The most accessible analogy for the toxicity currently plaguing our nation is an abusive relationship. For the people who spend decades wondering “How did X society let X issue get that bad?” one need look no further than the dynamics of abusive relationships. “Why does so-and-so stay?”
In hindsight, it’s easy to understand. Nobody is outwardly abusive in the beginning. Hitler, Jim Jones, and the rest were not militaristic, overtly violent people during their ascension. Like a charming date, people fall (hard) for the person who meets their needs and makes them feel special. History criticizes those unable to see the subtle ropes that gradually ensnare every aspect of the victim’s life, those who ignore the severity of their situation until those ropes are used to hang them. We profess “Never Again,” and demand to remember exactly how it got this bad in order to ensure it never reoccurs.
And then we forget. Nostalgia filters out the unpleasant and we romanticize “good old days.” Excuses and justifications are made. We forget how different the forest looks when one walks among the trees.
In the early stages, the praise drowns out any voiced concerns. “Quit whining, you’re just sour grapes!” Enthusiasm and reverence, cultivated over months of promised bliss, meet the challenge of any apprehension. “He’ll drain the swamp—you’ll see!” “You just don’t know them the way I do!” The more outsiders express disdain, the more appealing our newfound champion becomes. “We’re going to be great again!” “You don’t understand; they love me!”
Continue reading “Whether exerted over a relationship or a nation, tyranny manifests in remarkably similar ways.”
I am deeply interested in the Civil War. I consume a lot of documentaries and historical books. I portray a Union soldier as a sometime-re-enactor. I have toured six of the national battlefields so far, and one of my ancestors was wounded at Gettysburg (on the third day, my guess during the artillery barrage before Pickett’s Charge). I am interested.
It’s fantastic to find other people to discuss this important and pivotal time in American—and world—history. Stories about heroic bravery, dumb luck and masterful strategy abound; personal details and anecdotes preserved in diaries and letters connect us to the nearly three million people who fought—and the more than 500,000 who died—in the largest bloodbath our nation has ever seen.
So I was surprised as the national conversation emanated from the horrific violence in Virginia—since the white supremacists were in town to preserve a statue of Robert E. Lee, this was a teaching moment about the actual history of most Confederate monuments with national potential. It seemed like people were becoming more interested in discussing the War, and its implications regarding Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and even Black Lives Matter.
Yet as it turns out, most people apparently don’t care about the actual War, or about how those monuments actually got there.
Continue reading “Another thinkpiece on Rebel Monuments”
Memorial Day is a unique moment to honor a very specific type of Americans: those who have died, either in the service of our nation or after a career of military duty. Abraham Lincoln would characterize them, three years before the concept of Memorial Day came about, on a battlefield in northern Pennsylvania where sixty thousand Americans had been killed, as “these honored dead,” emphasizing that we must double our commitment to the “cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
The Day was first formally recognized in 1866, when Waterloo NY started a national trend of lowering flags to half staff, draping the village in black to represent mourning, and decorating the graves of soldiers lost during the War. This energy was propelled both by living veterans and loved ones of the dead.
Originally in the first week of May, the day was pushed back to later in the month as more communities began to acknowledge a day to memorialize their dead, likely to allow for more flowers to bloom before they were plucked by loved ones to place upon graves.
Continue reading “In case anyone thought it was about furniture sales and barbecues…”
If you know me, you know what I do for a living. If you don’t know me: I do outreach and education for the regional rape crisis program.
This time of year is our Superbowl, Oscars, and New Year’s Eve put together. The often-thankless field of victim advocacy has an annual moment to take the spotlight, along with the real reason we all do this job: not for applause, but the survivors and families that we support, and for the paradigm shift we can impress upon the community.
That paradigm shift is important: to prevent sexual assault—actually stop it from happening, not make sure someone else is victimized—society needs to acknowledge the unhealthy norms that provide a foundation that can green-light assaults. Comments like “you can grab ‘em by the pussy” being sidelined as “harmless, locker-room talk” sends a message that, because of the situation or the speaker’s level of fame/authority/POWER, attitudes like that are okay. As I’ve already discussed, behaviors and attitudes are indicative of beliefs and values, and an attitude like that speaks volumes about that person’s values.
Continue reading “Before I start the workweek tomorrow, I gotta set this down somewhere.”
People—individually or in a group—have a tendency to gravitate toward certain routines. They navigate a pattern of choices throughout days, months, and generations, each time reaffirming their routines and solidifying their own sense of normalcy. This is done both for survival and to plot a course through the complex hierarchies that embody our world.
We create structures, societies and rules of decorum—whether spelled out like laws or tacitly accepted like social cues and rules of etiquette. And within that spectrum people choose to behave in certain ways.
Behavior toward social situations, popular media and marginalized cultures are, in large part, determined by attitudes. Perceptions—whether fictitious, encouraged by media or informed by experiences—teach our brains to have attitudes about certain situations or sources. Our minds anticipate, as they revert to the familiar comfort of establishing a pattern, to reaffirm the outcome we have already determined when our attitude first formed about that situation, group or event. Continue reading “On behavior, attitudes, beliefs & values”
Six months into the Civil War, things were not going well for the Union (the north). Their army lacked effective leadership, comprehensive training, and many of the engagements took place in Confederate territory, allowing the advantage of familiar terrain. Virtually everyone had presumed the conflict would last 90 days; the terror, destruction and carnage that followed was difficult to fathom.
While in D.C. in November 1861 with her husband, Julia Ward Howe overheard the tune “John Brown’s Body,” the self-chosen theme song of regiments in the area, and entertained the idea of re-writing the lyrics. Later that night, she awoke from a sound sleep with the words in her head that would become the anthem of the Union Army, and subsequently the Union. Even today “the Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a familiar tune, although contemporary understanding is only the first verse, and little on its meaning.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus) Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
Continue reading “Previously known as John Brown’s Body”
As you might (or might not) have noticed, it’s been a while since my last post. Like everyone else, I have been overwhelmed with the bombardment of breaking news and political explosions, exhausting everyone’s ability to deal with the current political climate with the numerous and egregious violations of the law, human decency, and common sense.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing what’s admittedly not often a priority for me—self-care; devoting time to coping with stress. I think activists and general “helpers” are consistently so busy assisting others that they neglect themselves—at least until they’re exhausted, have a breakdown or get sick. So I’ve gotten better at tapping into what my gut is telling me, and then listening to it. Continue reading “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”