Thursday, November 30, 2017

Corruption, Scandal, Lies and Sexual Harassment: Change begins with me and you


We as the United States of America harbor secrets much like any culture, society or family.  One secret is based on the fact that we need governance and need to govern ourselves effectively, and instead, we have created a system rife with corruption, scandal, lies and sexual harassment.
Living in a patriarchy, so rigid in its formal and informal rules, we all suffer.  When women gained the right to vote as an evolutionary step, when birth control became more available, and when women became tired of being pigeon-holed into only being mothers, home-managers, and supporters to husbands and the like, the times, they began a’changin’.  More women started working outside of the home, women planned their families, women fought for equal rights and equal pay, and now women are standing up, as do oppressed minorities, saying: “We won’t take this anymore.”
The United States elected a highly complicated and suspect person to be president in 2016.  An entertainer, narcissist (and possibly sociopath), sexual abuser of women, corrupt businessman who broke contracts and deals, a man illustrative of everything wrong in human beings: a gloater, an erratic child-like adult, a man who says “if you don’t play my way, I will call you names and try to destroy you,” a man who can walk up to a woman, grab her crotch and kiss her without asking just because he wants to and can, and more.  Such a man is not fit to be president but he garnered support from all the other men AND women who believed that he would help them.  A master of disguise, deceit, and broken promises, seen so clearly every day in his absurd actions.
Today, some decent, competent, highly intelligent and might I say “good” men are falling by the wayside (at least briefly), as we women tell them that they cannot hold such power when their shadows, their dark sides include acting like this president, when they threaten, cajole and force women to service them sexually so that women can get and keep their jobs.  Even with these so-called “good” and effective men, we say STOP. Along with those men who don’t seem to have such power, but who try to act strong and controlling by abusing women, minorities, animals, anyone or anything seeming to be lesser or weaker than they.
Corruption, lies, sexual harassment and scandal have gone on as long as there have been people on earth.  Perhaps longer.  How can we change this continual human behavior that oppresses, humiliates, embarrasses and abuses people less fortunate than we; less powerful, less rich, less important that we?  Yes, we all participate in such behaviors. I am speaking not just about how men treat women, but about how each of us treats others, like immigrants, the poor, and those who have different beliefs or skin colors other than mostly white.  How can we change these age old ways of being, feeling and acting?
Some people walk into churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions on holy days only to walk out of these same buildings acting in ways that hurt others, that demean, devalue and debase others, somehow finding it fitting to act in such ways. Sometimes not knowing how their actions affect others in such painful ways.  Most religions preach about love, harmony and peace.  I imagine that the very design of human beings creates our continually acting in such ugly, hostile ways at times while we attempt to pray or meditate on the good hoping for change. Maybe this is just a design flaw, but if so, what can we do about it?
Who am I to judge?  Well, I sometimes do.  And, so do you.  We all judge and evaluate each other, and ourselves at times, whether we are conscious of it or not. We often do not help the poor, we do not stop racism, we do not create a better world where more people can live in peaceful states of harmony and compassion, fed and sheltered.  After all, we each have limitations as to what and how much we can do. 
At times, we compete, we curse, fight or pout when we don’t get our way, we step on or over others to make ourselves feel better because we all feel too often not good enough, not smart enough, or not pretty/handsome/competent/effective enough. We are constantly comparing and contrasting, feeling better then worse, high then low, confused and distressed.  We seek for power over our own lives, we seek to meet our and maybe our family’s needs, but can we meet those needs without hurting others?  Too often, we fall short.
Each of us lies sometimes.  Those who claim to never lie frighten me, their being so out of touch with reality.  My hope is that we can decrease our condemnation of others when they are just different from us.  But, when a man who is so corrupt, hateful, childish, probably mentally ill, and perhaps demented, gains power over our whole country, we all need to stand up and say STOP.  We will not stand for this.  We will not let you and your supporters set us back hundreds of years, change the very bedrocks of our nation. We will not let you prompt nuclear war by your silly, infantile antics, your tweeting on a telephone while sitting on your golden toilet, your throne.
Am I angry?  Yes, I am angry and fearful and not sure what to do to make healthy changes. And why don't I show more compassion for Trump?  Because he endangers us all.

What I do know that I can only make changes in myself.  How can I act in more just, honest and compassionate ways?  How can I not stoop so low seeking to sustain my own privilege without thinking about those who are so much worse off? Do I give all I have away and live on the streets? Do I walk in protests, practice nonviolent resistance, and work with others to participate in momentous actions and movements that may or may not help make the needed changes?
How can we change the ways things are, protect ourselves and others, and create a surge of energy, enthusiasm and support so that we can all carry the banner and do something instead of staying silent, nesting in our own spaces with our own people, either too despondent or too frightened to take a step toward increasing the health and well-being of all people? 
Please come along with me, organize and join ongoing groups and coalitions that are fighting for justice in nonviolent ways.  Fund those organizations that seem to be the most effective in carrying out excellent, humanistic missions and goals. Walk the streets, talk with others, get to know those unlike yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations trying to understand those who are different.
And, then, let’s try to work through our conflicts, moment by moment, and pay close attention to this difficult process of change which can take a lengthy amount of time, over a long period of time, in order to promote the common good, blessing us all.

Friday, November 3, 2017

"Me, Too? Time for Change"

I am glad that the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment charges have stirred up this nation and the planet. Men with power assaulting women has been such a normal way of life, a shock may help us create a cultural change, a shift from tolerating to criminalizing this closeted behavior.

The new allegations that Weinstein hired Israeli private intelligence investigators, like Black Cube, to intimidate and to get dirt on some of this victims is not only appalling but clearly illustrates the gravity of his crimes, exemplifying extraordinary behavior.


I have often heard, “Boys will be boys,” while living in a society where this type of “power over” others happens far too frequently.

The ”Me, Too” Movement has prompted most women to review their lives for such assaults, some memories being very clear and some not so much.  Trauma affects our brains, spirits, and bodies in interesting and painful ways whether a man “just” puts his tongue in an unwilling mouth or conducts a violent rape.  Trauma is trauma.

Many men may be feeling nervous and worried, asking themselves if the whistle may be blown on them.  Even worse are men who won’t even imagine that they could be identified as a sexual assailant.  They tell themselves that a relationship was consensual or that because they married their secretary or nurse, there was no offense. Isn’t it OK to touch an employee’s body without asking, imagining she wants it?

In 1976, I was a 5’ tall, 24 yr old small woman, he a 6’ tall, 45 yr old large man, a graduate school professor at a well-respected university with a scholarship available.  Having worked with him before and because some professionals I trusted seemed to hold him in high esteem, I inquired about the scholarship. We decided to dine at the Gerst House but met at his Green Hills apartment.  After serving bourbon on the rocks, he kissed me. Big tongue, big man.  I suggested we move toward supper while he pouted but agreed.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship.  The good news is that I had said “no” indirectly, and he didn’t push too hard.

I am not sure what helped me say “no” to him and to a few other powerful men in my life. Not being desperate for the scholarship and having supportive parents both helped.  I didn’t have to compromise my values or my body because I am privileged in many ways and he was smart enough not to overpower me.

Are these men just little boys begging their mothers to praise and adore them, displaying their extreme neediness and insecurities? Are these men so frail and feel so badly about themselves that they need extreme adoration and worship, asking women to pleasure them physically because they are desperate for illustrations of their power? Where is the line between crime and consent?  Don’t we women learn early and well to submit or to please to get what some of what we want?

Some men’s methods for building self esteem are disgusting, deplorable, and deceitful, manipulating if they have power over their prey.  Women often suffer even when some women are attracted to men in power.  But, that's another story.

Why do these predatory, powerful men continue to assault and sexually harass women?  Because they can.  Because they can also afford to settle complaints out of court and keep women quiet.

I ask women and men to change this pattern, knowing it will take time and much effort because in our lifetimes, unfortunately, it has always been this way.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Letter to Mayor Barry, Metro Council and Nashville citizens

Dear Mayor Barry, Metro Council Members and Nashville citizens,

Did you know that NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) and Community Oversight Now have been working together on creating a Community Oversight Board (COB)?

Did you know that most other major U.S. cities have such boards?

Do you know what a Community Oversight Board is and why we need one?

Some history: The Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) has an internal investigatory group that explores citizen complaints, the Office of Professional Accountability, which rules against citizens over 98% of the time.  Many Nashvillians don't file complaints because they fear police power and possible harsh repercussions.

Only recently has the MNPD discarded training textbooks recommending aggressive action against citizens, especially those of color.  A report, “Driving While Black,” found that blacks are disproportionately targeted for police stops and searches.

An external group needs to police our police so that we don’t end up like cities who experience extreme violence following controversial police killings. Our Board will not end crime but if police are trained to handle citizens more fairly and decently, then less criminal activity may occur. When people don’t trust the police, they sometimes act out in violence.

This proposed Community Oversight Board (COB) calls for a new Metro agency governed by a community-representative board, staffed with professionals. The COB will investigate community allegations of police misconduct and conduct policy review for Davidson County’s Criminal Justice system. 



Most professions have an oversight board. Restaurants, health care providers, and even barbers have licensing boards that regulate and investigate allegations of unhealthy food or abuse, protecting the public.

When other major cities have created well-funded boards like COB, excellent results occur.  The Department of Justice after reviewing Nashville’s systems and a recent Grand Jury have both recommended a citizen’s advisory board so that police actions are better investigated.

Martin Luther King, Jr. recommended community oversight in the 1960’s. Nashville rose up in horror after Jocques Clemmons was killed by a police officer in Nashville on February 10, 2017. A 20-page report from the MNPD justified the officer’s behavior and no charges were filed. Many friends, teachers and family members have publicly shared their grief about this young man’s unnecessary death. Thankfully, protests have been nonviolent.

 

If a COB is created, neutral community citizens and staff will investigate and make recommendations about allegations of police brutality.  Mr. Clemmons might still be alive today if officers had more incentive to monitor their behaviors, if not for the common good then because they may be tried and convicted of crimes.  Police should not be given carte blanche to hurt our citizens.

Mayor Barry and Metro Council members, please pass this proposal to create better trust  in our police officers so they can better perform public safety duties and not prompt such fear and distrust. Help the MNPD treat all community members more fairly and justly.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Fairy Tale of Hope and Justice

Once upon a time, there lived two children named Hansel and Gretel who had endured much stress and trauma: abandonment, a witch, a sugary house, an oven, fearing for their grim lives. Starving and homeless, they ran into the wrong kind of person who lied to them and tried to destroy them.

Hansel and Gretel grew up stronger because of these tragedies but not without lingering PTSD symptoms. They got jobs, married nice partners and had children. For awhile, life seemed peaceful, fun and satisfying.

Then in 2016, a darkening cloud descended upon the land. An eclipse of the worst sort. Hobgoblins and villains lurked everywhere and a new leader was elected to rule.

How did a werewolf get elected, a monster who gobbled up little children and old people?  Even the bravest in the land would not stand up to this werewolf, fearing that he would destroy their lives by his sinister sickness.  There’s no dealing rationally with a werewolf.

The behemoth sprouted ugly, orange hair and became well known for tweeting like a tiny bird, spewing out his venom upon anyone or anything that he couldn’t control. This beast wanted to be a king, or god, someone who ruled the seas, the air, the health care system and the whole planet.

Fire and brimstone, floods, locusts, disease and death rained upon the earth with no place to hide or escape. 

Until one day, Hansel texted Gretel and told her to meet him at Jeni’s Ice Cream store.  There, Hansel and Gretel created a plan about how to save the world from this crazy, treacherous evildoer, a strategy to rob him of his power.  Even knowing they must risk their lives to save all of humanity, they kissed their partners and children goodbye, and entered the dark, scary woods, full of the KKK, white supremacists and armed neo-Nazis.

Somehow protected by a heavenly veil, they witnessed a light beaming down. Kneeling, they gazed upwards and uttered these words in perfect harmony (remembering that prayers leave no fingerprints):  “Divine Goddess, we beg you for help.  We are nonviolent and we hope you can save us from this werewolf, freeing us all to be become even more peaceful and harmonious than we have ever experienced. We beseech you to end our misery and pain. Protect the children, the elderly, the hungry, sick and poor. Transform Trump so he can do no more harm.  And, then, put a woman of color in charge of this land, one who is smart, trustworthy and kind, made in your image, oh Goddess.  We promise we will work hard to help her and we hope to become more compassionate with all people. Amen.”

The Goddess replied, “A piece of (chocolate) cake!” Then came a blast from the heavens as the almighty One turned Trump back into the toad that he had always been. And everyone lived happily ever after. Even Trump. 



The End

Monday, June 19, 2017

Guns, Heroes and Public Safety

As I read the Father’s Day Tennessean article about a Christiana man becoming a hero after helping capture Georgia fugitives, I found myself confused and puzzled (http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/06/17/confrontation-fugitives-sparks-talk-gun-ownership/404600001/).

Generally, I don’t like guns because of dangers like children and adults ending up dead or forever changed by gun accidents and because some people choose to mow down large numbers of people, including children.  But, everyone likes a hero, even me. This man handled his gun responsibly and helped catch two dangerous men.

The last time I wrote a Tennessean OpEd about men and their guns, I received more responses than ever before  (http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/02/27/open-letter-gun-advocates/81004446/). Some called me crazy or a lousy liberal or just someone ignorant about weapons. I agree with the last description.

I also received responses from at least 3 Tennessee and Texas men who wrote about the joy of shooting and their responsible use of guns. Each offered that if I would come visit them, they would teach me to shoot and that I would probably enjoy it. I didn’t take them up on their offers but appreciated their enthusiasm.

Since that time, I have attended a gun show in Lebanon, TN. Amazing. I talked with lots of friendly and peaceful-acting men and women in a large building browsing all types of guns and every accessory imaginable. Aisle upon aisle of armored vests, T shirts, caps, ammunition and so much more, like women’s purses for carrying weapons safely and responsibly.

One female seller encouraged me to buy a purse because “you don’t want to leave home without your weapon!” Truth be told, I recently found out that my great aunt carried her pistol whenever she drove in her car in Atlanta.

I watched women and men proudly carrying their unloaded guns throughout the building.  All acted responsibly.  I realized that I had known little about this part of gun culture before.

I told a few friends and colleagues about attending the gun show, and one colleague told me how she loved to shoot.  Another admitted she had a gun for protection.  Having grown up in the South in a hunting family, I wondered why I seemed so naive?

I apologize for having written sarcastically about gun owners’ self esteem and/or their possible lack of confidence in my past OpEd.  I still don’t know how we can create a safer society when so many people are walking around with guns even though the “good” gun owners will say that carrying weapons helps keep us all safe.



Guns are still a public health hazard especially when parents act irresponsibly and accidents happen.  I can appreciate the safety guns sometimes offer, but the inherent danger and the ease of purchasing guns still create extreme risk of tragedy.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

From an Adversarial, Competitive Culture toward a Collaborative, Cooperative One


In Nashville, almost 400 people from around the country came together in May 2017, for one reason only: to talk about Cohousing. Participants at the Cohousing Association of the United States’ National Conference discussed topics like creating better connections between people, highlighting diversity, inclusivity and sustainability, communicating compassionately, and developing effective ways to handle conflict, a normal human dynamic between individuals, families, and nations. 

Is Cohousing a commune, a religious cult, a left-leaning political group? Or, a bunch of crazy, aging hippies? 

Nope. Cohousing is a movement about people who are interested in finding new ways to live together and share common resources. Cohousing includes working together while planning, developing and forming a community of people who do not share income but share some living spaces while each family also owns separate and private places. 

Nashville boasts one current Cohousing Community, Germantown Commons, and another community is being formed. Germantown Commons is the first of its kind in Tennessee, but many cities and rural areas around the country include Cohousing communities. Each group has some similar characteristics along with differences about how the groups choose to live together, and we often share some common values. 

Values like supporting each other throughout the life cycle. Germantown Commons is a multigenerational, intentional community where members share enjoyment together, community work, and a belief that our world can be a better place. Instead of living in separate houses where we owned lawn mowers, sprinklers, yards, and gardens, we share those and other items, like a Common House for activities and shared meals at times. 

In Cohousing we make decisions by consensus which may seem tedious to some but an adventure for others, where all voices get heard and hopefully understood. 

We embrace values like empathy and compassion for each other, along with composting. When our youngest needs child care, we pitch in. When our elderly experience medical problems, we help them out. When kids need a tutor, we have some among us. 

Before you get disgusted and stop reading this description of supposed paradise, note that while we aspire to embody these values and qualities, we sometimes fall short because we are human beings, with human needs and feelings, which sometimes bump up against those of others. 

Germantown Commons spent many years in its development stage and we are still young in the process of living together, almost two years for some. We run into the same sorts of issues and concerns that any community or family does, but we hope that by joining together and committing to each other, we can help all of us grow and learn. 

We also hope to change from a culture that is adversarial, hierarchical and competitive to one that is more collaborative and cooperative one day and one person at a time. Visit us at http://cohousing.org/, or http://germantowncommons.org/

Monday, March 6, 2017

“I Am Not Your Negro"

 “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ~JB

Please watch the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro.” James Baldwin states that the…”story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.”

Some of us white people feel guilt and shame about how privileged we are and how much suffering we and our ancestors have inflicted upon those with darker skin. Then - and now. Are we helpless to change even when we try?  Some describe the “white” race as only a social construct anyway, but we Americans continue to refine our national stigmata.

Such narcissism and creative license. Few people are purely white and the global majority is a fine blending of skin colors. Now, immigrants of all colors enter America subject to a new style of slavery.  We can continue to be apathetic and ignorant, or face our (white) terror of losing power.

James Baldwin asked us white people to ask ourselves why we have needed and still need to have black bodies serve us? Perhaps land grants given to early settlers prompted the need for workers but why OWN people?  Buying and selling people to each other has been an horrific blight on our nation.

We white people can attempt to ally ourselves with our African American brothers and sisters but even then, we liberal and progressive elite often make clumsy mistakes. Our “assistance” sometimes looks like white men trying to rescue damsels in distress because they think the damsels cannot help themselves.  How condescending and patronizing.

This documentary illustrates white perpetration of violence and the murder of African Americans.  I wish this was only about our past, a history of which we are ashamed and grievous.  But, this is NOT only about our past.  It is about our present day even if in more subtle, cloaked forms.

The overly white justice system and white police still kill black and brown boys and men in large numbers.  When they are not murdered by us, we lock them up for petty crimes, throwing away the key, so that even if a person of color gets a traffic ticket that they cannot pay, they can end up imprisoned because they cannot earn enough money to pay large penalties. Locking up huge numbers of black and brown boys and men continues slavery today.

African American children are educated in a school to prison pipeline system and too many kids end up also incarcerated, or dead in the streets, just like their predecessors.

No racism in this nation?  We are all racists, having grown up in this culture, this America where white overpowers black every moment of every day in the work place, in schools, in the government, everywhere. 

Listen to James Baldwin speak about his fear and prediction that only a revolution may change this continual white terrorism of the soul, bodies, minds, and spirits of our black and brown citizens. “We must not sit down and do nothing.”