Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

It Isn’t Enough To Be the Guy Who Doesn’t Do That

This morning, my friend Daniel Katz wrote, eloquently:

“… ‘me too’ isn’t just about survivors speaking up. It is about the sheer universality of the experience for women. Every woman. Every woman you know. Every woman you care about. Every woman has experienced either sexual assault or sexual harassment at some time in her life. Possibly a lot more than that. We live in a world where this is a universal experience for women, and even if you already knew that in your mind, the gut punch of seeing it everywhere you look in the context of people you love is supposed to be the wake up call.”

That’s exactly, *exactly* what it was. A gut punch. And another and another. All day yesterday. Post after post.

I was not unaware of the problem … I thought. But I hadn’t taken time to consciously consider that it could be so many people that I knew personally.

Which means I was unaware of the problem. Which means I’m some part of the problem.

And me writing about how I felt like I’d been punched in the gut … is fine, but does it recognize that women who have experienced assault or harassment feel that gut punch, over and over?

I didn’t consciously consider that, yesterday. Which means I’m another part of the problem.

And then, this Tweet from the writer Alexis Benveniste, yesterday:

Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.”

Or, as my friend Daniel continued:

If any woman in your life does not say ‘me too’ it is not because her life has been free from assault or harassment — it is because she is choosing to not share or because our society taught her that her experiences ‘don’t count’ because other women have had it worse. … Our homes, our social spaces, our public spaces, and our workplaces are dumpster fires of men who think they can objectify, commodify, and own women’s bodies without fear of legal, social, or professional consequences. It isn’t enough to be the guy who doesn’t do that. We have to be the guys who see it and demand that other men change.”

Which I thought I was doing, with a blog post or two in the past … writing well-intentioned things that still made the issue about me, to some degree …

From 2014:

“In thinking about this topic, I first wondered if perhaps the people who are most prone to saying hideous things about (or to) and doing hideous things to women … just lacked any previous interactions with strong women that might have caused them to view women differently.”

As if being a “strong woman” (as assessed by someone else) (someone male, natch) means that one is more deserving of basic respect. As if there were a scale of deserving to not-deserving. Um, no. Care to backtrack, Rob?…

What I was thinking of, I believe … was the sheer number of women I have known, throughout my life, that shaped my understanding of how women were just as worthy of respect as men. To put it bluntly, I have indeed known women who either [1] were exceptionally good at whatever they did, [2] had personalities that included the almost cheerful disinclination to take crap from other people, [3] were wonderful, kind and decent people, or [4] all of the above.”

Fine to appreciate these features, but –really? As if, again, there were characteristics beyond Being A Human Female that qualified one for decent treatment. Not the most effective backtracking, there, Rob.

This list would include my mother [and sister, hello?!] … all of my elementary school teachers … friends from high school … people from that summer arts program I have occasionally referred to … people I met in college … numerous professional colleagues …”

Nice. Better still, would this list not include every woman I ever met, and every one I never met?

By 2016, when there was talk — a specific, out-in-the-open monologue in fact — about unsolicited grabbing and such … I hope I got closer to the target. You can be the judge:

“… I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!’.”

It was easy to speak of wonderful people whom I have known, who are deserving of basic human decency because they are themselves humans … in the abstract.

I created that list. (See? All about me, still.)

Yesterday’s torrent of #MeToo posts was very, very concrete.

Those posts made up that list.

And with every new addition to that list, throughout the day, my heart sank further.

Holy hell.

What’s worse than having no idea? Thinking you had enough of an idea, and then finding out that you didn’t, really.

I’m sorry.

There’s a lot of work left to do. I want to try to do it better.

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October 17, 2017 Posted by | current events, social media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why?

All right, I’ve got something I wanna get off my chest. It’s been sitting there for, what, 23 years now, I guess?

Namely, I need to rail against an injustice.

Why yes, I shall elaborate:

A meme cropped up after this weekend’s flap over NFL players kneeling (or not) during presentations of the National Anthem.

My beef is not with the meme, or the NFL players, or the National Anthem, or the guy who flapped.

Actually it IS with the meme, or rather what it represents.

The meme is a photo of two American figure skaters, clearly a publicity shot from the run-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. To the left: the blonde, diminutive Tonya Harding. To the right: the tall, brunette Nancy Kerrigan.

(Oh, that’s what he’s going on about.)

The text: “Back when taking a knee meant taking a knee”.

Ouch, baby.

 

For 23 years, people have mocked Kerrigan for one single moment, a moment captured by video cameras and replayed how many hundreds of times since?

The U.S. National Figure Skating Championships were being held in Detroit a few weeks before the Lillehammer Olympics were set to begin. Following a practice session at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, a briefly-unknown assailant whacked Kerrigan in the thigh, very close to her (figure-skating-crucial) knee, with a club, as she exited the ice rink.

Who does that?

Well, we found out who it was, and who he was affiliated with; and the soap opera that had already begun just escalated from there.

Miserable. Potentially, an injustice. But, worthy as it is of being railed against, it’s not exactly the one I’m thinking of.

In the moments just after the assault, before Kerrigan knew that the injury was not immediately career-ending, while EMTs and other personnel tended to her injured leg, she sobbed inconsolably … at one point, wailing, “why??”

Yeah. Why’d this have to happen at that moment? And why would anybody do something like that, in that moment, in that context, to anybody else, at all? Particularly to an athlete who kinda needed healthy knees in order to go about her business?

Hell, it was only the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Only an event that an athlete would likely be working toward for her whole life. Nothing to get upset about.

Um, can we forgive Nancy Kerrigan for being just a little put out?

The injustice I’m thinking of is, frankly, the one committed by every person in the last 23 years who has mocked that particular cry, “—Why??”

She wasn’t whining.

Literally, her life’s work (to that point) was in jeopardy.

 

For 23 years, it’s been far too easy for the comics and the wags to set aside empathy for the sake of a joke … for the sake of mocking an easy target. And every time I hear somebody do that to Ms. Kerrigan, I get defensive, at least inside my own head. Cut that right out.

And then I think, well, okay; was it because I was rooting hard for her and not for Tonya and her attacker turned out to be some schnook hired by Tonya’s ex-husband for the specific purpose of eliminating the competition, like some second-rate 1940s gangster? Was it because Kerrigan was from a town not far from my hometown, so rah rah rah for the Massachusetts native?

Was it because in her shoes … skates … whatever … being attacked like that would cause me to lose a little faith in humanity?

Yes, yes, and yes.

So … while this may not be the most important issue to deal with at this moment in history (while, say, the population of Puerto Rico is in desperate straits and not getting any help … just as one example of something that really genuinely overshadows most other issues) … it does have at least one thing in common with a whole lot of issues facing us.

In this case, it wasn’t a Presidential tweet, or a controversial Congressional bill, or a proposed governmental policy which would actively make life more difficult for this or that group of people. It was a meme; a joke.

But a representative one. Lately, we’ve been inundated by instances of startling lack of empathy and compassion for people who are hurting, or injured, or vulnerable.

Why?

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Famous Persons, sports | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fear and Loathing, Not Just in Las Vegas

I could’ve been writing for the Blogge, all this time.

Lord knows there’s been plenty to write about, as regards current events and such.

That’s the problem: way too much to write about. Or, more accurately, almost unfathomable outrages coming at me, one after the other, sometimes several in a single day, and who can keep up with that? Exhausting, dispiriting …

As my friends in the software business say: it’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

That. Is. The. Point.

Hurl everything at the American public – from substantive policies that genuinely hurt the vulnerable and benefit the utterly comfortable, to spurious name-calling spasms (the Hamilton flap, “Rocket Man”, the NFL’s kneeling SOBs) that nonetheless shine lights on important issues that we shouldn’t ignore either – and see whether they can withstand such an onslaught.

Throw the crazy at them (us) (We the People) so fast, so high and tight, with such unrelenting tennis-ball-machine-of-doom ferocity that they (we) can’t keep up; so we give up trying, give up paying attention, … and then it’s REALLY a jailbreak. If there are enough of us they can’t catch us all.

I didn’t truly grasp this reality, I don’t think, until this weekend, when I read a Twitter thread–

[Ed. note: this is the 21st century’s newest innovation: long-form Tweeting. Almost as if 140 characters really aren’t enough to express what we have to express. What could we call it? … yes! yes! an ESSAY!]

Ahem. I spotted a thread made up of fifty consecutive Tweets, posted by a University of New Hampshire professor of English named Seth Abramson, which expressed this reality so much better than I think I could have.

So, I shall yield the rest of my time to my learned colleague from Live Free or Die. See what you think.

[Ed. note: I’ve tried to do some clever writerly things that will transform Mr. Abramson’s thoughts from fifty blasts to several essay-form paragraphs.]

 

We need to never again discuss this man with respect to policy – it’s become more than clear in 9 months that he holds no policy positions. So if you support Donald Trump because of any view you claim he holds, I don’t ever want to hear from you again. The man holds no views. There is no position Donald Trump has ever taken that he has not, at some point in the past or present, taken the opposite position to.

We mustn’t ever discuss this man as someone “challenging the system” or any similar bromide. His White House is the most corrupt ever. Not one story of honorable conduct has emerged from this White House. Instead, it’s been lies, deception, corruption, graft, propaganda.

But the most important thing is this: this is the first U.S. president to systematically and willfully terrorize his own populace daily. His changeability is intended to keep us anxious and on guard. In fact, he’s admitted publicly, many times, that this is a tactic of his.

His corruption is equally studied: his business model has always been “get away with what you can,” and that’s exactly how he’s governed. He saw that he had a GOP Congress – and knew that his worst-case scenario was not getting re-elected to a job that he never really wanted. That’s why he hasn’t eliminated his conflicts of interest, delivered on his promises, “drained the swamp,” acted as any kind of leader. His presidency is a criminal enterprise designed to enrich his family and give him the attention his father clearly denied him as a kid.

He has no beliefs, no ambitions, no morals, no principles, no guidelines, no plans, no expectations. He simply needs to sow chaos daily. What Trump knows better than most is that America is a chaos machine – you feed it and it spits out attention, headlines, sometimes money.

I want to be very clear here: Donald Trump is a toxic human with a toxic public presence and – worst of all – he wants to poison his people. His reign will go down not just in U.S. history but human history as a reign of uncommon cruelty in the democracies of this millennium. It’s more than [the idea] that he’ll go down in our history as the worst president we’ll ever have – he’ll go down as one of our greatest villains. Benedict Arnold tried to betray America for a prior sovereign – Trump is trying to torture a nation that was good to him his whole life.

Have you noticed a change in your mood since January? I mean a change you can’t seem to escape? Anxiety, anger, fear, confusion, doubt? The most ubiquitous man in your nation is trying to poison you daily – because it gives him power – and no one’s stopping him from doing it. If you’ve seen a dramatic change lately in your personality, home life, belief in the nation you love – please know that you’re not alone. I’m not using hyperbole: you’re under attack. A deliberate, unprovoked, systematic, and – yes – evil attack. And it’s working. We’re losing.

When humans are [1] endangered, [2] confused and [3] hopeless, there are certain things we turn to – all of which Trump is deliberately stealing away.

Our fight or flight instinct – which Trump activates – can be quelled if we’re given respite, which is why Trump ensures [that] we have no respite. That’s why his tweets – which are intended to terrorize, and do – come in a daily barrage of needless conflict, warmongering, and cruelty. He must never stop tweeting, because his tweets now activate our culture in a way so inescapable that we’re almost like his prisoners. You think he’s attacking North Korea in his tweets? No – he’s trying to terrorize you. The NFL? You. Segments of America? No – all of us.

When humans are confused, we seek the stability of truth, trusted institutions, neighbors. He’s destroying those anchors systematically. “Fake news” isn’t about getting re-elected – it’s about controlling your fight-or-flight instinct by giving you no safe harbor in “truth.” Every institution we like or trust, he’s undermined. The media. Government. Unions. Hell – even the NFL. Veterans (when he feels like it). He’s enabled by the GOP – but he’s no Republican. He wants to destroy any politics or politician whose world he’s not at the center of. He’s a malignant narcissist, and his only ambition is to spread his toxicity nationwide in whichever ways feed his perverse pathology.

FIf you’re a Trump voter, by all means laugh it up. You’ll be caught in wars, recessions, and international collapse like the rest of us. He has 35% support because Americans love to be right/see fools suffer – and Trump voters think they’re on the right side of the equation. Time will show that we were all the fools – and whatever temporary satisfaction the Right got from annoying the Left wasn’t worth America.

Because the last thing – of the three I mentioned – [which] humans look for in a crisis is hope, and he’s systematically taking that away as well.

We don’t have hope [that] future elections will be fair. We don’t have hope [that] our government is working in our interests. We don’t have hope [that] we can trust and love our neighbors and they’ll trust and love us back. And we don’t have hope [that] things will start to make sense again.

Trump has declared war on America – crafting his own brand of “American carnage” – and some groups have felt the pain quicker than others. But only a fool fails to see that the pain and suffering that comes from having a madman as a leader is soon coming for every one of us.

Things are going to get very bad. And many fools will say, “Well – that’s America.” And America is deeply flawed. But we weren’t this. One in every few generations in the West, a leader arises so vile that he can draw out the evil from his population and weaponize it. Trump is not Hitler. There was only one Hitler. But Trump is the sort of Hitler that America in 2017 – at its very worst – can breed.

Everything evil a man can do to a country like this, at a time like this, in a span of four or eight years, Donald Trump will try to do. He’ll try to make the vulnerable live in fear. He’ll position himself as unreviewable by the media and government. He’ll sow confusion. And when his crimes are uncovered – and he’s been a villain and criminal his whole adult life – he’ll try to stoke violence to save himself.

Trump is the most dangerous American of all our lifetimes – he’s so dangerous we can’t fully apprehend the danger or how to respond to it. He’s everything people say – a pathological liar; a corrupt politician; a serial sexual assailant; and, yes, a traitor – but he’s also more. He’s an actually evil presence that hangs over your life – and the life of a nation you love – every single day. And he may be unstoppable.

Is there any reason to trust future election results – now that we know Russia is hacking/interfering and Trump’s doing zero to stop it? And is there any reason to think the damage Trump has done to our political system can be solved in just a single American generation? And as he plunges us deeper into our Longest War and tries to start World War III in Asia, can we be certain lasting doom isn’t ahead?

My point: there is only one fight in America today that matters, because all other fights are ultimately a direct corollary to this one. If we want to save ourselves – and our country – Trump must be legally, peacefully and transparently removed from a position of power. ASAP.

P.S. It’s OK to finally indulge the idea that everything is as bad as you think it is if hitting rock-bottom gives you the courage to FIGHT.

 

#resist

#remove

September 25, 2017 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment