavior toward underage girls. On the issues he doesn’t care that 150,000 Alabamian children are without healthcare because the Republicans have failed to renew CHIP. And, he’s okay with a tax plan that will give billions to the top 1% while taking tax deductions for school supplies away from teachers. And he will be okay with trying to fix the trillion dollar deficit the GOP tax plan creates by making changes to medicare and social security because he’s already said as much. Roy Moore does not represent the Grand Old Party which once was.

So please, Alabamians, truly take stock in the candidate Republicans are offering you and let them know how far off course they have gotten! Do not support Roy Moore.

PS: (Added 12/12/2017 9:33 mountain time) Thank you, Alabama! Your goodness is showing.

Posted by: minnow | December 5, 2017

Compromise

An agreement or settlement of a dispute which is reached by each side making concessions.

I was told by an individual I respect and often discuss politics with that I needed to find a compromise. I needed to seek out some kind of common ground with conservatives who voted third party as well as those who didn’t vote in the last election if I hoped to effect compassionate, healthy, long term change in this country.  Compromise, according to this individual will be the only way we get rid of 45 and bring order and sanity to Washington. In other words, my rants about the Right and what is right have fallen on deaf ears and will only cause further division, which makes room for 45 and friends to go about their dealings unchecked.

Compromise: an agreement or settlement of a dispute which is reached by each side making concessions.

But, how does one compromise with greed and hatred? How does one find common ground with consuming self interest and the power hungry elite? Obviously, these descriptors don’t fit most of the people I was told I risked alienating. Most people who voted third party or chose not to vote aren’t that power hungry. They aren’t that greedy.  Most just want a job, a few weeks vacation, a roof over their head, food in the refrigerator, and a reliable car to drive. Most aren’t overtly racist or sexist or xenaphobic. Politics just isn’t their thing.  It’s boring. They prefer binge watching Netflix. They’re tired of the fighting, scapegoating, and whining. They just want people to do their jobs so they can be left alone.

They don’t want to be bothered. So, those of us who are bothered need to compromise.

Those of us who are bothered need to find some way to get the rest of everybody to vote with us. You know the ones I’m talking about–the 46 percent who didn’t think their vote mattered and thus didn’t vote and those who didn’t recognize a difference between HRC and 45 (or wanted to stick it to the Democrats because of how they treated Bernie despite Sander’s pleas not to). And, we need to do it without ruffling their feathers too much, without asking them to actually care about something that doesn’t directly impact them just yet, without casting too bright a light on what’s wrong with this situation, lest it shines on them a little. Because suggesting their apathy–their privilege–is part of the problem is not cool. Suggesting they are part of the problem by neglecting to be part of the solution wouldn’t be helpful. It muddies the water. And, THAT would be offensive because,…well….because privilege is just privilege and it’s not the privileged’s fault they’ve had an easier row to hoe. They would have worked just as hard if the road had been harder. The slightly less lucky just need to step it up a little more. Just because the unprivileged started a little farther behind in the race doesn’t mean they can’t get to the end.

My debate partner suggested I was playing the role of Malcolm X when I should be going for Martin Luther King, Jr. And normally, I might agree (except I’m not Black and so to equate myself with either one would make me guilty of cultural appropriation which isn’t a road I care to go down) honey (peaceful protest) is, usually, a better lure than vinegar (anger and potential violence) when trying to persuade others to join your cause.

Lately however, I’ve had trouble finding any thread of commonality with those on the other side of the isle. I used to think they wanted good things for our country they just differed on policy. But now,…their repeated attempts to revoke the ACA and their most recent tax plans–passed without review, their callous talk as they defend their behavior, and their willingness to undo every check and balance, every protection for the unprotected, makes me doubt the righteousness of the Right. What is happening in Congress is not a question of the ends justifying the means because the ends themselves lack compassion, morality, and reason.

Yet even with all this the bigger truth is, I’ve lost faith with those willing to tolerate, or worse defend, 45’s blatant fear mongering, unfettered bigotry, unverified assertions, and out right lies. I’ve lost respect for a group of people willing to look the other way when the likes of Roy Moore and Sherriff Arpaio want to join their ranks. Which brings me back around to those with which my critic wants me to play nice, almost all of whom can be described as middle class and upper middle class white people many of whom (though not all) identify as Christian. Your continued apathy, your on going silence in light of what our country’s current situation tells a story and I want NO common ground with you.

White disengaged America I cannot identify with your desire to just  be left alone. Sure, you work hard but so do a lot of people who don’t have what you have. Statistically, your white skin means your schools were fully staffed, the buildings maintained, and the technology upgraded. Your white skin means you grew up in safer neighborhoods and your children live in safer neighborhoods now. Your white skin means most people trust rather than suspect you when they encounter you as a stranger. Your white skin means even if you commit the same crime as a black person you are less likely to be arrested for it. If you are arrested for it you are less likely to be convicted of it. And, if you are convicted of it your time in jail will be shorter. I could go on but the point has been made–for now, your privilege protects you from any real discomfort but it won’t protect you forever. I just hope you get up off the couch and figure out what’s happening, before it’s too late.

Posted by: minnow | November 18, 2017

Good-bye, Al

The recent accusations against Al Franken are disheartening.  He was supposed to be one of the good guys. His apology suggests, if one chooses to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he might still be. And yet…holding men accountable for their behavior, making no excuses, and demanding the integrity bar remain high–especially for the men with whom I generally agree politically–is the only way I know to prove how seriously we as a society should take the issue of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior.

I do not want Roy Moore elected to the US Congress, so I must hold Franken accountable.  I wanted 45 to face charges and not be elected president for a host of reasons but in part because of his immoral behavior and highly offensive language, so I must hold Franken accountable. I did not initially support Hillary as a candidate in part because I did not want her husband, who deserved to be impeached, anywhere near the White House, again.  I thought it was right that Hart and Edwards had to drop out of their presidential runs because of sex scandals. Weiner deserved a 21 month sentence for sexting a minor. Weinstein, Louis C. K., Halperin, Spacey, and others in the entertainment industry who have harassed, raped, and behaved inappropriately deserve to be out and never welcomed back. But Franken…

I spent the first couple days after the story came out hoping it wasn’t true. I latched on to the false story that the photographer said the photo was staged. It wasn’t no matter how much I wanted it to be. Franken was one of the good guys, progressive, an advocate for women…Until,…He wasn’t.

Before Franken got caught, he’d cleaned up his act, or at least appearances would have us believe he’d cleaned up his act.  But then he got caught, hit by a 10 year old photograph and the statement from the woman he harmed. Getting “caught” rather than coming forward on his own taints his advocacy and weakens his apology.

In the last few days I’ve done a lot of thinking. I remembered countless hours debating with my politically liberal friends, those who insisted we give Bill Clinton a pass on the Monica Lewinski, Jennifer Flowers,mumble…garble…Juanita Broaddrick allegations, because of all the “good” he did for women. I thought about my own experience with sexism and how it changed the trajectory of my life. I imagined the world I want my children to grow up in–my three sons and two daughters. And, I came to a conclusion: When a person’s private behavior is unacceptable–that person’s public behavior can never be good enough to earn a pass; it is a cover story, a facade, a fraud. So, yes, Al Franken must be held accountable. He ought to suffer the consequences of his past, and prior to getting caught, unrepentant behavior.

Some people are bound to yell “Unfair!” We’ve already started to hear the “what about the Republicans” crowd.  At this point, such clamoring doesn’t hold water. Sexist behavior is sexist behavior. Harassment is harassment. Intimidation, assault, and rape are crimes. The sexual objectification of people, but especially of women, is deeply entrenched in our political and social systems. Rooting it out will not be easy nor enjoyable. Still. we must. begin. right. now. to root. it. out.

Senator Franken, you might have been on the progressive side of every issue I care about. That no longer matters. We can throw shade at a sexist culture that condones and even celebrates raunchy humor. But, if we’re going to come out of this in a better place those days are over. We can blame the fact that we live in a society that has set the behavior bar far too low for far too long, a society that has allowed men to grow up thinking they are entitled to whatever they want and whatever they can take. As true as that indictment might be–it is NOT an excuse. We must do the difficult and painful work to change. We must. Not tomorrow. Not next time. Not as soon as the other side starts to clean up their mess. Now. Here. In our own backyard. It’s time to clean out the stink.

Posted by: minnow | November 6, 2017

Every. Single. Time.

Another mass shooting. 58 dead, over 500 injured, and thousands more traumatized. Oh, I’m sorry. That was last month. Yesterday, Sunday November 5, 2017, a mere 26 were killed when another white male opened fire in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX. But don’t worry, the President blamed mental illness though he recently made it easier for the mentally ill to acquire guns, the NRA want to put a gun in everyone’s hands so we’ll be ready next time, and GOP has offered their thoughts and prayers and we all know how great a comfort that is.

Predictably citizens are outraged, calling for immediate attention from Congress. Just as predictably, the NRA and frightened gun owners who can only act tough with a gun in their hands are shouting back, “This is not the time. Let the victims grieve. Don’t politicalize their loss.” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. mass violence occurs in this country, angry citizens who are sick of a do-nothing response on the part of our government are shamed into silence! Personally, I’m done being shamed! I want these senseless killing stopped!

I know you’ve heard the statistics and seen the comparisons before. But, when every other developed country has fewer gun related deaths per capita and experiences less gun violence than the United States the comparisons bare repeating. After World War II when all non-defensive weapons were taken away from Japan, this once proud, strong, militarized nation turned its attention to other endeavors. Manufacturing companies that once produced weapons for war were converted and peacetime technology and innovations grew. Japan’s economy flourished and Japan became a world power. Among its biggest problems today are crippling debt and an aging population. Both of which are also issues the US faces. What Japan does not face is a citizenry intent on killing one another with guns. Despite being one of the most densely populated countries in the world in 2014 Japan had a total of 6 gun related deaths–SIX. The United States, on the other hand, had 33, 599.

Other developed nations have similar stats. In Australia there have been ZERO mass murders since a mandatory gun buyback and ban was enacted in 1996. And while it didn’t eliminate the whole problem it did reduce other gun related violence as well. Australia has seen a 74% decrease in gun related suicides. A similar ban in the UK brought that country’s gun related deaths to POINT 23 per 100,000. By comparison, the United States stands at 10 point 54. In other words, the United States gun homicide rate is 97% higher than Great Britain’s. Our neighbors to the north credit their low homicide rate of 5.1 per million, their near zero mass murder rate, and their low numbers of gun related accidence to a strict background check policy and their mandatory locked and unloaded gun storage laws. And in Germany, the homicide rate of 1.9 per million is even lower than Canada’s.

The Constitution is NOT stopping us from passing reasonable gun regulation. A Congress bought and paid for by gun lobbies is! The Second amendment does not say we cannot regulate the number and type of weapons available to the average citizen.  The Second Amendment does not say all citizens should be allowed to have weapons–including those with  documented mental illness and those with violent criminal pasts. The Second Amendment does not say we cannot have background checks, licensing, and mandatory training.

I am probably preaching to the choir since most Americans agree that stricter and more consistent gun laws are needed in this country. What we seem to not understand is that we do have power to do something since our Congress and President seem content with lip service. If YOUR current Representatives in Washington won’t stand up to the gun lobby, if they don’t back up their prayers with action, if they refuse to  propose and pass the reasonable kinds of gun regulations mentioned above– VOTE THE COWARDS OUT! Period. End of debate.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | October 26, 2017

#MeToo

Two words meant to create awareness about the systemic sexism in our country: sexual abuse, sexual harassment, gender inequality, and rape culture. My FB feed exploded with “Me, too.” memes, comments on memes, debates about the meme, and personal stories. Men, identifying with the abuse aspect shared their own stories, as did people from other groups.  Some were greeted with inclusion. Others were rebuffed, too often with angry words and accusations. A few people asked: “Why just women?” And, this is where I’d like to start.

The reason the original “Me too.” meme was not “all inclusive” (after all men have been raped too and women say they want equality–ARGH!) is because all women in the US are impacted by abuse and sexual assault. (In reality I should not limit this statement to the US, but I cannot personally speak to what women outside the US experience). Women are taught to be careful, to be modest, to not go places alone, because if we don’t follow these rules we might get hurt by men, and our actions can be (as in they are allowed to be) interpreted as “asking for it”. When we are hurt we must be willing to have our character questions, our clothing analyzed, and our blood alcohol factored in. Almost every woman I know has been subject to some degree of harassment (though generally not illegal) by male bosses, husbands, fathers, other male family members, male classmates, male teachers, male friends, and/or male strangers. Most have multiple stories they could tell. Far too many have experienced abuse, rape, and/or intimidation at the hands of men who were supposed to care about them. Sexual assault isn’t a one time experience for most women. And many of these experiences are shared by every other woman in their lives. The original meme was NOT trying to suggest rape and/or abuse only happens to women. Instead, it tried to focus our attention on a pervasive problem within our culture that needs to be seen and addressed. Similar to how the Black Lives Matter campaign is NOT saying other lives don’t matter, the “Me, too.” meme is not saying men haven’t suffered from sexual violence. The initial thread was intentionally narrow because sometimes it is important to focus on one aspect of one issue in order to actually change perceptions, heighten awareness, and ready the ground for change.

That said, I personally believe every voice that draws attention to the damage done by sexual predators not only to their prey but to society as a whole are valuable. A man who is violated by another person experiences no less pain than a woman, simply because he is a man. He must still navigate a world that has profoundly changed, that has become less safe, less stable or predictable, and less understandable. Unwarranted feelings of guilt and shame do battle in his brain in the same ways they wage war in a woman’s. When men put words around their experiences of sexual assault and abuse we should listen and show compassion. Men who tell their stories do so in solidarity with women, not to dominate or overrun the conversation.

Another group I noticed posting “Me, too.” memes were members of the LGBTQ communities. People in these groups are at an extremely high risk of sexual assault and intimidation. While 18% of all college women have experienced an attempted or completed rape, the percentage increases to 21% for all college transgender, gender queer, or nonconforming students. If you are bad with percentages–that’s more than 1 in 5 TGQN people. We need to stop ignoring the flesh and blood behind these statistics.

Most of the men in my own life including my sons would fall into the “sexist by default” group. They are certainly not predatory. They would most likely come to someones aid if that person was being physically harmed. Yet, they would also stay uncomfortably silent if a buddy made a sexually explicit remark or told an off-color joke about a woman. A significant number of them have made derogatory comments about a woman’s appearance themselves but only a few noticed how often the media focused on Hillary Clinton’s hair or outfit rather than her policy. (Though to be fair in this past election, 45’s tie and hair got an an unusual amount of play for a man). I bring up this category because it our society it is almost impossible to be male and to not fall into it. Staying out of this category takes focused effort and a heightened self awareness. The men who have run with the #NOTME comments illustrate just how easy it is land in the #sexistbydefault group. Unfair? Let’s just say I have empathy for most of these guys. As a white woman I have spent far more time in the #racistbydefault group than I care to admit; just ask my nonwhite friends.

The thing is, Ladies, these are the guys we need to figure out how to educate. And, most of them are reachable. The few who fought hard against applying the label to themselves and who minimized the experience of sexism by women don’t actually fall into the “default” category. They are sexist period and should be ignored. They have chosen not to listen. Hopefully, for the women in their lives, the ugliest elements of sexism will never come crashing down on them. As for the rest–start with the men in your circle. Give them a gentle rebuke, point out what you see in the media, show your vulnerability by sharing how you feel when…  Specifically directed anger encourages understanding; a spray of vitriol does not, so be specific. We must also remember to thank and cheer on the men who get it right. Their truly “getting it” increases our numbers and helps pave the way for change. Bottom line: we want change; we want a world in which sexist behavior and attitudes are unacceptable and those who engage in them will be called out!

 

Posted by: minnow | October 24, 2017

Another Open Door

My news feed is all a buzz with the news. Jeff Flake, the junior Senator from Arizona, just made some anti-45 comments in his “retirement announcement” on the Senate floor.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

BUT, before we get all excited that Republican, Jeff Flake, said something against the Republican President REMEMBER: Although he has been critical of 45 before, Flake supported every one of 45’s nominees. He has voted with 45 89.9% of the time. He voted to repeal the ACA every single time it came up for a vote. He voted against relief for Puerto Rico. He voted against keeping the Senate cloture requirements for Supreme Court nominees at 60. He supported the repeal of the FCC rule barring internet providers from sharing the date about customer activities. And, he voted to repeal the rule requiring energy companies to reduce emissions. He is about as conservative as they come. He just doesn’t think he can win when 45 is speaking out against him, and he doesn’t want his legacy damaged.

I’m glad he’s retiring. We don’t need his kind of politics in Washington. I hope the Democrats get busy finding someone of sound mind and high integrity to replace him! Progressive voices must take advantage of every opportunity we can get to take back the Senate and the House!! Flake’s departure opens a door! Let’s make sure a Representative of the PEOPLE walks through it!

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