Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boys to Men: Home-grown American Violence

Disclaimer: Some of the following is true for all people, not just for males.

When a boy child is born, a celebration occurs. What happens after birth can result in violence.
We teach boys to play with “gender-appropriate” toys, like guns, trucks or swords. Boys may also choose such toys partially influenced by their hormones. Little boys are often taught not to cry when they are hurt, even as toddlers.

Boys are trained to compete and win whenever possible. Boys may be bullied by larger boys or by parents and coaches whose tones of voice or words can sound condemnatory: Don’t throw (or run) like a girl! Don’t be a sissie! Such words are quite meaningful and powerful to young, formative minds, especially when comparing boys’ skills to girls’.

Another: Don’t be the last one chosen for baseball or football. If boys are not natural athletes, fathers may reprimand or ignore them, even though the sons may perform brilliantly either academically or artistically.

Little boys soak up the words and actions of elders who praise sports celebrities and who watch TV shows and movies where the man takes all. Heroes are CEO’s, generals, coaches and sometimes clergy.

Some boys are abused emotionally, verbally, and physically by older kids, family members and churches. They are taught not to share their negative feelings, so they learn to detach from such feelings until a perfect storm occurs, when they may act out their rage, fear, or pain against others or themselves. We blame them for their “evil” actions.

But, we are also complicit. We prompt boys to play violent games like football and then usher them into the military and into law enforcement where they may act out legally in the name of freedom and safety.

Home-grown American violence is difficult to change because violence is a core value in our American culture. Compete to win no matter what it takes. Spank the bullies who terrorize kids and admonish them at the very same time not to act violently toward others.

Boys become men and some act in violent ways toward women through domestic abuse, sex trafficking and sexual assaults. Some white boys and men abuse minorities.

The good news is that Pat Shea, CEO of the Nashville YWCA, offers a solution. She says that we need to encourage men to help work on these issues of violence. We women have not been able to solve the problem of male violence. It takes men to stand up against violence and teach boys how to treat and respect themselves and others.

If you are committed to help change the violent nature of our society, please contact existing organizations focused on gun violence, domestic and sexual violence, and violence against the marginalized, impoverished, and minorities. Join with organizations like the YWCA, The Sexual Assault Center, the Brady Campaign (to prevent gun violence), and the NAACP, to decrease violence for all Americans. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On Marriage Equality and the church

On June 12, 2015, Out & About Nashville published an article by James Grady about Middle Tennessee’s Episcopal bishop, the Right Reverend John Bauerschmidt, and his leading the charge against marriage equality for Episcopalians ( I do not understand how a Christian bishop thinks about this issue theologically.

If this were just one man with one opinion, his views about this issue would not be so problematic. However, this bishop’s conservative stance contradicts many Episcopalians’ beliefs on social issues, especially regarding how we treat each other as human beings.

When I grew up in Mississippi as the daughter of an Episcopalian priest during the 1950’s and 60’s, we had no idea at that time that women would become priests one day. Now, my 92 year old mother and I attend St. Augustine’s Church on Vanderbilt’s campus where two women priests lead our services and preach the gospel. Becca Stevens at St. A’s preaches that “Love Heals.” I see no healing or loving compassion in denying the LGBT community (many of whom are Christians) equality in marriage.

I read the Bible as metaphorical stories about our yearning for the divine’s love and our sometimes difficulty with living as mortals, because we humans judge each other and sometimes fear those who are different from us. But, growing up with my church lady mother and my preaching dad, I was taught about how God loves all people, no matter what.

The Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) often embraces LGBT people, and a task force has recently recommended resolutions that reword the church’s canon law, including changing language indicating that marriage is between a man and a woman, according to O&AN. However, Bauerschmidt and his co-authors wrote against the changes suggested by the report which “would render optional the traditional understanding that marriage is a ‘covenant between a man and a woman’ that is intended, when it is God’s will, ‘for the procreation of children’ (”

Sarah Smith, a parishioner of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church and a candidate for Master of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, says: “In this logic, why then would we allow people that are past child bearing ages to marry or people who are biologically incapable? The argument doesn’t hold and there are so many more ways of being ‘procreative’ than bearing children through one’s body.”

I wonder: What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? He taught us to love sex workers, and he blessed those who are weary, meek, sick, hungry or poor.

Although I don’t channel God like one U.S. President has, I have no doubt in my mind that our modern day Jesus would preach that all people have the right to marry, and that all people also have the right to equal pay, to food and shelter, to a fair justice system, and to love whomever they love. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Justice and Fairness in Nashville

When I heard Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson speak earlier this year, I complimented him on how his police force handled Nashville’s first Ferguson protest last year.

When attending that evening event, I talked to an officer as a group of protesters began moving toward the interstate. All of the sudden, a media representative frantically ran up to this officer asking these questions: “What is happening and how are the police handling this? Any violence so far?” The officer calmly and seeming somewhat irritated replied, “These people have the right to speak out about their concerns, they have the right to protest. And, we are helping them do that safely.” I was very impressed with his response and a bit disgusted by the media person’s seeming frustration with his answer.

Fast forward to the present and The Tennessean’s report (June 2, 2015) about plans for Metro Police Headquarters to move to Jefferson Street. I am not sure how that decision was made but the article clearly states that the community has not felt included in the process.

The Justice for Jefferson Street Coalition has filed a civil rights complaint against the mayor’s office and the police department. Police, in general, are accused of racial profiling throughout our nation and data has been collected displaying how dark skinned people are arrested much more often than us white, privileged people.

I can just hear the responses of readers. Some will speak about how black and brown people break the law more than white people do, and how dare I argue that this is not a just system of enforcement? Please read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012) to clarify the facts of racial profiling. Ms. Alexander has researched how the United States has not really moved past slavery at all. Slavery is disguised more covertly now, and prison systems house our slaves. Even just reading brief reviews of the book will illustrate this fact.

A friend and one of the Justice for Jefferson Street Coalition members, Sekou Franklin, PhD, describes in the complaint that Metro government has violated the community’s rights by excluding civil rights organizations along with black colleges and universities from discussion about the options and plans for our police department’s move. The project was decided upon rapidly without much community input.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be proud of Nashville’s being the “It” city. Although there will always be disagreements between groups of people and plans for the city, I hope that the government will often seek input from our beloved communities especially when the impact on the community, its youth and families is so clear.

I ask Nashville’s government and its leaders to be fair and honest, and ask openly for community input. Then, we can all be proud of the process, even if we don’t happen to agree with the outcomes. 

Reactions about not only Caitlyn Jenner but Ourselves

Caitlyn Jenner. What more can be said than has already been reported, analyzed and sensationalized? What does her coming out as a transgender woman and the reactions to it say about our society, our values and our human nature?
Many of us have now read and seen many articles, news reports and media stories about Caitlyn’s life along with her Vanity Fair cover photo by Annie Leibovitz. How do we interpret the myriad of reactions to this event?

First, I would like to talk about all those who are not Caitlyn Jenner, those whose coming out has not been celebrated (or criticized) by the entire world. Those who have struggled often massively throughout their lives to deal with being and/or coming out as transgender, those who have suffered and have been ostracized, harmed and killed when people have suspected or learned about their gender identity. Too many transgender people have killed themselves partly because of the dire societal, vocational, and social ramifications about gender and sexual identities.
Along with the praise and celebration of Caitlyn’s coming out comes the horrible, outlandish comments made by some right wing conservatives who think we are headed for an apocalypse (http:/ culture-was-is-lost/2015/06/04/aa*ccbbe-oade-11e5-9e39-odb921c47b93_story.html) The good news is some of our Democratic leaders, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have praised Caitlyn for her bravery. And, even some Fox newscasters have been supportive.

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (6/2/2015), entitled his piece, “Brave New Girl.” (http:// Not only did he illustrate some of the media using descriptors for Caitlyn like “courageous “and “brave” but he also showed clips of angry, belligerent and abhorrent people talking about what an abomination Caitlyn’s story is. On June 4, 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Josh Cobia, a minister, entitled, “I went to church with Bruce Jenner, Here’s what Cailtyn Jenner taught me about Jesus (http:// jenner-heres-what-caitlyn-jenner-taught-me-about-jesus/).” The reactions to Caitlyn are as varied and extreme as we are people.

One reaction that has appalled me about the news that Bruce is Caitlyn is that so many of the media are talking about her body, her sexiness, hot-ness, glamorousness and attractiveness, even female newscasters. They also mention her age as if she only has a little more time left before she is irrelevant to the public. In the past, when Bruce was a decathlon star and TV/ movie celebrity, married to a Kardashian of all people, similar media personnel described his former athleticism, his business sense, and his acting talents, not his body. Jon Stewart says, “Welcome to the world of being a woman in America, Caitlyn. “ What a world this is.

So, what’s really happening here? The good news is that our society is moving forward, becoming more and more accepting of people who are not mainstream, people who might differ from our white, heterosexist societal norm. Caitlyn says she wants to help others by talking openly about some of the issues in growing up transgender. Hopefully, that is happening now. At least people are discussing the topic and exploring their own feelings about their values, their beliefs and what is the “new normal.”

My hope is that the “new normal” will be a world in which everyone is accepted for whoever they are. No matter what their skin color, their gender, their sexuality, their religion (or the lack thereof), their size, their looks, and/or their mental or physical abilities. A world where there is less income inequality, where one group doesn’t judge or discriminate against another group based on misplaced hatred and fear but where people are willing to talk with others who may seem different. Where we try to understand other people rather than be quick to judge. To
know that what works for me isn’t necessarily what works for you. We can do better than what we have been doing. We can learn and grow, evolve as better types of human beings, even though we may often compare ourselves to others and may compete even until our dying days.

Let’s live in a world where we can have compassion for other people and try to understand how their thoughts, feelings and behaviors make sense in their worlds. We people can do terrible things to one another. If we each have a goal of coming to know ourselves as best we can, then we can hopefully look at others as being more like us than not, all struggling to live in a sometimes chaotic, crazy world where bad things happen to good people, and where people are sometimes filled with hate and fear, causing great damage to us all.