On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In the following years, many other acts of civil disobedience occurred, and as those acts (and the associated confrontations) got national attention the stage was set for major civil rights gains. Anyone who was involved in those struggles will tell you how difficult and dangerous they were- the freedoms were hard won, require effort and vigilance to preserve, and need to be expanded. We’re on the road, but haven’t fully arrived there. A significant number of our citizens have never accepted the idea of equality for everyone, and currently have a champion of their ideals in the White House. Fortunately, those ideals belong to a minority, but that minority is vocal and sometimes violent. So we’re in dangerous times once again, as short-sighted greed, anger, and hatred have control over one of the world’s biggest microphones. Most of us, though, aren’t interested in going back to the time of slavery or segregation, and the people who have been rigging the game know this- that’s why they increasingly resort to rigging the game. Their social views are becoming less and less relevant to the mainstream every passing year, and it’s evidence that Rosa Parks and those who came after her made a much more profound and lasting impact on this country than our current president is ever likely to.
At this point, perhaps the far left in our country is getting a sense of what happens when people on more or less the same side of major issues fail to put their differences aside on election day. People on the far right, for all their other faults, are smarter about this and it’s one reason republicans run the show (other reasons include voter suppression and gerrymandering, which are increasingly required to win as the GOP becomes less representative of the majority). For the rest of us, who might not be overly psyched on any particular candidate, I offer this tidbit a friend said recently: “your vote isn’t a valentine- it’s a chess move.”
This is a difficult time for many of us. The travesty taking place in DC has triggered a huge number of sexual assault survivors, with the resulting emotional stress that goes along with that. The fact that it’s happening at a time when we face the threat of a fascist takeover, accelerated environmental devastation, and NRA-sponsored weekly mass shootings adds to the stress. The fact that there is a huge number of sexual assault survivors around to be triggered speaks to just how badly broken our society is, and how long it’s been that way. As an assault survivor, I find it disgusting and insulting to see all the people (mostly male) questioning why judge Kavenaugh’s various accusers haven’t come forward earlier- the degree of ignorance, arrogance, and victim blaming displayed makes it rather obvious why people don’t come forward. The scars often last a lifetime- I feel extra adrenaline in my system just typing this (even though what happened to me was 41 years ago) and the collective anguish I felt in the world yesterday sort of made me glad I was working on a ladder running electrical conduit instead of watching the confirmation hearings. If you haven’t experienced sexual assault, abuse, or harassment you might want to listen to those who have, and let them talk without casting doubt on them (if you’re a jerk) or trying to “fix” it (if you’re a caring person). A life without scars is impossible, but we’ve demonstrated throughout history that the human condition can be improved- this would be a good time to show up for each other, in whatever ways we’re capable. Even if we manage to prevail in November and/or in 2020, the deep rooted problems with patriarchy and racism won’t magically disappear. But we can chip away at them- after all, the society you want starts with you, whether your government represents you or not.
It’s come to my attention recently that, along with the predictable reaction to the #MeToo movement from ignorant, selfish males, there seems to be some resistance from people who might be political allies on other issues. As a climber, I tend to follow news from the outdoor industry, and certain people involved with that have apparently decided the #MeToo movement is a clever marketing ploy, rather than a needed (and long overdue) societal discussion. They’ve been concerned- perhaps rightly- with the increasing popularity (and resulting commercialization) of climbing and the impact it has on the environment, and that concern has led some folks to view any large scale media phenomenon with automatic suspicion. The idea that #MeToo is a cheap marketing gimmick reminds me of something I witnessed a number of years ago- when disco was popular many people didn’t like the produced, “corporate” sound, especially when compared with the “dirtier”, more “authentic” sounding rock and acoustic music of the time. While the “disco sucks” backlash had some genuine artistic basis it also contained elements of racism and homophobia, and critics usually didn’t share the social circumstances of most disco fans. The liberal-leaning critics of the #MeToo movement, while quick to say we should all just treat everyone equally, tend not to be people who personally experienced the things which brought about the movement- if they were they might better understand why it matters.
A friend of a friend was at the concert in Las Vegas when the nut job started shooting from the hotel. A relative of another friend was killed in the high school shooting in Florida. I don’t personally know either of those people, and odds are most of you don’t either, but we’re heading to a place where, sooner or later, you and all your friends will know a shooting victim.
Contrary to what they would have us believe, the National Rifle Association is not a grassroots citizen group but rather a weapons industry lobbying group. Anything which might cost the weapons industry sales (like banning semi-automatic weapons for private citizens) is unacceptable to the NRA on principle. Anything which might boost sales (like arming school teachers) is, by definition, good public policy. That’s really all there is to it, once the curtain of social hot-button issues is pulled back. I’m sure the folks who run the NRA would say they don’t want innocent people getting hurt, but their actions (and the data) suggest otherwise.
Whether it’s election fraud and voter disenfranchisement, crooked for-profit healthcare, environmental and consumer protection, fair labor practice, poverty and homelessness, or violent crime, the USA is sliding toward something which looks more like the third world than a developed nation (I’m leaving out racism, patriarchy, and homophobia because most developed nations also have those). We have the tools to deal with all of this, but we won’t. I won’t go into why in this post, other than to say the various players who understand and use our system have been putting their agendas into place for a long time, and the results are playing out every day. Maybe our ship can be turned before we descend much farther, maybe not. To those of us who have been to other places, it’s become obvious that large segments of the US aren’t interested in learning anything from the rest of the world. It’s as if too many egos here would be threatened by hearing how other people solve problems. Rather ironic, given we’re a nation of immigrants. Perhaps it’s too much to ask, but maybe, as things deteriorate here, more of us could have some empathy toward people in the actual third world.
(Sayulita, Nayarit state, Mexico)
This is an ugly time in America. President Trump’s never-ending campaign rhetoric seems to have created avenues for the worst examples of humanity among us to openly act on their hatred. Having started life in the South during the 1960s, I find this territory familiar. Back then it wasn’t immediately clear that there were more people in the country who wanted to do the right thing than wanted to do the wrong thing, at least not until the Civil Rights movement gained some momentum. These days, though, it’s pretty clear that those of us who abhor hatred and ignorance (and the associated violence) outnumber the people who support it. Although in theory anyone can change at any age, I’m guessing the worst people aren’t going to be capable of change in significant numbers. We’re going to need the younger generations (who overwhelmingly rejected Trump at the polls) to bring our country back to something resembling sanity. My advice? Continue building communities (physical and other) where young people can find better examples of living than they might have seen at home. It’s easy to be against whatever poison spews from politicians and pundits, but without clear alternatives the poison can start to appear reasonable. So, in addition to outrage, protest, and sharing necessary information, let’s enjoy life to whatever degree we’re able and share stuff we like with anyone we meet who might also like it- if I was young and wondering where I wanted to land and saw places where everyone seems angry and places where folks are having fun I know what I’d choose.