Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Differences that Are Sure to Come

He couldn’t stand Cesar Chavez. Every time he was in the newspaper or on TV news, rallying Mexican immigrant farm workers to unite, my dad would curse under his breath. He called Chavez a troublemaker.

I didn’t get it at first, especially in the late 1970’s. I had just turned 12 when my mother married my second step-dad, the man I would always celebrate as my dad from that point on. But I didn’t quite get why my dad felt the way he felt, at least early on. I didn’t know a lot about the world at that age, and why adults did the things they did, why the felt the things they felt. With the unfortunate exception of experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse prior to that.

My dad had been a police officer and detective for 32 years when he retired in 1994. He was a tough, bourbon drinking, cigarette smoking (which he quit in 1984), very personable and pleasant matter-of-fact pragmatic cop who always lived in the conservative right, but was tethered to centrist sensibilities, like a padlocked box of assault rifles bound tightly atop a slow-moving station wagon.

We grew up in the Central Valley of California, the one that still “feeds the world.” The one that mostly embraces conservative Christian ideals. The one that battles over building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The one battles over whether or not we’re in a drought. The one that wants to own guns of any size and caliber because the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution says we can. The one that still needs immigrant Mexican farm workers to work the fields because no one else will do that back-breaking work.

Throughout high school and college as I began to understand my world better, I would challenge my dad and my mom, who also shared much of his world view and prejudices. My parents wanted order in the world, so any person who disrupted order, the status quo, no matter the reasons why, were nut jobs, troublemakers and criminals. It especially didn’t help if they were non-whites and not Christian, but even then, my parents were equal-opportunity and orderly conservative Christians (which they became more of over time together). Any social upheaval was one upheaval too many, no matter who the rabble rouser was. My dad simply didn’t like bad guys or girls, those who broke the law. He was a cop for goodness sake.

But I always took them to task and took the alternative perspective on various issues, my more liberal education channeling a different social perspective on the world than they were familiar with. I was also more liberal than my sister, who eventually became a cop herself, something my dad fought, then supported fully. He knew how tough it was going to be on her as a woman. And it was. Plus, he had three daughters from a previous marriage, our step-sisters, and I’ve always believed that this is what birthed his moderate heart.

What my family didn’t realize throughout my formative years, at least consciously, was that they helped me find my voice. My value. My world view. My ability to listen, to comprehend, to analyze and to make somewhat informed decisions, both good and bad. They helped shaped the inquisitive mind I have today. We were like TV’s The Goldbergs, except we were a Christian cop family growing up the Central Valley of California.

My parents took the time to listen to us, were patient with us, although my dad wasn’t shy about calling foul when I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. I was able to do the same with him. Any social more, politics, economics, race, gender, sexual orientation, AIDS, the environment, terrorism, crime, gun control – you name it – we could talk about almost anything and agree or agree to disagree. It didn’t mean we were always civil, or without some name calling, but we worked through it nonetheless. And yes, there were some big bumps in our relationship road that took time to fix, but fix them we did.

My parents were loving people and good Christians in the end who did care about those victimized and those less fortunate than most. But they had their prejudices, that’s for sure. (Don’t we all?) I don’t recall my dad ever coming to terms with Chavez’s important and highly disruptive social and economic impact. Until the end of his life, he still didn’t like liberal “troublemakers” no matter what. That would never change. I would never agree with this take either, and that was okay with him.

My parents cared enough to let us think for ourselves. To encourage us think for ourselves even when that was at odds with their beliefs. To encourage discourse and accept the differences. This is why with a heavy heart I’m so disappointed with too many of my peers I grew up with who are parents today, some of whom are old friends or professional acquaintances I’ve met over the years.

Those who are blatantly spewing hatred on all sides of the political and social divide. Those who without pause go for the jugular and cut it wide open. Those who get nasty personal without regard for the other person’s values or viewpoint, who even go as far as threatening and doing bodily harm to one another. Those who don’t do any of this anonymously either, who just fill up their Facebook feeds and Twitter streams with uninformed idiocy and hatred and who just don’t want to hear an alternative perspective no matter what. No room for productive discourse or compromise.

We’re either all libtards or facists. And all the while their children and ours absorb it all. That's what perpetuates a country and a world divided. That's why solutions escape us.

Sure I can use my Kidpower throw-away and walk-away powers, and I do. And thanks to the Mama, who is amazing, we’re instilling the same in our girls, who have yet to experience the hateful rhetoric poisoning the wells of collective wisdom around the world.

We will still work hard to help our children find their voices, their values and their world views, while accepting the differences that are sure to come. We can only hope that other parents will continue to do the same.

Miss you Mom and Pop. Everyday should be Mother's and Father's Day for those who make a positive difference in this spiteful and complicated world, regardless of the difference or divide.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

No One’s Ever Asking for Rape

There they were, three little words: And more rapes.

These three words were in response to someone sharing a seemingly positive article about President Obama addressing Air Force graduates that female leaders will help make a stronger U.S. military.

It’s a post that seemed to be relevant for the professional networking site known as LinkedIn – leadership, education, business, etc. But these three little words were the first comment on this post: And more rapes.

I couldn’t get the post and comment out of my head after that, although I never went back to it, nor did I click on the post link the first time I saw it. However, I did take a screen shot of it and wondered what the context of those three words was. I may want to reference it at some point. Sadly, the reference came sooner than I thought.

Was he suggesting that more women leadership in the military would prompt more rapes in lieu of making for a stronger military? Probably. I feel that’s the only read on why he commented that way. Forget about what his politics are. Forget about whether or not he’s was being comedic (or thought he was). Forget about whether or not he was an asshole, which he probably was.

The tired answer of “this is the way it is in the military” or any other modern day male-dominated industry and/or society, which most if not all still are – is simply pathetically tired. That women who put themselves in certain situations are “asking for it” – that it shouldn’t be a surprise that they will be raped.

The reality is that every two minutes in the U.S. someone is sexually assaulted. I’ve been a victim myself. In fact, a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. And that's only what's reported. Statistically speaking, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

Brighter minds than mine have discussed all this for many years, but I need to speak up (yet again) because of one simple truth: I have a wife and two daughters. Three human beings that reinforce in me every day how precious life is and how important it is to love and respect each other.

I also had a mother, a sister and other strong female role models in my formative years to thank for the respect I have not only for women, but for other men as well. Respect, empathy and restraint. At least for those who share in kind. (God knows the men early in my childhood were no help whatsoever.)

Nobody’s asking for it. No matter what gender, how they dress, how they speak, how they act, their beliefs, their sexual orientation – even if they first say yes to intimacy and then change their minds. Nobody’s asking to be raped. No one. When it’s not consensual, when another person forces themselves sexually on another via intercourse, it’s rape and it’s a violent crime. It’s nothing else but that. It will never be anything else but that.

Except that there are countries, like in Brazil and elsewhere around the world, where a culture of rape thrives. Where a 16-year-old girl has reportedly been raped by at least 30 men in Rio de Janeiro. Where “images of the alleged attack on social media ‘racked up more than 550 likes and a deluge of replies with smiley faces and thumbs-up,’ The Globe and Mail reports. Where ‘Commenters using vulgar language celebrated the damage apparently inflicted on the girl's genitalia and said she had no doubt 'been asking for it.'"

Again, nobody’s asking for it. And yet, even in America, we still blame the victims a lot of the time. That for example, if they hadn’t been at that party drinking and wearing sexy clothing, then they never would’ve been raped. Like the Stanford student Brock Turner convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, but only sentence to six months in county jail and three months’ probation because, according to the judge, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”

And when the father, understandably defending his son, states before the sentence was handed down, “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.”

Sure, it’s his son. But I don’t care that his father thinks it’s a steep price to pay. I really don’t. This isn’t fucking Con Air where the tattooed rapist telegraphs his every violent tendency towards women. This isn’t about stereotypical he-man woman haters.

No, this is about a young man who didn’t stop himself from raping when the girl lay unconscious behind a dumpster. Where he penetrated her with “a foreign object.” Where according to a statement the victim made she wanted “to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. ... My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

He was the only cause. Not her. He went too far. Nobody’s asking for it. It wasn’t her fault. I remember one night early on dating my now wife, really drunk, both of us stumbling up the stairs to my apartment, making out and groping each other, and never in my most primal drunken delirium could I have forced myself on her, conscious or not.

So Scott Herhold of the San Jose Mercury News, I’m not confused “about the severity of this case for him.” I sadly think you are. A culture of campus drinking (and for those of us who went to college know of that culture everywhere) makes no never mind when it comes to rape. Because the 20 minutes of Brock Turner’s rape really comes down to the seconds where he could’ve and should’ve stopped himself. Where he could’ve taken her home, no matter how inebriated, and then gone home himself and slept it off. However, like my dad always used to say (who was in law enforcement for over 32 years), “Should’ves and could’ves only count in horseshoes and hand grenades; they don’t mean shit.”

I have a wife and two daughters. Or, I could have a husband and two sons. It doesn’t matter when it comes to rape and sexual abuse. Either way I will defend their worth unconditionally, as they would defend mine.

I’m outraged. You should be as well. We must all give voice to victims of sexual abuse and rape. We must stop blaming the victims and start making the rapists and abusers accountable. We must be the defenders of those precious seconds prior to a life destroyed, to instill self-aware prevention in our children. We must support organizations like Kidpower, a global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, that provide positive prevention tips to help us focus on what to “DO” to handle different types of personal safety problems.

We must ultimately and definitively educate society here and abroad that no one’s ever asking for rape or sexual abuse. We're just asking for prevention and justice.