People will often ask me how it is that I can so easily slip into a place of understanding with the struggles that they may bring my way. The only answer for that is because I have, for the most part, shared in those same discomforts at some point along my years. There are many for which I cannot assign my own experience but for this particular one I can commiserate well. The details are unimportant, my story settled in my own soul, there is no need nor desire to share beyond the obligatory hashtag to prove my authority on the words to follow.
I truly don’t know what’s worse. The fact that there are hundreds of thousands who stepped forward to claim “Me Too” or the fact that I was completely unfazed at the numbers. I was not shocked. And there is no more painful a truth than that.
Which makes me a part of the problem.
And…if you WERE shocked….
That makes you a part of the problem as well…
You’ll forgive me my bluntness. We have a lot to fix.
As I continued to peruse the many posts I became aware of a few men on my wall who had stepped forward to apologize for the behavior of many others. My heart tore as I read their words, their discomfort in belonging to the masculine species was clearly evident as they tried desperately to voice their thoughts in a manner that would show their intended support, while choosing a vernacular that could not be misconstrued in any way.
I stopped dead and reflected.
On my own experiences and in how it created for me two very different parenting styles.
To my daughter I instilled a high demand for self respect and for her to be strong and well voiced should she ever find herself in a position of which she would need it.
To my sons I uttered…
“You ever once behave like a caveman to any woman and this woman will bring you to your knees. Count on that”
Without once giving consideration to the fact that perhaps these boys may simply grow to be good men without my veiled threat if they did not.
This was wrong. And it was only in seeing the words yesterday that it hit me.
I shared my discomfort with someone near and dear to me today. She understood it from the same value with which I was expressing it. And we both agreed that there are those for whom no responsibility falls, nor those for whom will accept such even when it is laid out in full color.
Several months back, a young member of our family shared some things that buckled my legs and left me looking for a wall to stop the fall.
All of my years of denouncing sexual predatory behavior, all the times where I firmly announced “Not to my kids!” imploded over chicken mcnuggets and fries in a local restaurant. Flames raged up into my chest while I fought to control them and maintain gentle compassionate contact with the big eyes that stared back at me.
As I smothered the flames, the ashes drifted downward curling around my feet. I glanced to the floor and wondered how I might return this refuse to the soul it had broken free of. Knowing that I could not, I looked back to the eyes that trusted me and realized…
I felt helpless.
And that infuriated me further.
I reached across to the little fingers that held out a fry in my direction. I smiled and took it, popped it between parched lips…and whispered…
“I believe you”
These words were shared with this child by all the people that count most. And for that I am grateful.
Because where the judicial process to follow failed in the most disgraceful of ways, we did not.
And that’s what will be remembered.
My initial helplessness was well founded in the responses of those that should have treated this as the truth and chose not to. Case closed. Eyes closed.
We, as a society, as humans, as souls….
We are all to blame.
We are to blame because this has been occurring since humans first set foot on this planet we call home. Have we grown so accustomed to this behavior that we consider it normal human process? Is this the answer?
Is this why offenders receive less jail time than other crimes of much less significance? Because it just is? Because it has always been?
Because it took place in every generation before ours. Before yours. Before our grandchildren’s. Like some grotesque right of passage that no one speaks of?
To women. And to men.
It happens to us all.
We are all guilty for allowing it to continue.
The families that don’t believe. The families that don’t want to upset the dynamics. The families that are fearful of what people would think.
The guy next door. The girl next door. The coworker. The employer. The friend. The spouse. The police. The judge. All those who have seen the truth or heard that truth, who turn around and decide that it’s not their business or that it’s not worthy of a place in the courtroom.
I want to share with you something that was stated by a court official one day not so long ago. It was overheard by a family member. My family member.
“What was so pressing about this that you had to bring it before me the day before the holidays”
Just to be clear. This official was a woman.
So our assertion for the most part that men are to blame for this….
Well that falls flat for me and I’ll forgive you if you disagree…
Because like a lot of women…and men…and neighbors…and friends…and coworkers..I could go on forever…
She simply stated the obvious.
What makes this so special?
It’s been happening since we froze out the last dinosaur.
It’s old news. Get over it.
But in new news….
Lets fill our prisons with pot smokers, with shoplifters, with the one that stole a tank of gas…
And let’s leave the most abhorrent out among society to inflict decades of discomfort that often finds no resolve because no one wants to talk about something that no one does anything to stop.
Because no one believes it still happens.
It begins with us.
It begins with allowing ourselves to take some responsibility for not stopping it sooner. It begins with recognizing that there was something we could have said. Something we could have shared. Something we could have stopped.
But because we did not we cannot believe it when it hits the light of day.
Because to do so means we are also at fault.
One of the lessons we are here to learn in this human journey is the lesson of Personal Responsibility.
And quite frankly. We’re doing a shitty job.
And if we don’t pull it together and work to protect one another we’ll be seeing a new wave of “Me Too” in our next generations.
And what scares me most about this…
It won’t shock me.
I stand firmly with every person that shares this pain. Many are still waiting to hear “I am sorry”
And most will not.
Because, we have taught the offenders that they have nothing to be sorry for. We allow the judicial system to issue a wrist slap, to place them into protective custody and to live next door among us.
We drive the justice system in this world. They are not GODS. They are you. They are me. They are us. And they issue sentence on what we as a whole accept.
Think on that.
Animal abusers are dealt with more harshly.
Think on that too.
“It happened to me so it could happen to you. We don’t talk about it. We just live with it. You’ll forget one day. I forgot”
Lets stop forgetting.
And lets start believing.
And let’s start the stop.
Lets also place responsibility on all those who did nothing to deter it. Let’s stop making it all about the offender and start focusing on those that abet him/her.
When we do nothing. When we question the authenticity. When we allow for leniency.
We become accessories to the crime. We have taken the side of the offender.
Is that what we want to be for our children?
The child I refer to in this blog is not a girl.
And one day he may find himself struggling to find words to apologize for the behaviors of his gender.
But who apologizes to him?
“I Believe You”
We can change.
In love, in light and in hopes for a better tomorrow.