The Road From Here

 

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I have thought long and hard about what to say regarding the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

Let me begin with a sports analogy:

Many sports fans, I’ve noticed, are willing to overlook a certain player’s behavior for the sake of a few more wins for their team. I mean, so what if he beats women, or gets caught driving drunk, or is charged with possession, etc., as long as he performs when it’s game time.

Sounds a lot like what happened in this election.

 

I didn’t watch the results on Election Day as they happened; I went to bed that night having no idea whatsoever who our next President was. First thing the next morning, I got out of bed to see who won.

My wife would tell me later, she was a little surprised by how calmly I delivered the news to her. I replied, I wasn’t really calm, so much as I was numb.

In fact, I was in a state of utter shock. I could not believe or process what had occurred. How the hell could this happen? I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. Most of the morning, I was a zombie, just going through the motions of my job, but feeling dead on the inside.

Eventually, I experienced feelings of devastation, depression, worry, revulsion, white-hot anger, embarrassment, shame, betrayal, confusion and about every other negative feeling you can name.

I wanted to lash out at all the Trump voters, leaving no doubt about exactly what I thought of them. I wanted them to know what a monumental mistake they made. I felt like calling them some creative names, along with some of the old favorites.

But I didn’t see that serving any useful purpose. Pretty sure those folks give not one solitary damn what I think of them. And all the yelling and screaming I did would not change the fact that Donald Trump is our President. Yours and mine. That’s the reality, much as a lot of us hate it. (And a lot of us – all over the world, I noticed – do hate it.)

By the way, just so you know, electing a businessman to lead your country is like hiring a pastry chef to overhaul your transmission. There’s a certain skill set to each job that does not translate to the other. Politics, like it or not, is better left to politicians. Would you honestly be comfortable putting someone in the cockpit of your aircraft who’s never flown before in his life?

That’s exactly what the Trump voters just did. Unfortunately, we’re all on the plane with them.

 

So, what happens next?

One of the few good things to emerge from this messy, embarrassing, completely forgettable election year, is the spirit of revolution, especially among the younger Americans, who were so inspired by the campaign of Bernie Sanders. (I was, too.) They see the need for change, and are ready, willing and able to work toward making change happen.

We need to encourage them. We need to join them.

Women, blacks, Latin Americans, Muslims, the LGBT+ community, and the middle class all have bullseyes on their backs, now. It’s on us all to stand up for their rights, their dignity, and their safety.

Donald Trump and his Republican Congressional cronies dismiss global warming as a myth, a hoax. We need to stand up for the protection of our planet from those who refuse to see the evidence staring them in the face of its accelerating decline.

These and other issues (Supreme Court appointments, health care, Middle East conflicts) will require our vigilance, our intelligence, and our toughness.

For the next four years.

Yes, we have to accept who our President will be, but we do not have to accept his agenda. We can rise up in organized, disciplined, informed, peaceful opposition, and let our singular voice be heard. Not an angry mob, but a determined, unified coalition of like-minded individuals.

I’m a middle-aged white guy with a blog. I will use those advantages to their fullest potential. This is way too important for me to do anything less.

I hope you will join me.

 

Interesting thing happened Wednesday, The Day After.

I was driving my shuttle van, as always, and the skies were cloudy, gray and gloomy. Much like a large part of America, after what had just occurred.

Late that afternoon, the sun began to break through the clouds.

Corny? Cliche? Yeah, sure, but I was taking my inspiration where I could find it that day.

Clouds only hide the light for so long. But, it always wins.

That’s a mighty good thing to remember.

 

Our Beautiful Home

 

Folks, we’re about to celebrate our 240th year of existence as the United States of America. Parties, burgers and fireworks will be abundant. Lakes all over the country will be full of drunken boaters. “Stars and Stripes Forever” will be played by bands and orchestras coast to coast. American flags will wave everywhere you look, American hearts will swell with pride, and American retailers will offer DEEP discounts the preceding weekend.

As Michael Keaton said in Night Shift: “Is this a great country, or what?”

It is, folks. An amazing country, from sea to shining sea.

But, as we all know, there’s definitely room for improvement.

I don’t want to dwell on that, because this is a party, after all. But, I can’t totally ignore it. Economy, environment, race relations, education, our whole election process, health care, guns…and I’m just warming up.

But, one of this country’s greatest strengths is its capacity for evolution, dating all the way back to our forward-thinking Founding Fathers, who birthed this beautiful experiment. Progress is possible, these problems are solvable, a better future for everyone is in sight.

But, we gotta work for it. All of us.

So, as we celebrate our precious freedom on the 4th, let’s remind ourselves that with that freedom comes responsibility. We must be more active caretakers of this lovely piece of land we call home, and of each other, as well. As we toast our independence, let us reconsider our interdependence; we need each other.

I’ll leave you with a little something we all learned and recited as schoolkids, and I will ask you to take another look at these words, and seriously consider what they mean to you.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,

And to the republic for which it stands, 

One nation under God, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

Happy Independence Day, everyone. If you’re anywhere near spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, fruited plains, or any other magnificent scenes, take it in and appreciate it. Leave it as you found it, so someone else can appreciate it. Treat this land with love.

And, oh yeah: careful with the fireworks.

 

Real Men (Not)

 

I’ll tell you, there are some days when I am thoroughly, utterly, unspeakably ashamed for my gender.

From the Associated Press: (5/27/2016)

“DALLAS (AP) — After months of silence, Baylor University responded to mounting criticism of its handling of accusations of sexual assaults and other attacks by football players by demoting its president, Ken Starr, and firing its football coach, Art Briles.

“Baylor also released Thursday the main findings of a withering report by a law firm that reviewed the school’s handling of such cases and found, among other things, that administrators denied that the university had a sexual violence problem and failed on several levels to investigate claims. In one case, they retaliated against someone for reporting a sexual assault, it found…

“The review by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton found systemic failures that extended well beyond the football program, though it was the cases involving players that brought the issue front and center.

“Not all victims received hearings for their cases, sometimes because the university claimed it had no control over anything occurring off campus. The review found the “overwhelming majority of cases” of sexual assault or harassment did not get a hearing, and an “extremely limited number of cases” ended in a finding against the accused or a significant punishment.

“Investigations of sexual assault were often “inadequate or uninformed,” the firm said. Administrators were not given enough training on how to evaluate domestic violence, stalking or the role of alcohol in a sexual assault case.

“In addition, the investigations were conducted in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence ‘doesn’t happen here,'” the review found. “Administrators engaged in conduct that could be perceived as victim-blaming, focusing on the complainant’s choices and actions.””

This is going on at my alma mater! 

I’m a graduate of Baylor University, though I’m not sure I want to admit it, lately.

Again, from the Associated Press: (6/7/2016)

“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Stanford University “did everything within its power” to ensure justice in the case of a former swimmer sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman… (italics mine)

“The university banned Brock Turner from campus after wrapping up its investigation less than two weeks after the attack…

“The 20-year-old Turner was sentenced last week to six months in jail and three years’ probation, sparking outrage from critics who say Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky was too lenient on a privileged athlete from a top-tier swimming program. Some are urging he be removed from the bench.

(The judge, incidentally, is a Stanford University alumnus.)

“The case gained national attention after prosecutors released a poignant statement from the 23-year-old victim that she read in court. Criticism intensified when a letter from Turner’s father to the judge was released, in which he pleaded for leniency and said his son had already paid a steep price for “20 minutes of action.””

Admittedly, I was not even aware of this story before reading Katherine Fritz’ powerful post on http://www.iambeggingmymothernottoreadthisblog.com (a post you all MUST read)

It’s a genuinely sickening tale.

It’s horrifying enough that these assaults actually took place, but the aftermath is equally horrifying.

Indifference. Denial. Intimidation. Betrayal. Miscarriage of justice. Protection for athletes, contempt for victims.

If this is what women face who come forward about what was done to them, it is an unmitigated wonder any of them do.

 

I had a rather startling experience the day after I read about the Brock Turner case. I was at a fast food place, getting some lunch. As I stood in line to order, and as I sat down to eat, I looked around at all the females in the restaurant…

…and I saw them all, for probably the first time ever, as potential assault victims.

It could happen to any of them, I thought. The little girl, the old lady, the tall one, the short one, the thin one, the heavy one, the white one, the black one…

Any of them.

That almost incomprehensible truth hit me like a shot. In that moment, I had a glimpse into how the world must sometimes look to women. How honestly terrifying.

They live in a culture that ignores, denies, misunderstands, excuses, tolerates, even justifies, in some cases, the sexual assault of women. To characterize that as wrong is woefully inadequate. There is no excuse. There is no justification.

Period.

And, by the way, I do NOT want to hear that “Sometimes, she asks for it,” or that some women just cry wolf to exact revenge on some poor schmuck.

Guys, listen up for a second.

Are you listening? Good.

NO.

WOMAN.

ASKS FOR IT.

EVER.

I hope that was clear enough for you.

And, do you really think some woman could get pissed off at you enough to fabricate a whole story about you assaulting her, knowingly subjecting herself to shame and humiliation, not just for herself, but her family and friends, willingly going through the process of a trial, answering one embarrassing question after another, just to get even?

I can’t begin to tell you how ridiculous that sounds.

There are several important women in my life, within my circle of family and friends. Women I love and care for, deeply. The thought of any of them being violated (and, tragically, a few have been), then betrayed by a cowardly, clueless school administration, or a worthless, pathetic justice system…

“Pillars Of Society”, in other words…

It lights a fire in my very core.

Because, I realize, this goes beyond one school, or one judge. This is a systemic problem throughout our society, and it absolutely must be addressed, confronted, and fixed.

And, my brothers, we must be part of the solution. Because far too many of us are part of the problem.

And, as a member of the male species, I’m fed up with it.

 

BTW: Bravo to the two grad students who caught Brock Turner in the act, chased him down and held him for the police. There are still a few heroes out there.