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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Persist, Resist or Refuse to Engage?

I made a bit of a miscalculation.

I anticipated that my post on my State Representative's Facebook page would cause him to re-think his words, go to work at a women's shelter, stop posting so darn often (36 posts on June 13th), beg for forgiveness, and bury his guns deep, deep in the ground.

I crack myself up sometimes.  

(In fairness, he did apologize.  Sorta.  In his own way.  And he did talk with Michelle Kuiper, the woman from the original Star article, and they are at peace with one another.  So I count that as a win.)

I anticipated that lots of people wouldn't like what I said, and I knew that I would get a verbal smack down from Rep. Lucas's fans.  (As it says over there on the right, I'm OK with that. Some of the words really stung, but like a bee sting, with a little time the sting goes away.  I'm thankful I'm not allergic to either bees or words!) 

I anticipated that my words would be misconstrued.  Maybe that's one thing that Rep. Lucas and I have in common.  I'm fairly certain that many of the people who commented on the post didn't read past my first sentence, and didn't read my second post at all.  To those who did, thanks.  

What I did not anticipate is that the post would end up on BuzzFeed, cbsnews.com and nbcnews.com.  At first I was secretly thrilled and shared the BuzzFeed page with a few friends.  But I'm not going to link the pages here, as I'm still a little overwhelmed by how far this has spread -- it's my own little Pandora's Box.  

What I did not anticipate is my intense need to seek some sort of peace.  I certainly don't need to be forgiven and I'm not seeking an apology for his "how low can you go" comment (sting), but I was hoping for some sort of acknowledgement that I tried to be civil and kind.    On Sunday evening, 6/11, at 4:53, after lots of friends were sending me links to the national news coverage, I was feeling a little shattered and wrote this to Rep. Lucas in a private message:

After all that has occurred in the media after my comments on your post from Monday, I felt a need to write to you.  I hope you saw my second post in that original thread, but if you didn't, I'll say once again that in using the term “rape culture,” I did not mean to offend you; while I believe you made a poor choice to write the letter, then a poor choice of wording within the letter, I never meant to imply that you condoned rape, rapists or sexual violence. It remains, however, that what I read in your words amounts to blaming those who don't see and do things as you see and do them -- your "this is why you carry" tag for each posting on terrorism carries with it the clear implication that if one were carrying a gun, one wouldn’t be dead.  I've had some excellent, civil exchanges with one of your adamant supporters about this very point this week – he insists that you are not a “victim blamer” and that you and I want the same things.  I’ve contemplated that deeply while reading through your Facebook feed, legislation and news articles, but still don’t agree.  You and I will never probably never agree on anything (except the fact that your children are wonderful and that this is a great country), and even though I would love to throw my 2 cents in on many of your posts, I probably won't, as the blow back from this one has been rough on my spiritual peace. You are right that there is a lot of hatred (from both sides); the name-calling, belittling and cruel assumptions from both sides don't help to further the conversation.  I read every comment on the post, and many made me stop and consider the validity of my reply, but I still stand by my words – to quote Thomas Paine, “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”  And yet I still feel the need to keep a peace between us (and all people), for to quote TP again, “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”   And by the way, riding in honor and memory of Hunter today was a good thing.  I’ll never forget his sweet face from his days at St. Ambrose School.  Georgiann  (Rep. Lucas had participated in a motorcycle ride that honored fallen soldiers -- Hunter Hogan was 21 years old when he was killed in Afghanistan on June 23, 2012.)

I know that Rep. Lucas read -- or at least glanced at -- this message at 6:51 PM Sunday evening.  (Thanks, smart phone technology!)  However, I haven't received a reply.  In his letter to The Star on Monday, June 6, Rep. Lucas wrote,  ... soon there were those on social media who attacked me for “victim blaming” and spreading the culture of rape. Instead of discussing the matter civilly, many used reprehensible verbal abuse to condemn my letter ...

While I stand by my assertion that hundreds of his posts illustrate victim blaming, I surely wouldn't say I "attacked" him; believe me, I've re-read my reply about a hundred times trying to decide if I am "reprehensible".  And civil discussion is one of my favorite things.  You know my theme song --


... raindrops on corn fields and well-played percussion; 
babies and corgis and civil discussion/
coffee and peace signs and kids free from fear, 
this is some of my favorite sensitive snowflake-liberal
Pollyanna-social justice warrior gear...

But I digress.

I know better than to think that Rep. Lucas would copy and paste my words into a Facebook post, but I was hoping for a little acknowledgment.  Just a smidge.  Because he did copy and paste a lot of the hateful things people wrote to him.  Really, really hateful.  I am ashamed at the hate some people who support my same position spewed at Rep. Lucas.  While I wish he were not my state representative, I don't hate him and I don't wish any harm to him, his family or his supporters.  That sort of talk must stop in all sectors of our society.  

That being said, what I've finally learned (sometimes I'm a slow learner) is that Rep. Lucas really loves the controversy.  He loves to stir the pot. Kick up the dirt.  Shovel the shit, as it were.  For if he truly loved civil discussion, he would have maintained a civil discourse with me, right?  Instead, he ignores my notes and continues to post things that delight and rally his supporters.  For example, he garnered intense media scrutiny and snowflake criticism this past December and January for posting  two memes which were degrading to women (and I don't care if 9,500 people -- "including women!" Lucas interjected --  liked the memes, they are still degrading).  You can google "Jim Lucas offensive memes" if you like, but I'm not going to link them here because ... well, just ick.  In what I think was a poor political move (but what do I know?  I thought Pence's political career was over with RFRA and Trump's over with the Billy Bush interview...) and unbecoming to someone in an elected leadership position, he re-posted them this week as an attempted illustration of how those of us left of center read too much into his posts and don't have a sense of humor. 

Huh.  I am fucking hilarious.  Ask anyone.  I just don't like memes of women in car trunks. 

But I do like this one, sent by a friend (OK, it was my sister again):

They (the POTUS and Rep. Lucas, not my sister and her meme-making) both need to stop. But then, so do I. 
I've done what I thought I had to do -- resisting, persisting and peace-making.  I didn't accomplish much but stress myself out, so now I'll just let Rep. Lucas and his Facebook page be.  Refuse to engage.

Until the next election.  Sting.

Peace.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Let's Knit a Kind Wall

Did you hear the one about the woman who knit eight Pussy Hats for eight amazing women to wear at marches and rallies despite the fact that she doesn't like the word "pussy" even when extended to her favorite cats and who was verbally attacked in the grocery store by a woman she thought was her friend and wondered for a few days if she really was "disgusting" for knitting said hats until she decided that nah, she wasn't, and picked up her needles to knit four more for her friends in California?

I didn't think so.  But isn't is a good one?

You'll probably like this one, too.

The amazing women who kicked off the Pussy Hat knitting revolution are starting another one --  the Welcome Blanket project.  The plan is to use 2000 miles (the length of Trump's proposed US/Mexico wall) of yarn to knit up 3200 blankets to be given to new immigrants to the United States.

You can find a pattern on their website; if you've been to my knitting classes, you'll recognize the Come Together Blanket pattern as a variation on the Grandmother's Favorite dishcloth -- 16 simple squares knit in two colors, and especially beautiful set together as in a quilt.  (But I'm sure the organizers will be thrilled with any 40"x 40" blanket you choose to make.)

This is a lovely, compassionate (and warm!) project that I am excited to take part in. If you would like to participate but don't know how to knit, come to our Knit Night at the Jackson County Library, Seymour, on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 6:30.  We'd love to have you join us -- we don't talk about politics, but we all knit with kindness.

Peace.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Starting Again

It is June, and I haven't posted since February.

I've been on retreat.
I've been to the UK.
I've been the music director for an amazing production of Little Shop of Horrors.
I've run an event attended by 1000+ people.

I've been busy.

In those three months I've also spent a lot of time being embarrassed by the actions of our President.

I joined Twitter to read and shudder at the off-the-cuff, grammatically-inept and lexically-challenged rantings of our President.  (This might have been a mistake -- Twitter kicks my spiritual peace right in the ass.)

I've written to The White House, Senators and Congresspersons, in union with those who love our Mother Earth (and who are much smarter than I am) and who know that climate change is real.

I've had the wind taken out of my sails, and wondered at the futility of fighting back against an administration whose policies and attitude toward others -- individuals, countries, races, ethnicities and genders -- is incompatible to all that I hold true, dear, and important, and yet barrels forward with seemingly little concern for the consequences of words and actions.  (Our President could have used a few life lessons from my parents.  Although I often ignore my mom's sweet soft advice that echoes in my head to "think before I speak,"-- sorry, mom -- my dad's ceaseless "actions have consequences" speeches boom in my mind every day.  Every single day.)

In other words, I haven't been much of a warrior.  I even considered deleting this blog.  Gasp.

But then a friend (OK, it was my sister) sent me a screenshot of our State Representative's Facebook post and commentary on the most recent London terrorist attack, as she knew that Clay and I had just walked those bridges in London eight weeks ago, and that after watching news coverage, Clay realized that one of the pubs involved was a pub where we had stopped for a pint.  While the Representative's "this is why you carry" and "THIS IS WHY I FIGHT FOR YOUR GUN RIGHTS" comments almost made me break my self-imposed exile from commenting on his posts, I was stopped -- and shocked -- by one of his more recent posts.  He shared this (one of his 25 Facebook posts on Monday, but I'm not judging.  Ok, yes, I am.):

in response to this:

and I sort of lost my mind and wrote this, even though I knew better. Even though Clay (who agrees with me, bless his little liberal-leaning heart) warned me of what would happen:

This letter does nothing but further the culture of rape by placing responsibility firmly on the rape victim. While I love kick-ass women who have been well-trained to take down an attacker, your suggestion of "learning how not to be a victim" is a faulty and short-sighted solution. Rape victims include children, older women, disabled women, mentally challenged women -- women for whom self-defense classes are a non-starter. And, if your definition of avoiding victimization is to carry a gun, you know that there are millions of women like me for whom this could never be an option. Please don't add "if only she'd taken a self-defense class" and "if only she'd had a gun" to the already amazingly long list of rape excuses like "she was asking for it".

I thought that was pretty peaceful, thoughful, etc., etc., etc.

Representative Lucas responded:

 Seriously? Furthering the culture of rape??? That's about as low as you can go right there, Georgiann! There is no such thing as 100% guarantee to not have bad or horrible things happen to you, but to completely ignore the vast amount of training that is out there that teaches women things to look for so that they don't put themselves in the position of becoming victimized is foolish. Why wouldn't someone want to mitigate and try to prevent a horrible tragedy such as this?

I really don't think he understood what I was saying.  I'm wondering if he read past the first sentence? And then he invited his friends to respond to me, which they did.  Ouch.  And to which I responded:

Jim Lucas, first off, I certainly didn't mean to offend you with that term -- you know that's not how I roll. But rape culture is a term we live with in today's America. It's on television, in movies, at fraternity parties -- the culture that normalizes sexual violence. It's the culture that says "boys will be boys with boyish urges" and puts the onus on rape victims. That was my point. It's a harsh term. But when 1 in 5 women in this country are victims of sexual violence, I don't think it's a term I/we can back away from. And actually, I thought I was going high, in defense of women who cannot or would not participate in classes like Tamara teaches (I know and love lots of women who have taken her classes -- as a feminist, I would never tell another woman she shouldn't take the classes.) I understand that you're calling for fairness in the press --a "let's look at another side of the story" call. I think that there is a third (and I should have added "more important") side -- the side that says let's teach boys and men not to use and abuse women in sexually violent ways. The side that says no woman is asking for rape, despite how she looks, acts, dresses or how drunk she is. I'm pretty sure we can agree on that one. Peace.

He didn't respond to that.  His friends did. Ouch again.  But several of my real-life friends came to my defense (even if they don't agree with me, it was kind of them to do so).

But you know what?  He didn't make me cry this time. (He's made me cry before, like the time he turned his back on me in public, Amish-shunning style, after I wrote an opinion piece in our local paper questioning his upcoming legislation that would relax gun laws.) I didn't cry, even when his friends called me ignorant.   Even when one said I failed at reading comprehension.  Even when one assumed I had never been the victim of sexual violence. Even when he invited his friends to take me to a self-defense/shooting class and he would pay my tuition.

Because I know that I am right.

Representative Lucas (I don't know why I'm addressing him, as I am fairly certain he will never visit this blog, but anyway...), we cannot blame rape victims for their lack of awareness, their inability to defend themselves and their failure to carry a weapon.  Your letter to The Star implies that you can.  Your pattern of blame in response to tragedy implies that you will.  I am asking you to stop compounding tragedy by blaming victims.

And hey.  Thanks for reminding me that I need to keep writing this blog.

Peace, my friends.





Wednesday, February 01, 2017

What To Do, What To Do?

I think I'm Piglet.

I'm trying to be brave.
I really want to be helpful, but I'm just not sure of how to make that happen.
And today, I'm scared.
I feel very small and lost in the mist.

Here's what scares me:

I'm frightened by the ugliness I see on social media, coming from all sides.  No matter what happens in Washington, DC or our statehouses in the next 2-4 years, can we ever repair the fissure that the 2016 elections have ripped in our national consciousness?

I'm frightened by those who think social media is the media.

I'm frightened by those who think they know things, but don't.  But yet, they feel compelled to speak or write without knowing the facts or the truth.  I am not afraid to tell you that there are lots of things I don't know and even more that I don't understand.  I do know lots of things; however, because I was a smart girl growing up in the 1960's in small town Indiana and spent a lot of my elementary school days with tape over my mouth because I just couldn't not say the things I knew, I am still a little afraid to tell you what I know.  Because it's bothersome, plus the boys wouldn't find it attractive ... but that, my darlings, is a blog post for another day...

I'm frightened by those who think they know things and believe that "research" is looking something up on the Internet and then quoting Breitbart or Newsmax.
I wish I had a nickle and two Advil for every time I read "Do your research!" on Facebook.

I know I'm a bit of a snob about this, but I was one of those kids on the high school debate team who read and took notes from The Congressional Record (even though I wasn't a very good debater nor a very good note taker)  and spent my first two semesters at the University of Akron as a miserable research assistant (I started to hate going to the library, and I love the library).  Research involves investigating, citing, annotating, other time-consuming work and a crap ton of index cards.  Research is not re-posting a meme, and a meme is not a fact even though 32,496 people have shared it.

Today, I'm frightened by those who say, "Keep you hands off of my sacred 2nd Amendment rights" and yet think it is perfectly fine to question the validity of 1st Amendment, one of my personal favorites.  It  is so important that it is first, and guarantees freedoms of the press, of speech, of the free exercise of religion and of assembly.  (There's a printable Constitution link on the right.  It's good reading; I'm also quite fond of the 13th, the 15th, the 19th and the 21st -- let's all vote and drink together!)

See?  So important they have always had a spot on our dining room wall.  

President Trump denounced the press throughout his campaign, hoping that we would all conclude that the press was biased.  Primarily against him.

Geeze, Louise, Mr. Trump.  Of course the press is biased -- from Benjamin Franklin, whose anonymous pamphlets generated interest in issues that would profit him ("Hey, let's print paper money!  On my printing presses!"), to Spiro Agnew lashing out against the liberal press opposed to the Vietnam war by calling them "nattering nabobs of negativism" (my dad loved that phrase -- I probably got tape on my mouth for repeating it at school)  to every American paper in every American city endorsing a candidate in every American presidential election. Read a little Noam Chomsky, will you?

And as for the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax code which prohibits certain organizations (like churches) from endorsing political candidates, and which I hadn't even heard of until Mr. Trump made it an issue, I'll just say this:  I love my country and I love my church.  I also love coffee and gravy, but don't want them in the same cup -- that is a disgusting mess that would end up in the garbage.  Allowing more religious influence in American politics is opening a Pandora's box of discrimination and hatred, i.e., disgusting mess.

Meanwhile, there were 5,037 episodes of gun violence in this country in January, 2017.
There were 1,316 deaths due to gun violence in January, 2017.
This morning in Virginia, a 6-year-old brought a gun to school in a backpack.
Happy February, 2nd Amendment fans.

My dad always said a little fear was a good thing.  While I think he said it in regard to my teenage curfew, I think it applies here, as well.  Being a little frightened makes you a little more aware and a lot more careful.

"'Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?'
'Supposing it didn't,' said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this."
       - A. A. Milne

Peace.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Making A SJW Resource List

I spent a lot of yesterday scouring the Internet (when I should have been working, practicing, cleaning or writing letters to loved ones, which was one of my 2017 resolutions.  Perhaps I'll make that a February resolution).

I collected links to government officials, organizations and websites that might come in handy in your own SJW journey.  They're over there on the right.  It's just a starter -- I'll be adding to it often.  If you have some sites you think should be included, just let me know and I'll add them.

Peace.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Sunday Readings

As I writer, I want to be make an impact.  Go deep.  Be profound.  

Today, I'm not feeling that.  Luckily, today's Mass readings for the Catholic church are all of that and a spoonful of Nutella (you know what I mean: beautiful, satisfying, and just what you need).  Thanks to my dear friend, Lori, who texted me last Tuesday as she was reading ahead, and alerted me as to timely perfection of these passages.   

The first reading, from Zephaniah, Chapter 2:
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth,
who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility;
perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger.

And next, in Psalm 146: 
The Lord keeps faith forever, 
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets captives free.
The Lord gives sight to the blind;
the Lord raises up those who were bowed down.
The Lord loves the just;
the Lord protects strangers.
The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The Lord shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

And the Gospel, from Matthew, 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy... Blessed are the peacemakers ... Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness ... rejoice and be glad for yours is the kingdom of heaven.   

Could these passages be any more important?  Nutella, I tell you.  


Peace.

PS  If you don't have Bible handy and want to meditate on the daily readings, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a calendar here.  



Friday, January 27, 2017

I Won't Let You Steal My Joy

I know.  I told you in my last post how I hate the word "pussy" and now I'm showing off a pussy hat.

What can I say?   When I first read about the project, I jumped on the Pussy Hat bandwagon (you can read about the project here) because I believe in solidarity.  Sticking together. Knitting for good.  Peaceful protest.  Everyone wearing the same hat.


I was going to ship my hat to Washington DC, but of course, missed the deadline (cause that's how I roll.  Or fail to roll) so I gifted it to my friend, Katrina, who wore it to the march in Indianapolis:
She's kind of fabulous.

There were lots and lots of hats.  The hats made the news.



Which, to me, is another way of saying the hats made history.

Talking to a few friends, we concluded that we all dislike the word "pussy", but agreed that the word was absolutely appropriate, having been unintentionally chosen for the movement by President Trump himself on that fateful bus ride with Billy Bush (which I was sure signaled the end of his candidacy.  Silly me.)

I'm not going to try to categorize knitters, just as we shouldn't stuff anyone who marched last Saturday into some predetermined tidy little labeled box -- there were nuns, Muslims, pro-lifers, pro-choicers and even men on the March.  But I've knit for most of my life, have taught knitting for the last 12 years, and have met more knitters than I can count.  I have yet to meet a knitter who wasn't  kind, thoughtful, and giving.  (Wait.  I just thought of one.  And got a shiver.)  I know the political leanings of only a few of my knitting friends; we don't usually talk politics when we knit together -- we talk knitting, food, knitting for others, pets, knitting, children, knitting for children, weather forecasts and knitting.

So I was surprised yesterday when one of my besties, Pam, from Franklin, Tennessee, sent me this link.  It's the story of Elizabeth Poe, who owns a knitting shop called The Joy of Knitting in Franklin.  On Facebook, she posted that women who were coming to her shop to buy yarn for the "women's movement" should shop elsewhere, because she, a Christian, believes the movement to be "vulgar, vile and evil." After Pam's note, several other knitters have sent me links to that article, and were wondering what I thought.

So,  here's what I think:

1)  When Ms. Poe called the movement vulgar, vile and evil, she was calling me vulgar, vile and evil.  She was calling women and men I love and respect vulgar, vile and evil as well.  You know how I feel about bully speech -- if she was trying to convince people of some larger truth, she lost her argument with me when she started name-calling.

2)  Ms. Poe's remarks have only served to drive another wedge between women.  As followers of the movement learned of her stand and statement, they reacted with a YUGE flood of comments on that Facebook post.  Despite Ms. Poe's exhortation that her post was not a "platform to hash out my beliefs v. your beliefs," 13,000 replies later, that's exactly what it has become, built upon a platform she erected all by herself.  I haven't read all 13,000, but lots of the posts are simple reminders of what the movement means for all women; however, many commentors are disgusted with Ms. Poe, her shop and policies (which are extreme and which I've never seen posted in any other shop -- no children, no returns/refunds/exchanges, no touching the yarn if you just put on lotion (?) and $75 an hour for knitting lessons/consultation.  At that rate, our library owes me around $30,000.  I'll take that in books and yarn, please). Some bully Ms. Poe right back, and you know where that leads -- anger, hatred and division.

3)  This is poor business practice.  Although she stated that she didn't need the business of folks like me who might craft something she sees as subversive or evil, I'm pretty sure she needs all the customers she can get -- small yarn shops struggle to stay afloat, and I'm sad to say I've seen several fail.  Many knitters (me) love to travel, and in their travels, search out local yarn shops.  Now, many knitters who visit charming Franklin, Tennessee won't bother to stop and shop at The Joy of Knitting.  (Of course, the evil part of me wants to drive to Franklin tomorrow, have lunch with Pam, buy some yarn at this shop, knit penis cozies for Chippendale dancers and send Ms. Poe some photos.  The nicer part of me tells the evil part to shut it and read the previous posts on this blog.)

4)  I am a Christian, too.  I don't think this is how the Jesus I love would have handled the March/Movement participants.  I'm thinking there would have been some listening, some compassion, some discussion and some hugs.

5)  If when we die we are judged by what people did with the things we might have sold them, a lot of people -- I'm thinking of cucumber farmers, especially -- are in big trouble.

6) Ms. Poe needs to read some history of the women's movement in the United States and say a prayer of thanks for the thousands of women who worked ceaselessly so that she can vote, hold political office, go to the college of her choice, own a business, theoretically earn an equitable salary, marry who she wishes to marry (and divorce according to her own will), receive adequate healthcare, decide when and if she should have children and then continue work after.  If she would think about it, she would recognize that what she has accomplished as a small business owner is not just a result of her hard work and choices -- it is also the product of those women who had nothing in the way of rights, career and income, but would not allow for the women of the future to be similarly afflicted.

I recognize that.  And am so thankful.  And cannot stay quiet because I have two daughters, two granddaughters, and so many, many young women I love (and so many more I will never know) who deserve a future where equality is no longer a debatable issue, but an unspoken reality.

Ms. Poe wrote that "the women's movement is counterproductive to unity of family, friends, community and nation."
That's not what I saw in the photos of marches all over the world, where waves of pink-hatted women linked arms, sang songs, laughed and cried together.
That not what I heard in the stories of the women who marched for awareness of women's' issues -- health, equality and an end to violence again women.
And that's certainly not what I feel.  But you probably knew that.

This blog is my tiny part that movement.  And I am happy to be a part.  Now, I'm off to cast on ...

Life is a reality, you can't always run away
Don't be so scared of changing and rearranging yourself
It's time for jumping down from the shelf - a little bit.