In Response to the World Around Me

Tags

, , ,

pen

I write in response to the world around me.  When I can no longer contain the conversation going on inside my head, I liberate it; publicly, here.  Here where it may be read by the few people who happen to stumble upon it or elsewhere into my journal when the rising dialogue falls into the realm of too personal for anyone’s eyes ever.  It, whatever it is—my fixation, issue, observation—once it takes up residence in me, it roils and agitates until eventually it must exit.  A fleshing out as I seek to understand, then a flushing out and words pour forth. This is how I process the world around me. I write about it.

I get in trouble for the words I write (and the feelings that give rise to them).  There are consequences for putting my thoughts and ideas out there.  Real world consequences, like loss of economic opportunity, loss of respect, loss of relationship.  Ever have there been consequences for free speech.  I understand this, have had to come to terms with this, and have made the decision to keep on writing.

Censorship, threats, unwarranted repercussions put a chill on the free-flow of communication causing fewer ideas or thoughts to be shared.  I am one tiny voice experiencing this on a micro level, weighing the cause and effect of my words each and every time I publish.

On the macro level, it gets far more serious.  Unfolding right now in these United States, the siege on journalism is unprecedented. Daily, from the highest pulpit in the land news outlets are viciously and speciously attacked. That #45 would respond to critique by inciting distrust and outright lying is troubling indeed. When threats and defamation spew from the mouth of the President, when we capitulate to alternative facts, when any voice is silenced, it must be met with resistance. One thing’s for sure, as repulsive as I find his attacks on the media, his scrutiny got me thinking.

What of us, the consumers?  We take our truth as we are.  It is hard work discerning content, getting the whole story, identifying unbiased sources.  It is harder still to come to terms with our own biases, which of course color every single thing.  We choose from infinite sources of information. “News” is available everywhere in every kind of format and configuration, “news” far right and far left of truth, served up for you any way you want it.  And since we don’t like to consume that which does not agree with us, we go with what makes us comfortable, or worse, we choose something not good for us.  More than ever we should reevaluate our media diet for surely our daily feast of insalubrious content is making us unhealthy indeed.  At the intersection of cyberspace, consumerism, liberty and self-indulgence we have a choice.

The whole media shakedown has rattled the journalist in me.  I wish more people would find distortion and falsehood unworthy of us. I wish more people would make heroes of the analytical, thoughtful, impartial, and courageous journalists who show up, who go boldly into our dark night, who face down the tyrant President who would silence them.  When in my own corner of the world there are repercussions for the things I write, I’ll think of them.  I am so grateful for them, for writing in response to the world we share.

A Far Better Nature

This is me, finding balance, purposely turning my back on a world of people, taking refuge behind my camera.  I am deeply troubled by the things that humans do and say to one another. I am so deeply troubled my voice rises; I add to the noise. I join the fight; I add to the conflict.  This is me, quieting…retreating (for a moment) to a far better nature.

sap-drop-three

sunflower-yellow

with-branch

12049592_10153764938204875_1423602969007828287_n1

annarylis-black-and-white-two

crane-eyeball-ii

forget-me-nots

curvy-branch-with-clarity

dragons

hearts-in-snow

bw-buddha-with-flower

gerber-three

mooooon

gold-balls-mystery-two

blue-heron-eyeball

lilly

dragon

green-bee

drops-of-dew

reflection-fish

pileated

rose

mossy-world

snake-eye

stinky-blooms

nasturtium-two

Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Our march on Washington, D.C. This is what democracy looks like.

a-womens-march-sign

b-dalya-amy-hailey

d-women-warriors

c-us

F resistance.jpg

bb-fight-like-a-girl

h-keep-hope-alive

g-hailey

i-make-america-gay-again

j-madonna-said-a-bad-word

k-nicle-and-mia-two

l-we-the-people-support

m-water-is-life

 

n-water-is-life-two

o-truth

p-amy

q-expecto-patronum

s-mother-goddess-with-tiny-hand-bun

t-our-rights-are-not-up-for-grabs

W Respect our Lives.jpg

u-she-got-more-votes

x-pam

y-not-my-president

z-marching

aajesus-says

dd-fucked-up

cc-fu-uterus

ee-my-body-my-choice

hh-nicole-and-mia-and-monument

ff-pam-represents

 

ii-obama

gg-no-daddy-no

jj-joyful-protest

mm-lady-liberty

kk-pray-for-the-dead

ll-mia-and-molly

nn-donald-and-putin

oo-golden-showers

qq-j-hillary

pp-feminism

ss-we-rise

uu-the-united-stattes

tt-trumpler

vv-stop-sexism

ww-silky-drawers

xx-wearing-his-platform

yy-we-the-people

hillary-got-more-votes

yy-the-statues-of-liberty

and finally, with my daughter…

rr-molly-me-monument

If we have to, we will keep on marching because women’s rights are HUMAN RIGHTS.

“No country can flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”  –Michelle Obama

 

 

Election 2016: Our Children Are Listening

Tags

, , , ,

kids

Part II

“Did Hillary Clinton kill people?” asks my nine-year-old boy. “Is she a liar?” For the last several weeks now, part of the daily debrief I have with my son after school includes decoding what’s being said there.  I attempt to clarify (and to correct when necessary) the election’s endemic hyperbole spewing from the mouths of children.  Much more difficult though: how do I ease the confusion and terror of a child who fears that one candidate (if elected) will start a nuclear war as I had to do yesterday?  I did not create his fear.  His fear was born on the playground, but it was not conceived there.

Let me tell you, children are engaged in this election, perhaps like never before.  They are out there stumping for their candidates—well, their parents’ candidates, which would be really cool if it weren’t so distressing.  Because while it is exciting to see the seeds of activism sewn so early, the political stumping taking place at the elementary school is done in the vernacular kids hear at home—more hate speech than dialogue.  On the one hand, I applaud discussions about integrity and dishonesty, know-how and ignorance, strength and weakness, but much like the grown-ups, the conversation has devolved and reason has given way to spin and insult.  Words like ‘Killary’ and ‘Drumpf’ and ‘crooked’ and ‘idiot’ are lobbed back and forth.  Too much like the grown-ups the disagreements at school have become personal.  What is happening among our children, young humans still in the single digits, says a lot about who we are, says a lot about the discourse of our nation.  One thing’s pretty clear, we are too emotional—far too angry, and our passion is mucking up the conversation.

When I was growing up, politics was a taboo topic, never ever discussed.  I had no idea whether our family was Republican or Democrat or other, because I grew up in a total political vacuum.  Only when I was an adult did I learn that my parents cancelled out each other’s vote.  They must have made the conscious decision to spare us the confusion, the battles, the drama, the pain of having to choose one parent over the other.  My children, on the other hand, are being marinated in political affairs, as if I have a choice these days. I can’t imagine raising unconscious children given the world they are inheriting.  I don’t have the luxury of controlling the message or hiding it from them altogether, because as I said it is no longer possible to hide from the campaign madness filling the airwaves all around us.

I was going to let my daughter watch the second debate, that is until that horrid tape surfaced and I knew that the evening would move in an unsavory direction.  It was late when I learned that the 11 year-old did in fact sneak out of bed to eavesdrop from her hidey-hole.  You know what America? Our children are listening.  They hear us bicker and name call and defend the indefensible.  I had work to do to undo the impact of the shit-storm of a debate.

As “punishment” for her indiscretion, my daughter was required to write a 200-word essay on both what she heard and what she thought about what she heard.  I gave her 72 hours to complete the task.  When I picked her up from school on the first afternoon, she presented her work to me upon entering the car.  “I finished it in first hour, 237 words.  I can write 1,000 words if you want.”  Among the many thoughts she had, she shared this: “I heard him say ‘No one respects women more than me.’  I also heard him insult lots of women before the debate.  Worse, he doesn’t limit his insults to women.  I do not think he is the president we want for the United States.”  Yes, our children are listening.

We are supposed to raise our children to be critical thinkers, to separate fact from fiction. Pretty difficult to do when our Presidential Candidates are free to sling mud and insult, and lie ad infinitum without penalty or consequence.  It’s being called the most negative campaign in history.  It paves the way for future campaigns to be even uglier and even more devoid of facts, if that’s possible.  Democracy is messy.  Nevertheless, I believe we have a duty to elevate our conversation for the sake of our nation, for the sake of our children who are listening.  The campaign season has been too long, too painful.  While this election may not kill me, it most certainly is critically wounding me and I know it is hurting my kids and yours, too.

NOT OKAY! My Sexual Revolution

chick

I write this in the wake of the release of Donald Trump’s vulgar statements caught on tape. For me, it is the proverbial straw that has broken my back. For decades I have been silent about these events in my life, but anger has gotten the better of me and I will speak now.

I was 15 when my 18 year-old boyfriend of six months (a long-time trusted friend of the family) took me from the prom to a hotel room he had secured earlier that day. I was younger than my years, unworldly, inexperienced, virginal. Within minutes he was out of his tuxedo whereupon he boldly produced a condom and a well-rehearsed speech. That I would comply was his absolute expectation. If not for the heroic entrance of my brother, I shudder to imagine how my childhood might have come to an abrupt end. I was not prepared for that moment. Perhaps a 15 year-old has no business being out on a date, even if it was with someone her family had known forever. In any case, he broke up with me that night because I would “not put out.”

I was 17 when I was nearly raped in the back of the station wagon that belonged to the family of my date, a boy from school. He was a wrestler, an all-state wrestler. He easily overpowered me. His aggression caught me off guard. Ours had not been a promiscuous relationship and he was going to change that. He was impervious to no. He barreled right through my protests. My status as a good girl angered him, emboldened him, made him feel as though he was entitled to me. It took all the physical strength I had, plus a few fingernails, to escape him. I ran home in the dark and never said a word about it to anyone.

I was 18 when I took a job as a night janitor in the university sports complex. Working evenings, I figured, would not disrupt my full schedule of college classes. I didn’t mind the solitary work, mopping floors throughout the complex, didn’t mind that the building was all but empty, that is until my manager trapped me in the utility closet and forced himself on me. I escaped that guy, too, but not before he chased me (literally) out of the building screaming all the while: “You can’t do shit about it. My uncle runs this place.”

I was 19 when I agreed to go out on a date with a professional chef employed at the same seasonal hotel where I worked. Less than an hour after our dinner at one of the finer restaurants on the island, he lurched at me on the stoop outside the door of my apartment. He attempted to force me inside. His lips, his hands, were all over me as I struggled to disengage. I will never forget his words: “You owe me.” And his parting word: “Slut!”

It happened again when I was 20, different man, same actions, same words, except now I was labeled a tease. Only a tease would allow a guy to take her out for dinner then not give up the goods that are owed back as repayment. I walked home in the dark, a long way home alone, because he refused to drive me. If you know me, you would know I am no tease. At the heart of it some gents feel entitled.

I was 21 when I took a job as a copy-writer at a small marketing company in the town where I was going to college. I was there because I needed the income to support my education. I was there because I wanted to populate my resume with professional work experience. One day I was summoned through the little speaker that was on my desk. Out of it came the voice of the owner of the company: “Lora, can you please come into my office and take “DICtation?” Yes, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Being the good worker-bee I was, I grabbed a notebook and pen and proceeded into his office, because that’s what we women do, we ignore and bear it. With inexplicable giddiness, he unveiled his newest furniture acquisition, positioned in the middle of the room: an examination table right out of an OB/GYN’s office, complete with stirrups extending from one end. “Please, hop up on that table. Put your feet in the stirrups. I am going to give you my DICtation.” Then he closed his office door. Scary.

Later that same year I graduated and accepted my first professional position as a marketing specialist for a computer manufacturer. My superior was a man in his 40’s, who under the guise of mentoring me attempted to establish a sexual relationship. You would think that given my previous encounters, I would have learned how to negotiate unwanted advances. You would think…but, he was the vice president of the company. He was relentless and I was intimidated. He made me feel cornered. I left the position after just a few months.

In the intervening years I left the United States to go live in a truly male-dominated culture, an Arab culture. I have written extensively about this in my book (sorry if this appears to be a shameless plug). Suffice it to say, I’ve spent years considering the countless incidents of groping that I encountered there, all within the context of a culture very different from my own. I do not excuse the behavior one bit as I found it as troubling as it was rampant. Whether here or there, it is culture which gives rise to and implicitly supports pervasive behaviors or it does the opposite, condemn them. Neither country does the latter.

I was 27, living back in the United States and working for the federal government when a colleague grilled me about the sexual orientation of my co-workers and of my significant other. His speech was explicit and unyielding despite my repeated attempts over several days to redirect his attention to the fiscal budget we were tasked with creating. I am, to this day, grateful that my superior—a man—took swift action to remove this person from the ranks of working with me. He did not lose his job. He did not lose his position. He was not sanctioned.  In fact, there were no repercussions for him, whatsoever.

And finally, the worst incident, this one by a complete stranger. This one is buried in a deep irretrievable place. This one I will take to my grave, because it is so heinous I cannot bring myself to tell it.  Then I hear about the college kid who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and the ensuing campaign to paint him a wayward but good boy with oh-so-much-promise. Zero consequences. Sickening. And then I hear our Presidential candidate brag about grabbing women by the pussy. Zero consequences. Sickening.

To be clear, I have always been inclined to believe that most men do not behave this way. Yet the behavior is pernicious in our society, is pervasive. When Trump says it is locker room talk, when (worse) people defend him, when (even worse) women defend him, what I hear is ‘you should accept it for what it is: the natural order of things.’ Unacceptable.  There is nothing natural about unchecked speech against women or unchecked assault wrapped in the cloak of men being men. This is not okay. And frankly, I’ve had enough.

I am no beauty queen. I am not a woman who oozes sexual energy. I am not a woman without street smarts (those early days excepted). Yet look at the bevy of assaults that have come my way. My experience is not unique. Witness the women who have stepped forward in protest of Trump’s words. Ask just about every woman you know, and she will have a ready example of her own.

The saddest aspect vis-à-vis my long list of confrontations is that I did not discuss most of them—I absorbed them. I remained silent. I never informed my parents of the assaults during high school or those afterward because I was embarrassed, ashamed, and on some level believed I should have been able to prevent them from happening. I’m done with that. I’m done with owning all of it. We shouldn’t be a society that has to train our girls to absorb the onslaught; to accept it as part of being female. We should do better. Brothers of sisters, fathers of daughters, sons of mothers, I look to you. I think the change begins with you. First, please do no harm.

This is the reality into which I send my daughter, who I hope will be more equipped than I was, much more prepared to deflect assaults that are sure to come her way. It is one of the reasons she studies Krav Maga. It is why we have frank conversations about what is and what is not acceptable. It is why I encourage her strong voice. It is why in the midst of our raging debates—hers and mine—I smile inside and think to myself ‘yes, fight…stand up and fight.’   Preparing her for a world of men that disrespects her while trying to teach her to respect herself is clearly a challenge that for the ages shall remain.

We had better acknowledge out loud that girls need to be on the defensive from a very young age and they should be prepared to maintain these defenses for decades, because as this past weekend proves, there is a world of difference between an apology and justification. Our girls are at risk from a population of men that think sexual assault is okay.