Tuesday’s Quotes, October 16, 2018 – The Path to World Peace

“Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

On October 14, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace prize at age 35. The prize was awarded for his promotion of non-violent tactics to end racial discrimination in the United States. It seems appropriate to remember some of what he said in his acceptance speech.

It often feels like we haven’t come nearly far enough in the last 54 years.

Image from the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Washington, DC

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Very ancient history

Repost, with a few changes, from October 13, 2017.

“there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth.”
― Robert Graves, “I, Claudius: from the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius”

Yesterday was the anniversary of Roman Emperor Claudius I’s death in 54 A.D. Like many of his family, his death did not occur naturally – he was poisoned, likely by his wife – setting the stage for his great-nephew, Nero, to become Emperor in his place. I’ve always loved the writing of Robert Graves (Gods, Graves, and Scholars is a particular favorite), and I found his writings on Claudius – and the wonderful miniseries starring Derek Jacobi – to be completely mesmerizing. Such an unlikely ruler, and yet obviously far more clever than he was given credit for being. He lived to be 63 – itself surprising, and managed to survive as Emperor for 13 years. When younger, he had little interest in politics, perhaps one of the reasons that he lived long enough to become emperor, and he was actually a respected historian. Although no longer in existence, it seems that he wrote an extensive amount about the histories of Rome, Carthage, the Etruscans, as well as other regional history.

Strange anniversary to mark, perhaps, but we can always learn from history, and some historical persons are too fascinating to ignore.

Of course, as noted previously, October 13 didn’t exist in Rome in 1582.  The Council of Trent gave us one of the reasons why ancient anniversaries are impossible to get right. Claudius’ own family provided a couple of others by inserting months into the calendar to further immortalize themselves.

To borrow a line from Douglas Adams’ “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe“:

“Time is bunk”.

Image from http://www.history.com

Weekend Contemplations, again

As a typical NY State autumn week winds up – temps bouncing between tropical heat and humidity, rain, and arctic cold and damp – and still insufficient leaf color change for new leaf peeper photos – I mentally prepare for another bout of cold, wet weather for the coming weekend (snow flurries possible?!), and the necessity of a trip to clothes shop with my daughter tomorrow. In other words, it’s cold, will get colder, and I need quiet time under a blanket with some mindless television and a good book before dealing with Saturday shoppers.

On balance, to be fair, this has been a fairly good, and relatively quiet, week, but once again, a couple of exchanges have left me scratching my head, and pondering these words of the truly remarkable former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt:

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes … and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

It is a constant surprise that more people don’t seem to understand that actions really do speak louder than words.

Photo of High Falls taken last Sunday during a brief break in the rain.

Tuesday’s Quotes – October 9, 2018 – Time

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”  — Eckhart Tolle

In 1582, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar to replace the increasingly out-of-sync Julian calendar. The Julian calendar had served since 46 BCE, but it was off by 11 minutes per year, and after over 1600 years in use, it was out of time with the seasons, which meant that Easter, traditionally celebrated at the Spring Equinox, was moving further and further away from spring. Hence the need for a calendar that kept better time. Leap days were adjusted to not only be once every 4 years, but also to be skipped if a year is divisible by 100, unless it is also divisible by 400 (correcting yet another issue with the Julian calendar). Unfortunately the Gregorian calendar is still out of sync with the solar year by 26 seconds, so we’re several hours off and by 4909 the calendar will be a full 24 hours off (assuming no new calendars before then).

It took a couple of centuries for full adoption of the new calendar (presenting a challenge when trying to make sense of anniversary dates since there is an 11 day difference involved & which 11 days is dependent on when a country chose to adopt the new calendar), but its initial adoption in the Catholic countries of Italy, Poland, Spain, and Portugal in 1582 involved an adjustment of dates from the end of the day on Thursday, October 4th being immediately followed by Friday, October 15th. So today is a day that did not exist in 1582 in Italy, Poland, Spain, or Portugal.

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”  — Albert Einstein

Image courtesy of nasa.gov – when we look at the stars we are looking far into the past.

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.

Weekend thoughts

After a contentious week, I am looking forward to a weekend with no concrete plans. Other than my Sunday blog post (speaking of contentious), which is already in progress. And of course there’s volunteer work to catch up on.

But autumn is my favorite season here in the northeastern US, and it is a weekend… Perhaps the rain will hold off long enough to get a leaf peeping drive in, now that the colors have begun changing.

In light of the contentiousness of the past couple of weeks, I offer up this thought as the week winds down:

“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. ”     — Zhuangzi