If true

If true. If true. If true. All these men have opinions on my marriage and your uterus, sight unseen. But hand them a story told by a dozen women and suddenly it’s the riddle of the goddamn sphinx.

–Mark Harris

As a young adult, I had always been a strong believer in equality already being an established thing in the US.  It wasn’t until the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings that I really started to think that women had a harder time being heard and believed than men.  That maybe men were not treating us as equals the way I had always thought. That a lot of men were using “boys will be boys” (and worse) to keep women from getting an equal share in power. To keep us scared so we would know our place.

When I saw how few people were willing to believe Anita Hill, it shocked me. I’m not sure why it did. I knew on a logical basis that rape victims tended to be blamed more for their rapes than their abusers did, but somehow it hadn’t really sunk in until the Thomas hearings.

Anita Hill had nothing to gain from coming forward. She had everything to lose. There was no reason not to believe her. And yet, Clarence Thomas is still enjoying his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. An affront to women, particularly women of color, and to the memory of the man who he replaced.

They might have said “if true, he should refuse the nomination.”

“If true” is something we tend to use in an partisan manner. Only the other side is presumed guilty. Our own side gets the benefit of “if true, they should step down.”  But here’s the thing–sexual harassment isn’t about politics.

It’s about a world in which the power dynamic is not equal.

Men wield more power than women nearly everywhere in the world.

Adults wield more power than children.

White people wield more power than people of color.

And the ones with the power control the way we see the situation, whether they’re talking about welfare queens, terrorists, or sexual abuse. The people in power make the rules and enforce them.

Do I think that sometimes people overreact or that there is a difference between sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and things like uncouth behavior and  inappropriate jokes? That there’s a difference between tasteless and unacceptable? Yes. Some of that difference comes down to intent. Or ignorance. Or changing times. There’s a line that can be crossed, and that line is in flux. That is especially right now where the pendulum of appropriate behavior wants to mow down anyone accused of anything.

The pendulum will self correct, but some innocent people will be impacted. People will lose their jobs who shouldn’t have. People’s reputations will be tarnished.

Do I think that means that we shouldn’t keep moving toward a world in which people don’t think it is OK to demean and abuse other people sexually or physically? No. Fuck no.

You do have to be careful when applying today’s standards to past behavior, and you need to be careful about only applying today’s standards in a partisan manner. Behavior that a Republican thinks is repellent in a Democratic President should also be viewed as repellant  by Republicans when their own President exhibits that behavior. And vice versa.

The news right now is only starting to show the extent of the problem. It’s not only politics, it’s not only Hollywood. It’s the military. It’s families. It’s business. It’s everywhere.

It’s a crime that is almost never prosecuted successfully. Because it’s a crime that occurs with no witnesses. It’s a crime where the entire system that would investigate and punish the crime is also riddled with people committing those crimes. Until both of those things are addressed, we will only have social shaming as a recourse. That in itself is a problem and inherently unjust.

Things will keep changing and men and women both need to work on it.

Being overwhelmed

Sometimes it feels like the ship is just not going to fucking float much longer.

Everything needs maintenance, myself included. Work sucks. There are layoffs in the air, and everyone is talking about them except the people who might know something. The washing machine still might be leaking except I am too chicken to turn the water back on and do a load of laundry because  I don’t like the mildewy smell in the laundry room one bit. The house looks like wild pigs live here, and I can’t remember how to use my loom.

I don’t have the emotional or physical bandwidth to deal with it. I am tired, irritable, anxious and just plain stressed out. This is not something I am used to. I might overthink everything recreationally, but I am usually not anxious on a day to day basis.

It’s temporary, and things will work out. They always do. But I have no clean socks or underwear and someone needs to sack up, turn the fucking water on in the utility room and wash some clothes around here. And while they are at it, they should clean the gutters and take the glass recycling out. And that mammogram isn’t going to schedule itself and neither is the cat’s overdue vet appointment. And the inside handle on the passenger side door of my car buzzes when I play music with heavy drums and needs to visit the Lexus dealer because Elvis Costello should not be buzzy.

I can’t do it all, and I know (with my logical brain) that I don’t have to. I managed to get through the day without swearing at anyone. That is all I could manage. Basic competence. If anyone had heard the constant screaming inside my head, they’d have run.

On the plus side, and there is always one, I get to see my friends and family this weekend. It’s my birthday, and Ma will bake me a pie. I will get hugs and boozes, and we’ll watch football and be happy. There might even be an appearance by my favorite bald farmer.

I feel better already.

Blog maintenance

there's a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out

but I pour whiskey on him and inhale

cigarette smoke

and the whores and the bartenders

and the grocery clerks

never know that

he's

in there.

--Charles Bukowski

A lot of times, I start posts which don’t ever get finished.

There are a lot of reasons for that–maybe I thought of a quote I wanted to use someday and started a post as a placeholder, or someone said or did something I thought I should write about. Could be anything. An idea. A song. A story. Something that made me happy or sad. A picture. A dream.

Occasionally I go through the unpublished posts to see if the ideas are still work thinking about, or if they should be deleted.

I scroll through what’s there. Some of it is no longer timely. Some of it I’ve used in other posts. Delete. Delete.  When I got to the very end I found one I’d written several years ago for someone’s 50th birthday.

It is one of the truest things I’ve ever written and it was never posted.

It wasn’t meant for that.

It was a birthday gift to someone who often seems lost to me. Someone who is totally different and exactly the same as he was decades ago. Someone who has hurt me and who I have hurt back. A lot of shots have been fired on both sides, but somehow we manage not to disappear on each other completely. Is that good? I’m not always sure.

It made me remember. Who I was. Who he was.

Neither of us are the same people we were then. We’re both harder. Damaged in the ways people get after they’ve been hurt by life and love. Less tender and more prickly.  But we always will be those open hearted people deep inside, trying to keep our internal bluebirds alive but not giving them as much room to sing as we did back when our hearts were pure and unhurt.

I wanted him to know that in spite of everything, I would always remember him as the amazing boy I knew all those years ago. I hoped he would remember that about himself too. I wanted him to know that any of the bad things that had happened could never cancel out  the good. That forgiveness far outweighs hurt.

There was a bluebird in his heart. It is still there and I hope he stops trying to kill it. Not for me, for himself. For his lover. For his family. So he and the bluebird can both be happy. So he can be who he really is. Maybe he already is. I don’t know. Does anyone really know someone else? We’re all so invested in projecting an image, I’m not sure it’s always easy to know someone.

And maybe I’d also like to remind myself of my own internal bluebird, as a birthday present to myself. My bluebird wants to sing too. And I should just let everyone hear him. Especially the whores, bartenders, grocery clerks and other assorted people I love.

there's a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out

but I'm too clever, I only let him out

at night sometimes

when everybody's asleep.

I say, I know that you're there,

so don't be

sad.

then I put him back,

but he's singing a little

in there, I haven't quite let him

die

and we sleep together like

that

with our

secret pact

and it's nice enough to

make a man

weep, but I don't

weep, do

you?

-CB