Tag Archives: sexual assault

Walking in Gratitude: Thanksgiving 2017

23 Nov

While I am trying to walk in gratitude and be thankful right now, I must confess that it is a struggle. I am exceedingly grateful that I had successful cancer surgery and for all of the many people in my life who have been so loving and so supportive of me! And, I am struggling that now they want me to do six months of chemo. My struggle regarding chemo pales in comparison with how I am struggling to survive living in the United States with a bizarre monster for a president, and today I am committed to being in a place of love and gratitude.

Trump’s support of Roy Moore is nothing less than monstrous. Alas, for today, I offer an invitation to all people: invite some joy and some gratitude. For those of us who are truly fatigued by the Trump administration  and his putting party before country, can we know that we are not going to change the hearts or minds of his base supporters. What we can do is show up in bigger numbers to the polls.

But for today, can we tap into shared humanity and be grateful? I am going to try and hold the messiness and the tension of the horrific ways in which we have treated and still treat native peoples, while also walking in extraordinary gratitude for the amazing and lovely people in my life — people who provide light and love and sustenance for my soul, for my heart is full.

I will hold the tension of our history and invite joy at the same time. I am reflecting on how we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America – the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag. To all the GOP governors who say “no” to Syrian refugees, I remind you that you wouldn’t have states to defend in bellicose, racist, and — yes — unconstitutional rants if a certain set of religious refugees had been treated similarly 500 years ago.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create. I leave you with this a song by Emeli Sandé, Highs and Lows, for I am so grateful for all the people in my life that love and support me through the good and the difficult times.

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Hero of the Week Award: June 7, Marcel Neergaard

7 Jun
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Proving decisively that you’re never too young to make a difference, this week’s hero spoke his mind and made a real change. Marcel Neergaard is 11 years old. He is also gay. He lives in Tennessee and was so mistreated and abused in school that his parents are home-schooling him now. The Neergaard family was horrified to learn who StudentsFirst had named as their 2012 Reformer of the Year: Rep. John Ragan. Ragan is the author of the nasty “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban any reference to homosexuality in Tennessee schools.

Marcel decided to do something about it. With his parents help, he created a MoveOn.org petition demanding that the award be rescinded. He also recorded an impassioned, articulate video about the harm that Ragan and his ilk do.

During my first year in middle school, I experienced severe bullying. I was called terrible names that were quite hurtful. At that time, I had just realized that I’m gay, and the bullies used the word “gay” as an insult. This made me feel like being gay was horrible, but my parents told me otherwise. Their support was tremendous. But as powerful as their love was, it couldn’t fight off all the bullying. I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did. No one deserves that much pain, no matter who they are. This was my reason for writing the petition.

Wow!  How impressive is Marcel here?  The story has a happy ending. Months of pressure from LGBT activist groups did nothing to sway StudentsFirst. Marcel Neergaard was more successful. Within days, the group rescinded the award and issued a statement supporting Federal anti-bullying legislation. Says Neergaard,

It seemed like the right thing to do, and the fact that there’s a chance to not do that sounded like you were saying, ‘Yeah, I was bullied and I’m going to let those bullies win.’ It’s giving up to them. It’s giving up to myself.

What an amazing young man! The world needs more people like him.

Honorable mention this week goes to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). During hearings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the military’s disgusting record of dealing with sexual assault and rape, the senators demanded action. As the commanders offered excuses and dodged issues of reporting and prosecution, McCaskill let them have it.

I don’t care how good a pilot it is, I don’t care how good a Special Ops person it is. Their ability to perform as a soldier or an airman or a member of the Coast Guard is irrelevant to whether or not they committed a crime.

Gillibrand was equally firm, noting the extent to which the problem is embedded in military culture.

You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases.

Thank you, Senators, for speaking truth to power!

Announcing the Clarence Thomas Award for Sexual Misconduct

16 May

ThomasDoDRecent events in the U.S. Military have led to the creation of a new SJFA award! Named in dishonor of (In)Justice Clarence Thomas, who blamed the victim, distorted the truth, and winked and nodded his way into a lifetime appointment — at the expense of Anita Hill — this award will be announced irregularly when any person or organization qualifies. A combination of monumental misogyny, callous disregard, and overt sexual hostility are the requirements. Sadly, we may see awards far more often than we would like.

Since the inclusion of women in the military, sexual assault and forced prostitution have been very real problems. Over the past decade or so, as women have moved into positions of greater authority, the Pentagon has indicated the intent to address the issue. Sadly, two recent events prove that whatever they are doing isn’t working. (Perhaps they’ve been taking strategic advice from the Catholic Church…)

Last week, an Air Force officer was charged with sexual battery; this week an Army Sergeant First Class is being investigated for forcing at least one subordinate soldier into prostitution, and for sexually assaulting two other soldiers. The common thread? Both were in positions of authority and power to investigate and prevent sexual assault!  Maybe they just didn’t read the job descriptions properly.

Based on the ongoing problems faced by LGBT personnel since the repeal of DADT and the shocking lack of effective health training for women, it’s clear that the U.S. Military is still living in the 1920s before all that equality stuff got in the way. The Pentagon must provide real leadership, and real consequences, to change the culture or the behavior will never change. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, is demanding such change.

It is time to get serious and get to work reforming the military justice system that clearly isn’t working. I believe strongly that to create the kind of real reform that will make a difference we must remove the chain of command from the decision making process for these types of serious offenses.

Sounds like it’s time to send a woman in to get the job done right.

Violence Against Women Act: More Republican Misogyny At Work

13 Feb

Protect women? We have gays and immigrants to demonize first!

The Violence Against Women Act has been law since 1994. Passed with broad bipartisan support, the bill enhanced investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. Since its initial passage, the bill has been reauthorized twice, in 2000 and 2005. The last reauthorization had unanimous consent in the Senate, an amazing 415 yes votes in the House, and was signed by Pres. George W. Bush. Seems like it should be pretty clear for reauthorization this year, doesn’t it?

Instead, Republicans have hijacked the debate over the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee failed to get a single Republican vote to pass the bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R – Misogyny) offered a substitute bill that slashed funding, eliminated the Justice Dept. office that enforces the bill and removed language protecting lesbians and transgender women as well as seriously restricting access to services by immigrants.

REALLY? Is all the political posturing so important that women’s lives should be put at risk? Should services that have had nearly 20 years of broad support be gutted so we can strip away rights from the oppressed? Apparently that’s what the Republican thugs on the Committee are interested in. Stand up to this abuse of power and sign the DailyKos petition demanding reauthorization today!

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