“when we drop fear, we can draw nearer to people,
we can draw nearer to the earth,
we can draw nearer to all the heavenly creatures that surround us.”
– bell hooks
What’s funny is, I started drafting a piece of this nature on August 11, 2016 entitled, “Humanity: The Eulogy”. I never completed it or posted anything like it because I really couldn’t deal with the comment section. Hell, this draft has taken me a week (or longer) because every time I think I’m done, I notice more and more discrepancies and it shakes me up inside. I’m secure enough in my own mind and writing abilities to take whatever criticisms are thrown at me on social platforms, but I cannot handle and just won’t accept people berating each other in what we now call “threads.” Using that word to describe our streaming shouting matches seems ironic.
I made the mistake of sharing this article on my personal Facebook page, which caused quite a stir. In fact, at one point during this draft, the comments kept rolling in. I had absolutely know idea that traffic was flowing through my page about this sensational, yet very basic article, let alone what I would find when I finally decided to sit and read through each and every exchange. Though I lightly responded to some, I knew I couldn’t let my feelings about all this rest with a simple sentence, it deserves more than that. We’re at a point where we’ve just got to keep the conversation open and hope that someone is listening. If this blog reaches any one person, then my life as a writer has served some damn purpose.
I’m hopeful that these ideas will read like a letter to a long lost friend, since that’s what I’m carrying as I write this. Longing for the friend I knew to return.
The world that troubled me five years ago is not the one the frightens me today. These words will feel mournful and feisty and familiar; they’re words you’ve spoken aloud or felt in your bones and just never knew how to say them. It will feel as hyperbolic as it reads because I believe that’s where we are in society. Snowballing everything. A few mornings ago, I was on Facebook video chat with a friend and I asked if he thought we would ever move on from the phase we’re in now and he flat out told me no. With no hesitation or doubt in his voice. With blinking brown eyes that seemed bleak but informed, no longer worried just… quiet. It really is all we can do to remove ourselves from the observations we can’t help but make. I have watched and absorbed the sadness and rage our society holds on to so tightly and feel like now — as opposed to my wide, veil-free eyes in 2016 — I can speak from my heart…and my head. I am optimistic that this just might be enough broaden or shift some perspectives, but realistic enough to know that minds have shut themselves away these days.
DISCLAIMER – This is an opinion piece, food for thought, a heart-opener, if you will; I happily welcome any and all opinions and reactions, and encourage tasteful, friendly discussion. I simply ask that you read this as a human and not whatever label you’ve placed on yourself. That you invite peace in to your reading space as your eyes follow the words because I have taken careful action to write this with peaceful determination and feeling. I ask that you drop the fear of what you don’t know, drop the skepticism, and embrace the essence and core of the humanity I know each of you reading this must feel. Humanity was at one point all we knew; please approach it from there. If not, try any of my fictional offerings, those may serve you better.
To All Humans:
From our entrance in to the world, we are offered the unique opportunity of living. I’m sure to some, this seems like a chore — it feels like that to me too, sometimes. (Lately, more often.) I am writing this because I feel as though we have forgotten how practice this art of living, of loving; unwilling and apprehensive towards any sense of harmony that once was. We seemingly operate under two tolerances now: blame and gender. Maybe I’m loosely pinpointing two coinciding themes here because I’m angry, but it seems commonplace that we now blame all of our behaviors — good and bad — on what anatomical parts we possess and the behavior associated with those parts. I constantly ask, when will people learn that these things we face have no gender, but are human issues? Issues with breath in them, life force; an entity all its own. When will we comprehend that to understand each other, to grow and learn, we have to respect one another? When will more trust and less skepticism return? When will our words become the salt of the earth again?
I guess you can’t respect what you fear.
I’m really hung up on the absurd idea that the human, the living, breathing, being, can truly be governed by anyone but herself. I’m not saying I don’t believe in government, I’m not saying I don’t believe in due process. I absolutely do. I believe in guidelines for morality and I believe in law. But I also believe in humanness.
I have tried my best to keep quiet about politics, but watching people in this country battle between their so-called philosophies and aesthetics is a slow death in itself. We are desensitized and imbalanced in the worst way possible, we’ve lost our humanity. I believe with fervency that she is out there still; I believe it in the small unions I see. I see it in the feminism I personally know, which is inclusive of all. The debate and heat around this word, this “feminism,” is enough for me to write a lengthy essay — and maybe I will. Today, I’ll keep it simple and as personal as possible: feminism, to me, is the acknowledgement and respect for all humans. First, second, and third wave feminists, hell, even the post-riot grrrl movements would probably all agree that we were just on the cusp of something wonderful, real change, a real metamorphosis of society. And now? We fight against ourselves, our truth, our core. We insist on unity, preach it, and teach it, but our assumptions, blame, and fear will divide us.
In the above mentioned comment war on the article I shared, someone — a person who didn’t contribute towards the argument in the least — made a generalized “liberals do” statement that sent me off the deep end. Not only do I wish that people who insist on making a comment actually have something substantial to say, I wish this person knew more about ME before throwing out a label on my personal account. I bet she doesn’t know that I was raised Southern Baptist and that the first time I voted, I voted without knowing a damn thing about the candidate; I voted without knowing what I expected from politics or what politics even meant to me.
In the sheltered world I grew up in, you are white, Republican, and Southern Baptist without having a different thought in your head. No one wants to admit that if you are different, or think differently, that you are immediately categorized as “other.” You don’t grow up asking questions, you answer like your father would. You think as you are expected to think. (If anyone wants to argue me on that, please send me a direct email. I’d be more than happy to help you acknowledge and lift the veil.) Thankfully, my father was diplomatic enough to know that I was developing my own mind and that we weren’t always going to see eye to eye on things. He never argued with my inquisitions, answering with only, “you’re allowed to think and feel the way you want, Tiffer. Think and feel, just always be respectful.” Even he — honestly one of the most hard-headed, devout people I ever knew — understood that what it boils down to is respect. Respect for your own truth. Respect for others. Respect for the mind and the body and all that is in between.
In fact, in this very moment, I’d like to remind you: before we were old enough to have political opinion, religious affiliation, or the ability to recognize sexual prefernce, we had only humanity to guide us, what we felt for others humans as a human — before we understood the concept of God or god or nature or evolution or whatever conviction you’ve currently come to; before we decided that we “are” and need all of this nomenclature, we were human.
This brings me to more heated points of discussion, ideas of disappointment and rage, less eloquently organized, but still lingering in my mind and in the hearts of so many that I know:
Birth control is not an “abortion inducing drug.” I laughed out loud when I read that headline and just knew my eyes were going to get stuck in my head. Some will say that this is absolute, scientific truth, and I just want to shake them. Women are stereotyped as hormonal and emotional and for some, birth control corrects or aids in hormonal imbalance. For others, it is a way to properly family plan (what with the state of the economy and all.) But apparently, this isn’t okay either. More to come on this later, but doesn’t that spin your wheels? Obviously this has more to do with religion than it does politics, but those two things too often collide and create an uninformed mess.
In further regard of the body:
It is not okay for you to assume that you can touch someone. That you can take it further than asking for a hug or kiss or more. An assumption of consent STILL. ISN’T. CONSENT.
These assumptions will divide us. Fear will sever us.
It is not okay to ask a human for proof that they were raped. Or sexually assaulted. Or who they voted for. (Remember that time when it was considered impolite to ask that question?) Days later, years later, whatever, whenever, IT IS NOT OKAY.
In direct answer to all of the debauchery and debate that was Dr. Blasey Ford’s case: I cannot for a moment fathom making up a story of this nature, and I have a twisted, fictional mind. I know men and women alike that have been sexually assaulted. By men and by women. THIS ISSUE TOUCHES EVERYONE. It has either happened to you, a friend, a family member….or all of the above. I hear the statistic “one in three women” and I cringe. Will it happen to me again? If so, when? I have never been raped, but as I sit in reflection on this kind of physical heaviness, the amount of times I was touched inappropriately without being asked and without saying anything is too many. Maybe it has happened multiple times in my life and I just can’t bear to identify with how blurry those lines actually are yet. Maybe the threshold of Louisiana’s statute of limitations will pass before I ever tap back in to that darkness. And then what? You can’t place a time frame on trauma.
I think about all the children that have been forced in to sex trafficking and I wonder, if they survive, and one day decide to come forward about their abusers, will they be treated the same way? The thought sends shivers down my spine.
I’ll tell you a recent, brief story about a friend of mine:
She was at a crowded bar with her friends when they encountered a guy. He seemed like any other drunk, bar-crawling dude – in it for the late night. The girls seemed fairly uninterested, causing the guy to make some snide remarks about the attractiveness of my friend’s friends before walking away and over to another girl for another try. The group decided to leave, but my friend stayed behind to speak to the girl this man was now standing near. She informed the woman of how he spoke to her friends and this woman rolled her eyes and began to walk away. This man, this coward piece of human GRABBED MY FRIEND BY THE THROAT.
In the middle of the bar.
And not the first person said a thing to her.
She told me that other women made eye contact with her and turned away, and that when other men saw it, they stared, saying nothing. Eventually she got the bartender’s attention and said that the response was cavalier at best. Desensitized may have been an understatement in earlier thoughts.
My friend has been sexually assaulted, beyond this incident, in five other situations. Her friends have similar experiences, and their friends too; the count just continues to grow on paper right before my eyes. When I shared the article on Facebook, I received a handful of messages thanking me for standing up for those with no voice.
That’s what this is I guess, unifying the voices I’ve heard and speaking out with them. I can’t help but feel removed from the burden of proof when I know so confidently that no person, man or woman, can fabricate those descriptors and appear on national television, recounting them.
To those of you asking for proof from Dr. Ford (and other people like her): would you want someone to insist on concrete proof of your rape? Would your heart not be broken that even in the most vulnerable places of confession, you were ultimately not believed? Or even worse, believed to be lying?
For a brief moment, I’ll play devil’s advocate and ask the question: what if Dr. Ford did lie? Well my answer to that is martyrdom, of the pleading kind. It doesn’t make how she went about it correct but it does deliberately call your attention the nationally rampant epidemic that is sexual assault and abuse. If she lied, it was a call to action to our country to recognize this heartless kind of behavior – the entitlement others feel towards the body that is not theirs and the inhumane way we handle the inter-workings of our aesthetics.
Perhaps one day, when I am less disenchanted with humanity I’ll be able to write a thank-you letter for the way she turned it around. But for now, I direct and send the burden out to each and every person that’s reading this. It is our duty, though it may not be written in a book or on stone anywhere, to greet each other with softness, not tolerance; with love and kindness, not skepticism. Until we learn how to do this, we’re going to stay right where we are. I do my best to find positive conclusion in these posts, but today, it is a call to action: love one another, live in harmony.