HOW DO WE PROCEED WHEN THE NOISE WANTS US TO BELIEVE IN A FALSE CHOICE? DO WE BELIEVE WOMEN OR DO WE VOTE IN NOVEMBER?
OPERATING IN GRACE
What seems like 1000 years ago, I published a podcast episode on operating with just buckets of grace right now. I really really meant every word of that.
Grace for ourselves and the other wonderful humans
trapped in the house blessed with this special time home with us; grace for the stressed people working front-line jobs without the equipment and guidance they so richly deserve to have; grace for the leadership of this county at all levels (yes, even when we don’t really like them personally) as they try to navigate what comes next; and even grace for those living the manifestation of all of their fears in a strange internet cult bubble. Yes. Even them.
Hashing out the hard stuff
Ok, and I need to be real for a moment: I kinda miss being able to have really intense, illuminating, growth-fostering discussions with my friends far away on the internet. IT’S AN ELECTION YEAR, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, and I just haven’t felt like I had it in me to talk.
I just can’t when I know that those have the potential to stop being incredibly grace-filled pretty quickly.
With how much weight everyone is lugging around right now, it just hasn’t felt right to be like, “Soooo…given any thought lately to universal healthcare, have ya?”
I mean, who has had that energy? Not I, sister.
Sometimes, our feelings aren’t that helpful
My scientific literacy is L.A.C.K.I.N.G, so I have no place sharing information about a global pandemic. I have no place in that conversation because I have no expertise. In those discussions, I am a listener.
My role has two parts: I should stay home to help save lives and order from local businesses to help save the economy. Message received. Tell me when that evolves.
Other than that, I’m not out looking for a cure or diving into conspiracy theories about economic destruction or tyranny or bats or 5G or any other ridiculous thing other people with my level of scientific and economic awareness are sharing. I chose to study stories and language. I’ll leave this one to the people who decided to study viruses
Sometimes our feelings can’t be silenced
Though a story seems to be developing where I cannot stay quiet. Oh, how I wish I could! But I feel as though I may simply burst and cease to exist as myself if I don’t speak, even if not a soul listens.
(Remember? I just said I studied stories and language. That presents its own challenges.)
And yet, here we are, barreling towards a crucial election in November where it appears that we, progressive (or simply politically unrepresented) women, just might have the honor of filling in a bubble for one of two men who have been credibly accused of sexual assault.
power & prisons
I have lived enough life and loved enough women to know what so many – but not all- of us found in endurance sports.
Sometimes I call it freedom.
Sometimes I call it power.
The reason that far too many of us push our bodies so hard, day after day, week after week, is this quest to reclaim the power that was stolen from us, in one trauma or another… or many. Child abuse. Repeated verbal attacks from our peers. Patterns of violence against our own bodies. A nagging affirmation that powerful men will always have dominion over our lives in the workplace, in community, or for so many of us, at home.
And, of course, sexual assault.
Whatever wounds exist from the tip of your skull to the bottom of your feet, from the innermost parts of your soul to your outermost toughened skin, cannot define you. You (and I) are not a product of our most painful moments.
But they exist. We acknowledge them.
And it is likely that we have no choice but to keep acknowledging them as stories of violence against women stream through our screens and speakers almost constantly in this heated political season with the two candidates that it appears we have. This is especially true when we believe women.
I am decidedly not interested in a hashing-out of the developing facts surrounding the single allegation against Vice President Biden or the stack of credible accounts of assault perpetrated by the 45th President of the United States. Those details will come. People without personal knowledge of the circumstances will make their decisions and will blast them everywhere as conclusive.
I have no interest. Away with that nonsense.
Here’s why: I have decided to believe women.
I believe women are experts in their own stories. Each deserves to be heard, treated respectfully, and her accusations should carry weight.
There is not a world in which I can conceive of a rubric for determining the exact number of people she should have told at the time, or since the attack, to make her story credible. These stories are so personal. They carry so much shame. They can and do have serious consequences for families, and careers, and self-worth.
I flat refuse to hold the victim responsible.
I have decided to believe men.
I believe every detail of what a man’s response to an allegation telegraphs about his character.
You see, this is all that we have. We will never determine, even with infinite time and resources, what exactly happened at that house party where Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasey-Ford may or may not have found themselves in a room with a bystander.
We will never know, beyond what he has bragged about with his very own mouth, what happened in a dressing room between Donald Trump and E. Jean Carrol in a Bergdorf’s dressing room; or what happened on certain flights, or in many other instances where he may have acted inappropriately.
We can allow the overwhelming nature of the accusations blind us. We can see a fact pattern develop. But we will never really know.
Just as we will never truly know what happened in the office when then-Senator Joe Biden needed a staffer to bring him his gym bag.
All we are ever going to know is what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears.
We have no hope to exonerate him. We have no hope to know of his guilt. We can have hope for a way forward.
We will see the response.
We can see a response that demeans women as liars or frauds or cheats. We have recently seen Harvey Weinstein’s defense paint his victims as temptresses manipulating powerful men with their unique sexual gifts for largess like employment and respect in the workplace. We saw a yelling, crying, out-of-control man declaring that the world is unfair to men of privilege, a story that worked to secure a Supreme Court confirmation. We have witnesses a defense mounted repeatedly that a woman was simply too unattractive to be assaulted.
I know I am demanding a very heavy lift from powerful men, and I believe that they are up to the challenge. I believe that, even when faced with a horrible accusation that he knows in his soul is a blatant falsehood, a man can stand up.
He can treat his accuser with grace, even when he believes she doesn’t deserve it.
He can acknowledge that so many women never have a chance to speak.
He can deny the claims without denying his accuser’s value.
He can make the story less about one incident (or many) that may or may not have happened and more about the countless untold stories of women who have never had the opportunity or desire to share.
He can move all of us to treat one another better in the future.
He can encourage more discussions around consent. He can help us find a way out of this mess and into a world that is safer for women. Forever.
how do we move forward?
I want to be honest. I am struggling to process that the next six months are likely to be filled with coverage comparing the sexual histories of two men battling to lead our nation through four years of post-pandemic rebuilding.
I’m not ready for that.
I have never been ready for wall-to-wall coverage of violence against women, and yet, I am beginning to grow accustomed to it. My coping mechanisms grow stronger. The wounds of it all remain in the fresh air, unhealed and somehow life carries on anyway.
I am absolutely struggling to find that grace that I talked about for the amount of what-about-ism that is coming our way from people looking to justify one thing or another by pointing out that bad behavior exists everywhere.
Since I refuse to pin on my bib for a race to the bottom, there is only one way out of here: up.
I will not participate in declarations of guilt or innocence. I cannot abide any shaming of accusers. Please, Lord, don’t start sharing stories of how any accusers, current or future, might have had a sexual history that involved consent to negate the possibility that others did not. Please don’t.
Since we just have no other choice than to make decisions in this very complicated world where people are both wonderful and horrible, we deserve leaders who can hold super-human amounts of weight with the support structure of qualified advisors, a spiritual life that values humility and honors the humanity of those around them, and the temperament to admit wrongdoing and do better.
We are going to have to brace ourselves, Dear Women, for the amount of emotional work that moving forward with these two candidates is going to entail for all of us collectively and individually.
We are going to be called upon to give grace to accused men, accusing women, and all of the voices from those who want a seat at the table of political and media control, even when we want to dole out none of it.
And we get to decide if we want to engage in straight 10s-earning performances of moral gymnastics. Do we practice the flips required to honor the stories of women against one candidate and demean the accusers of the other? Or are we are capable of accepting that two flawed human men are before us, seeking our votes?
I am horrified that these are our choices.
I am hopeful that one will earn our vote with a response worthy of it.
Please let me be right on this.
Or please give me grace.