Traditionally February 14th has been set aside for love. The history of Valentine’s Day is uncertain, originating with pagan fertility rites and morphing into a celebration of Valentine, the Christian saint of romance.
Since 1992, this day has been held in commemoration of indigenous murdered and missing women and children. Beginning in Vancouver, marches to honor and remember lost sisters, mothers, friends and aunts now happen throughout Canada, Minnesota, Colorado and North and South Dakota.
In past years, I have participated in these walks. The heartbreak of loss juxtaposed with the resilience to end this nightmare is powerful. The attempt to un-silence an epidemic that has endured since the coming of Columbus has largely been lost to the dominant culture. Our inability to hear and respond has added to the tragedy.
Yet as the cries for justice, protection, and awareness have multiplied, so too have the accounts of rape, sex trafficking, child abuse and femicide in our society and throughout the world.
Recent admissions by Pope Francis on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, and the most recent study of child abuse within the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention is ripping the scab off the silenced truth. The abuse of women and children is a direct result of patriarchy. And unless and until we acknowledge that truth, we will be incapable of changing it.
We have been quietly secretive, allowing the systematic and intentional degradation of women and children. We have refused to stop the spread of the cancer within our culture. It has been upheld in our courts, our churches and temples, our military, our medicine, our politics and our schools.
We have taught our sons to cover their tracks and we have taught our daughters to hide their shame. It is beyond time to end this grotesque relationship. Kiss the abusive nature of patriarchy good-by. It hurts everyone.
I wrote this piece one week ago. Before the circus of today’s “hearing”. Before another woman was forced to grovel to be heard and before a man, another powerful white man, expounded with alternating incredulousness and anger. We have caused him great unrest these past eleven days… And the torment, the anguish and years of a victim were lessened with each tear he shed. I would have found Judge Kavanaugh more sympathetic had he simply stood before the committee and said, “I am sorry for what this woman has been through, but I am not your man.” I could have found respect for him as a man, had he demonstrated the capability to understanding the bigger picture. And I would have trusted him with justice had I heard him say, “Sure bring on the FBI.” But he did none of these. He did what every well heeled white male has learned to do. Keep on walking on, keep on talking…
Written and read for WDRT’s “Consider This”. You can listen on Soundcloud:
As I write this the latest #metoo blockbuster threatens to derail the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The accuser is Doctor Christine Blasey Ford. I prefer to use her title unlike most news reports, which refrain from doing so. Since coming forward with her story Dr. Ford has suffered death threats, has moved her children from their family home and is battling to ensure that she does not receive the same mistreatment as Anita Hill.
Judge Kavanaugh and his friend have become silent. Perhaps they are becoming cognizant of the fact that attempted rape, kidnapping and participation in any way are crimes that have no statute of limitation in the state of Maryland. And Maryland is where the alleged crime(s) were committed over thirty years ago.
Regardless of the outcome, neither Ford nor Kavanaugh will win this battle. To the public they will carry the burden of this moment and the alleged moments for the rest of their days.
One can only hope however that there will be a big loser in all of this. And to my thinking that loser should be patriarchy.
These men are innocent until proven guilty, yes. But the sideshow circus surrounding this mess is 100% guilty of missing the point. And here I agree with our president. It is time we drain the swamp. How many more women who come forward will have their reputations smeared? How many men will diminish the violence against women as normal behavior? And how many men and women will blame the women and excuse the men? This is patriarchy run amuck and it is time to see it end.
This absolute nonsense is brought to us by a culture that refuses to put men in check. And in that regard we are all culpable.
*I picked this human trafficking image because of all we do not wish to see…when a crime is not a crime…
I recently learned of another young friend who took her life. Another bright shining star extinguished. It seems we have entered into a new normal. I am old enough to remember when it was not a frequent occurrence. And now suicide has become a common guest. Rates of suicide have increased by 60% since the ‘60s.
Now it’s whittled down to numbers. 22 veterans take their own lives every day – one every 65 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among our young taking 4,400 lives per year. For each of these deaths, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. With LGBT and indigenous youth among the highest numbers.
Our culture has not yet begun to grapple with the roots of this inhuman unrest. We keep secrets and speak in hushed tones as our beloveds depart. And rarely do we openly admit that the gross behaviors of our culture are more than symptoms. We have become numb to violence. Bullying is now an art form. And #metoo has just begun to pull the scab off a disease that has haunted us since our inception. We hide behind electronics and many now live in fantasy worlds where death is a non-reality that allows you to rise again.
When it comes to “brotherly love” our faiths have failed us and the rise of atheism has thrown the sacred out with the profane. Very little is precious to us. We traffic human lives while presidents boast of our military might and the desire to annihilate entire nations. Militarized police protect corporations destroying the earth in total disregard of the people who live here. Hopelessness is mirrored back to us everyday with anger and fear mounting as dreams slip away.
Apparently we’re not yet ready to reverse this trend. We are certain we are not part of the problem. But we are all part of the problem. Every time we choose hatred and anger and doubt we are part of the problem. Every time we allow inhumanity to win we are part of the problem. This lost humanity can be found. It is a choice and we can make it. But we must summon up the will to live the promise that was placed within us at birth. As long as we breathe there is hope.
Consider This airs on WDRT Driftless Community Radio every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.
You can listen here.
Flower photo: Forget Me Nots
It appears that the #MeToo movement is on course to end gender-based violence. Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, pushed the button that began the ball drop on New Year’s Eve at Times Square. Irony aside, we are witnessing an unprecedented coalescing of women in support of one another.
700,000 women farmworkers of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote an open letter in support of the women of Hollywood and helped spark the launch of Times Up.
Times Up is a Hollywood based initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment. It includes a $13 million dollar legal defense fund to support women who might not have the resources to fight back.
And here I must acknowledge the tireless local effort to end human trafficking by La Crosse’s Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Their Task Force to End Modern Slavery partnered with Breaking Free, to create a video series entitled, “The Faces of Human Trafficking”. That series will premiere throughout this month.
And we must never forget the ongoing assault on indigenous women due in large part to extreme extraction of resources. Man camps are on the rise with every pipeline, construction site and refinery. Mainstream media and voices of the status quo have long ignored the plight of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. Sometimes we must work very hard to learn the truth.
And so it was with great surprise that on a recent visit to my birthplace, Beaver County Pennsylvania, I learned of the effort by police to prepare for the onslaught of construction workers entering the county making way for Shell’s new ethanol plant there. And to what end are the preparations?
Police concerns are not merely the increase in traffic or the drain on social services –but it is an awareness that with transient workers comes an increase in human trafficking…
Yes, #MeToo has been needed for a long time – and while it is too late for far too many, let us pray that we can continue this courageous effort to end gender and power based violence once and for all.
This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This” on Thursday, January 11. You can listen to a recording here.
For more information listen to Democracy Now’s coverage of from January 12.
The high number of white women (and men) in Alabama who voted for Roy Moore is a stunner. Somehow the violations against women and girls do not rank as high as the need to have “someone like me” in office, someone who thinks like me, who believes as I do. And while Doug Jones was a relative unknown to politics, the characterization of him as the “other” was enough to send the white world into a tizzy.
From where I sit the fear of “other” is part of a revisionist Abrahamic belief that “evil” exists as an outside force, one to be expelled, and one that exists solely in the “other”. I say revisionist, because I was raised in a Christian faith at a time when people did not hide behind this notion of external evil. We had choices of good and bad, both existed in us and we were expected to follow a moral compass that would guide us toward Goodness.
This blurring of free will and choice and the insistence of an external evil is, pardon my expression, the devil of convenience. Turning a blind eye to the travesties of our shared histories and excusing the behaviors of oppressors makes us complicit in these acts, not the “good people of faith” that we profess.
And then there are those who profess no faith in God, but exercise the same fear and loathing of the “other”. Herein lies our stalemate. If we cannot see the humanity in one another, if we cannot find a way to communicate with one another, then we are locked in a death wish embrace, because the stakes have raised too high, the consequences too great for anything less.
This, then, is my hope, for this New Year: that we can step into the reality before us. We are alive. We have a chance to do Good. We have a chance to make things better. We have a chance to heal.
It comes down to this: Shake off the BS, folks. We have a lot of work ahead.
The photo comes from Dream Catcher Reality