Stepping once more into the breach…

… and the muck, and the mire…

“Never, ‘for the sake of peace and quiet,’ deny your own experience or convictions.”

I shared these words of former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold a couple of times before, from a couple of different angles, and it seemed a fitting time to dust them off.

Let me start out by saying that this is NOT a post about Professor Ford and/or Justice Kavanaugh, but when all is said and done, it will go along way toward explaining why I believed her. And I will also go on record as saying that my issues with Kavanaugh, and why I thought he was unsuitable for the Supreme Court, predated any of the allegations of sexual improprieties. Concerns about his record that I did not have with Neil Gorsuch. His behavior at the Ford hearing, and his Sorry/Not Sorry op-ed piece, only demonstrated a lack of judicial temperament, but we are where we are, so we move forward. The catalyst for, not the subject of, this post.

Before I start, I need, once again, to disclose a few things about myself since they certainly make me biased on this particular subject. First, I’m a functioning, rational, human being with a strong moral compass. To compound that, I’m female. A post-feminist, well past middle age, boomer female. With two daughters. And, in spite of my widely varied, and unrelated,  career choices and hobbies, I majored in psychology. And a few decades ago I volunteered as a crisis intervention counselor for rape victims. Which not only makes me biased, but somewhat qualified to offer up an opinion. In case my qualifications as a woman, or a human, aren’t enough.

Admittedly, it took me awhile to decide to write this – I’m an adult female who came of age during a unique time, and, like most of my peers, there are things about my past that I’ve not shared with my children. But my children are adults now, and things in the news recently have been so absurdly contentious – and the messaging so awful – that I want to make my perspective clearer.

I first want to talk directly to those people, male and female, who seem to find that the delay in reporting of an assault somehow implies that the assault didn’t happen, or that it somehow wasn’t as traumatizing. Or that if it wasn’t a violent rape, it, somehow, doesn’t count as anything worth noting. Or that even if it did happen, the memories from x-many years ago can’t be trusted. Those assumptions are wrong. There is a good deal of research that supports that position. Children – male and female – who were sexually abused by clergy, family members, or other authority figures generally don’t report until decades later, and then only after a great deal of therapy. Teenagers in ‘dating’ situations often never report. So please stop denigrating someone else’s trauma just because you don’t have a similar experience in your past, or you find it inconvenient to believe them when they finally do open up.

Why doesn’t a 15-year-old tell anyone, other than possibly a close friend, of a sexual assault? Often it’s because she was not where she was supposed to be and/or with who she was supposed to be with and/or she was doing things (like drinking) that she wasn’t supposed to be doing. The fear of the reaction from parents or other authority figures is a powerful thing. As is the seeming inevitability of adding punishment for what she did wrong to put herself in the position that led to her assault . And quite frankly, the public response to Professor Ford’s allegation is a live demonstration of why victims are reluctant to come forward. Even in cases which are reported and prosecuted, it is the victim who is often vilified (well just look at what you were wearing, how much you had to drink, how you were flirting), and the perpetrator often seems to be given a relative slap on the wrist because it often boils down to he said/she said (& sometimes even when there are witnesses – can’t let one incident ruin his swimming career, for example).

In a different time, and place: where teens, young adults, alcohol, and drugs mixed too freely, I experienced, and intervened in, similar enough events that I can state unequivocally that things go wrong, and don’t often get reported Besides drunken pawing in difficult places to extricate oneself from – like while in a car being driven home – perfectly sober experiences happen, as well. In an era before the term ‘date rape’ was a thing, there was often an expectation that dinner and a movie would naturally be followed by sex. Force? No. Pressure? Guilt? Absolutely. And even as a very sober adult, I’ve experienced strangers making grabs at private parts on crowded city sidewalks, men that I knew making very deliberate, very inappropriate, contact in range of their spouses, knowing well that I would never say anything to the spouse. Should I have? I still don’t know the answer. Life is often complicated. But it certainly made me far warier of the men in question when it was not possible at the time to sever ties.

It’s difficult for women, so difficult that the statistics surrounding unreported sexual assaults indicate that reports are often only made when they can’t be avoided. We know that everything thing we did prior to the assault is scrutinized. Women are advised to arm themselves – at a minimum with pepper spray – and to carry their keys protruding from their fingers, to carry whistles or alarms, to watch what they wear, watch what they drink, don’t be too flirty, don’t walk alone, park near lights, to find ways to prevent an assault. Men apparently don’t need, or get, the same advise. Perhaps they should – sexual assaults of men are vastly underreported outside of institutional settings. Too underreported to quantify – but keep in mind that many of the boys abused by clergy members and coaches  were abused well into their teens. And when they reported at all, it was years later.

My husband is remarkably sensitive to women’s issues, but a recent conversation we had made it clear how unaware men – especially young men can be. While discussing the subject of assault, my husband said that they used to pull down girls tube tops/halters, and no one had a problem with it when we were young. And since many of those same girls would go skinny dipping at the lake, it really wasn’t a problem. But see, many of those girls did have a problem with it – but embarrassment wins. They laugh it off, or shrug it off & move on. But it’s uncomfortable, and embarrassing, and well, you didn’t want to be a prude. So uncool. And while there is a certain amount of dissonance on the girls’ part, it isn’t as big as it seems. Removing all or some clothing to swim is voluntary. Having your halter untied is not. But, because we said nothing and let the status quo be, yet another generation of women grew up tolerating far more than we should have. Far more than we want our daughters to. Far more than anyone’s daughters (or sons) should.

The flip side to this of course, has been the ‘what about our men – what message are we sending when they can be accused at any time about youthful indiscretions?’ I have several friends that are mothers only to sons, and they were quickly swayed by that fallacy. And it is a fallacy. Criminal justice estimates put false accusations of sexual assault at 3 to 7% of reported sex crimes. Just looking at what women who report assaults are subjected to provides a good indicator of why those numbers are so low. And the single most offensive thing I saw on social media was the use of Emmet Till’s lynching as an indication of the dangers of false accusations. No – that was an indication of why racism must never be tolerated. In a non racist time a black boy would not  have been accused of behaving inappropriately for speaking to a white woman. He would not have been lynched. His killers would not have been acquitted. To equate that horrifying example of racism to Professor Ford coming forward with a credible past event from her past is offensive and not even remotely comparable.

Most of all, I worry about the message the adults are sending to kids right now. That boys will be boys and in the face of inappropriate sexual behavior not reporting it at the time it occurs means it was meaningless, but to report it at all may sully the reputation of the alleged perpetrator. This attitude is concerning because it not merely perpetuates the belief that sexual assaults are about sex – when they are always about power – but  it explicitly makes the bad behavior of teen-age and young adult males an acceptable part of life that our daughters should just deal with. What on earth are we becoming? We should be teaching our children, sons and daughters alike, to be respectful, responsible adult humans. We should be teaching them that, under any circumstances, unwanted sexual contact is wrong. If we’ve done our jobs, both assaults, and the risk of false accusations, will be greatly reduced.

It is incumbent upon us to recognize that we are the agents of change. We can dial back the anger, and the knee-jerk reactions, and the blatant manipulations from those on the extremes long enough to realize that we, as individuals, have to be better. We have to raise our children to be better. We no longer act merely in opposition to those we disagree with – we act as if we are enemies. Our country, our society, is being torn apart because we are allowing it to be. Manufactured outrage. And making things better requires us to act. To speak out.  To write. To not merely sit back and allow our selves to be manipulated.

“Hatred and fear blind us. We no longer see each other. We only see the faces of monsters, and that gives us the courage to destroy each other.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Earlier today I’d seen an October 5th post from Robert Redford that said everything so much better than I could:

“Tonight, for the first time I can remember, I feel out of place in the country I was born into and the citizenship I’ve loved my whole life. For weeks I’ve watched with sadness as our civil servants have failed us, turning toward bigotry, mean-spiritedness and mockery as the now-normal tools of the trade.

How can we expect the next generation to step up and serve, to be interested in public life, and to aspire to get involved when all we show them is how to spar, attack and destroy each other?

It’s hard to blame young people for calling us out, and pointing to our conflicts between the values we declare, and those we stand behind only when it’s convenient to partisanship. Many people are rightly calling it a damn mess.

But I want to encourage you to dig deep for hope and civility right now — to try to make connections with people you disagree with, to be better than our politicians.

We don’t have to share the same motivations to want the same outcomes. Let’s focus on each other, and strengthening our communities, and reflecting on what’s happening. Let’s live in justice and respect and let others fight it out now to the bitter ends.

This is our country too. Every woman, man and child in it, our American future.

We’ve got work to do.”

Storm clouds at sunset on October 3, 2018.

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Tuesday’s Quotes – September 25, 2018 – Peace

“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  — Ronald Reagan

It is not often that you will find me quoting our 40th President, but everyone makes sense sometimes. In the wake of the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September, it’s important to remind ourselves that the world has never been conflict free – or even war free – but when we have choices, when our leaders have choices, the first choice should be diplomatic, not militarized.

The idealist in me still wants to believe that it is possible for the majority of people to find the means to achieve peaceful, compassionate solutions because the desire to avoid the painful alternatives is universal. And the pragmatist in me knows that survival of the species is actually dependent on it. And we are hard-wired for survival.

But achieving that requires education, and it requires patience. And it requires leadership that sees peaceful conflict resolution as a clear path. Sadly, that seems to not apply to may of our modern politicians, particularly on the extremes. The voting public needs to understand the folly of that war-mongering rhetoric.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

Portions of this post previously appeared on February 5, 2016 & September 19, 2017

Thoughts on Compassion and Peace

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”

— Lao Tzu

Back in September of 2015, when I last tackled this subject, the #1000Speak effort was 7 months old  and still doing well. Back then I chose to participate because it was an awesome idea, but struggled a bit with an approach because so many of my fellow participating bloggers seemed so much more spiritually-oriented in their approach than I was. Somehow I’ve managed to muddle through, in my intellectual, humanistic, way, and although the initiative has largely fizzled out, I’m still out there (at least most months). With this month being September, and Friday, the 21st, being the International Day of Peace, it seemed like a good time to dust this piece off, make a few tweaks, and send it out on its way into the ether.

First, the pitch for PeaceNow, and their quest to obtain one billion signatures on their petition to the UN to adopt a resolution containing a framework for establishing global peace – please read the resolution, and sign the petition, if you haven’t already done so >>>  https://www.peacenow.com

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by an unanimous UN resolution to provide a common date globally for nations to commit to peace. This year it is marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To get involved, please check out their website >>> https://internationaldayofpeace.org/?inf_contact_key=b246d2f647a45372d7464d8226cecb122d9a6e77a4e1a2db4f25160fcd2fc5da

“The true and solid peace of nations consists not in equality of arms, but in mutual trust alone.” — Pope John XXIII

It should be obvious to most sentient beings that a lack of peace – internal or external – indicates a lack of compassion, and, in a circular way, only serves to further diminish compassionate impulses, leading to less peace. If we are not compassionate towards ourselves first, we cannot find inner peace. If we are not compassionate towards ourselves first, we cannot adequately feel compassion towards others – we may very well be polite and kind, and very nice people, but practicing compassion moves beyond that. Bringing about true peace globally requires a very large commitment from a very large number of people to act with compassion.

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”

— Lao Tzu

Human nature, at its very core, may well make that impossible – there has never been a time of peace throughout the entire world, and, sadly, it is unlikely to happen. But knowing that, sometimes even despairing in that knowledge, does not mean that we should give up our quest. Like ripples in a pond, the acts of compassion spread out – they can impact others in ways we may not even be aware of – and they encourage others to act with compassion, and so the ripples extend further and further out. Conflict is unavoidable, but if enough people are able to act as voices for reason and compassion, perhaps the conflicts that flare up will not escalate into huge conflagrations if there are enough compassionate and reasonable people surrounding those in power, and, perhaps some conflicts can be avoided entirely simply by recognizing the humanity of those we disagree with.

In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru:

“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”

And finally, if you have not yet read, and signed onto, the Charter for Compassion, I urge you to do so here >>> https://charterforcompassion.org/charter/charter-overvew

Tuesday’s Quotes – September 18, 2018 – Wise words

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”
— Albert Einstein

A timely reminder with the International Day of Peace only a few days away.

 

Black Ribbon Day – Those that forget history are destined to repeat it

 

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

August 23 is the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. A solemn, and sadly necessary day to remember those that lost so much, in many cases their lives, under European totalitarian regimes.

Black Ribbon Day started in the 1980’s as a series of peaceful protests in Canada by refugees form the Soviet Bloc. August 23 was chosen as the date because it marked the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which divided Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland between the Soviet Union and Germany in an ill-fated effort to keep the Soviet Union safe from the increasing aggression of Nazi Germany. In 2008, the European Parliament signed a declaration adopting August 23 as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. In part, the declaration noted that “The mass deportations, murders and enslavements committed in the context of the acts of aggression by Stalinism and Nazism fall into the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Under international law, statutory limitations do not apply to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

On 21 May 2014, the United States House of Representatives adopted a resolution supporting Black Ribbon Day as a day to to honor the victims of the Soviet and Nazi regimes, and to “remember and never forget the terror millions of citizens in Central and Eastern Europe experienced for more than 40 years by ruthless military, economic, and political repression of the people through arbitrary executions, mass arrests, deportations, the suppression of free speech, confiscation of private property, and the destruction of cultural and moral identity and civil society, all of which deprived the vast majority of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe of their basic human rights and dignity, separating them from the democratic world by means of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall,”. The resolution further stated that “the extreme forms of totalitarian rule practiced by the Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes led to premeditated and vast crimes committed against millions of human beings and their basic and inalienable rights on a scale unseen before in history.”

To allow ourselves to forget, or to allow people to trivialize what occurred to people during those years under the auspices of governments that were supposed to be making things better and helping to keep them safe, is to make it all too easy for those that want to bring back some (or all) of the government tactics that caused so much suffering. And in an era of increasing nationalism and xenophobia on both side of the Atlantic, we would do well to  remember. And to realize that the onus is on us to speak out against the rising tide of fear and hate.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
― Elie Wiesel

Image from http://www.blackribbonday.org

Tuesday’s Quotes August 14, 2018 – On listening…

“How do you listen? Do you listen with your projections, through your projection, through your ambitions, desires, fears, anxieties, through hearing only what you want to hear, only what will be satisfactory, what will gratify, what will give comfort, what will for the moment alleviate your suffering? If you listen through the screen of your desires, then you obviously listen to your own voice; you are listening to your own desires. And is there any other form of listening? Is it not important to find out how to listen not only to what is being said but to everything – to the noise in the streets, to the chatter of birds, to the noise of the tramcar, to the restless sea, to the voice of your husband, to your wife, to your friends, to the cry of a baby? Listening has importance only when on is not projecting one’s own desires through which one listens. Can one put aside all these screens through which we listen, and really listen?”  — J Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti, who died in 1986 at 90, was a philosophical and religious speaker. Indian by birth, but adopted by Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society, as a child, and promoted by her as the leader of the new world order that the Theosophists had predicted would come. In 1929 he renounced that claim, and spent the next several decades traveling globally to speak about religion and philosophy, without identifying with any one religion, or ideology. I had the good fortune to hear him speak in Madras in 1984.

It seems that the art of listening is diminishing in direct proportion to the increase in the speed of information, and the shortening of our collective attention span. All too often, we listen to respond, not to hear. In order to engage in productive dialogue, and to understand others, we need to work past that tendency, so that we hear not only the words, but the meaning behind them.

The mindful listening image came from a presentation found on Slideshare.net on Listening Skills http://www.slideshare.net/jgerst1111/listening-skills-10244219