To Prevent A Predator

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This morning I was watching AM Joy on MSNBC. One of her guests said they think this Brett Kavanaugh nonsense will help Republicans by energizing white, suburban women who have sons in college and are worried about false assault accusations against them. I turned to my husband and said, “If you’re a mother and worried about your son getting called out for assault, you’ve failed to do your goddamn job.” And since this is supposed to be a parenting blog, not just a screaming into the void about my depression blog, I thought I should do *my* goddamn job.

[First, white women, quit propping up the patriarchy. Learn something about history and feminism and race and class and intersectionality and quit being the goddamn worst. I can recommend some books! It’s gonna suck for a minute, realizing how terrible you’ve been, but then you get to be best!]

This is becoming a weird rallying cry, I saw something on Facebook about #HimToo – in which we should worry about our fathers/husbands/sons being accused. You know how you avoid getting accused of sexual impropriety? DON’T FUCKING TOUCH PEOPLE AGAINST THEIR WILL. DON’T BE A FUCKING CREEP. I dunno, seems pretty simple to me. I’m not worried about my husband/father/son getting accused of anything, because I surround myself with non-shitbags. (And, yeah, we can’t pick our fathers, and mine is far from perfect, but I’m lucky in this regard – he never made me feel shitty about my body or ogled ladies or was creepy. He told me I was smart and beautiful and wonderful just as I am. And while my stepdad could be a little on the inappropes side, I never got in trouble for telling him to not be a turd.) 

But, seriously, let’s go to statistics. According to RAINN, a sexual assault happens every 98 seconds. So, less than the time it takes my microwave to make popcorn. And these statistics count men and women and children. Let that shit sink in for a second. Or for 98 seconds. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has this handy dandy fact sheet about false allegations. Educate yourself! I’m not even Nancy Googler and I came up with this shit in less than 98 seconds.

So, false accusations account for mmmmmmaybe 3% of reports, but 63% of assaults go unreported, and that means, if my math is right…false reporting is essentially bullshit. I’m not saying it has never happened, because women are just as capable of being trashbags as men, but let’s be really real for a minute and throw out false claims.

That leaves actual assaults. And if you’re a mom worried that your son or husband or father is going to be accused of something, what are you doing? Are you teaching consent? Are you sharing your stories? Are you listening to how they talk about women and making sure it’s with respect, even if the woman isn’t a relative??

I asked my girl gang about this, since most of them are raising boys. Because they’re a bunch of badass feminist babes, they’re doing the work. They’re teaching “no means no and stop means stop” and following up when their kids use those words. They’re setting boundaries and letting their sons know that everyone is in charge of their own body. They’re letting their sons be people, away from the harmful caricatures of toxic masculinity.

Because my boys have autism, things are a little different in our house. I’ve had the talk many, many times with Cal that we never touch people without asking them first. (We repeat this conversation every St. Patrick’s Day in regards to wearing green and pinching.) We’ve talked about bathing suit areas and how we’re allowed to touch ourselves as long as it’s in the bathroom or bedroom. We ask for hugs and kisses from the cousins. We stop when someone says stop, even if they’re laughing. If someone touches us without permission, we tell. Charlie is…well, he’s Charlie. (Although he does restrict privatetime to his bedroom, so that’s a fucking win.) I’m not worried about them being accused of assault, as statistically they’re more likely to be victims, especially non-verbal Charlie. So, yeah, my priorities are a little skewed.

And while we’re having this conversation, Lauren brings up an important point – fathers, what are you doing? Because putting this on mothers is just another burden. And, as we all know, fathers are role models too. If you’re a father, are you showing your son how to treat women? And not in a “be a man, be the breadwinner, don’t have feelings, say ‘yes, dear’ with a wink and a dismissive chuckle” way, but in a “your mom is an independent person with feelings and thoughts and I respect her and other women who are also independent people!” way. Do you truly co-parent, or do you sit passively while your wife/partner does all of the work? Are you the man you want your son to see every day?

Maybe we didn’t stop a likely assaulter and definite fratbrodingleberry from becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Maybe we have a human bag of vomit as President. Maybe we feel powerless when Mitch McConnell gets all het up on the floor of the Senate about GOOD WHITE MEN. But we have power over our children. And we need to wield that power responsibly. We have to teach them about consent and standing up for themselves and others. We have to teach them there is no “bro code”. That peer pressure sucks, but giving in is way worse. That only yes means yes and nothing beats a willing, enthusiastic partner. Teach your children well, and hopefully their parents’ hell will slowly go by.

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Sick Sad World

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I write this from my sick bed [insert vague image of a Bronte or some such]. I’ve had a wicked head cold that one of the children brought home from school because children are disgusting. It is now in my chest so I can’t stop coughing forcefully which has caused me to vomit once and fart about a million times. LIFE IS GRAND.

While I’ve been sick in a literal, physical sense, I am also sick in my metaphorical heart. What I knew was going to happen happened. The FBI did a brief, cursory, limited background check on Dr. Ford’s testimony and the accusation of Deborah Ramirez, the Republicans are ready to ram his confirmation through and we’re probably stuck with Judge Frathouse.

There are a lot of think pieces and editorials and actual books on the gaslighting of America and why this particular outrage seems to be a bridge too far for many of us, so I’m probably not adding anything new or useful. But this is what we do, scream into the void in the hopes that it relieves some of the pressure.

What strikes me when I watch the Republicans and their old, white man rage is how hurt they are by our anger. They are devastated that women want to voice their own experiences and expect to be heard. How dare we impugn the character of a GOOD WHITE MAN. (GOOD meaning affluent and connected, having gone to the right schools and matriculated in the right circles, having trod the well-worn but narrow path laid down by the affluent, white men before him.) The big line from Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump has been “We can’t have GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT!!!”  This applies only to GOOD WHITE MEN, however. Not black teenagers wearing hoodies. Or women who have been raped. Or children seeking asylum. They have no right to innocence.

We’ve known our justice system was broken for years. We’ve known our political system was broken. We’ve known America itself was broken. Has always been broken. Was broken when the founders lied and said “All men are created equal” while owning slaves. This continent was “found” by a murdering, raping, genocidal maniac. Is this the history that makes me proud to be an American?

I want to believe in a better, fuller, more whole and just and kind America. I want to listen to Cory Booker or Elizabeth Warren as they tell me that with enough grace and work, we can create justice and liberty for all. I want to believe that children are the future and Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are going to make a difference.

But I see the crowds at the Trump rallies and I hear the women who support Kavanahhhh and I don’t think my hope can beat their hate. I think Obama was wrong. I think Voldemort wouldn’t really be defeated by a bunch of teenagers and private school teachers. I don’t see where there is any common ground to build, and fuck if I’m not tired of feeling like the only side looking for it. How do you fight a troll? How do you fight an entire nation of them?

There’s no rallying cry to be found here, friends. I’m still going to vote and call my Senators. I’m still going to be a social worker and change the lives that I can. But until the other side decides they want a society more than just raw power, I’m done trying. This confirmation hearing broke something inside of me, a belief that we grow and learn and do better. That if we share our stories and believe hard enough, we can bring light to the darkness. That the hurt and rage of millions of women might mean something, that there might be value in a person who is not a GOOD WHITE MAN. But, as we’ve been shown time again, like Charlie Brown and the football, Lucy isn’t ever going to play fair and we’re always going to end up on our backs, wondering why we even tried.

Indelible

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I’m so fucking tired. Both literally, because it is after 10pm and I am old, and figuratively, because I watched all of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and most of Brett Kavanaugh’s and the majority of the questioning from both sides. I listened to the commentary on MSNBC and watched the clips of his interview on Fox News and I’ve overdosed on toxic masculinity.

I’m tired of being a woman, but yikes on the alternative. (Not in a gender-identity sense, so I hope this doesn’t offend all the non-binary and trans and intersex folx out there who I love and see and give all the high-fives to. This is a majority of the world, binary, cis-man/woman weariness that is sitting in my bones.) I think I need a good cry but I’m too numb. I think I need to break something, because the rage is overwhelming. I think I should probably just sleep but there are too many words in my head and hurts in my heart and I feel like a gaping wound in a way that most men will never, ever, ever understand.

I think it’s the laughter, the indelible laughter in Dr. Ford’s hippocampus. The same laughter I can hear and you can hear and every woman can hear. The laughter that rings in our heads and our hearts and our very bones vibrate with the laughter. They laugh and it gets caught in our hair and our lungs and our wombs. It hurts everywhere, these laughs. The laughter of boys being boys, of knowing there are no consequences, the joy and delight in taking a person and making her an object.

And I am tired that we haven’t gotten better since Anita Hill. That Lindsey Graham’s outrage will be applauded by a segment of the population. Including women. I’m tired of women who uphold and embrace the patriarchy as much as I’m tired of the patriarchy itself.

The brilliant and amazing Roxane Gay edited an anthology earlier this year titled “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture” that I attempted to read but it was glass in my throat and sand in my heart. I didn’t have the fortitude. I wonder if Lindsey Graham would be able to read it. I wonder if the women who support him could.

He really pissed me off today. His sympathy for Brett Kavanaugh and his outrage at his fellow Senators was shocking. Is it a good sign that I can still be shocked by the conduct of men?

But still, the laughter, it’s haunting me. How often are we told to lighten up, to take a joke, to smile, to agree with our abusers that it wasn’t abuse? How often do we grin and bear it? How do we defend against the stereotype of joylessness when the laughter we hear is knives in our bellies?

Indelible. That which cannot be eliminated, forgotten, changed, or the like.

She did not hesitate when asked what her strongest memory of that night was. She did not say the way he groped me or the weight of him on my 15-year-old body or the feeling of his breath on my neck or the sound of the door locking or the song that was playing loud enough to drown out my screams. She did not ask for a moment to recall. She knew because she’s heard it over and over and over and over and over until she thought she was mad from it. The laughter.

I hear the laughter, too. I heard it when I was catcalled. When the car full of boys hollered. When they slowed down. When they surrounded me in the hall. When they shouted at me to stop what I was doing and gift them my time and being. The laughter that accompanies “it wasn’t me” and “I didn’t really mean it” and “it was a compliment” and “don’t be so stuck up” and “bitchslutwhorecunt.” The laughter when you say stop and don’t and please and when you scream.

I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted in a way that would be considered a crime. I’ve never been hit. I’ve been lucky. I’ve always felt lucky – not strong or blessed or impressive or more right – just a roll of the dice luck. But I’ve heard the laughter. Indelible and deafening and haunting. I’ll bet you have too.

Corroborating Evidence

In high school, I was a member of a traveling theater troupe performing The Jungle Book at the region’s elementary schools. I was Baloo. Bask in my coolness. One day, we were carpooling from or to a performance, I don’t remember, and one of my male castmates was in the backseat with me. He was drunk. I don’t remember the specifics, but I was “being a bitch” and he had a way to shut me up. It was to take out his dick. I don’t think it made it all the way out because I’m pretty sure I punched him in the stomach and told him to quit being an asshole. But I remember seeing way more of this dude than I’d ever planned on or wanted to.

Now, this was, what, 20 years ago now? I doubt this dude remembers this. I doubt the dude driving the car remembers it. I don’t even remember who else was in the passenger seat. I very vaguely remember this incident and don’t think I told anyone contemporaneously, because it was just another example of this guy being a drunk asshole. I haven’t thought about it in 20 years, until all of this Brett Kavanaugh nonsense started.

The more I think about it, the more I’m angry. I’m angry that I was just annoyed by the incident and brushed it off immediately. I’m angry I didn’t have the words or the context to understand why this particular power play is so fucked up. That taking his dick out was this guy’s idea to shut up a mouthy broad and how this is rape culture. Because whatever his plan was beyond just whipping it out, his dick was forced on me. Yes, just the sight of it, because I was lucky? And aggressive? And we were in the backseat of a moving vehicle so it couldn’t go any further? But I have no doubt this dude could have physically overpowered me, could have hurt me, could have taken it as far as he wanted, and would have felt entitled to show me my place.

From the reports I’ve read, Brett Kavanaugh had a bit of a drinking habit in high school and college. Maybe some of those times he took out his dick as a “joke” or tried to get a little action without necessarily getting consent. Two women have publicly come forward (as of now) to say these things happened to them. Mitch McConnell just stood up in the Senate and dismissed their claims because there’s no contemporaneous evidence, no corroborating accounts.

I’m writing this to say I believe the women. Because every woman has a story (or two or a million). And because this shit happens all the time, we justify it by saying he was drunk or we put ourselves in a bad situation, or we deserved it because we were being a bitch. We don’t tell our parents because teenagers don’t tell their parents anything. We might tell our friends, unless they’re mutual friends and we don’t want to deal with not being believed. We might write about it in a journal or talk to a therapist. Or we might chalk it up to life and boys being boys and the way the world works and maybe we were lucky it wasn’t that bad was it that’s no reason to get this guy in trouble most of the time he’s fine he was drinking he was high I was drinking he was joking around I don’t want to lose my friends over this I don’t want to think about it at all because it makes me feel small and sad and worthless and it was really my fault I should have should have should have I stopped it it wasn’t rape rape or assault assault or didn’t leave a mark just laugh it off and move on and move on and move on and one day you won’t remember.

But we have a collective unconscious, women do, where we know and we remember and we dream. And we hear the stories of our friends and family and neighbors and strangers and we say “Oh yes, I remember now. I remember that dick and that shout and that insult and that pain and I remember my silence and your silence and rolling my eyes and I remember forgetting.”

So say what you will about whether this is a disqualifying incident. Whether a boy being a boy is enough to say you cannot be the law of this land. Debate your morals versus your power. But do not tell us that there is no evidence no corroboration because we are here to say I believe. I remember. I am the evidence. I am the corroboration.

Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die

As we (you) celebrate this stupid Hallmark holiday I’d like to take a moment and reflect on the wisest advice my mother ever gave me. (To be fair, it was about the only advice she ever gave me, aside from “just ignore them” which I have managed to apply to SO many different areas of my life, and not just when people are being shitty to me.) I was 5 or 6 years old, having a mental breakdown over something that would make sense to a 5 or 6 year old me – a toy she refused to buy? Picked me up from a friend’s house even though I’d clearly stated I wanted to stay longer? No ice cream even though we were eating in an hour? Whatever the grave injustice this woman was imparting to me, we were walking briskly (she was dragging me, whinging and whining) across the street in our small New Jersey town and I was screaming (I’m sure of it) every child’s refrain: IT’S! NOT! FAAAIIIR!

And while my mother marched ahead, ignoring my shrill cries and pleas for…whatever it was that I wanted, she said to me, without even casting so much as a glance at my freckled, red, tear-stained face, “Well, life’s a bitch and then you die.”

My mother, I must explain, is not a monster. She was no Joan Crawford, railing about wire hangers; she wasn’t even as brash as Sophia Petrillo telling Dorothy what a loser she was. She just doesn’t have time for your shit. If I came home crying because kids were mean to me in school, she’d roll her eyes and tell me to ignore it. At 11, I got my period at the most inopportune time, while we were on vacation in Mexico, and my mom didn’t make a DEAL out it, she just went to the store and got me some tampons and assumed (somewhat incorrectly) that I’d figure them out (that’s another story for another time and I did figure the tampons out but like a year later.) When I told her I was pregnant at the age of 24 by a…less than stellar man, she asked, several times, if I was sure I wanted to keep it and made no bones about her disappointment in me. Mom never made me feel unloved – I got hugs and kisses and “we’re so proud!” when I did something to make them proud (fewer and fewer things as I got older BUT I DIGRESS) (and she loves her grandson!! A lot!) But she’s pragmatic and you have to respect that about a person.

While I do think there’s something to be said about parenting with kindness, I think there’s a lot more to be said about teaching kids that shit’s not gonna go their way all the time. You can’t always have that toy, everyone isn’t always going to like you, 3 million more people voted for a viable candidate and we wind up with a bloated circus peanut as the leader of the free world instead, you can’t run around a restaurant because it’s dangerous AND rude…I could go on. We aren’t saints and we’re going to lose our tempers sometimes and when you’re up to your ass in unpaid bills with burnt dinner and on the verge of getting fired, maybe it’s now that your kid learns that he or she throwing a tantrum again because you refuse to buy them a new tablet is a BAD MOVE. Yes, your child matters, but SO DO YOU and it’s not the end of the world if you can’t or simply won’t provide for their WANTS.

Recently, my child (now 11 and how in the HELL has that happened) decided to try to pull a fast one on us. He failed, spectacularly and almost hilariously, but we found out and we doled out an nearly unthinkable punishment of one month sans screen time (which, he only gets to watch tv and play video games on weekends so…) in addition to your regular, run-of-the-mill grounding. He screamed, cried, slammed doors, the whole 9 yards. We explained it was his own fault, and we ALWAYS find out the truth in the end and while he stood there blubbering, trying to extract sympathy from this stone of a heart, I continued washing the dishes and said without glancing at his red, tear-stained face, “Well, life’s a bitch and then you die.”

 

Toxic Masculinity Will Be the Death of Us All

One week ago, while many women across the country were preparing for the number of women’s marches happening all over, a 14 year old girl in Texas watched her father get shot to death right in front of her. Minutes before this brutal murder, the girl and her father had been at a convenience store and another man started making lewd comments towards the girl. There was a small confrontation, as you might imagine there would be when a father witnesses anyone being rude to his daughter, especially when “being rude” consists of making sexually suggestive comments to her.

The man followed the father and daughter past their home, as the father did not want the man to know where they lived. After awhile, the father pulled over and confronted the man, who, I cannot emphasize enough, felt entitled enough as a man to sexually harass a child. The man then pulled out a gun and shot the father to death, while his daughter watched it all happen.

The father was an old and dear friend of my boyfriend’s. While they were teenagers, the father spent much time at my boyfriend’s family’s home. Later, he joined the Army Reserves to try to provide a decent life for his then-infant daughter. He wound up injuring his back while serving and had to leave the military. He returned home on a fixed income, walking with a cane, to care for his ailing mother and his baby daughter. He later had a son with another woman, but had sole custody of his daughter.

Women everywhere have been where this girl was, with men older than our fathers leering at us and making comments about our breasts, our pussies, our bodies, our smiles or lack thereof. Some women become victims of stalking. Others die fighting or die trying to survive. This girl was fortunate enough to have someone willing to stick his neck out and call out another man for his disgusting misdeeds. He paid the ultimate price for doing the right thing.

I cannot begin to fathom what makes men feel entitled to women. We experience violence on every level nearly every day of our lives. Maybe it’s a comment, maybe it’s a stare that lasts too long, maybe a man follows us home, maybe it’s a head slam into a brick wall and a pillow over our faces when we are trying to leave a relationship. We are nothing but property to so many men; women and girls who are “unclaimed” by a man are subject to abuse by another. That this child is 14 matters not – she doesn’t “belong” to anyone so she’s “fair game.” The fact that she’s a human being and entitled to living a life free of abuse from ALL people, not just from a pedophile doesn’t factor in I suppose.

In my 36 years on this planet, I’ve been abused, catcalled, leered at, sexually harassed, assaulted, sexually assaulted, and talked down to. In my son’s 11 years on this planet, he’s been called a “faggot” by grown men who think that his hair color of choice defines him as a man, had his decision to avoid meat when he was 4 years old questioned by grown men who think that eating meat defines you as a man, called a “pussy” by grown men who think that 11 year old boys shouldn’t fear a 200 pound Great Dane that hasn’t been trained so well, as well as listened to countless numbers of grown men tell him how “men” are “supposed” to act and emphasize that he is worthless until he can prove himself “manly.”

Feminism wants to smash the patriarchy because the patriarchy hurts all of us. Men are not allowed to be vulnerable, feminine, caring, (or if you’re my parents’ friends, vegetarians.) Those men who dare to break the mold and step out are shit on constantly by other men whose insecurities eat them from the inside. I fear that cases like this make it even harder for men to speak out when they witness abuse, harassment, or assault. I know in my heart that there are many men like this father, who, without hesitation, would step into the line of fire to stop an attack on his daughter. The problem, though, at its core, is that there is a line of fire at all. If we don’t start changing soon, this insecure, toxic masculinity will kill us all.

 

**If anyone would like to donate to help out the victim’s family, please contact us and we will point you in the right direction. Thanks to all who have helped already.**

So, Charlie Did A Weird Thing The Other Day…

Charlie is my 13-year-old stepson. He’s autistic, which for him means he’s non-verbal and developmentally delayed (like he’s developmentally a toddler in many ways). He’s loves water, pepperoni, and his iPad and music. He’s a big kid, 5’5” and about 170lbs of solid energy. He’s got the prettiest curly blond hair. He can get violent, usually self-injuring, but I always have some scratch marks and bruises from some meltdown or another, nbd. He is the lovey-est kid I know, loves hugs and kisses and can be just the sweetest. He’s also really smell oriented and likes sniffing things.  So, those are Charlie facts that are relevant to this story.

I do most of my family grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, because it is cheap and sells 1 ½ pound packs of pepperoni and giant jugs of bubble bath for $3. I usually go on the weekends and take the boys because they like going to the store and Charlie is usually well-behaved and it gives Scott a quiet hour (which I then trade in for glorious naps). So, this past Saturday, I pack up the boys, head to the store and have a not so great trip; Charlie was a little agitated and I was in no mood to deal.

We finish our shopping and are headed for the parking lot, me pushing our very full cart. Cal is telling me about videogames or Captain Underpants or Beauty and the Beast, something. Charlie’s walking next to the cart like he’s supposed to be. There’s an old couple in front of us, because it’s Wal-Mart.

Out of the blue, Charlie let’s go of the cart, gently places one hand on the waist of the man in front of us, goes up on his tiptoes and sniffs the man’s neck behind his ear before the man can turn around, then drops his hand back to the cart. This all happened in the space of 2 seconds, but it felt like a year. I speed us up and get the fuck outta there, before the man can figure out what just happened and laughed all the way to the car.

Things like this happen with Charlie. He sniffs randos and touches other people’s carts. He is also very popular at our Food Lion and collects high fives from the cashiers, who all know his name. He hoots loudly and jumps up and down and doesn’t always respect personal space. Sometimes he stops in the middle of an aisle to bite himself. I get looks and hear mutters, although most people can tell Charlie is different and I have perfected my “He’s autistic what’s your excuse for being an a-hole today?” stare.

Y’all, there’s no point to this story other than my life is really weird sometimes. I mean, that guy could have gotten mad, I saw it on his face as he was turning around and could have caused a whole scene. One day it’s not going to turn out so well and I’m going to have to actually yell at someone, or get yelled at, neither of which I particularly want to happen. But until that time comes, I’m just going to say sorry, beat feet, and laugh all the way home.

Ten Blocks from Lee

I haven’t had a lot of original content to deliver re: Charlottesville. I’m happy to say that it’s because I am finding my friends more and more outspoken themselves, and it’s heartening to read their perspectives. I’m sad to say it’s because it’s been hard for me to process that some people I love are still not quite there.  Although I have a thousand words to give regarding the violence that happened Saturday, they’re still really angry. I’d like to talk about the object in the center instead, where things are starting to solidify for me.
I was born in Landsthul and then later returned to come of age in Heidelberg, Germany. I have spent the last eleven years of my life living within a three block radius in Richmond, Virginia, ten blocks from the Robert E. Lee monument at the Allen roundabout. I work from home and I don’t take that route often, but I probably drive past it a few times a week. The first time anyone gave me directions on how to leave the Fan, the first week I lived in Richmond, they used Lee as a marker.
Over the past year I’ve been a pretty vocal opponent of these monuments, and as such opposition’s become more and more prevalent, the arguments I’ve heard for keeping them in place can be easily distilled into two parts: the first about the preservation of history, and the second, regarding the financial aspect of moving the monuments.
To address the first – you don’t need statues of people to remember things. I reposted an excellent NPR piece earlier today, but I’ll link to it here as well: The View of Charlottesville From Berlin. This isn’t made up – I lived there and this IS the way the German people have ensured they remember their history. We could do the same. For those of you so concerned that we’ll forget the Civil War, please seriously ask yourselves which part of the war it is that you want so badly to remember. If it’s the sheer concept of rebellion against the government that’s such an attractive reminder of the American spirit, then perhaps we could replace these monuments with ones that commemorate the truly brave folks of the Underground Railroad instead. They were the real rebels — and they won.
There’s also a very useful infographic circulating that highlights when the bulk of these monuments were built. It’s worth calling out that the building of these monuments spiked three decades after the war’s end, spiking during Jim Crow shortly after the passing of the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” verdict in Plessy v. Ferguson, and again during the Civil Rights movement shortly after Brown v. Board of Education reversed that same ruling. Please ask yourselves why we wanted to erect reminders of the Confederacy in those moments in America. Do you earnestly think that as the recently freed men and women of this country were challenging the chains of the new forms of slavery built for them when chattel slavery was no longer legal, we wanted to memorialize these Confederate leaders for any other reason than as a tool of oppression and intimidation? Seriously, think critically about why they were built within the context of when they were built.
The compromise offered up to ease the outcry against demolishing the monuments lest we forget history is to place them in a museum. We bend to this: you don’t have to destroy them (although I wouldn’t be upset if you did), but we shouldn’t have to look at them. I don’t think they earned the right to be present in the lives of every American who happens to live ten blocks from the Allen roundabout (or several others on Monument Ave, for that matter). Although I’d still ask you to think critically about why you romanticize these generals and presidents of the Confederacy, I concede your wish not to destroy this “art”, but place it indoors where those who wish to see it can choose to visit. There are no Third Reich statues. There are no Hitler statues. Auschwitz stands – but you can choose to go there or not. Give the statues a home in a museum with honest context about the reasons for the war, who won, and the wars we are still fighting for equality today and trust people to visit – or abstain. It’s their right.
It’s inevitable that when I get to this point, someone brings up cost. “I don’t want to spend my tax money moving monuments to museums.” It’s useless to discuss that public infrastructure is the responsibility of the public. It’s probably silly to bring up that public spaces also belong to the public, and if the majority of people are inconvenienced by a pothole, everyone in the area pays for it. Silly to then draw the line that if the majority of people dislike a statue that champions men who fought to retain the right to own other people, everyone in the area should pay for that.
Everyone wants so much for those of us disgusted with our representation to trust them to represent their electorate and sit down and shut up while they vote away our health care, our children’s education, and our air on the Senate and House floor. Here in the South, I repeatedly heard folks robustly decry the popular vote after the recent Presidential election with statements like “I don’t want New York and California picking our President!” But if you’re so confident that our elected officials know what’s best, why the outcry when our Mayors put the location of these monuments up for discussion? Either you didn’t vote in the Mayoral election, you don’t live in our cities, or you weren’t actually in the majority. If you don’t live in my city, then you don’t get to say what I have to look at and your money wouldn’t go to removing and relocating the statues anyway (isn’t that the small government/states rights model that you love?). If you didn’t vote, then next time perhaps you will. And if I’m wrong, then I offer this: we’ll pay for it ourselves.
If you don’t want to spend your cash doing the right thing, that’s on you. But I’ll spend mine. We have no savings account and every time a little money piles up something in our hundred year old house breaks, but I don’t think I’m alone in my willingness to throw some of the little cash I have at this. I have a feeling that if our local government set up a voluntary municipal fund, there would be plenty of people like me who would contribute $5 to the cause. I think those $5 increments would add up pretty quickly. I pledge $5 for each member of my family – that’s $20 total. Let all of us who don’t want them standing publicly toss our $5 down the well, and when it doesn’t get us far enough, you can laugh away.
I want to close with this. It’s not really a part of anything, but it is a powerful image, and to me, a beautiful one. This is what my friend Jennie, who lives in Baltimore, captured this morning in Wyman park where the Lee/Jackson memorial stood until the middle of the night last night. It gives me hope that we can move forward together. This park belongs to all of the people of Baltimore. Not just the white ones. This isn’t intended to gloss over the vast inequality that still exists, whether the monument stands or not — but it sure looks better than it did yesterday, and we can keep fighting for things to *be* better tomorrow.Image may contain: one or more people, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Just Do the Damn Thing and Leave

In my line of work, I get a ton of desperate calls from people who have broken dishwashers or, gasp, ice makers in their pool houses that have stopped working and there is a lot of huffing and puffing because now they have to use the OTHER ice maker in their MAIN house and can you even imagine suffering such an indignity? Surely, you cannot. [puts hand over eyes and faints]

But I have never, until today, received a desperate phone call for a very simple, very minor,  cosmetic issue from someone who wasn’t selling a house. (People selling houses are ABSOLUTELY BATSHIT INSANE over minor appliance issues.) The woman had left a voicemail describing a minor cosmetic issue, but requesting a full-on, major, expensive repair. She sounded kind of desperate, but I’ve had people get angry with me that we would have to wait a few days to repair their pool house ice makers, so I didn’t think much of it. Within 20 minutes, while I was on the phone with other customers, she called back twice. I was definitely annoyed at this point because her appliance was FINE, just had a SMALL DENT GIMME A MINUTE LADY. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s

I’m sitting in a loose circle of chairs in a small classroom. This classroom is in one of the largest churches I’ve ever seen. It took me five minutes to find the front entrance and I had to ask someone for directions to the room. Around me sit a group of men and women, all of them older than me. They each take a turn introducing themselves and saying a little bit about why they are there. The circle gets to me and everyone turns. I take a deep breath.

“Hi. Um. My name is Erin, and my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. We are placing him in a memory care facility next week and, well, I’m not doing well.” With this, my chin quivers and suddenly I am sobbing in this room of strangers, all of whom know exactly what I’m feeling. They’ve all been there in some form or another. I am not alone.

Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that people primarily associate with the very old. It’s referred to as “Old-Timer’s” for a reason. Lately though, people are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Most likely, it’s because science has come pretty far and the signs are clearer much earlier. It’s not dismissed as “Grandma’s just getting senile.” anymore. The problem (for me at least) is that with this earlier diagnoses, people (again, like me) are dealing with the fallout from the disease earlier in life than ever expected.

The disease is progressive and insidious. It steals away your past at the same time it’s stealing your future. It takes away your ability to walk, to talk, to chew. It takes your memories, your ability to remember to eat, your balance, and your ability to be rational. At the same time that I am losing my father in the present, I am losing any memories he has of my mother, of my childhood, of a large chunk of my life.

When I was in the group, one of the women said “I feel like I’m grieving for someone who’s still alive.” This shook me. I didn’t have words for how I felt until she described that. I’ve been going through the stages of grief, but continuously for six years. Each time the disease progresses, I start over again. I will grieve every time something changes until I grieve for the final time. I spend a lot of time in the denial stage. I’m excellent at denial. I’m working through anger right now. I won’t bother with bargaining.

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m sitting in the memory care facility where we will be leaving my dad, shortly. His room is moved in, his recliner and his TV are set up. His walls are covered in family pictures, plaques from his time in the Navy and University of Georgia Bulldogs swag. His clothes are in the closet.

We’ve met the director, the staff and taken the tour. We’ve had lunch in the dining room and seen their grounds and the way their security works. Right now, the residents and my family are gathered in one of the sitting areas listening to one of the staff members give a presentation on Naval Submarines and bi-planes because a lot of the residents are retired military. Because this is a fairly new facility, there is only a small amount of residents currently. This makes me feel better somehow, like the less residents, the more the staff will be involved with them.

 
I’m terrified to leave. I don’t know if he will understand what’s happening or why we’re leaving. I keep having flashbacks to when my dad dropped me off at boarding school as a freshman. I was scared, angry and felt abandoned, even though, deep down I knew that boarding school was the best place for me to be. I hope he understands that we’re not abandoning him. I hope he’s not scared when he goes to sleep tonight. I hope he knows we still love him.