I usually prefer to let natural light influence the flavor of my daily life; dawn and dusk, sunlight or cloudy skies can emphasize seasons. Today, I have the lights on because it’s rainy and I don’t want to be in the dark. Our national political situation is brutally, horrifyingly ugly right now, and we are not alone. America’s polarized politics and living history of racism and violence, corruption and abuse are shared by countries all over the world. In truth, the devastatingly cruelty we’re witnessing to women, to children, to people of color is nothing new. Indeed, it’s old as the hills, old as humanity, older than history.
Almost a year ago, blogger Adrienne Maree Brown wrote something I’ve been repeating a lot:
“Things are not getting worse
They’re getting revealed
We must hold each other tight and
Continue to pull back the veil.”
No Pain, No Gain
Like ripping off a dressing stuck to a festering wound, pulling back the veil of illusion is extremely uncomfortable. However, if we ever hope to achieve cultural healing, it has to happen. The veil that hides patriarchal authoritarianism/racism/cruelty/inhumanity must be pulled away, forcibly or gently, over and over and over again, a little more each time. It’s difficult and often discouraging work, so it’s helpful to remember that in doing all we can to propel our country and our culture forward, we are in truth working to change human nature. That’s definitely a good thing and very necessary but it is never easy to alter genetic and cultural patterns that have been repeated for millennia.
I myself often say, and hear my sisters saying, “After all this time, how can this patriarchal crap still be happening?” When I take a step back, I remember that the timeline of human history perfectly illuminates the intractability of the patriarchy. A few thousand years ago, Jesus started a movement in which men and women, slaves and free people were to be held as equal, a concept brought to life to some extent for a few hundred years before getting co-opted by the establishment. Other than that, women’s rights have only been on the cultural radar in Europe and America for around 300 years, when the Enlightenment brought the beginnings of a shift in cultural perspective. Children’s rights gradually entered the conversation, as did the rights of people not to be enslaved, the rights of animals, and shamefully late, the rights of the planet that supports us.
Something Old, Something New
So, diabolical political behavior is not new. What’s new is the enormous, very public backlash against inhumane political machinations. It’s not new that rich old white guys refuse to hear women speaking truth to power. What’s new is the force of social media that wasn’t around when Anita Hill was put through hell in 1991. It’s not new that protests get blown off. What’s new is that today, cellphones can capture the story as two women approach Senator Flake in the elevator and insist that he make eye contact when they tell him about sexual abuse they have suffered and how the treatment of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is sending a powerful and destructive message to American women; rich old white men, in the Senate, in Congress, and elsewhere, don’t care at all about us and really prefer not to have to hear anything that implies criticism of their worldview.
La La La I Can’t HEAR You
In a way, that willful deafness is understandable. After a bewildering and extremely painful incident, a skillful therapist explained to me that understanding the harm they do to others is so piercingly painful to perpetrators of violence and abuse that they’ll do whatever it takes to avoid that realization. Like alcoholics and other addicts, abusers develop a potent toolkit of tricks, from smoke and mirrors to raging and gaslighting, to deflect the blame and shame from the perp to the victim. Remaining a sociopath is much more comfortable for them, mentally and emotionally, than opening to the truth.
That’s the pattern we need to break, because truth really can set us free. Yesterday, UCC pastor Dee Eisenhauer quoted in her sermon (which she called the most difficult to write of her entire career) the following fantasy scenario written by my friend Jennifer Merrill:
Alternate Universe, Please
“In an alternate universe, it could play out like this:
In a heartening and healing about-face, today Brett Kavanaugh made the following statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
‘I come before you to declare that Christine Blasey-Ford is telling the truth. I am withdrawing my name as a Supreme Court nominee. I do this with a heavy heart; I very much wanted to serve on the Supreme Court. But, in reflecting upon my emotionally volatile behavior in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I realize I have moral and spiritual work to do that takes precedence over serving as a Supreme Court Justice.
‘I have been living for decades under the weight of a falsehood. On Thursday the weight of that falsehood shifted just enough for me to actually see it: While under the influence of alcohol and/or entitlement and privilege, I may do whatever I want and I will not be held accountable. I now recognize how hurtful that falsehood has been-to Christine, to other women, to my wife and daughters. I apologize to Christine and to all the women I have hurt. I am sorry that alcohol indulgence and a sense of entitlement and privilege have caused me to behave solely selfishly. Bringing to light this falsehood-making this confession-while extremely humbling, has also freed my heart and soul. I am looking forward to nurturing more honest reltionships with my colleagues and associates, with my family and with myself. Thank you and again, I’m sorry.”
Open Heart Surgery Required
Wow, right? Opening the heart can be painful indeed but the relief of being truthful is indeed soul satisfying. Hearing jen’s words, I realized that I would find such a scenario soul satisfying, even more so than the (admittedly longed for) utter shaming caused by the rejection of Kavanaugh as a nominee. If Jen’s story were to play out in real life, it could in truth open not only Judge Kavanaugh’s heart and spirit but the hearts and spirits of the entire government.
After watching Judge Kavanaugh’s display of immature power, I found this quote clarifying:
“Good judges…understand that a judge’s demeanor helps lay the foundation for the regard given a judge’s decisions. A calm judicial demeanor allows participants in the legal process to feel that their position is being heard and considered, and that a reasoned opinion will issue from the court after the arguments are all submitted.”
Judge Mel Dickstein