Opening My Eyes Inside

I’m still processing, still reeling.

All of those women, and a few men, coming forward to say they too had been touched by the foul hand of sexual harassment and assault. Each of their lives tainted with no regard for their autonomy or bodies.

My wife has suffered the horrors of sexual assault multiple times through her life. Not just harassment, which she’s had on a near daily basis, but full on assault and abuse. I’m certain she’s not the first woman in my life who’s endured such indignities, but she is the first one to talk openly and candidly about them to me. It sickens me every time the specter of those living ghouls resurface, ripping open wounds we so badly wished had permanently healed. Alas, gashes of the psyche rarely remain in slumber, they prefer to make their presence known just when they’ve been forgotten.

Perhaps that’s the most damning thing about the atrocities women face: the reliving of their ordeals, over and over. The fear and pain all can come flooding back in the merest of moments. For many, it is a permanent state of mind – the torture of knowing that when, not if, a man forces his desires upon them that society willfully will look the other way. Worse, it actively seeks out ways to blame them rather than the fiends that prey upon them. It is little wonder why so many women remain silent preferring a silent purgatory to a public one.

That’s the easy part of my processing. I am more fully aware of the overwhelming prevalence of the depraved notions of so many men. My eyes, previously shuttered because I wanted to believe in the goodness of men, have been opened. I can see its insidiousness more plainly, so I can step in and step up to combat it.

The hard part of my processing is the self-evaluation. The review of all my interactions with women, the dissection of my actions and words. While I’ve never raped anyone, I’m certain I’ve at the very least been coercive and persistent – traits I had inherited from the social norms and queues of my youth. I’ve cajoled, insisted, persisted. Even when it was clear, by actions or words, that my advances were unwelcome, I kept inveigling myself, believing as I had been taught that if she would just see what a great guy I am that she would at last be wooed.

As bad as that is, it is not the only way I’ve been ignorant. I’ve witnessed men clearly following women walking and said nothing. I’ve heard innuendo said in a meeting countless times. Behind closed doors, I’ve heard gross declarations of what men would “do” to various women they see, fully expecting zero pushback.

I was complicit in my silence. By not standing up for my fellow human beings, I allowed this festering boil to remain and allowed women’s fears to be realized. Through my inaction, misogyny kept its stronghold, and women were forced to accept their mistreatment and groping against their will and wishes. They were made to feel less than, inferior, powerless, and at fault. And I let it happen.

I admit my personality veers towards the non-combative. No longer can I lean upon that as a reason for cowardice. This is far bigger than me or my trepidations; this is about empathy and standing up for people when they may not have been able to fend of the slathering of a man. It’s not because I have a wife and daughters; it’s because women need our support. They need us to be their allies, someone who believes them when they sound the alarm and do not search for ways to push the blame onto them. They need advocacy, not doubt. I intend on being there for anyone who needs a hand and a voice.

I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done and what I’ve not done. I will do better from here on out. I will teach our sons to be better than I have been, to help them become advocates as well.

I see you all. I stand with you. I cannot change my past, but I can help shape the future, not only through my actions, but through my children.

We have work to do, men. Let’s get to it.

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Change is coming. It always does.

Progressiveness is on the right side of history. Our country has shown time and time again that we move forward, not backwards. The history of this country has been built from our birth on progressive and liberal principles, step by step, striving to improve. Staring with our constitution, which had radical and liberal ideals such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which were unheard of concepts in the British Empire.

While the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were quite literally revolutionary, they were far from perfect. Slavery was condoned and women were not the equals of men and were not allowed to vote, among other problematic things. It took far too long, but within 100 years we abolished slavery. This did not mean that there was instant equality for people of color (there still is not complete equality), but it was a very big step in the right direction. Amazingly and sadly, nearly another century passed before all laws against black people from voting were eradicated. Slow progress…but progress nonetheless.

Point is, progressivism is what drives this country and what makes us a world leader. In the past progress was slow and laborious. The speed in which we share and consume information today requires change to move swiftly and leaves far fewer obstacles to overcome.

A prime example of the difference in how quickly massive social change can occur is Women’s right to vote versus same sex marriage rights. In 1920, women were finally given the right to vote in political elections. Sixty-four years later, Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential candidate. Contrast that with gay marriage rights: Massachusetts was the first state in the US to legalize same sex marriage, and today 32 states now have passed laws given lesbian and gay couples the right to marry. That’s a span of 16 years, and in the last two years alone 16 of those states have made it legal. Progress is no longer driven by a horse and buggy; change now moves drives a Ferrari.

Ultimately, the US has always pushed ahead. Not content to stay put, but to be an example to the rest of the world of how to innovate and how to treat it’s citizens. We embrace that progress is not settling for what used to work; it is all about making things better. To improve humanity.

Which brings me to the present. We now have a party, the Republicans, that control the House and the Senate. According to the policies they want to enact and enforce, they seemingly want our country to stay in the 1950’s, their vision of our golden era. Never mind in that time period, black people had to drink out of separate water fountains and where it was societally expected that women should subjugate themselves to the men in their lives. The problem with this mindset is that America proceeds and does not stay put. We push and push and push forward.

Thing is, I get why Republicans as a whole think this way. Change is a scary thing to many people. It is the great unknown, the future is. It is safe to stay the same, to live in a past that seems a lot better than it actually was. Change is coming and always will. Just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was against the law. Doesn’t that seem rather close-minded now? Looking back, it seems difficult to envision a valid argument against a couple that were two different races from being able to marry the one they love. It seems patently ridiculous that it was ever opposed. But it was. Then history did what it always does: closes the door on intolerant beliefs.

Same sex marriage will be a reality in every state someday, and probably very soon. So will things like equal pay for women, marijuana legalization, raising the minimum wage, creating renewable and sustainable energy, and working to slow down and eventually neutralize climate change. All of that is coming.

The question is…do you want to be on the wrong side of history?