The best we can be……

I know someone who was assaulted a couple of years ago. The police questioned her until they found out she had a bipolar diagnosis. They decided not to charge the guy. When she asked why they basically said “… Your word against his and the DA thinks the jury will find you too bipolar to be believed….”

I remember the day I told my therapist that I wished Joe Paterno would die.   And I remember telling her I was glad when he did.

The scandal at Penn State had broken and the questions were who knew, who should have known and how so many people could have gotten so badly hurt for so long and no one know.

It reopened old wounds, old horrors for me. Things I thought long ago dead…. 50 years ago I had been abused by an authority figure, a pediatrician, and I knew what it meant for people not to look. I remembered what it felt like to be so scared to tell and not knowing how to or how to get it to stop. And I remember wondering why nobody knew what to me was so obvious and so out front. I remember that day the horror of closing my eyes and knowing I could see his face in front of me. It was it no time had passed. And I felt so 14 again.

Recently after a couple of posts on this blog I have heard from many women who had been hurt. It started with one friend who told me she was afraid for her safety. She had gotten involved with a man who in the eyes of many was a leader in this movement. It became violent and police were involved. She asked me to be careful not to identify her. Even months later she was still afraid.

She told me her friends told her they wished she had said something before she became involved. The guy was a predator they said. Everybody knew it. She didn’t.

I started hearing about women who found had quit jobs because their jobs are no longer safe. I started hearing what everyone knew and I started discovering what no one was saying.

For a long time I have been concerned with the open hostility that people in this movement seemed to show each other. Verbal abuse seemed common to me. Others have told that was not so that “it was just the way it was…” It seemed to me something like a church with the denominations in almost a perpetual state of feud. But it was even more than that. It was people trying to be more recognized, people protecting their status and trying to enlarge their territory, protecting their ambition. Sometimes it was people who seemed like they felt best when they made others feel bad.

But this is even more than that. There are so many open secrets and…. And I am sorry…. so much hypocrisy.

A couple of people told me I was wrong. We just aren’t any different than the wider culture….The truth of the wider culture was the truth of the movement and it was a bigger problem than I realized and it was more than us doing better.

I don’t know answers but I think we cannot fight the verdict of the wider culture on one hand and embrace it with the other.

If our life is about finding better life how can we not seek to be the best we can be? Can we be content with the injury of others because of their gender, their disabilities, their differences from us, their lack of power and then criticize the wider culture for the same thing as regards their treatment of us? If we are not safe with each other how can we advocate with others for our safety and welfare?

I think perhaps our message is at least in part about how people with more power treat those with less power. If we argue for justice must we not at least strive to be just? Can we ask for things from others that we only excuse or rationalize when we refuse to give them to others?

The injury of women by men is wrong. Simply it is wrong. In a movement of human rights it is more than wrong. It is lie and hypocrisy. Our message is more than our words and our speeches and our positions. In a real sense we are the message. We are the message. Martin Luther King understood that. Every social movement that has mattered has known that. “We are people too and this is wrong…..” Is it a whole lot more complicated than that???

There is a question about the best we can be. Can I matter and you matter at the same time? I believe so.

I hope I can be less blind than I have been. I hope I can be less silent than I have been been.

And I pray the same for each of you.


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