An Open Letter

Dear Duggar daughters –

I am not here to chide you, or your family. I am not here to pass judgement on what anyone should or shouldn’t have done in regards to what your brother did.

I am here to tell you that I’m sorry. For everything.

I’m sorry he touched you, in the manner he did, without your permission. Regardless of how you dismiss or rationalize it, he should have never invaded your body like that.

I’m sorry that the adults in your life failed you. They failed to protect you, and they failed to right the wrong, after you were violated.

I’m sorry that it happened to you. I’m sorry you had to feel the confusion and shame afterwards. And I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with all your feelings, while trying to put up a united front on TV cameras.

I am truly, truly sorry.

I say all this, as someone who’s been there, minus the TV cameras. Someone who was supposed to love and protect me as a parent, did not. And convinced me it was my fault. This person violated me as well, many times, while I was awake, and aware, and scarred me to this day. He gave me nightmares until my adult years. Because of his actions, I was unable to trust any adult male in my life for a very long time. I thought all men were going to try and treat me as a sexual object as well, even my male teachers.

Like you, I told one day. I’m not sure of the reaction your parents gave you, but the reaction I was given by my adults was not positive. I was called a “lying  little bitch” by a member of his family, who again, said they loved me. This was quite traumatic for 12 year old me. However, instead of my perpetrator being shipped away, I was sent to stay with a family friend for the summer. I went home just before school started.
And like you, it started again.
I told again, but this time the police were involved. But even they questioned me, and pointed out that I was going to “ruin his life”.

Never mind that he had already almost ruined mine.

I was 30 before I started to feel better about myself. I do hope that the therapy your family says they gave you will allow you to have a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex before I was able to.

I’m rambling, I know. You’re telling yourself that nothing bad happened. It’s not like he raped you, or you were even aware of it. I’m sorry you’ve rationalized things to that point. There are no degrees of this. He violated your space, your body, and your trust.

So in closing, as the story dies from the media,  I just want to say that I hope things are better for you. I hope you’re not harboring any negative feelings about yourself, or what you could have done to stop it. I hope that you don’t occasionally still cower from the men in your life, (husbands/partners included) despite how much you love them. Above all else, you deserve to have a happy, whole life, away from the fear to sleep these feelings cause.

Yours ever sincerely,
Samantha Regina Imperiatrix

What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

Assange and Abortion

My high school geometry teacher once told me (paraphrase) “it’s okay to appreciate someone as an artist but not like their personal and political beliefs, etc.”

This kickass advice has helped me while navigating college, grad school, work, and most every aspect of life.  I like some things Obama has done; I disapprove of many other things he’s done while president. Hell, I vaguely remember approving of something G.W. Bush did while in office.  No one very few people are that simple and consistent. I’m the first to admit I’m not.

But enough about vague nuances. Let’s now apply this to a very, oh, divisive person.

Julian Assange.

I have encountered people who believe he’s a hero, with no flaws. In the eyes of some, Assange can do no wrong.
I have also encountered people who think he’s a traitor, he’s terrible, etc.

My own view is that Wikileaks was good. I applaud that.

And . . .  that may be all I applaud or approve of regarding Assange’s life and work.

He currently lives in an embassy, avoiding arrest for more than one rape allegation. I understand why someone would hide from facing trial, even if they aren’t guilty, but at the same time, I do find this quite cowardly.

I find it infuriating that Bradley Manning is serving time and Assange isn’t (okay, living in an embassy for days-months-years can’t be fun); I admit to wondering if Assange took advantage of Pfc. Manning’s low self esteem/mental state. Yes, I realize that it’s not that simple, but at the end of the day . . . Assange isn’t in prison, suffering inhumane solitary confinement.  Whistleblower Pfc B. Manning has been sentencedis in prison, serving up to 35 years. Laila Lalami observes: “That’s 35 years more than the people who started the Iraq War.” Tim Ireland observes it’s “more than 3 times the maximum sentence faced by anyone involved in Abu Ghraib torture.”

I hadn’t thought of any of Assange for a while, and then I stumbled upon this article: “Julian Assange calls Rand Paul the ‘only hope’ for US politics.”  Please do take the time to read it.

Assange also praised Paul and former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul for their principled positions on the libertarianism, non-violence, drone warfare, extrajudicial killings and abortion.

What? I reread the line several times.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul are against abortion.  I can disagree with the Paul’s (and the majority of the GOP) on this (and other) issue(s)…but I fail to see how this anti-abortion stance could ever be construed as libertarian. Libertarians believe that government should be kept at a minimum and that government shouldn’t interfere with personal life (and liberty, and freedom.)

Restricting or outlawing abortion does just that, however; it interferes with personal life, liberty, and freedom in a cruel and yes, inhumane, torturous way. The criminalization of abortion is the government telling a set of the population what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s the government stepping into a doctor’s office and interfering with what may be the best decision for the individual. The criminalization of abortion takes freedom away from a professional (so much for the free market, Doc) and from the person pregnant.

“We trust you to educate children without any assistance. But we don’t trust you to decide whether you want to have a child.”

That, my friends, is not true libertarianism. I call it “GOP-libertarianism.”

So thanks for Wikileaks.

That’s really the only positive thing I can say about you, Mr. Assange.

Southern Style: The Belle

Welcome back to the south, friends, where our chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.  Y’all pull up a rocker and grab a glass of tea.  Why don’t we chat a spell about Southern Belles?belle1

Tell me, do you think of Scarlett O’Hara?  A delicate young lady with a feminine southern drawl?  Bless your little heart,  we probably all do. We imagine hoop skirts, wide-rimmed hats, and parasol umbrellas.

More than that, we envision a flirtatious, yet chaste, beauty, who has been taught that hospitality can win the day – and the man.  Even though, the man she will always love best is Daddy. (wink)  Mama has taught her that a wide front porch is the ideal setting for entertaining guests, and manners – ladies never sweat or cuss, thank you very much! – are of utmost importance.

As time passed, things changed.  Fiddle-dee-dee!!  Hoop skirts were replaced with feminine skirts.  Wide hats replaced with regular salon visits.  Women began to venture outside their homes to work.  In short, Scarlett O’Hara was replaced by Julia Sugarbaker and friends.

These changes, or advancements, came about by both force and choice.  Many women had to seek employment in order to care for their families.    Many more chose to seek a life outside of the traditional roles laid before them.

Gone with the wind.. are the days where a smart girl lets a man take credit for doing exactly what she wants him to do.

Todays Belle prefers to take credit for doing exactly what she wants to do.  Todays Belle is often the sole provider for her family.  She is educated.  She is industrious.  She is determined and persistent.  She knows her own mind.  And she is speaking it.  Loudly and clearly.

Let’s meet a few, shall we?

belle2If you haven’t already, meet Wendy Davis.  Mrs. Davis is a Harvard educated lawyer and Democrat from Forth Worth, Texas.

I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state.

With those opening words, she solidified her place on the national stage.  She became a hero for women when she donned her pink tennis shoes and staged an 11- hour filibuster against an abortion bill she labeled “draconian”.  The bill would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks and closed all but five abortion clinics in the state.

Hats off to this Belle for showing them what a filibuster really is…No food, drink, sitting, leaning, or breaks of any kind.  Yes, friends, an honest to God filibuster!  We have become accustomed to the “threat” of filibuster by our do-nothing Congress.  Because a do-nothing Congress can’t be expected to actually do anything, right?  And while her friends from across the aisle think she owes them something, the rest of us think she has a bright future ahead of her.

Wendy Davis isn’t the only Belle of the ball.  I’m not sure how many of you know of Alison Grimes.  This attorney and Democrat currently holds belle3the position of Secretary of State of Kentucky.  She is also seeking to replace Mitch McConnell in the United States Senate.  With her sweet smile and gentle voice, she has laid down the gauntlet:

Now this part’s for you Senator. Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand.  Well I’m right here in Kentucky, Senator, where I’ll be holding you accountable for voting to double Medicare premiums on Kentucky seniors, including our retired coal miners, for being against requiring the Department of Defense to buy equipment that’s made in America first, for failing to stand up for women when you voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for opposing raising the minimum wage over and over again while you became a multimillionaire in public office.

Well, I do declare…these ladies aren’t sitting on their porches gossiping about the town cad, are they?  A younger generation of southern women are eager to help change the tone in government and further our nation’s progress.  Take a peek at this:

belle5 belle6

Southern Belles are raising hell…

along with millions of other women, all over the country.  The largest and most reliable voting block in the country has something to say.

Are you listening?

Kirsten Gillibrand is tackling sexual assault in the military.   Elizabeth Warren is sick of banks being catered to, while students pay the price.  Not one to abandon veterans, is Tammy Duckworth.  Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, doesn’t want climate change deniers in her department.

It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.  – Hillary Clinton

Women, the Belles included, are no longer content to be seen as pretty shells with a uterus.  So, you should be listening.

Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

martin 5

THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

Southern Style: Tar Heel Turnaround

Friends, it has been a while since our last stop on the Southern Express.  And, honey-chile, this one will be a real treat.  One you surely don’t want to miss.  So, go on, grab your sweet tea, immerse yourself in insect repellant, and…

NC2

North Carolina.  Majestic mountains.  Beautiful beaches.

One of the more progressive southern states prior to the..

Tar Heel Turnaround?

The North Carolina that we are seeing today is at odds with the trajectory the state has been on in recent years.  The southern states may seem as though they are vehemently opposed to ideals like change and progress.  In my view, North Carolina has always been different.

A little history….

Even during our nation’s ugliest time, the Civil War, this state was a bit progressive.  “The second to last (technically the last) state to secede from the Union” did so reluctantly in 1861, and wasn’t as sold on slavery as the rest of the south.  They – along with Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas – initially chose to remain with the Union, after Lincoln was elected.  Confederate forces in South Carolina (Boy-oh-boy, our stop there will be fun!) fired on the Union, forcing the hold-out states to fight for the federal government or their neighbors.

The above facts, in no way, justify the actions taken statewide during Reconstruction.  The state did, however, make great strides once it became clear that they couldn’t put skeletons back in the closet.

The eat-ins and sit-ins led to incremental integration.  Education became a priority, and was heavily invested in.  Tobacco was replaced with textiles, then technology.

There was…progress.

North Carolina attempted to rise above the title of “confederate sympathizer”.  Instead, it focused on its memories of the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.  Those majestic mountains and beautiful beaches were boons for tourism.  I, myself, thoroughly enjoy time spent at Atlantic Beach each year.

Many have grooved to Thelonious Monk, Pink Floyd, and Roberta Flack. We were touched that James Taylor had Carolina in his mind.  The Andy Griffith show was mandatory viewing in many households.  And everybody wished they could jump like Mike!

North Carolina gave us Duke University, a pioneer in the medical field.  It gave us Shaw University, the first HBC,  as well as Salem College, the first school for young women.  The state’s Research Triangle brought in major industries – such as IBM, GlaxoKlineSmith, and LabCorp – providing jobs and careers for residents.

moral monday

 What a difference a (voting) day makes!

This is not progressive.

North Carolina’s Republicans took simultaneous control of the legislature and governor’s mansion in January for the first time in more than a century. The current session has been marked by sweeping conservative measures in what has long been counted as among the South’s most progressive states.

Arrests?  Of nearly 675 people since these peaceful protests began?  Because they do not approve of your policies, and are exercising their right to protest, they are “morons” who deserve to be arrested?  To further marginalize them, they are called “outsiders”.  Never mind the fact that arrest records show that nearly all are from within the state and the fact that slashing unemployment benefits for over 100,000 residents and decreasing benefits for the rest might be seen as irresponsible.

We can’t call this progressive either.

As legislators enter the final phase of closed-door state budget negotiations, young children could wind up being the biggest losers.

Children with special needs will lose much-needed services, like speech and developmental therapy.  Ten thousand Pre-K slots will be lost over a two-year period.  Prenatal care will be unaffordable for many.  The Child Fatality Task Force will be eliminated, even though child death rate has dropped 46%.  Healthier, more well-adjusted children is a smart investment that residents support.

Need more?

Repealing the Racial Injustice Act?  Not progress.  Because racial discrimination has never been the best option for a state, or the nation.

Quietly imposing “the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax system in more than a decade.”  … not progressive.  Decisions that impact a state should be discussed, no, especially when you’re favoring one segment of the population at the expense of another.  FTA:  Supported by Gov. Pat McCrory, the bill adds a sales tax to numerous exempt services, such as car repairs and appliance installations, to pay for moderate cuts in personal and corporate income taxes. 

The necessity for stealth doesn’t usually indicate progress.  I know we women can be freedom riders, but seriously?  One of the most basic human rights is full and complete dominion over one’s body.  Why not just ban women and be done with it?

Does anyone, especially college students, find this progressive?  I think not.  Because didn’t we already determine this was not the way forward?

In retrospect, perhaps we ALL should have been worried when this hit the news.  Because Church of North Carolina meet the Constitution, already!

So, yeah, I would say the Tar Heels got turned around.  Wouldn’t you?

What to do..what to do..

mm protest

THIS!!!

Protest.  And protest some more.  Transform “Moral Mondays” into “We, the people Week”.. “Month of Marches”.. straight to the voting booth!

Because this is not about conservative and liberal.  It is about right and wrong.

Once you were a progressive state.  You can be again.

Conduct Unbecoming of Commanders

In my last blog post (The Day after Memorial Day), I spoke of the best way to honor those who have fallen, in the line of duty.  The most fitting tribute for the dead is support for the living.  Employment, or lack thereof, was the primary focus of the piece.  I encourage any who have not read it, to do so.  Our brave men and women need our support in finding meaningful work, and I further encourage you all to take an active role, in whatever way you can.

Our men and women are experiencing a different sort of trauma of late.  Thus, we have been asking ourselves whether the military has a sexual assault problem.  I dare say we do.  An estimated 26,000 service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012.  That is an increase of 7,000 from the previous year.  “Unwanted sexual contact” includes rape, attempted rape, and unwanted sexual touching.  Fewer than half of the reported cases involved alcohol.

One might assume that this is a female problem.  One would be dead wrong.  According to the Pentagon’s most recent annual report:  12,100 women and 13,900 men suffered some form of sexual assault.  There are approximately 1.2 million men and 200,000 women serving in our military.  This means that while female victims bear the greater proportion of assaults, this is not a gender specific issue.  The plight of male victims is greatly overlooked.

This news angered many of us.  Congressional Hearings followed.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the Armed Services Committee.  A particularly contentious debate ensued over the idea of removing prosecution from the chain of command.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand feels that this action would make it easier for victims to report an assault.  Senator McCaskill explained the necessity of differentiating between a human resource problem and criminal activity.

But a congressional hearing wouldn’t be a congressional hearing without a dash of ignorance.

The young folks coming in to each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23.  Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.  So we’ve got to be very careful how we address it on our side.  – Sen. Saxby Chambliss

Gee whiz???  What is this, high school?  Yes, we do need to be very careful how we address it.  Sexual assault is not equivalent to teenagers out behind the bleachers making out.  Young adult men, all over the globe, experience hormone increases.  They don’t become rapists.

Mr. Chairman, I’d just add a letter, a document here that was given to me from Morality in the Media. Pat Truman used to be in the Department of Justice. I knew him when he was there. He points out that, a picture here of a newsstand and an Air Force base exchange with, you know, sexually explicit magazines being sold. So, we live in a culture that’s awash in sexual activity. If it’s not sold on base, it’s right off base. There are videos and so forth that can be obtained, and it creates some problems, I think.  – Sen. Jeff Sessions

Sexually explicit magazines???  That is obviously the reason for sexual assaults.  Well…as long as you overlook the well-documented fact that rape is not about sexual gratification.  Rapists seek power and control over their victims.

Sadly, traumatized service members are victimized twice.  Once by the perpetrator, and again, by their chain of command.  A commander is responsible for the discipline and readiness of his or her troops.  Commanders have the option to stop an investigation, reduce a sentence, or even set aside a conviction.  Abuse goes unreported because no commander wants to be held accountable for a troop accused of rape.  It could affect his ability to be promoted!

Consider the case involving Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who overturned a court-martial conviction of an officer for sexual assault.

Then, there is the case of Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin.  He tossed the conviction of a star fighter pilot based on information considered inadmissible by the court.

Sailor, Brian Lewis; Marine, Stacey Thompson; and specialist, BriGette McCoy are among the abused.  Unfortunately, they must rely on commanders like Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, who is accused of sexual assault, himself.  His actions are defended by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, who believes “hook up” culture is to blame.

The stories of these victims are heart wrenching and angering.  The behavior of their commanders is intolerable and unacceptable.  While senior members of all five branches claim a commitment to addressing this issue, they are strongly opposed to stripping commanders of their power.

They [commanders] are responsible for setting command climate.  – Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, USMC Commandant’s staff judge advocate

You want us to believe that leadership should be held accountable, and that a commander’s authority shouldn’t be restricted?

Then, do your damned job, gentlemen.  Your conduct, up to this point, has been unbecoming.