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“Me Too” Thoughts

“Me Too” Thoughts

For the confused: Sexual harassment and assault have nothing to do with the erotic. They are the core expressions of a pure power dynamic, a form of bullying and manipulation by immature and weak people who can sometimes become very dangerous, even violent.

If you do not consent, do not enjoy, that is harassment and often assault. The harasser, the stalker, the abuser, the rapist, the murderer – they persist despite (and often because of) resistance and lack of consent. They don’t take “no” for an answer. They are wielding power aggressively to intimidate you because they think they can. They are not paying attention to you as a full human being, but only to their own internal dynamics. You are then just an object, not another person with their own boundaries and thoughts and feelings and rights.

Mutual seduction is NOT that. Flirting is NOT that. An expression of interest, or even a sexual advance, is NOT that, in most cases, unless it creates a fearful toxic situation where you are somehow trapped. If you move away, or say “hey” or “no thanks” and they still won’t leave you alone – and the culture supports that in thousands of ways – then that is what is being addressed by “me, too.”

Awareness is a small step, easily rationalized, denied, and rejected.
With awareness, pay attention.
With growth, discard previous assumptions and construct better questions.
With better understanding, understand and disrupt toxic behavior.
With more insight, communicate to others when you see similiar inappropriate behavior and structures (whenever you can).
Navigate as best you can with what you know, and hold yourself accountable in the mirror.
Know thyself, and listen to others.
Know your friends, family and tribes.
Name what you know, in the active tense.

Ask more questions.

See where toxic things structurally and institutionally intersect.

Find allies. Be an ally.

The way forward is like this.

 

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at http://www.jkrowling.com and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to info@theblairpartnership.com and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

These aren’t REAL reasons to dislike Mitt Romney? Part I

These aren’t REAL reasons to dislike Mitt Romney? Part I

Another day, another whisper campaign. I received this somewhat sarcastic email “Top Ten Reasons to Dislike Mitt Romney” from one of the usual places. To the person who sent this to me: I forgive you for trying to provoke me with things like this. You’ve given me the gift of a blog post topic.

The idea of the piece is to present a rebuttal to people who might not think Mitt Romney is all that likeable (including some who might – gasp – support Barack Obama!). It suggests that the “media” is misleading you about his “likability.” Keep that in mind as you judge the merits of the argument for yourself. Check in with your own intuition too – do you find him likable?

It is both amusing and disheartening to read some of the comments from some people who don’t even grasp the sarcastic undercurrent. “What’s wrong with having no scandals? Why does having sons with no prison record make him unlikable?” Seriously?

Here’s my take on what is, at least, an opinion piece intended to sway you.  I’ve spared you the huge red fugly font of the email.

 

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people. Frankly, we struggled to understand why. So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

We”? Who is this “we”? Research?

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

The alignment of the presidential role with a particular appearance is interesting. Whatever do you mean? Does the Commander-in-Chief have to be real white and male, awkward and snobby? He has the commanding presence of a Gerald Ford and the grace of a John Kerry, or is it the other way around? As long as he doesn’t speak to people, I guess you could argue that he looks the part that some would sterotype as a “central casting” choice for President, if you like that combed-back Vitalis look.

But cast your mind back, and compare/contrast with some that were actually cast as President:

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

He was married when still a child, his entire life? Only kidding.

Each man should be assessed for his own decisions and actions, and Mitt seems to have been faithful to and supportive of Ann. The repercussions would be severe for him if he weren’t, especially as a Bishop within a very anti-divorce subculture that views marriage itself as well as divorce in a very unusual way.

When talking of a Mormon, you might avoid putting ONE in all caps like that. Better not to call attention to the fact that polygamy used to be a big part of the culture, and in some scions of that group, still is. To be fair, both Romney and Obama have a family branch involving polygamy. Mitt’s own father even had his own “birther” controversy.

While it’s all good that the Romney marriage has appeared to be stable, the Republicans, even most of the so-called “religious right,” seemed to have little problem supporting men like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich while denouncing a sitting President who has been faithful and loving to his wife and family.

So it’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it?

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

Really? You’re not counting his sexy fugitive great-grandfather, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest? Whatever you want to say about that, it’s not boring. Can’t talk at all about the story of Mitt’s father, a Mexican-born child of American citizens who became Governor of Michigan and was able to run for the Republican nomination for President in 1968 despite his support for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War? He seems interesting.

No? Just Bishop Willard Mitt, named for hotel magnate J. Willard Marriot, huh? Well, if you insist.

Here’s a few, or just look at his record as Governor of Massachusetts and draw your own conclusions. You could look at where he claimed residency, for example.

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern,”black preacher voice” when necessary.

Wow – that took a turn.

Maybe you’re underestimating Mitt – has he tried? He has the background as a Bishop, so he’s the actual preacher. I for one would love to see footage of some of his sermons.

What exactly is being implied here against Barack Obama? When exactly has that occurred, and why would the writer think it be “necessary”? What is being emphasized, and what reaction is intended from the reader?

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School …and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

Sure, Mitt is a smart guy. So is Obama. I think we’re (at least temporarily) past an attraction for dim presidential candidates, right? Um, right? Right?

No other presidential candidate but Barack Obama has ever been asked to prove fitness to serve by releasing academic records – or a birth certificate, for that matter. Along with the usual slurs about not being a “real” American – questioning his religion and his patriotism – this is intended to imply that there’s some sort of problem with his credentials.

It’s not true that Mitt Romney has released his academic transcripts, nor is that the norm. He went to Cranbrook School (a private boys’ academy), Stanford University (for only a year), Brigham Young University, and Harvard University Law School/Harvard University Business School. For what it’s worth, I did find one report card obtained by a Boston newspaper reflecting one stage of Mitt’s earlier schooling, but I’m willing to grant some slack. Mitt Romney was really only interested in business, but his father had advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career so he enrolled at the newly-created four-year joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School – that part is true. By the time Romney arrived at Harvard, his father had run a major corporation, been elected three times as Michigan’s governor, been a presidential nominee, and was serving as a US Cabinet secretary.

Speaking as a former academic here, I don’t think Barack Obama had the same kind of social advantage or class advantage that Romney had. I also find it a little hard to believe that he didn’t have to have a pretty stellar academic record to be the president of the Harvard Law Review.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

Oh, he’s square all right, but probably not too much so for a lot of Americans. His contradictory statements on topics such as Vietnam suggest that he didn’t really “catch the drift” of his generation’s concerns. Mitt only went to Stanford for a year, then took deferments against the draft to go to France and be a missionary (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57449254/at-stanford-romney-got-his-bearings-in-a-year-of-change): “In July of 1966, the same month he left for France to serve his mission, the Selective Service granted Romney a 4-D categorization as a “minister of religion or divinity student.” This deferment status was controversial at the time, as critics argued that it allowed young Mormon men to avoid the draft disproportionately. The practice of granting 4-D deferments to Mormons for the purpose of serving their missions sparked a federal lawsuit by non-Mormons in Utah, and the LDS Church eventually cut down on the number of missionaries it permitted to receive 4-D status.”

But hey – good for him for not getting into addictive behaviors centered on drug use. He had a lot of support for that decision from the very strict LDS (Mormon) restrictions on such matters. I would think that setting a good example to his newly-converted fiancé back in the day might have also been a motivation – but that’s just speculation.

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

Wow – the golden age fallacy – it always strikes a nerve, doesn’t it?

Maybe the word “yesterday” is in scare quotes for an actual reason? This so-called “yesterday” – when is it? Which people? When?

Are we talking about that “yesterday” when people from a privileged background didn’t have an advantage? The time when everyone agreed on religion? The age when life was fair? Or an archetypal fantasy from childhood, when life seemed less complicated because, well, you were a child? Do some research and tell me when this golden age existed.

From the other side, are there no Americans who believe in God or go to church (assuming for a moment that this a measure of goodness)? Depending on whether you’re talking about infidelity or laziness, are there no hard workers left, no faithful spouses anywhere?

And – is there an implied claim that there are no Americans who take profit without work, or who suffer from lack of opportunity? On what basis does each community and each individual measure success?

When I think about a world of Rockwell paintings, it creeps me out.

I don’t see the obvious connection between Mitt Romney and a work ethic, especially in any way that Barack Obama’s biography does not meet or exceed. To my mind, Barack’s story is much closer to the American Dream narrative – it’s even pretty close to that rare Horatio Alger story.  This email aims to work with the resentment that many working people have toward the unemployed, and it also carries some resonance to previous demonizing and scapegoating propaganda campaigns.

Read some history, especially actual stories of people’s lives in America and elsewhere, for an antidote to this kind of thinking.

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab. But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America ‘s scorn.

Hold me down. Seriously. This one is just ridiculously obnoxious.

Let’s start with this cause-effect correlation between working moms and the criminality and drug use of their offspring. How dare you! So is this email aimed just at men? Where was that study showing the connection again? See how insidious this kind of thing can be? What do *you* think is the subtext here? What is being implied?

There’s nothing wrong with moms either choosing to work or choosing to stay at home, but there are actual economic concerns here. Many American moms don’t have much of a “choice” – either for reasons of community, religion or economics – but to stay at home. Many American moms don’t have access to millions of dollars that free them from worry about how their children will be fed, clothed, educated and housed. Most moms, even moms who have good jobs and/or are married to someone with a good income, are not free from the anxiety that they might lose their health benefits or financial security (as a result of companies that reap profits even when jobs are closed down, for instance). Most moms don’t have to worry about their Olympic horse’s dressage event either, so maybe it all evens out.

But it’s really a very good thing for a president to hear, to listen, and to care about a range of American experience, so as to make decisions that will most benefit all the people, not just the few.

Mitt and Ann Romney do have five grown sons (as well as a number of grandchildren):  Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig. It looks probable that they don’t have police records or drug abuse issues. Tagg Romney is a Managing Partner at Solamere Capital who co-founded the company and has previously worked as Chief Marketing Officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, VP of onfield marketing at Reebok, and Director of Strategic Planning at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Tagg founded and subsequently sold Season Perks. Tagg worked for each of his father’s three political campaigns, and worked as a consultant at Monitor Group and McKinsey and Co. Tagg has a BA in Economics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Matt Romney works as VP of Strategy and Investments at Excel Realty Holdings. He was previously a Project Manager for Microsoft Corporation and held marketing and project management positions for Polaroid Corporation and Lavastorm, Inc. Matt received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. Josh Romney is a Real Estate Developer and owner of Romney Ventures and previous Acquisition Analyst for Intercontinental Real Estate. He is also an advisor to Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and helped his dad with the 2008 Presidential Campaign. He also got his BA from Brigham Young University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Ben Romney is a Medical Student who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. Craig is an Advertising Music Producer who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. None has served in the military, but they probably all did their stints as Mormon missionaries and Romney claims they served their country by helping him.

Barack and Michelle Obama have two young daughters: Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998, and Natasha (known as Sasha), was born on June 10, 2001. Sasha is the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy, Jr. arrived as an infant in 1961. Girls are good too, right?  Or not?

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest.

Ask around in Utah, and perhaps among some former Mormons, about that. But – live and let live.

I believe in the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, and the closer we stick to this very American value, the better off both the state and church are.  The Church of Latter-Day Saints does have significant weirdness, but so do many other religious groups. I would think that the discomfort level would be higher among very conservative christian groups, many of whom do not consider Mormons to be real Christians, so this might be a bit of damage control.

More Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49%).

Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation ― rather than religion ― drives voter preferences. It’s a matter of priorities, right?

Among Americans who know Romney’s religion, 6 in 10 say they are comfortable with it. Republicans (68%) are more likely than Independents (62%) and Democrats (51%) to express comfort with Romney’s religious affiliation. But nearly one in four white evangelicals say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormonism, higher than any other religious group except atheists/agnostics (30%). The percentage of Americans who know that Obama is a Christian has increased from 38 to 49 percent since 2010, but there has been little change in the percentage who mistakenly believe that he is Muslim (19% in 2010; 17% in 2012). Perceptions of Obama’s faith fall into partisan camps: Nearly a third of Republicans believe that Obama is Muslim, compared to 16% independents and 8% of Democrats. Just 7% of Democrats and liberal-leaning Americans have concerns about Obama’s faith (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/poll-romney-may-see-an-evangelical-enthusiasm-gap/2012/07/26/gJQAitt5BX_story.html)

For myself, I would have liked to see Romney make some statement, like John F. Kennedy did, about the difference between personal beliefs and governing all Americans.

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans. I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans.

You guess? It’s not apparent, and… well…. Sigh…  The bulk of his wealth came from capital gains, not salary or actual income, and much of it is sheltered outside the country. Is that “working at a job” in any sense that you as the reader can relate to, outside of your lottery-winning fantasy? There are some aspects that emerge in his comments that show that he is pretty out of touch, yes.  All that (and there’s a lot of all that) aside, it’s not the money that actually makes him unlikeable – it’s something far more important.

But that’s more than enough for today. To be continued…

Update: Or not. There will be no Part II. That’s enough for smart people to continue with their own thoughts…

Imitation, Mitosis, Osmosis

Imitation, Mitosis, Osmosis

“Imitosis” – Andrew Bird

He’s keeping busy
Yeah he’s bleeding stones
With his machinations and his palindromes
It was anything but hear the voice
anything but hear the voice
It was anything but hear the voice
That says that we’re all basically alone

Poor Professor Pynchon had only good intentions
When he put his Bunsen burners all away
And turning to a playground in a Petri dish
Where single cells would swing their fists
At anything that looks like easy prey
In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say

We were all basically alone
And despite what all his studies had shown
That what’s mistaken for closeness
Is just a case for mitosis
And why do some show no mercy
While others are painfully shy
Tell me doctor can you quantify
He just wants to know the reason, the reason why

Why do they congregate in groups of four
Scatter like a billion spores
And let the wind just carry them away?
How can kids be so mean?
Our famous doctor tried to glean
As he went home at the end of the day
In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say

We were all basically alone
Despite what all his studies had shown
That what’s mistaken for closeness
Is just a case of mitosis
Sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
And why do some show no mercy
While others are painfully shy
Tell me doctor, can you quantify
The reason why


Pivot Vector, Or

Pivot Vector, Or

For some time now, I’ve been playing with news and opinion items, and using Facebook posts more than I’ve been creating my own work. I haven’t even bothered to add my own comments to what I post – only quoting some pithy bit and hoping that others might glean something from it. While a vector is a worthwhile thing, I’d rather the thought be the meme. It’s a laziness and sadness that has moved me into a pivot function. I’ve been playing with language today, but am tired and downcast, and so once again lack the essential oomph that pulls me in to writing. When I first started this blog, it helped me to establish a discipline of writing. No matter how short or inconsequential the post, it put me into the useful habit of writing. Once I was warmed to this habit, everything was much less intimidating, and I started writing a lot.

Now I’ve fallen back into just getting through a day as best I can, with nothing left over. The most frightening thing to me about this mode is that years pass. They pass quickly. They pass in a kind of a dream. I don’t feel that I’m accomplishing anything. I’m not enthralled with any particular issue, question or topic. I’m disheartened about America, generally, because far too many of her people appear willfully ignorant, hateful, fearful, small and despicable. Sometimes I have empathy, and I can understand how it can happen. I can usually find things to like about most people, but the collective hysteria of groups often terrifies me. Even the scapegoats have scapegoats now. I feel a violence under the surface, and I don’t know where or when it’s going to burst out next. Homeopathic tension release happens now and again… but I think that whatever your politics or religion or economic situation might be, it’s hard to miss that we’re being lied to every day, manipulated every day, pandered to and promised to and fed bull at a level that is only tolerable because people have learned to self-select their favorite flavor of it. And everyone wants to rant in generalities and cliches, spouting things they haven’t researched at all, and in a kind of sanctimonious assumption of audience agreement. I look at it all with only two possibilities of response – anger and tears. I was happier when I had less information about other people’s beliefs and thoughts. There was mystery, and I assumed that figurative language and irony and humor were universally understood, and that people would prefer to act out of their best, not their worst, and that people asked themselves questions and had auto-discounting factors when they heard things. Commercials trained us, I thought, to ask – what are they selling here, and why? Who is this aimed at, and why would someone think this would… move these refrigerators?

I’ve been culture-jamming, trying to put other possibilities out there, but I’m not the one thinking them up. I love being an amplifier for certain voices, but I’ve given up on my own voice. It seems so selfish for me to carve out time to write a poem, or a novel, or even a little essay. And yet, I’m not really involved in anything either – no community for emergent spirituality, no political campaign, no protest or demonstration. I just observe… amplify… criticize…

I’ve been paying attention to how very hard things can be in this country – at the personal level, among friends – but I can’t wave a magic wand and I’ll never run for office. What can I do?

— So sorry. Don’t know how to make it better. Empathy. Hugs. Please don’t kill yourself. We’d miss you. They were never going to give you a promotion anyway. What do you expect from an organization like that? Yes, you should be making more. I know this is degrading. You have to drive how far to work that shit job? Don’t listen to your brother, he clearly has issues. No, don’t let them infantilize you. Why are you buying this? That’s terrible. Sorry for your loss. I can’t believe that happened. No, it’s not fair at all. I have no idea. Hope I won’t have to make friends with the guys under the bridge. Are you that insecure that you have to brag in every conversation? No, it’s not you. Well, maybe it’s a little bit you, but not in the way you think. Yes, they lied. That’s horrible. Now that he knows you love him, he treats you like you don’t matter? Why stay? Such a waste. He could have done anything he set his mind to. Twenty years of work – for nothing. How can I possibly owe this much? The one percent? That’s mean – let’s assume people can handle a decimal point. We’re really talking about the .1, or the .01, or the .001, or even the .0001, aren’t we? What does it matter, we’re screwed. How could we have let this happen? Why didn’t I see this coming? Does she have to be such an asshat? Will you please stop undermining everything I do? Yes, an arrest normally means it’s over. Well, look, maybe a smaller place. Please don’t give up. You have friends. Leave me alone! There’s nothing I can do. Can’t I just read for a while? Go away. No, no, no. I’m listening. I understand. What can I do? I don’t know where she finds the energy. How does he have time for that? Are you f’ing kidding me? —

Trying to listen, trying to understand, trying to be a better person, trying not to be angry, trying not to cry, trying to have some energy, trying to get through until there is something to look forward to again, trying not to be depressed, trying to be a good friend, trying not to destroy anything, trying to get the household in order, trying to be a good wife, trying to be a good mom, trying not to grieve too much or too often, trying not to get lost in the moon and the stars, trying to help, trying not to be the problem, trying to judge fairly, trying to move on, trying to be sane.

Going introvert, cocooning. Giving it all up to the cosmos every night, overwhelmed and grateful. Feeling calm infuse me. Appreciating sleep. Having powerful, surreal dreams. Feeling light and love and quiet joy – but only for a while. Only for a little while.

Perhaps the gate has opened up a few nanometers.

“Science means simply the aggregate of all the recipes that are always successful. All the rest is literature.” ~ Paul Valery

“When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind.” ~ John Lennon