Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Me, too

I want to add my voice to the #MeToo movement (or potential movement), but not in the way of my women friends and my wife and a few men friends. No, I can't identify as someone who has been taken advantage of, but as someone on the other side.

My "Me Too" comrades are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.

It's a hard thing for someone to admit, that he has been an asshole, pressing someone to have sex. But it's imperative in the Beloved Community that we own our mistakes and own them without pretense. I can't fathom the notion of Weinstein's "That was the culture" excuse, because really, even in the midst of the worst of the excesses of the last fifty years, if we were listening we could hear women telling us it wasn't the role they wanted in the revolution. In that culture there was a resistant strain of American machismo that allowed men to mouth changes for society but still left room for the worst forms of cocksmanship.

And I'll admit, I took part in that assumption of male power too. Why not, it often got me laid. Such acts are a giving in to the frailty of our egos and the humbling admission that what we think we deserve we really don't. I didn't have the influence of a Weinstein or Trump, but I was still a man and in this world that's often power enough. There are big holes in my memory, whole years, but I remember two instances when I pushed beyond acceptable flirtation to flat-out hands-on-the-body coercion, and while neither woman actually said "No"--both in fact ignored my clumsy pawing--their body language certainly did, and I plunged on as if it didn't matter. It didn't work in either case, by which I mean I didn't get laid, so there's that.

But I can't apologize personally to either of them because, no surprise, after we parted the next morning we never saw one another again. So if you're out there, I'm sorry I was an asshole. What happened wasn't your fault, but mine.

And this is why I can demand of a Weinstein and a Trump that their excuses, whether held up as excesses of the culture or of locker room talk, are limp and mealy-mouthed. Because there was a third instance. For whatever reason, although I hope it was a growing awareness what other people meant to me, this time I agonized over what I'd done, knowing even as I put hands on her it was wrong, and when I saw her again I apologized in public. In front of friends and strangers I owned responsibility and asked her forgiveness. She gave it and never contacted me again. I did the right thing.

It has to be done. Men who do this, women who do this, anyone who tries and succeeds or tries and fails to take advantage of someone through coercion or intimidation or reliance on being in a more powerful position, are responsible to make amends and apologize to the person they've tried it with. Understand, doing so isn't brave or cleansing. It is embarrassing and humbling, but it should be because what we've done is crossed the line that divides the playfulness of wooing and the seriousness of pressure. To do so, we know, is wrong, and as bad as we might feel in confessing it and asking forgiveness, we should feel worse for having done the act in the first place.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

God doesn't play favorites

If it's true, as Albert Einstein famously observed, that "God does not play dice with the universe"--and I would submit, so far as we can agree on what "God," "play," "dice," and "universe" means, that he was right--then it follows God does not play favorites either. That runs contrary to how we'd like to think it, that America is a chosen land, Americans are a chosen people, and American religious people like to think they are specifically, so far as this is the generation out of the millions and billions of previous generations, that will experience the Rapture, the End of Days, the Second Coming, the Tribulation, the Final Revelation, however we want to think of it, that they are the final, most glorious, most sunk in depravity and thus held highest by God. But it isn't so.

Neither the United States, or Christians, or American Christians--indeed, or Americans or Twenty-First Century peoples or Jews or converted Jews or Muslims or, well, or anyone you'd like to name--none of these are chosen or favorites. When it comes to natural disasters, we all drown or are dashed against rocks and trees exactly the same. When it comes to man-made disasters, we all crumble after being hit by bullets or have our organs ruptured from being trampled exactly the same. The only difference lies in that some of us experience this and some of us don't. But the ones who don't really have no cause to proclaim themselves somehow better than the ones who do, because when it's all said and done, no matter how it comes, death is something we all experience.

So does it mean anything when a middle-aged white man opts to take out whatever frustrations or psychoses or hatreds he may have by shooting at least 550 people, outright killing nearly 60 of them, with whatever combination of semiautomatic guns he could collect and spitting bullets like watermelon seeds into a crowd composed of, mostly, other white middle-aged Americans enjoying a type of music endemic to America while having its roots in African and Celtic sounds? It doesn't. And it does. 

When I say it doesn't matter I mean it doesn't matter that it happened in Las Vegas, Nevada, any more than when it happens in Myanmar or the Democratic Republic of Congo. It often seems as if massacres, the purposeful slaughter of large groups of people by other groups or individuals, is the default setting for humankind. That fact should give us pause.

But when I say it does matter what I mean is that any slaughter of people is reprehensible, and I suspect to God it is all populicide, the killing of people.

It matters too because in Las Vegas, Nevada, unlike in Myanmar or DRC where there are often great, sudden outbursts of violence, often by the authorities, there is no excuse for it happening.

This isn't another anti-gun or anti-weapon or even anti-Second Amendment diatribe. We've all heard those and we fall on one side or the other often depending on our use or non-use of those same weapons. What it is is an observation. As others have pointed out, Americans decided gun control was a non-issue when we decided (and we did decide, make no mistake, we decided as firmly as if we'd fired the shots ourselves) that 20 grade school children were a tolerable sacrifice to have greater access to guns than at any peaceful time in history. We will bury our dead, we will cry and lament over them, and then we will pretend to be shocked when it happens again, bigger, louder, with greater loss of life and perhaps with our own children or parents or cousins or friends among the dead. We will go on as if we have no more determination than the dice in Einstein's quote.