Let’s Be Thankful

I’ve just returned from Down Under.  My spousal equivalent and I spent two wonderful weeks with friends exploring Queensland, Australia.  Thanks to a great deal from Qantas we found ourselves out of the country and 16 hours ahead of our normal time zone on Election Day.  Upside down and a different day.

As the returns began to come in, our hostess was nice enough to keep a running dialog going on what was happening via her phone and Google.  You see, they care about such things as the US elections in far flung places like Queensland.  Our host put it this way, “What happens in the United States effects all of us.”

Gee.  No pressure America.

Now we are back and the jet lag has subsided.  Mostly.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am determined to be THANKFUL, dammit!  But before I get to that we need to cover the things I am not thankful for.

Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered and the CIA has determined that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia planned it.  Trump doesn’t care.  He has put a price tag on what is acceptable.  So, this makes it ok, I guess?  That’s where we are now?  Ok, well, keep that in mind as we move forward.  Murder of journalists who speak out against totalitarian regimes is now totally acceptable according to the President of the United States.  As long as we get some money from the perpetrators it’s all ok.  So, where does that end?

Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions was asked to resign as Attorney General almost as fast as the polls closed.  Whether you like Sessions or not, he did seem to be acting as somewhat of a buffer at the Department of Justice from a President who believes the DOJ is “his”.  And now, it pretty much is.  He installed an inexperienced, political ally to oversee the department and, more importantly, the Mueller investigation.  He did so unlawfully, without confirmation by the Senate.  And you haven’t heard a peep out of McConnell on this.  Of course not.  So, I guess now that the precedent has been set we won’t need to have the Senate confirm any cabinet members anymore?  If not acting AG, then why not Secretary of State or CIA?  Just let the President pick any guy off his golf course to sit in the most powerful positions in our government.  Well, then if that is how this will now work, then judges shouldn’t have to be confirmed either.  Why did we go through that painful episode with Brett Kavanaugh if we’re just going to let the President fill positions at will with no oversight?

But wait, that isn’t all that happened while I was cuddling koala bears at the Australia Zoo.  The military was deployed to the southern border of the US to protect us from a dangerous invasion.  Yep.  A couple thousand asylum seekers, walking from Central America, nowhere near our border, was such a horrendous threat that it required our soldiers be down there to protect us all.  The caravan continues but as of this writing the troops on the border are being withdrawn.  Why is that?  Because the election is over, that’s why.  The President of the United States used the military to affect an election.  So, yet another precedent has been set.

But wait, there’s more.  It was reported this week that he attempted to get the Justice Department to “prosecute” political enemies Hillary Clinton and James Comey.  In the case of Hillary, he wants her prosecuted for using a private email server when she was Secretary of State.  You remember that, right?  “LOCK HER UP!”  They still chant it at his rallies.  But it has also been reported that First Daughter, Ivanka Trump, basically did the exact same thing in the early days of this administration.  Ok, so, we will attempt to prosecute and lock up his enemies but for the same “crime” committed by his staff/family members, it’s all good.

Donald Trump does not follow norms, rules, laws or the Constitution.  He pretty much does what ever he wants in order to get what he wants.  Don’t think for one minute that any of this is for us.  For the citizens of the United States.  America First, my ass.

Each of these events on their own are dangerous to our democracy.  Put them all together and it looks more and more like we’ve already lost our democracy.

If one person can simply throw out the rules we’ve lived by since our country’s inception, then what have we been fighting to preserve during our history?

I don’t know what we stand for anymore.  Murder?  Corruption?  Graft?  Nepotism?

Those are the negative terms we’ve always used to describe regimes that we were fighting against.  But now, that is us.  That is what the United States of America stands for now.  We are no longer that shining city on the hill.  We are right down there in the mud with every third world dictatorship we’ve spent the last 250 years condemning.  And look how fast it happened.

The examples I show above are just what happened in the last WEEK.  I can’t even remember everything I’m outraged about from the last two years of Trump.  And I don’t want to think about how much more damage he will do in the next two years if left unchecked.

And now to the optimistic, thankful part of this blog post:

The Blue Wave was kind of what I expected.  Congress went to the Democrats, as did some statewide elections.  But there were still millions of people who went out and voted for Republicans in spite of the shenanigans of Trump.  Or because of, which is even worse.

So, I am thankful that Congress will at least challenge this man.  They may not be able to stop him in his quest to tear apart our democracy for his own gain, but they can, hopefully, slow him down.

I am thankful for the brave journalists who continue to report on this administration and show Trump for what he is.  A small time, lying, con artist.  That is all he is.  And history will remember him that way.

I am thankful for every single person who went out and voted for Democrats in the mid-term elections.  I have never held any party up as the savior of the United States but as of right now, the ONLY way to save our country is to elect people who oppose Donald Trump.  It really is that simple.

I personally have much to be thankful for.  I have a nice life.  I have a job that pays well and provides health insurance.  I have money saved for retirement and enough disposable income that I can afford to go on nice vacations.  I live in a place that probably won’t be ravaged by wild fires or hurricanes.

I am thankful that I still enjoy the freedom to express myself in this blog and elsewhere.

If only Jamal Khashoggi was still alive and free to do the same.

To My Republican Friends

Hi.  It’s me.  Lisa.  Your friend, sister, aunt, extended relative, co-worker, motorcycling buddy.

For those of you who have been around a long time, you know I am a former Republican.

Now I am part of the angry, liberal mob who wants to take away your guns, open the borders, and provide free stuff to illegal aliens all while allowing anyone with a pulse the ability to vote illegally.  And while we’re at it, let’s open all the prisons and let those criminals come into our neighborhoods to rape and pillage.  I get a monthly check from George Soros and get all my information and talking points by attending the Deep State weekly conference calls, directly from Hillary Clinton.  Oh, and those bombs that got mailed to Trump’s top-12 list of enemies? Yeah, we did that too.  Just to start a war with all those patriotic Christians who believe Trump was sent here by God to save America.

Yep.  That’s me all right.

Remember when we were all smarter than to believe such crazy stuff as that?  Remember when you went to the grocery store and right there at the check-out counter was the National Enquirer and The Weekly World News (always with a space alien on the cover).  And you would laugh at the ridiculous headlines and shake your head and wonder how anyone could believe such garbage?

Well, I feel like I’m in that grocery line every minute of the day.  Except it’s not funny anymore.  It’s scary as hell.

You know me.  And I know you too.  I know where you come from, what struggles you’ve had and what came easily for you.  And because I know you, that is why it is so hard for me to accept that you have signed up to be a passenger on the crazy train that is the Trump Administration.

I wonder about it constantly.  How did we come to a place in this world where we stand on opposite sides of a ravine and can’t meet in the middle anymore?  Our conversations are stilted and tense.  We work hard to avoid any mention of current events.  Hell – we can’t even talk about the weather anymore.  Weather is a controversial subject.

Simple policy differences are not the problem here.  You are lined up with a corrupt liar who does everything he can to divide us.  He can’t even pretend to try to unite us.  He doesn’t want to.  He wants to keep us divided and mad at each other.

Wars used to be so simple.  One country would go to war against another country.  You knew where they were, what they looked like and they even wore uniforms, so you could tell the good guys from the bad guys.  The battlefields were drawn, and the carnage was carried out in a fairly efficient manner.  Sure, there was collateral damage, there always is.  But it was managed.

Oh, wait, why did I bring up “War,” you ask?  Well, because we are in one.  This war has been brewing for a long time, long before Trump took over.

White versus black.  Rich versus poor.  Immigrants versus citizens.  Gay versus straight.  Christians versus everyone else.  Liberals versus conservatives.  Do you think we got here by accident?

Unfortunately, in this war we all lose.  We lose our friends, our family, our co-workers, our motorcycling buddies.  

Make America Great Again.  That is what you voted for, right?  You had some idea that we had become less great and God Damn It that swamp needed draining.  And it’s all because those Snowflake Liberals want to take all your money and give it to those low-lifes who won’t get out and work for a living.  They want to turn us into a bunch of Socialists with affordable health care, free-and-open elections and a clean environment.  

Two years ago, America was actually pretty great.   Right now, I barely recognize my country.  And I barely recognize you.  My friends, my family, my co-workers, my motorcycling buddies.

What happened to you?  When did you quit caring about common decency?  When did you quit caring about men who cheat on their wives with porn actresses?  When did you quit caring about a President’s finances and taxes?  When did you quit caring about children taken from their parents?  When did you quit caring about every single vote being fairly cast and counted?  When did you quit caring about people going bankrupt because someone in their family got cancer?  When did you decide that science isn’t real and neither is the truth?  When did you decide that journalism was fake and that it’s ok to body slam or even murder reporters?  When did you start supporting the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un?  When did you decide that Canada, Mexico, Germany and the UK were no longer our allies?  When did you decide that an assassination attempt of TWO Presidents, a Vice President, a Secretary of State, a Congresswoman, a Senator, a CIA Director and others all in the same week in the same manner was no big deal?  

In a little over a week votes will be tabulated.  And we’ll find out if Americans want a check on this President or if they are totally fine with having one party in control of every single aspect of our lives.  We don’t know if all the votes will be counted or if our election systems have been hacked because our President and Congress don’t think we need to spend the money to ensure their security.  We don’t know how many votes will be thrown out or how many people will attempt to vote but will be turned away.  But I guarantee you that if there is this Blue Wave everyone is talking about, Trump will tell you the whole thing was rigged.  Further dividing us.

This is the America we live in now.  We now must doubt the very sanctity of our elections.  Again, this is no accident.  We are meant to doubt it because we are at war.

A war none of us common citizens wanted but through lies and manipulation we now find ourselves in.

Yes, I am out of the closet and I am liberal.  And I know you – because I once was you.  And I am certain you are rolling your eyes and scoffing at me at this very moment.  But I don’t care about that.  I care about what is good and moral about America.  I care about stupid patriotic things like equal rights for every single person.  I care about the words on the Statue of Liberty and how this country allowed my ancestors to flee their homes to start a new life here.  I care about my father fighting fascism in World War II and what he would think about the man sitting in the Oval Office.  I am certain he would not approve.  I care about having a Commander-In-Chief who uses complete sentences and proper grammar.  Someone who can be a true leader and unifier.  Every single past President in my lifetime was able to be that for us.  Even Nixon could be presidential.  But not this one.  

It’s not too late to shake off the stench of Trump and all the anger and corruption he has wrought on us.

Which side of history do you want to be on?  Despite our differences – I still love and care about you.  And I’m worried for all of us.

 

The Value of Fear

We all feel fear.  It is a natural impulse that helps get us out of situations where we may meet our demise.  We needed to feel fear in those early days when we were not at the top of the food chain.  Fear can be good.  But fear is also used as a weapon against us.

It is my opinion that all religions were born out of fear.  The fear of the unknown laid the groundwork for organized religions.  Oh sure, there is talk of deeper spirituality and enlightenment but at their core, keeping folks fearful of that one unanswerable question – what happens when we die – is what keeps many of us humans in line.

Images of burning in hell for eternity were enough to keep the majority of folks on the straight and narrow.  And that would be fine if that was the only thing feared by humans.

Meanwhile, there has always been those who figured out pretty quickly how easy it is to take advantage of other’s fears.  Control the fear, control the person.  Bullies do it, dictators do it, autocrats do it, religious leaders do it.  Politicians do it.  It has gone on since we humans developed cognitive thinking.

What do we fear?  Well, of course we fear for our survival.  At the most basic level, we are wired to survive at all costs.  But as we’ve evolved and the need to keep from being dinner for another species has all but disappeared, the need for that level of survival has diminished a good bit.

But that afterlife thing?  The fear of that continues.  I mean, really, who wants to spend eternity burning in hell?  Anyone?  I didn’t think so.  So, if you believe in that kind of thing, well, it is understandable that you would fear it.

So, if you were told that you had to act a certain way and believe certain things to keep that from happening?  Well, even if you were a bit skeptical about it, you would maybe hedge your bets and do what you’re told in order to avoid that fate.  Seems like the safe thing to do since none of us actually know the truth, right?

And that would be just fine as long as the behavior you have been instructed to emulate was nothing more than following that wonderful Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I love that.  I really, really do.  I make every attempt every single day to live by this one, simple rule.  I don’t read the Bible anymore.  I haven’t regularly attended church since high school.  I don’t identify with any religious organization.  But I believe in that Golden Rule.

I have a lot of Christian friends who believe in the Golden Rule too.  And if I were to ask them right now if they follow this rule they would surely say “Yes!  Of course I do!”  

But let’s dissect that simple sentence and focus on the word “others”.  Which “others” is that referring to?

Other living beings?  Other human beings?  Other Christians?  Other people of my race?  Other people of my gender?  Other people in my town?  Other people who share my political ideology?  What about all the “others” who I fear?

Through human evolution, those folks I mentioned above, those fear mongers?  Well, they figured out that if they could make us fear any who were different from us, then controlling us was that much easier.

And human conflict was born.  It’s one thing to fear the guy in the cave next door from stealing your dinner, forcing you to go hungry.  Sure, you’re gonna fight that guy to keep your dinner.

But we grew from that basic fear of survival into fearing anyone who might take anything we had of value.  Our food, our home, our land.  Our money in the form of tax dollars.  Our ideals.  Our values.  

As we evolved, this concept of human values became something that needed protection.  Protection from the “others” who we were told didn’t share those values.

And so we had to fear those people too.  The ones who wanted to steal our freedom and force us to live in a way that made us uncomfortable.  So we lined up with those like us.  Those who thought like us, believed in the same God, and would stand with us when it was time to protect our “values”.

Every culture on earth has these perceived values.  When it comes down to it, they aren’t even that different.  They are all based on the same simple rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Except that in most cultures, the “others” were clearly defined.

The “others” were us.  As long as the “other” looked like us, worshiped like us, loved like us, and voted like us, then we would show them kindness, compassion and respect.

But if they were part of those other “others”.  Well, no.  Not so much.  Those others should be feared.  

Why?  Because we were told to fear them.  They want to take what is ours.  Change the way we live.  And force their beliefs on us.  We must fear that.  And we must fight it with everything we have.

Why?  Because they are different.

Why?  Well…

Why?

If you fear someone because they don’t look like you or their gender/sexuality doesn’t fit into a easy box on a form.  If you fear someone who is fleeing a horrible life in hopes of finding a decent one.  If you fear equal rights for all human beings.

Ask yourself why.  Ask yourself where that fear came from.  Does your very survival depend on how you treat those “others”?

Or does your fear of the “others” provide value to those who capitalize on it?

If all that fear dissipates what happens to those who use fear to control?

They lose power.  And they fear that more than anything else.

 

 

It’s Rigged All Right

That is really what all the angst is about.  A rigged political system.  It didn’t happen overnight or in one election cycle.  It has been a planned, concerted effort for a very long time.  Us snowflakes aren’t up in arms because we lost the election, necessarily.  It’s just that we finally woke up and saw what had been happening for a long time.  The system was being stacked in favor of Conservatives.  And it happened right out in the open while we were still believing our government belonged to all of us, regardless of political affiliation.

The Republicans have used every trick in the book to make for a very, unlevel playing field.  The numbers don’t lie.  There are more voters who tend to vote Democrat.  That was obvious in the 2016 election.  And yet, here we are with another Republican president who did not win the popular vote.

It’s not just the electoral college that makes the field so lop-sided.  Voter suppression, gerrymandering, a Senate where a majority of Senators represent a minority of citizens, and just plain, old, dirty tricks (Merrick Garland ring a bell?) have all been used to keep the minority in power.

And yet, my Republican friends keep saying “Get over it.  You lost.”  Well, gee.  How would you like it if the opposite were true?  Let’s just imagine that Hillary Clinton was President today and she had lost the popular vote.  Can you even imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth?  Especially if she were to have even one of the multitude of scandals that our current Commander In Chief has?

The Republicans are nervous about the mid-terms and with good reason.  And they are pulling out all the stops.  All of us whining snowflakes are now a “MOB”.  Yep, us ladies marching around in our pink p-hats are pretty scary, aren’t we?  We might yell at you in an elevator or a restaurant.  We aren’t the ones with most of the guns.  What will we do?  Hit you with our knitted hats?

I can’t speak for others but I don’t want any thing that looks like an unlevel playing field.  In either direction.  Our government used to work well because it was typically balanced.  Our leaders knew the meaning of compromise and used it to represent ALL of us.  President Trump has been perfectly clear on at least one point.  He only represents those who voted for him.  The rest of us be damned.  That’s no way to run a country that likes to hold itself up as the greatest country in the world.  I’m afraid that ship has sailed.

I blame Newt.  That’s really when it all seemed to start unraveling.  Newt Gingrich threw all the rules out the window and created an atmosphere similar to a bar room brawl.  And he’s still gloating about it.  This is long but well worth the read:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/11/newt-gingrich-says-youre-welcome/570832/

It is no coincidence that this was around the time my slow transformation from Republican to Democrat began.

The worse thing (and yes, it can be worse) that could happen would be for everything to go exactly the opposite way.  We would be trading one group of disenfranchised people for another.

No.  We need to restore some semblance of fairness.  As of right now, it is not fair.

It is rigged.  Plain and simple.

A better essay than I could ever write is here:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/16/17951596/kavanaugh-trump-senate-impeachment-avenatti-democrats-2020-supreme-court

 

 

The View From Topeka

I have a habit of driving/riding around the United States looking for roadside oddities and interesting historical sites and markers.  I guess it’s more of a hobby.  Anyway, I get to see a lot of what is good in our country and a lot of what is bad.  Leaving the interstate for local highways, small towns, and dirt roads gives me a perspective on our culture, our history and our future that those who prefer to “make good time” never get to observe.  I’ve traveled to all but two states this way and I’ve covered most areas of those forty eight states.

When traveling alone I rarely turn on the radio or listen to music.  I’m busy driving so I don’t check social media.  I focus on my surroundings because I don’t want to miss anything.  If I pass something that might be of interest, I’ll turn around and go find it.  It has been those unplanned detours that have given me the most indelible experiences.

So this is how I wound up in Topeka, Kansas on a drizzly, chilly, fall afternoon.  I came to see The Equality House.

The Equality House is the headquarters of a non-profit organization called Planting Peace.   From their website:

“The Equality House is a symbol of compassion, peace, and positive change. The house, which is painted the colors of the Pride flag, serves as the resource center for all Planting Peace human rights initiatives and stands as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all.”

Equality House

It sits on a corner lot of a quiet residential neighborhood of mostly 50s-60s tract houses.  The area is well-maintained but it’s obvious they don’t have any neighborhood covenants.  This paint job would not make it past most HOAs.

And while all of this is interesting, it is the location of this house that really makes an impact.  It sits directly across the street from this:
Not Equality House

That would be Westboro Baptist Church.  The folks who protest at the funerals of veterans.  The folks who, in the name of God, hate pretty much everyone.  But mostly LGBQT people.

As the drizzle started to become a rain, I stood on the street between these two buildings and just kept looking back and forth from one to the other.  It was surreal and sad.  I felt sorry for the people who live in this neighborhood.  Can you imagine getting in your car to go to work every morning and looking at a giant banner declaring that God Hates Fags?

But I was also filled with a bit of hope.  The brave folks at Planting Peace decided to take a stand for goodness and kindness and did so by putting it right there in the Westboro congregation’s face.  When they come to this building to do whatever despicable things they do, they are reminded that those they hate are right outside their door.

It was time to start heading north so I left this place with a disposition as grey as the weather.  My GPS took me to Gage Boulevard.  In about two miles she wanted me to turn left.

The road was blocked by a police car.  I noticed there were lots of people walking on both sides of the street.  There were families with kids and strollers.  I saw some balloons shaped like candy corn so I assumed there was some sort of fall festival going on.  I continued straight and my GPS began her frantic refrain of “Recalculating!”.

Now I saw that every side street on both sides of the road were being blocked by police cars.  And there were even more people.  Hundreds.  Some of them were carrying signs but were shielding them from the rain so I couldn’t see what they said.  I came to an intersection that wasn’t blocked so I could make my left turn.  As I made the turn I saw that I was coming to a large building that looked like a civic center.  The crowds were heavier and I could finally see the signs.

“Dump Trump”  “Impeach”  “Kava Nope”

I had landed right in the middle of a Trump rally.  That will teach me to not listen to the news.  The right side of the street was full of Trump protesters while the side by the auditorium seemed to be the Trump supporters.  The crowd had swelled to thousands.  I could see a long line of people attempting to get into the building.  Everyone else was just milling around.

I immediately wanted to park my car and join the protesters.  Damn, I didn’t have my “I’m With Her” Statue of Liberty protest sign!  But that wasn’t going to happen.  Every street was closed for about a mile in each direction.  While I stopped at the next traffic light and was pondering how to find a place to park I saw a family waiting to cross the street.

Grandma & Grandpa, Mom & Dad, several kids and a baby.  All of the males had on MAGA hats and it was obvious those were the newest pieces of clothing they had.  They had a bedraggled look to them and it wasn’t just because of the rain.  They all looked a little overwhelmed.  I got very emotional as I watched them waiting for the light to change.  It seemed to take a really long time.  I came very close to rolling down my window to say, “You know, he doesn’t care about you.  He’s here to brag about himself.”

But I didn’t say anything.  I just wanted to get the hell out of Topeka.  As I headed north toward home the rain got heavier and it got dark.  I drove for two more hours before I finally stopped for the night.

As I drove in silence I thought about the people at Westboro Baptist Church and the MAGA family.  And I thought about my own family members and friends who keep making excuses for Trump and the Republicans.  The Republicans who had successfully taken over every single branch of our government, by any means necessary, as of that afternoon.  Effectively removing all checks and balances that our founding fathers had attempted to put in place.

And I asked myself all the questions that I’ve been asking since “The Election”.

Why are they ok with the lies?

Why are they ok with the bragging?

Why are they ok with the insults?

Why are they ok with tearing apart our relationships with our allies?

Why are they ok with Putin and Kim?

Why are they ok with election tampering?

Why are they ok with taking children from their parents?

Why are they ok with the racism, bigotry, and misogyny?

Why are they ok with corruption?

Why are they ok with attacks on our justice system?

Why are they ok with having no checks and balances in place to tamper this administration’s worse impulses?

Why are they ok with denying science, facts, logic and reason?

Why are they ok with the clear lack of compassion and empathy?

Why are they ok with all of it?

The view from Topeka is the same as every other town in America.  We stand on different sides of the same street.  And we can’t seem to meet in the middle anymore.

 

 

 

 

Conditioning

I don’t recall the exact year but I would put it at 6th or 7th grade.  So it would have been 1969ish.   The boys and girls were split up and taken to different rooms at Brockett Elementary School in Tucker, Georgia.  And the teachers began the excruciatingly uncomfortable process of giving us our first sex education class.  I don’t have much recollection of the content other than we were all wishing it would hurry up and be over so we could get out to the playground and play dodgeball or something.

I do recall that this is where the conditioning started.  This session began a long process that extended through my teens that taught me that it was my job to keep myself from getting raped.  Never go out at night by yourself.  Carry a whistle and mace.  Have your car keys ready for quick entry and then lock those doors immediately!  Avoid eye contact.  Don’t dress suggestively.  Take a self-defense course.  You know all the things we were taught.  We’re still teaching those things to our girls.  You must be diligent or else something bad will happen to you.

Which naturally leads to this – If the attack finally does happen, what did YOU, young lady, do to bring it on?  You must have done something.  Went to the wrong place.  Wore the wrong clothes.  Forgot your mace.  Didn’t have your keys ready.  Drank too much.

Who were these sexual predators hiding in the dark just waiting to pounce on every unsuspecting girl who had the poor judgment to be in that place at that time?

It turned out that the majority of them were in plain sight.  Sure, occasionally, some creepy creep would jump out from behind a tree and attack someone.  A creepy creep in a van would pull up and grab a child and take them away to untold horrors.  Those were the ones you would hear about on the news.  Making us all afraid of creepy looking guys in vans everywhere.

But those attacks were the anomaly.  The majority of the attacks were carried out by the guys you knew and trusted.  The priest in your parish.  The coach of your sports team.  The nice, clean-cut guy who promised your father he’d get you home from your date on time.  Members of your own family.

All the sex education classes I sat in on never mentioned those guys.  None of us were prepared for that.

What a disservice to all of us.  While we were all moving quickly through the dark corners of our neighborhoods in an attempt to avoid the monster in the bushes he was standing out in the open just waiting for the opportunity to coax us into a false sense of security.

The lie that the victim of sexual assault is the cause of the attack has been going on for thousands of years.  And it continues.  Women, children and young men who are sexually assaulted all have the same thought process – It was my fault.

And out of the shame of that comes the silence.  Or maybe, like in my case, it wasn’t shame as much as pragmatism.

I was sexually assaulted at 21.  While I don’t intend for this blog site to be all about me, it is sometimes necessary to tell my own stories in order to explain my stance on the topic at hand.

With the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh hearings we are in the middle of a huge cultural awakening.  We thought we’d been here before.  We thought we had made some progress.

Apparently not.  Women are still not believed.  Men are still calling the shots.  And not only are they calling the shots, they are seriously attempting to make things worse rather than better.  That is not hyperbole.  That is a fact.  Denying access to birth control and abortions is happening right this minute.  Some women are fine with that.  Those women are more dangerous than the men pushing for those changes.  But we’ll talk about them another day.

So, I’ll tell my own story to make a point about #WhyIDidntReport.

My sexual assault story is unremarkable.  Unremarkable because I made it so.  I walked away from the experience with minimal physical damage, no life-long psychological trauma and very little anger.  That is partially due to my personality and partially due to my conditioning.

As a 61-year-old, cranky, fed-up woman, I look back on my 21-year-old self and am not even slightly surprised by the way that young woman dealt with the attack.  What I do find interesting is, that much like Christine Blasey Ford, there are total time periods of that night that I cannot remember at all.  Like how I got home.  And yet, the actual attack itself is seared into my brain.  I remember it in excruciating detail.  So while I have assured myself  that I wasn’t traumatized by the event, it obviously had a deep effect on my memories of it.

I can’t tell you the exact date.  As I’ve attempted to piece it together, I am pretty sure it happened in the fall of 1978.  I was 21.  I think it was a weeknight but can’t be positive about that.  Here is what I do remember:

First, I won’t use my friend’s name here.  I haven’t spoken to her in maybe 25 years.  To my knowledge she isn’t on social media.  But I still want to respect her privacy.  Let’s call her Jane.

Jane and I went to a bar called Timothy Johns in what is now the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia.  Timothy Johns was a pretty popular spot in those days.  It was in the lower level of a nondescript office building on Roswell Road just off the exit ramp from I-285.  We went there often, usually as part of a larger group of friends. But that night it was just the two of us.  I don’t recall who drove but it was probably me.

I think it was a week night simply because I recall it wasn’t very crowded and we were able to actually sit at a table.  We got our drinks, sat down across from each other in two of the four seats and started chatting.  We weren’t there very long when two young men walked up and asked if they could join us.  Before either of us could say anything, they plopped down in the two remaining chairs.  We kind of laughed it off.  I suppose we exchanged names but I have no recollection of either of theirs.  They were just your basic 20-something, clean-cut, white guys.  I have no memory of what either of them looked like other than that.

The one to my right immediately engaged me in conversation.  The one to my left was totally focused on Jane.  There was a short period of chit-chat.  Then the one focused on me said he needed some cigarettes and asked me to come with him to the cigarette machine that was near the front entrance.  (This was the 70’s.)  I declined.  He insisted that I go with him to the machine.

“Come on.  Don’t make me go by myself. We’ll only be gone a minute.  We’ll be right back.”

I looked at Jane who said, “I’ll be fine.  I’ll save your seat.”

So I got up and walked with him to the machine by the front door.  I remember he was talking the whole time but I have no memory of what he was saying.  I know now that he was simply trying to keep me distracted.

As soon as the pack of cigarettes popped out, he grabbed them and my arm and said, “Let’ go outside so I can smoke.”  This was not necessary.  Like I said this was the 70’s.  People smoked in bars.  All the time.

“No.  I’ll just go back to the table.”

He didn’t let go of my arm and continued to pull me to the door.  It was open, the guy who checked IDs was sitting on his stool and other people were standing there waiting to get checked to come inside.

This is where the conditioning comes in.  I didn’t want to be rude and I didn’t want to cause a scene.  I didn’t want to go outside with him but being rude was a much bigger problem for me.  So, I let him pull me outside.

I knew within seconds I had screwed up.  (See, still blaming myself.)

As soon as we cleared the door and the people standing there, he clasped my arm tighter and pulled me around the corner of the building to the parking lot where it was darker.  Within seconds he had pushed me backwards onto the hood of a car.  Somehow, he had managed to do it so both my arms were pinned under me.  My feet were off the ground so I couldn’t get any traction.

I immediately started to thrash around and went to start yelling.  He was on top of me and covered my mouth with his.  He wasn’t kissing me.  He was attempting to muffle my screams.  Since my arms were pinned and my feet were off the ground and he had all of his weight on my body there was very little I could do.  I moved every part of me that I could.  As he was attempting to get under my clothes I wiggled, lurched and fought as hard as I could.  All of this happened in seconds.  His speed was really remarkable.

I have no idea how much time had passed but my next memory was of  Jane yelling and his friend telling him to stop.  I seem to remember his friend actually pulling him off of me. I sort of slid off the car and Jane grabbed me to keep me from falling.  She had my purse.  We moved quickly away from there.  And then the memory stops.

I don’t know which of us drove back to my apartment. I don’t remember what we talked about.  I don’t remember anything else.

I just never thought about it.  I pushed it all to the back of my mind.  I never considered reporting it.  I never thought about going into the bar and telling anyone there about it.  I don’t think I told my boyfriend about it.

And here is why – It happened because I let it.  I willingly went with him to the cigarette machine and against my better judgment I allowed myself to be led out of the bar.

I let my guard down and this was the result.  The way I viewed it, he didn’t rape me, I wasn’t hurt, so it just didn’t matter.

Old lady Lisa sees all of this quite differently.  First, my friend and I were targeted.  I know those men saw us alone in the bar and quickly determined that we weren’t with other friends or boyfriends.  There were two empty chairs at our table.  They planned to focus on each of us so we weren’t totally paying attention to each other.  We weren’t there looking to get picked up.  We both had boyfriends and besides, we weren’t “those kind of girls”.  And while Guy 1 managed to get me out to the parking lot, Guy 2 would continue to distract Jane.  It was going to plan until Jane, worried that I had been gone too long, made the decision to come looking for me.  Thank God she did.  I am certain if she hadn’t I would have been raped.

The conditioning of our young minds had worked.  I didn’t blame those guys.  I blamed myself.  I just buried it and went on about my life.

Just like I was supposed to.

Here we are 39 years later.  What has changed?  Not much.

Sexual predators are still attacking women, young girls and boys.  Some will be held accountable.  While others will become President of the United States and Supreme Court Justice.

This is not Republicans against Democrats.  Both political parties have had their share of creepy creeps in their ranks.

This is about conditioning.  We are all guilty of it.  People who have been sexually assaulted have been conditioned to blame themselves and by extension, to avoid all the of the heartache that comes with having to prove what happened to you.

Silence becomes the better choice.

It makes absolutely NO difference whether you believe Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh.  Your opinions about why she waited to come forward or whether or not he was a drunken, privileged brat are unimportant.

Yes, there have been instances of false accusations.  But they are minor when compared to the number of real assaults that occur every day.

We don’t get to pick and choose which cases are investigated and which ones are not.

Every alleged crime should be investigated ESPECIALLY if it involves a minor.  Those investigations should be carried out fairly and without prejudice.  That is the job of law enforcement not the voices of Facebook and Twitter.

All women and all men deserve to be heard.  Whether you are the accuser or the accused.

Follow the truth wherever it leads.  Sounds easy enough but, as a society we still can’t quite get it right.

So attacks keep happening, victims carry it with them and attackers get away with it.

And our partisan politics keep the truth from being heard in an effort to get and keep power.  As long as our guy wins, who cares if he may have assaulted someone?

We are conditioned to distrust all politicians rather than holding them accountable for their character and their actions.

It’s all about conditioning.

 

Call. It. Out.

Like thousands of others, I spent yesterday riveted to the Brett Kavanaugh hearing.  And like thousands of others, I am now writing about it.

Sort of.

It’s hard to focus on any one impression from that spectacle.  There were just so many.

Dr. Ford’s nervousness and desire to be helpful.  Her clear honesty regarding the portions of that night that she cannot remember.

The polite way that Rachel Mitchell attempted to discredit Dr. Ford and her attorneys.

Judge Kavanaugh’s anger and belligerence.

Lindsey Graham’s hissy fit.  And the sudden disappearance of Rachel Mitchell.

I’m not going to write about any of those things.  Instead I’m going to write about our culture, patriarchy, anger and optimism.

When you juxtapose Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas to Christine Blasey Ford/Brett Kavanaugh it is clear as day that nothing – NOTHING – has changed in our culture when it comes to the way women are treated by our government.  And with Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court, it is painfully obvious that things may get worse before they get better.  And make no mistake – he will be confirmed and will sit on the Supreme Court.

All of us have been lulled into a false sense of security over the last 20-30 years.  Women like me, for many years, bought into the marketing that women had it made.  We had the pill, we had careers, we could choose which path we wanted to take, we could support ourselves, we could divorce a bad partner, we could be openly gay or bisexual, we could run for office or run a company.  Right?

I bought it all.  I poo-pooed feminism because I clearly didn’t need it.  I had a nice career with a nice paycheck.  I made more money than my husband.  When I decided to get divorced I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to support myself.  I bought my own home and enjoyed the single life.

On the surface I was the poster child of a successful, independent woman.  I lived in a fantasy of my own creation.

The reality was that I was overlooked for promotions and pay increases constantly as my white, male counterparts were rewarded for mediocre work.  I was working harder and better but it was not good enough.

The fact that I made more money than my husband was always a sticky subject.  Something we couldn’t talk about or mention because it clearly bothered him.  He enjoyed our nice, two-income, no-kids, lifestyle but would downgrade my contributions to that lifestyle and even accused me of marrying him for his money.  Which he didn’t have.  His family did, but he had blown through his years before I even came along.

Once divorced and living on my own I was able to begin seeing the cracks in what I thought was my perfect existence.  And then I began a relationship with a liberal, male feminist.  How ironic that it would be a man who would show me what my female life should be about.  I realized that while I was financially independent, I had allowed myself to be led by the perceptions and desires of the patriarchs in my life.  Whether it was a husband or a boss.  Or my own beloved father.

Once I stripped all of that away, I was able to see things as they are rather than how I had been trained to see them.  I had to come to terms with my own participation in my own repression.

Which brings me back to the culture of the sexes in the year 2018.  It was so clear yesterday in the very different temperaments of the two people involved.

Ford was quiet,  careful and deliberate.  She had a few moments where she had to hold back her tears but mostly she was calm.  She had to be.   In order for a woman to be taken seriously, she cannot be emotional.

Meanwhile, Kavanaugh, who is already holding one of the highest judicial positions in the country, held nothing back.  He was mad as hell and he made sure we all saw it.  He was emotional, he fought back tears, he yelled, he belittled his female questioners from the Democrat side of the room.  And the Republican Senators joined in for a group temper tantrum.

Meanwhile, Feinstein, Harris and Klobuchar were calm.  Measured.  Deliberate.  Because they have to be in order to be taken seriously.

These women, who are in extremely powerful positions in our government, had to hold it all in check.  While the men in the room fell to pieces.

Picture for just one moment that all of that was swapped.  Ford and the female Senators – crying, yelling, slamming shut notebooks, turning red-faced and sputtering from their anger.

While all the men remained calm, collected, thoughtful and polite.

But in the end it didn’t matter that the women held up under the pressure while all the men in the room lost their shit.  Because the men in the room hold the power.  They could behave any way they liked.

In the end, nothing Dr. Ford said and no pressure from the female Democratic Senators mattered.  The Patriarchy that is the United State Senate was in its full glory yesterday and soon Brett Kavanaugh will be sitting in judgement of all the women in the country.  Making life and death decisions about our health and our rights.

Now for the promised optimism.  Because, yes, in spite of that despicable charade we all watched yesterday, I am optimistic.

The anger we witnessed yesterday is caused by this one fact – The Rich Angry White Men know full well their time in power is coming to an end.  That is exactly why they are so desperate to fill the Supreme Court with men just like them.  That is why they refused to have a hearing for Merrick Garland.  And why they are pushing with every fiber of their beings to get Kavanaugh seated as soon as possible.

Women and people of color have had enough.  Our anger is palatable.  They know this.  They know their days are numbered.

I won’t fall prey to the hopes of the supposed Blue Wave coming in November.  But I will concede that women and other minorities will fill a huge amount of political posts in every community across this country.

We will eventually prevail.  We have the numbers on our side.  But they have money and a strong lack of moral character.  They will stop at nothing to hold on to power.  Take a look at gerrymandering and voter suppression not to mention standing by while a hostile foreign government has its way with our election processes.

Women have been conditioned to be quiet, polite, helpful and careful.

That needs to stop.  Now.  Show your anger.  Raise your voice.  Push your way into the places that you have been locked out of.

But most of all – Call. It. Out.  When a guy is a jerk – call him on it.  When a politician is solicitous and condescending – call him on it.  When your boss passes over you in favor of the mediocre dude in the next cubicle – call him on it.

Be Brave.  Be Loud.  Be Belligerent.

Michelle Obama has a quote that I love – “When they go low, we go high.”  But that isn’t working for us, is it?  Maybe it’s possible to go high but be prepared to get down in the mud and fight these bastards with all you have.

Or be prepared to see a repeat of the Hill/Thomas/Ford/Kavanaugh hearings in another 30 years.

Welcome to Strange Land

I’m not new to this blogging thing.  I spent several years chronicling my passage through grief after the sudden death of my fiancé.   It became my therapy.  It was cheap and it worked.

Starting this blog has actually been a lot harder.  I didn’t think anyone would really care to read my thoughts about the current state of our country.  Who the hell am I?  While I could write quite thoroughly on the topic of grief, writing about our politics and culture doesn’t come as easily.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

I woke up the morning after “The Election” (as it will forever be known by those who lived through it), feeling completely disoriented.  And enormously sad.  I couldn’t work so I went for a walk.  I live along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities.  I walked for miles.  And every so often I would stop at a bench and stare at the river.

I just couldn’t believe that I lived in a place were the likes of Donald Trump could actually get elected as President.  And yet, here we are.  Almost two years in.  And it’s even more chaotic and insane than I could have imagined back on November 9th, 2016.

During “The Election”, I watched as the media gave him millions of dollars worth of free advertising.  It was all about ratings and Trump was ratings gold.  What ridiculous, outlandish thing would he say next?  Let’s all tune in to see!  And then he started winning primaries.  And then he won the nomination.

There were 17 other candidates on the Republican side.  And one by one, they were gone.  Any one of them would have made a better President (well, except for maybe Ben Carson, bless his heart).  Kasich, Bush, Rubio.  Sure.  Why not?  But we got Trump.

How the hell did that happen?  Well, we know bits and pieces of what happened and none of them are good.  I won’t rehash it all here.  Books have already been written about it and more come out weekly.

My plan is to attempt to stay a little bit current here.  Which is difficult.  Trump and his minions are masters at manipulating the news cycle.  If it isn’t going to his liking they just throw a cherry bomb into the middle of it so we’ll all look in a different direction.

There are so many places to visit in this Strange Land.  I’m not sure where to start.

Why people (my own friends and family) still support him?

Sexual assault and the war on women?

I better get to it.  There is much to be said.