This is simply a rant with no graphics as they are difficult for my eighty year old mind! It is about our loss of decency, empathy and, yes, “kind hearts and gentle people”. One does not have to be Christian to adhere to those ideals, but Christians should be ahead of the line in those attributes if, indeed, they believe in Christ’s teachings. The internet has promoted our loss of civility, and the great uptick in crass and truly egregious, vindictive, vitriolic exchanges. I was taught in theatre classes that if you are having a problem getting angry enough for the character, pound on the desk, jump up and down, actions will help illuminate the feeling of anger. That is what is happening to our country.
That brings me to my sick stomach feeling at the moment. I cannot imagine that a huge auditorium of my fellow citizens would stand up and applaud the death of a war hero who had been imprisoned and tortured, lifetime public servant, who leaves a surviving family still grieving his passing. Trump had no problem eliciting that response at CPAC while feeling “the love” for him (and his bone spurs).
It was quite awful enough to see him with a really comical expression on his face denigrating our flag by hugging it and waiting for the applause. This is what all you people with flags flying from your vehicles like to see? Our forefathers would be disgusted, and rightly so! That flag has been tattered and torn with the winds of war, carried to other countries in the name of freedom, occasionally making mistakes in judgement, but always trying to be on the side of justice and equal opportunity. To treat it like a puppy you love so much you have to squeeze and squeeze…until it ceases to breathe… is an abomination (check out Lennie in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck). It seems there is a large segment of our population (although not the majority) that is quite comfortable with our wonderful experiment in governance going the way of the Roman Empire. According to one historian on NPR it is a long, slow process, hardly noticeable as the norms and laws decay incrementally. One more reason I am happy to be leaving this earth within the next decade or two, I have no interest in seeing the kind of chaos the Roman Empire faced as the decay increased and politicians split the populace and created anger, hatred, suspicion…sound familiar?
I am not a historian, I do not claim expertise in politics or anything else. I do believe in civility, empathy, that dirty word compromise, ethics, and truthfulness. Our erstwhile leader fails on all of the above and has carried the once respected Republican party into his corrupt idea of “service to the country”. I will no longer lower myself to argue the fact that he lies, it is proven by listening to his own words…on tape! I will no longer argue his morals or ethics…he has had three wives and two mistresses (at least), and multiple contractors he has refused to pay. There is more, so much more, proven and known by the world, but hardly worth reiterating since many either believe he is a messenger from God or an arm of Satan. In actuality he is simply a highly flawed, self-indulgent human being who managed to sell his snake oil to a large segment of our voters and now seems to believe, and has convinced them, that he is the greatest president of all time.
I have news for him and all of his followers, not one president from our historic past…not one…would have encouraged their audience to applaud the death of a national hero with the kind of life Senator McCain lived and the service he rendered. He, too, was human and therefore flawed, as we all are, but he was brave, heroic and lived his life in service to this country. Be assured, Senator, that whether or not we agreed with all of your votes or actions, the vast majority of your beloved country honors your life and grieved your death. Rest in peace, and if it is possible pray for this beleaguered country you loved.
An article on the bombing attempts was recently shared to my page by a friend who is a Trump supporter. The comments were somewhat appalling, considering the subject. They ranged from cheering the bomber on, to snarky remarks regarding the wall around one of the victims domiciles. The latter comment was rather amusing, since I can look down any street where I live (semi rural and mixed lower to upper middle class} and see privacy walls in abundance. I have no quarrel with those who have different political leanings than myself, but I find my psyche in a fight between anger and sorrow that many in our society now believe it is “fun” to throw out crass comments and hate messages over a national emergency that could easily have turned into tragedy.
Do I scream or weep when people do not seem to care that a postal worker, a housekeeper, a nurse, or an apolitical bystander could have been killed? Does it matter that you did not agree with an ex-president, is that disagreement worthy of killing said president? He no longer holds power. Most ex-presidents from either party are working on projects to help the nation or the world. When the Republicans suffered an attack while playing baseball everyone was appalled and democrats reached out to their republican compatriots with sadness and compassion. When Gabby Gifford was shot the entire legislative body was hoping and praying for her survival. Today we cannot see past our red haze of hate. For what? Why do you hate so ferociously? What is happening.. TO YOU…that justifies such hatred for people you only know through the news and talk show bubbles? I cannot find such hate in myself. Disgust for some of the dialogue, yes. Dislike of the lying, of course. Uneasiness at the direction the politicians are taking us, absolutely. But hate? So much hate that I would feel gleeful at certain individuals death by violence? Sorry, that is not in my DNA.
Immediately following the realization that bombs were in the mail to Democrats the alt right theorized that the Democratic party was sending them to their own in order to anger their base. It turned out that the perpetrator was a middle aged white Republican male with a van covered in love Trump hate Dems posters. He was, according to some conspiracy wonks, a plant. The posters adorning the van were “obviously” new, and he was really a registered Democrat. Never mind that there are pictures of his van, covered in said posters, from last year. Never mind that there are videos of the alleged bomber at Trump rallies. Never mind all the hate posts they have found in his social media participation. Never mind that he is actually a registered Republican.
The truth is his party of choice, and/or his belief system, really is not the issue. There are some great Republicans who do not view the “loyal opposition” as enemies and want to work together. This is one man, who found someone he could agree with, who enjoyed common “enemies”, and his badly wired brain short circuited.
My daughter used to train aspiring equestriennes, she is still busy training our horses. Her mantra for both activities is balance. She has also been a trainer at her place of work, same message. Listen to motivational speakers, it is often about life balance. Our country is now in deep distress because we have lost the kind of balance necessary for politics, and society, to flourish in a positive way. I am unsure that we will ever find that balance again short of a war or depression so devastating that it wakes us up and brings people together. We are seeing an uptick in violence against the “other” unprecedented in recent history.
We are a diverse citizenry and that horse has left the barn, we will continue to be diverse which is not a tragedy, or even a negative for the country. If you can’t find it in yourself to embrace diversity and opposing ideas, please at least accept them. Non-acceptance leads to hate, hate leads to social media vitriol, vitriol…on line or from the White House…leads to angry, somewhat unhinged individuals taking action in ways that lead to death and tragedy. In one week one such individual tried to assassinate the most visible Democrats, another tried to get into a black church to murder the congregation, and a third murdered members of the Jewish community. Please ask yourself, is this the kind of country you want to live in? Does this make America great? No, among other things, it makes America sad.
“Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” Matthew Dowd (ABC Political Analyst)
Recently there was a shared item showing two guys beating an old man. The question was who would do such a thing? One individual answered by stating they were probably thugs raised without a father. This hit me in the gut, since I was forced into being a single parent from the time my daughter was six. Unable to hold my fingers back I replied “please stop shaming single parents” and added something about the parent not always having a choice. She wrote a disclaimer denying trying to shame, so I offered the string to my daughter and asked her opinion. Absolutely, she told me, even more, she is shaming mothers.
There are so many elements that go into bringing up a child, and I am not an expert in child raising per se, but I am experienced in having to tighten my belt, look reality in the face and plan a future for my very young daughter, with little help and few resources. In desperation I took the very frightening step of returning to college in order to complete my degree. After all, the reason we were left on our own was because, in helping my husband toward his doctorate by working at the University, we had “grown in different directions”…translate that to he had fallen for one of his students who was 13 years younger than myself. I will never know for sure if my decision was selfish, or a desperate reach for purpose, or rebellion against working for his education at the expense of my own. What it did culminate in, however, was a continuation of my daughters education and awareness of the world around her unrelated to public schooling. Granted that was not always a positive. Forced to leave the Montessori school where she was thriving and catapulted into public schools was not just hard on her emotionally, it greatly affected her formal
education. The upside was her experience in the academic communities we moved in through the years. She would wander the University of Washington campus and haunt the Natural History Museum to play the bird sounds with coins offered by the docent. She became a fixture, with the teachers permission, in my child development classes. The students all aimed their presentations to the one real child in the class!
There is no need to emphasize the material deprivations, and our utilization of the country’s safety net is chronicled in an earlier post. Dropping a mother and her child/children into the poverty line is, for many divorced women, a given. Working out of it is long and tediously hard work. Adrift in an unexpected world without someone to plan with, work with and lean together, and feeling rudderless, I opted to enter Graduate School in California. Again, the down side was the public school system. Filled with the children of business owners and professors, my daughter was treated as an unwelcome outsider. Teachers found it hard to deal with an
introverted, extremely intelligent, logical and mature beyond her years, young girl. She could read from age 3, but was uncomfortable reading aloud. She could do math from age 3, but found it illogical to have to do homework containing the very math problems she aced on the test. Did I mention she is stubborn? She had an English teacher who actually told her that her report card grade did not reflect her true knowledge. I did not have the time to spend haunting the schools and vetting the teachers. My time was spent in class, studying, and working part-time in the department as a clerk, house manager and box office personnel. Again, there was an up side consisting of the somewhat extended family we were blessed with as the professors folded my daughter into the periphery of their lives, giving her an education unparalleled for most grade school children.
What a single parent has to do is improvise and absorb. Improvise in order to spend time with your child: when possible she would attend class with me, when house managing she would come watch the play, sitting beside the department Chairman
(yes, even Ibsen, Shakespeare and the like, and yes, she understood and discussed with said Chair), and help me with clean up afterwards. Absorb the difficult moments: adverse actions of the child, affecting the child, aimed at yourself. Scold when necessary, hold tight when needed, and try, sometimes unsuccessfully, not to show how hard it is to be without a shoulder to cry on yourself, or arms to comfort your own distress.
There are the tragic moments when you get a phone call at work that the fish tank has exploded and she is trying to save as many fish as she can, the frantic bike ride home , Mom to the rescue! There are the comic moments when you get a call that your darling has snuck into the Equestrian Center pasture and mounted a horse sans saddle, sans bridle and had a nice ride. Home she comes, Mom says “I hear you were riding without permission” and she denies, denies , denies. As she walks in the door Mom sees the back of her jeans with a clear dirt mark exactly the shape of a horses back. Of course there was “a talk”, but how do you not laugh inside at the absurdity of this young child not realizing the clear evidence on the seat of her pants! There are uplifting moments like the time she felt empathy for a young equestrian who’s borrowed mount had been yanked from her just prior to her class at a show, and young daughter freely offers her horse to the distraught young girl and withdraws from the class.
In other words it is family interaction and family life, like any other, only with two family members instead of three or more. As a single parent I watched an empathetic, intelligent, logical, compassionate young girl carry all those qualities into her adult years. Single parents may have more challenges than intact families, they may go without some of the material accouterments their neighbors display,
but if there is love, caring and understanding they sometimes raise children who have a deeper knowledge of the value of money. They are aware that there are choices on how to spend what money is available that affect their lives. Or a greater feeling of empathy for the downtrodden. Or the ability to cope on their own when necessary. They learn to roll with whatever life offers and strive to make that better.
I can’t leave this without mentioning the intact families I have known with children who have been rude, disrespectful to others, lied to the police, and even broken the law. Those “thugs” who beat that poor man could have come from any kind of family. Character is formed by three components, genetically programmed disposition, how the parent or parents interact with the child, and how outside environmental forces affect them. It is downright nasty to infer that children of a given family make up (eg. 2 moms, 2 dads, two families, single parent, grandparents) are more prone to thuggishness or criminality than children from a traditional family structure.
I did not choose to be a single parent, but my daughter learned at an early age how to make decisions for herself, how to cope with adversity and how important fairness and equity are to the human soul.
I did not choose to be a single parent, but I have the peace of knowing the adult my daughter became has wanted to do only good to other humans, and all animals. I have the comfort of knowing she is well employed and is known through the system as an extremely knowledgeable and helpful manager.
I did not choose to be a single parent, it was chosen for me, and I learned to accept the reality and embrace the challenges. And yes, I resent those who immediately jump to the conclusion that if a person commits a crime, is violent, or acts in anti-social ways, that individual must have been raised by a single parent. We need to cease looking for an “other” (in this case single moms) to blame, and place responsibility where it belongs, on the individual causing violence. We need to care for each other and stop looking for someone to blame. Please.
Long ago and far away I had a brief “discussion” with my older brother. He maintained that his life would be richer than mine because he was male, and I was a mere female (he did not put it quite like that, but looking back the inference is there). Being a history buff almost from the minute I could read, the idea was immediately rejected in my mind. After all, women had starved, been essentially tortured, and endured ridicule in order to provide future generations with the vote, ability to own property in their own right, and equality of life issues. The early clues of my naiveté were forgotten as I matured, such as being relegated to the kitchen washing dishes while the rest of the family was in the living room watching TV. My one year at WSC was proof, to me, that women were on a par with their male counterparts as I was welcome even in a seminar meant for upper level students…and aced it.
A few years after that I was picking up units at a JC in Redding, CA, and unsuspectingly walked into a physics class, to be faced with a male instructor stating categorically that women did not do well in his class. Needless to say I walked out and changed classes. Years later, attempting to complete my degree at U of W in Seattle, I entered the Speech Therapy Department office to sign up and was told by
the rather old, red-nosed chairman, women do not do well in this department. As a recently abandoned wife I was too fragile at that moment to fight back, changed my major, and therefore the trajectory of my life. Upon completion of degree requirements and entry into the required quarter of student teaching I faced another dilemma. It was the era of mini skirts and without transportation I was riding a bike to the grade school to which I was assigned. I chose to wear slacks for obvious reasons, and the first thing the woman Principal told me was that pants were not allowed…but mini skirts, it seemed, were fine! Fast forward to graduate school in California. I was in need of a small loan until I could get a part-time position. Filling out the paperwork I came to the line that required, if the borrower was female, a signature from the husband or father. (That is no longer required). I was forced to beg my father to sign, and endured his lecture on paying it off. I was a mother, and in my thirties.
Recently my very articulate daughter shared a post she had written on her Facebook page, and I have chosen to use her words to speak for all women:
I am tired …
I am tired of the patriarchy.
I am tired of women being called weak or hysterical if they show emotion, while a man is “sensitive” when he does.
I am tired of women being labeled as cold and unfeeling if they don’t show emotion, while it is called “strength” in men.
I am tired of a man being called assertive, while a woman acting the same way is called a “bitch”.
I am tired of men, and women, thinking that “boys will be boys” excuses all the abhorrent sexist, and even sexually violent behavior out there.
I am tired of people worrying about how a man’s life might be ruined by allegations, charges, and convictions of sexual violence, without considering how the women’s lives have already been ruined.
I am tired of comments about women not smiling enough.
I am tired of worrying that what I say will be seen as bitchy or too aggressive, while I sit in meetings where men yell at other people, or put them down, but are called “strong leaders”.
I am tired of an expectation that I have to live up to some agreed upon standard of beauty, in order to get any attention from men, while they can be fat, ugly, orange painted slobs and expect beautiful women to adore them.
I have been tired for a long time, as I’ve experienced and observed the embedded sexism in our society … but the events of this week have just made me angry! It is not about the two people at the center of the storm – we do not know the truth and never will. No, it is about how our country is reacting, and the fact that for all the progress that has been made in my 50+ years, women are still judged by standards NEVER applied to men, and have to play by a different set of rules. And it is about the fact that we are still not appropriately represented in the government that affects our daily lives. We are more than fifty percent of the population, and we deserve better!!!
I could not have said it better. Ladies, know your history, fight for the rights your dead sisters won for all of us, hold your heads high and never give up. We owe it to the past to protect our daughters future!
Aging happens to everyone….if they live long enough. Joints slowly get arthritic, skin turns into a prune, and a bathroom nearby becomes a necessity. I have known women who fight the onslaught of “old age” every step of the way, and more power to them if it makes them happy. Unfortunately the years move on without your permission and even the boors who make disparaging, ageist remarks on the web, when they disagree with a post, will one day face that reality.
In a few short weeks I will be acknowledging the 80th year since my birth and will still be attempting (somewhat in jest) to convince my daughter that I am an old lady. I finally acknowledged that as a reality this year, the tipping point being when said daughter “encouraged” me to get a hearing aid…she was not happy repeating statements that were not clear to my ears, so to the audiologist we went. The visit resulted in my wearing obnoxious ear buds that actually do clarify some speech, but also make items like the water faucet sound loud and tinny! So I now freely admit to old age.
My daughter, however, keeps sending me links to stories of individuals even older than myself doing marvelous things, and points out my daily routine as evidence that I cannot use age as any excuse! Oh yes, my daily routine: feed and water five horses, duck and goose, three chickens, three barn cats, two goats and two sheep.
Turn horses out into turnouts or the arena, clean three stalls, make sure fly masks and fly sheets are on the right faces and bodies. Have lunch with three dogs perfectly willing to share, take a nap, and go ride my horse. Of course there are the normal bits of doing dishes and laundry, and unloading horse bedding and hay bales when necessary!
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing positive about skin thinning to the point where a small hay scratch draws blood, carpel tunnel from years of office work causes arthritic hands to feel prickly, the wearing out of once flexible joints makes getting out of bed painful and initial steps difficult, and it occasionally dawns on you that the slow disintegration has not only begun, but is well underway!
However, remember the power in positive thinking, and there is the old mantra of “use it or lose it”. I once was tasked with teaching an elderly lady with self limited mobility…60’s maybe?…how to drive her car using controls tailored for disabilities. She could not reconcile herself to the pain she felt every day in her back, and was unhappy that the doctors found no cause. Sadly, she refused to try and ended with both legs amputated because they atrophied. Hard as it may be, and for some it is, admittedly, harder than for others, there is still magic when you keep trying! I hobble out to the barn every morning using a walking stick,
this is discarded as the welcoming nickers come from the barn’s inhabitants. I stuff my pocket with carrot bits and start to work. Before the first hour is gone the most egregious stiffness and pain has receded to a mere awareness of the underlying weakness that is now ever-present. There are soft muzzles to touch and requests for a treat to answer. By the time I return to the house I am greeted by three exuberant canines who are quite ready to share my lunch!
A few years back I woke up one evening in ICU. According to the one witness my horse had suddenly become a bucking bronco (probably an unexpected, acute pain episode) and after dumping me dragged my body and stepped on my arm…hoofprint visible! The ICU doctor informed me that I should never get on another horse…cue laughter! I stated my mantra to this very ageist doctor, everyone dies. He thought I was crazy, I wondered if he gave the same advice to a teen age skateboarder, or a twenty something skier, or any of the youngish or middle-aged athletes and risk takers who showed up in his ICU. Of course I would ride again, just not Java, who was retired and expired of natural causes two years ago. As you can see from the photo below, determination and a lovely daughter, along with a uniquely wonderful horse, proved me right.
Age is not a disease. Yes, it can make one susceptible to certain diseases, and as machines wear out so do bodies. Youthful beauty erodes over the years and joints moan their distress. But the sunsets are still beautiful, the birds are still singing, the roses in the back pasture burst forth with lovely color in the spring. My time on Mother Earth becomes more limited every year that passes, but I can look back and hope those children I worked with grew to have lovely lives, that those adults I taught were able to use what I gave them, that the animals I have saved and nurtured make up for those I inadvertently neglected or left behind, and that I have done as little damage as possible to the people I have known and the planet we exist on. I can also look forward to each day of bird songs and horse nickers, attempt to drink in all the beauty that exists in my world and accept the dark spots as part of life. Everyone living a long life ages, everyone dies. My hope is that we all look back on a life filled more with giving than taking, loving not hating, and face destiny with philosophical acceptance and grace. And please remember, aging is not a disease, it is a progression, and seniors ask only for respect and recognition of their dignity from those who will also age as the years roll by.
My anger knows no bounds at the moment, and my tears are damming up
behind my eyelids. A news video was released with the sounds of two women crying and pleading to stay in this country so they could be with their children. They had fled certain death, walked a thousand miles with their babies, in order to find a future for them. The judge dispassionately sentenced them to deportation, and they have no idea where their children are. What kind of a country have we become?
I grew up in a country I loved. The U.S. was never perfect, and our history includes many egregious actions, but we were trying to do better. We acknowledged mistakes made along the way, some of the most recent being Japanese American internment,
and the acceptance of segregation with all its inequalities (and downright cruelty). We were past that and moving toward a better world…or were we?
I look back at yesterday and see young women self aborting with coat hangers, ending up dead, and I wonder if that is part of our future. I look at today with Pandora’s box of hate and violence against “the other”, asylum seekers being torn from their children, veterans being deported, and wonder where the viciousness had been hiding. I look at the future and see California once again covered by the darkness of smog, and children dealing with asthma all their lives, as the present administration works toward taking away the states waiver on auto emissions. I realize those items in a sense are unrelated and it may be puzzling to find a connection, but it all has to do with the health of a nation, a people, and perhaps the health of our planet.
I can understand the unease with which some have viewed the many changes in our social structure, business models and diversity of life styles. Change is always challenging to minds that have been travelling down one path and now see a side path they did not anticipate, but change is inevitable and the question is, how do you deal with it? By harassing someone who is different? Does it change your family because that “other” exists? Then why be upset? You may think abortion is murder, but what about the young woman with a baby in hand, told that this new pregnancy will kill her? Would that fetus be a murderer? And yes, diversity of life style can be frustrating. I recall decades ago, when some immigrants captured ducks in a nearby park for dinner and the uproar that ensued. I am sure they had to be lectured on our laws and told our parks are sacrosanct. But that did not make them evil, merely ignorant of our laws and norms.
So change is challenging, diversity is hard to accept. I am not, nor ever could be, homosexual. However, some of the nicest people I knew during my graduate years were. It should not, and does not, bother me who someone chooses to love. If the Christian community feels it is a sin, fine, let the sinner suffer in the great beyond, it is not our place to determine their life choices. If a Muslim lady chooses to wear a head scarf how does that make a difference in your life? I may think it is silly but, hopefully, in this country, people can still choose their clothing, religion (or lack thereof), and most other issues/choices in their private lives. If a young woman with a baby at her breast risks everything to remove the two of them from a highly dangerous situation to come towards the beacon of hope, is it humane to steal the child, deport the mother, and send a two year old to face a judge who will question that baby about its claim of asylum? It would make a cartoon if not absolutely true.
What happened to conversation, and since when has compromise become a dirty word? People can live together and come to agreements where no one gets everything and everyone gets something, but it seems we have become so greedy in every way that everyone must agree with “me”, and even if they do not agree they must live the way “I” dictate. This emphasis on “my way or the highway” has also opened the door for the haters within this country to move against those they despise. It can be color, religion, gender, or all of the above. Those who are different, those who choose other roads must be scorned, humiliated, punished, disappeared.
I know, somewhere in my long life, at some time, I must have done mild injury to some person or persons. We all have if we are honest, because words hurt and we all misuse a word at times or say something we regret (or should regret). But the one thing I have tried to do with my existence on this planet is be kind, and helpful when possible, and to avoid hurting any sentient being that I encounter. The voices of those asylum seeking women will haunt me from now on, my inability to help them, my knowledge that it is my country that has taken this atrocious action, and that it is because of a president who won an electoral college that failed to look at its origins and purpose…like, not meant to be a rubber stamp.
I know this has been a wide ranging rant, but it is truly tied together by one thing: are we a humane country, with reasonable citizens who can disagree reasonably, or are we a country that wants to burrow into its cave while attempting to bully the world and forcing all its inhabitants to walk in goose step with each other? Please whatever Gods there might be, give us back our flawed, but loving country, trying hard to better ourselves and achieve a decent life for everyone. I will not abandon hope…not yet, at least!
NOTE: This post may anger some people, including friends and relatives. Sadly, the trajectory our country is on demands that everyone needs to do what they can to support our democracy, its laws, values and standards of care for its citizens. Being only 3 months from turning into an octogenarian the one thing I can do is search my memories and raise my voice. If this post offends I am sorry, but it is one subject wherein I can offer a dose of reality about life for females in the forties and fifties.
OF CHILDHOOD, PEDOPHILIA, READING AND REBELLION
One of my very first memories is of my father taking me up the stairs to our attic and utilizing my tiny self to his purpose (no, I will not go into graphic detail, not necessary, not the point). Up the stairs came my mother in search of us, and as she took in the scene before her she immediately burst into tears and ran back down the stairs. My father, of
course, ran after Mom. I must have been around four at the time and the one emotion I
vividly recall is puzzlement. I was doing what my father told me to, why were my parents angry? I am sure there were promises to never do anything like that again, a one-off only. Promises not kept, of course, and the abuse continued until my eleventh year.
I learned to read at a very early age and found in reading my escape. I would walk from my grandmother’s house in Seattle, past Big Rock at the top of the hill, and haunt the adult section of the public library. I read about animals, death marches, slavery, and abortion stories. Abortions were illegal, rape was rarely adjudicated, and a single woman becoming pregnant was shameful no matter the circumstances. There were many young ladies who visited illegal abortionists, or worse, would take a coat hanger and attempt self abortion. As a very young girl in a perilous situation I was
chilled by the images of young women who bled out on a basement floor or lay slumped on a wood table.
I remember dreading being alone in the house with my father. He would make me promise not to tell anyone, especially my mother. The trouble was I felt too uncertain, unhappy and ashamed to tell anyone. Sometime around my eleventh or twelfth year the inevitable happened, and realization set in that I could become pregnant if my father continued with his abuse. Strangely and ironically he had provided me with a thin, child friendly book on “becoming a woman” and how one gets pregnant. I did not, at that point, need the book to lay it all out for me, but it did confirm my fears.
One night my mother was out of the house for some reason and I found myself cornered in the bathroom. It suddenly all boiled up and I adamantly refused to do as he said. When he insisted I threatened to tell my mother, and at that he exploded, grabbed his belt and proceeded to beat me. Being a child I obviously cried and yelled…loudly! One other person in the house, in his bedroom, heard the commotion and later told my mother. Again a hullaballoo, a threat of divorce, and more promises. This time the promises were kept, possibly because the story was now out to some extent and I was obviously willing to fight back. Please don’t imagine my actions were courageous, I was aware of cause and effect and consequences because of my love of reading, curiosity to learn and access to reading materials. My rebellion was governed by abject fear.
Could I have become pregnant? Of course. Would I have wanted an abortion? Absolutely. An 11 or 12-year-old child is not mature enough physically or emotionally to carry a fetus to term without the probability of damaging her body or her mind to some extent. Add incest and rape to that mix and you would have a very disturbed young girl. Then of course she would give the child up for adoption and spend her life wondering if the child was happy, wanted to know who her birth parents were, etc. Or possibly her mother would say the child was hers and raise the baby as a sibling to the now damaged 12 year old.
Add to my own youthful fears the fact that years later my sister-in-law almost died from an ectopic pregnancy, was rushed to the hospital and saved by removing the fetus, and my philosophy on abortion rights became solidified. Pregnancies are not a walk in the park with a child attached to a rainbow at the park exit. Having gone through what would be considered an easy pregnancy and short, intense labor as an adult let me be witness to the fact that labor is about as painful as one can stand and carrying a child to term is not always easy on the mother to be.
I tend to agree that abortion should not be used as simple birth or sex control. The issue rests in the needs of rape victims, fetuses that expire in vitro but the woman is required to carry to term anyway, child incest victims or the woman’s life is endangered by going through childbirth. As has been a mantra from the past, “abortion should be safe legal and rare”.
I could easily have been one of those women, even as a child, bleeding my life out, because I knew even then I would not survive physically, emotionally or mentally if forced into carrying my fathers child. My rebellion saved me, but not all young girls have access to the information needed, the curiosity to discover facts and consequences, or the ability to fight back. Some abusing relatives are violent and prone to use force. The germ of my pro-choice leaning was born as a child of the 40’s and 50’s, but it was cemented through the tragic stories I heard throughout my adult years of the abuse suffered by girls and women while men (for the most part) determined the fate of these young ladies, and, until recently, society turned a blind eye.
What happened to me is long in the past, but it still lives in memory. I learned many words from my father a child should not know. I have very few memories of my normal childhood activities, whereas I have vivid memories of what I would like to forget. And yet, I was lucky. The sad, dreadful and very personal choice some women have to make, I was spared. Perhaps I was spared so that I could add my voice at this stage of my life to the chorus of women who wish to own their own bodies, and make their own life decisions. Perhaps we need a look backward at what it was like for women and girls 60 or 70 years ago…not as we saw on T.V., but as it was for real people. Perhaps we need to teach each other caring and empathy. Perhaps we need a little more love and understanding, and a little less “holier than thou”. Just, perhaps.