Banging the Drum for Common Sense

Literary agent Michelle Johnson’s blog pointed me toward this fantastic open letter from a mother to her sons.  If you’re sick of hearing about rape culture, you may continue to hide from reality and hope you and the people you love are never personally affected by this societal scourge.

If you’re sick of rape culture, click here to read this wonderful letter and maybe share it.

For those of you in academia, good luck getting through finals.  As soon as I’m done with them, I’ll be back to posting authorly treats.  For those of you not in academia, count yourselves lucky this time of year, and be well.



Click here to read my post in response to the media debacle surrounding the Steubenville trial.

Why Our Society Is Failing As A Collection Of Human Beings

Did that title get your attention?  Was it too sensationalized?  Too broad a category that couldn’t possibly be answered in a single blog post?

I think there are a lot of wonderful things about humanity, I really do.  I am about as far from being a cynic as one can be and still be realistic about the 21st century (even in all its unabashed glory).  And I’m going to try really, really hard to be coherent and level with what I’m about to say.

We have got to change the way we raise children, as a society.  Both the girls and the boys, I mean.  Would we tell our children that traditional fairy tales are an appropriate model for adult life?  In nearly all cases, no.  The boys shouldn’t be taught they have to swoop in to the rescue all the time any more than the girls should be taught to lie catatonic in wait for some boy to come solve their problems.

But what are we teaching them?  I don’t mean what are we trying to teach them, what do we think we’re teaching them.  I mean, what’s real?

Take those football players in Steubenville.  At what point in their upbringing were they taught the message that any part of their behavior is remotely permissible, appropriate, or funny?  What cretins taught them those lessons?

Take the news media who’ve been treating these boys with pity.  HUH?????

This isn’t about alcohol; that’s another problem that needs to be solved, but it’s not this one.  This one is about human rights.  It’s about inequality and power.  It’s about violent crime and the way society responds to it.

I went to an all-girls high school whose mission focused on social justice, so I think in some ways I was luckier than most.  I was taught in my teenage years that rape is no more a sexual experience than being clubbed over the head with a saxophone is a musical one.  I was also taught that rape may come in many different guises but there is no gray area.  It’s ALL morally WRONG.

Blame alcohol and the capacity for the teenage brain to make poor choices.  Blame the media, blame football, blame Todd Akin and his colleagues.  Blame celebrity culture, blame rape culture, blame thousands of years of patriarchal rule.  Blame the constant need for instant gratification or a voyeuristic society.  Blame the opinion that women’s bodies are more beautiful than men’s, or that men’s bodies naturally have more upper body strength.  Blame technology and the “digital age.”  Blame video games and movies and television and the music you hear on the radio.  Go ahead and blame those fairy tales.  Blame Stephenie Meyer if it makes you feel better.  But don’t imagine for one minute that any of that blame-laying actually helps.

DO NOT BLAME THE VICTIM.  (And if you’re wondering, the actual victim is the girl who was raped and whose attack was immortalized on viral video.)

We need creative and incisive thought to solve problems.  Well, there are a lot of creative people in this world who have the ability to think logically.  How about we rethink ourselves first, evaluate the choices we as individuals make every single day, and then let them all add up to something profoundly beneficial?

I don’t know how to fix all this mess.  But I do have a pretty good idea of how not to raise my son and daughter.  Am I perfect?  Far from it.  Am I going to raise them perfectly?  I don’t see how that’s possible, since they’re sentient human beings, not stuffed animals.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.

I’ve read two excellent pieces on this godawful topic today.  One is Byronic Man’s blog post, and the other is a piece by Henry Rollins.  B-Man always has a really smart take on what’s going on.  And Rollins’ post is so good, I’m not even sure I can pick out a favorite part.  If you can, leave it in the comments section.

Enjoy, be well, and make yourself part of the solution.

Here We Go Again…

I’ve been really sad and angry this week.  The news cycle has upset me even more than it usually does.  I came to accept a long time ago that the political system in our country is dilapidated and crumbling and that it seems to get worse each year.  I still participate, though.  People ask me how I can stand to live in Texas, and the answer is that I love it here, even if I’m embarrassed sometimes by our state government.  Texas has a long and rich tradition in the Democratic party, but many of our non-conservatives are frankly so disgusted or cowed by the current state of affairs that they give up.

I don’t, though.

I don’t ally myself with any party, choosing to be an Independent because honestly, that’s really what makes the most sense to me.  I work to make the world a better place from within as much as I can; I try to keep an open mind.  I have many friends and family members from all parties and all political persuasions, and I know there is intelligence and compassion and good-heartedness in all corners.  I just wish THOSE people made it onto the news.

I’ve been wanting to write all week about the Akin debacle, but every time I tried, I didn’t know where to begin.  There’s just so much to deal with!  (Fortunately, The Onion did a pretty good job of expressing how I and nearly everyone I know feels.)  Perhaps I could start by saying that this was never about a “poor choice of words,” but rather a poor choice of thought.  That the entire concept of rape having different varieties is ludicrous.  That we shouldn’t be offended by the term “legitimate rape,” but rather by the idea that any victim’s pain and trauma could possibly be minimized or marginalized by such utter idiocy as the garbage that spewed from his mouth on Sunday.  That the term “forcible rape,” which was part of some nonsense co-authored by Paul Ryan (currently backtracking as fast as he can from Akin and his ilk) and which implies that rape is only truly rape if the victim also gets beaten up, deserved the ignoble death it got and hopefully won’t be resurrected.

But see, then I start to get angry again.  Not just at Akin, but at all the people who demean others for so very many reasons.  In this world, it’s a hard battle to not hate on people.  It’s tough to remind myself every day not to look down on others for their views or beliefs when they so clearly contradict what I understand as logical or true or good.  But for Christ’s sake, if I can do it, so can everyone.  It’s not like I didn’t have to teach myself this principle, and later in life than it should have been.  Come on, people, deal.

And I have to stop myself — again — from becoming so upset.  Take a deep breath.  Calm down.  Remember that it is not good practice to demean other people for having beliefs different from yours.  Remember that.  Try to make sure everyone does.  Take the emotion out of a situation so you can look at facts.

But when someone on a SCIENCE COMMITTEE says something so utterly mythological it defies not only logic but the common sense God gave a chicken, something so ridiculous that it flies in the face not just of decency but of historical and proven fact, what the hell has happened to this country?  And who let those people in charge??  Oh, good grief.

Today was the first day of school.  I had such a good time meeting all my new students, fantastic and wonderful kids in grades 9-12 who are going to make my days fun and challenging and exciting and intellectually stimulating.  And I got to walk my own children down to their building (I teach in a school which has PreK through 12), and it took forever to get there because my kids had to stop and greet and hug every friend they hadn’t seen over the summer and even the new friends they were meeting just for the first time today.  And when we got to the kindergarten hallway, my son’s new teachers were in the hall exclaiming his name and how happy they were to see him, and he ran to them and hugged them, too.  And my daughter had to stop in each of her old classrooms and hug every teacher she’s ever had — PreK, kindergarten, 1st grade — and visit with them all before joining her new 2nd grade class, who also looked happy to see her.

Today was hectic and energetic, and it was also damn good.

My kids love school, and I want them to.  I count my lucky blessings every day that they’re in a good place, learning and loving it.  This is an excellent foundation for their whole lives.  They are curious.  They question.  They think for themselves, and I am joyfully grateful, numerously blessed.

My kids acting silly in my classroom before school one morning, reminding me to cheer up, that life is still good sometimes. (We don’t let them watch or listen to the news.)

And each day I sally forth, as a parent and as a teacher and as a thinking human being, stamping out ignorance the best I can, one delighted moment or one horrifying piece of propaganda at a time.

Aw, look, here they are again. Doesn’t this just make your day?

Fight the good fight, people.  Be well.