And Coming in 2016....

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden," to be published by Cranberry Quill... an allegory for children of all ages, beautifully illustrated.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chrissie Hynde Rocks. Literally.

Since the late 70s, Chrissie Hynde she has been the one constant of the English-American group The Pretenders. She also rocks as a woman who knows who she is, where she's been, and handles criticism for speaking her mind.

The criticism comes, ironically, from proponents of women speaking their mind. Apparently we're supposed to say whatever we want unless it goes against the current notion du jour.

Hynde's 2015 memoir, entitled Reckless: My Life as a Pretender, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vogue, the New York Times, and other popular, well-respected outlets: "frank," "well-written," "humorous". But because of one small part, one tiny episode of transparency and personal honesty, that goes out the window with some folks, and she's come under fire.
has gotten rave reviews from the

Hynde's sin is that she is audacious enough to accept some of the responsibility for being raped.

That goes against the notion that No Means No (which it does!) and that rapists should receive consequences for their actions (they should!). There are lots and lots of generalities with such things, but occasionally, we need to realize that some circumstances are different.

M. Emmett Walsh, as Dr. Bass in "A Time to Kill."
Remember the scene in the movie "A Time to Kill" where a doctor's testimony is completely
discounted because he'd been arrested for statutory rape? What the jury didn't hear was that the girl was a few days shy of the required birthday to get married, and the couple stayed together forever. I may have the details wrong, but you understand the point. Sometimes, the facts don't add up to the underlying truth.

Hynde's rapes are unfortunate, tragic, emotionally harmful, criminal -- just like all sexual assaults. What makes her comments in her memoirs troubling to some is that she admits that she wasn't caught off guard, or stalked, or drugged against her will. Her eyes were wide open when she began hanging out with a motorcycle gang known for sexual misbehavior. She knew the lifestyle, she was aware of the risk involved, and when the inevitable (in her own thinking) took place, her response was philosophical.

"Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f--- about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges," she wrote. In a later interview she stated, "You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say, 'Whose brush is this?' You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive. If you play with fire, you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?"

Yes and no. And I get that.

When I was 16, I was molested by a family friend. In one respect, I should have seen it coming, and in another respect, I wasn't surprised when he made his first move. Because when I was 14, he'd made an inappropriate remark. I was offended. Red flags went up. I even rehearsed a confrontational conversation with him which I never (unfortunately) delivered.

Could've. Would've. Should've. We can't go back. We mustn't beat ourselves up for choices we made or opportunities we didn't take. But that doesn't mean we can't acknowledge the fact that we played a role in what eventually transpired.  I should have repeated the remark to my parents, rather than plan on handling myself. There's no way of knowing if that would have changed the future, but it might have changed ours. I should have, when he said what he did, told him it wasn't funny, and I didn't like it. That  one thing might have stopped  him from what he did later.

Because I never confronted him or told a responsible adult what he had said, and later, what he did, I had a part in all that happened beyond simply being a victim. No, a survivor. I refuse to let him have any more control over my thoughts, behavior, emotions, whatever. But I also know, honestly, that I wasn't beat over the head and dragged into the woods, either.

I was manipulated, seduced, deceived. That was my own scenario. A smart, modest, raised-right teenager, and I still fell victim. Was it my "fault"? Not at all. I'm not blaming myself, simply owning the part I did play. I could have avoided what happened. I didn't act on the red flags. I didn't alert anyone of the subtle manipulations, because I was too immature to recognize them as such. But there was a time, when I knew something was "wrong with this picture," and I never followed through.

Today I see young women, teens, pre-teens, dressed provocatively, knowing that there are predators who would love nothing more than to rob them of those scanty clothes and what innocence is left. I worry about them. And I also know that some of them are actively asking for trouble, as Hynde admits she was.

Those who aren't...the girls and women who say they can dress however they please and it doesn't matter... I would suggest using a little personal restraint, a little common sense. Open those beautiful eyes a little more and really see where you're walking, and who you're walking with.

Rape isn't about lust, but control, they say -- but there are also plenty of lusty guys who think that what a girl wears on a date is the fashionable equivalent to putting out the welcome mat. Making out (which a girl may hope for and encourage) can easily become a rape... call it date rape if you must, but if a girl or woman doesn't consent to intercourse, it is rape. Report it, prosecute it. But also... avoid situations in which it is even possible.

My granddaughter and I went through a R.A. D. program at our local Sheriff's office. That's Rape Aggression Defense. The very first and most important training is self-awareness. Know who you're with, even in an elevator. Look at people. Look around. Check out your surroundings.

But back to Hynde: she went out of her way to find surroundings that were dangerous. She sought out people who were criminals. And so, she wasn't particularly surprised when they committed crimes and put her life in danger. She'd walked in with her eyes open.

I think it's grand that she can own her part in that. She would have completely avoided being raped (most likely) if she had avoided the rapists. Instead, she waltzed into a house on fire and got burned. She knows she was unwise to be there, and she's honest enough to acknowledge it.

That doesn't make her own rapists innocent nor blame other victims. But it does reflect the honesty of a woman who knows herself, and doesn't mind letting everyone else know her for who she is, not for who they want her to be.

Now, having said all that, let me also say this: it would have been appropriate, and better, and right, if Hynde had reported the rapes, if those guys with the horrible t-shirts and worse behavior had ended up behind bars. Acknowledging that she played a part by simply being around those types of people in no way implies that rape is acceptable. If you have been assaulted, molested, raped ... please talk to someone.

The national Rape Crisis hotline number is 800.656.HOPE (4673). Where I live, the Sexual Assault Assistance program provides victim advocates who will stay with you and your family through the entire process. The Inner Truth Project provides outlets for help and overcoming. Here are some links:

http://www.sexualassaultassistanceprogram.org/

http://www.innertruthproject.org/

https://rainn.org/

Being a victim of rape, incest, or molestation is never the fault of the victim, but if you can avoid being a victim, doesn't that make sense? R.A.D. teaches to run away from trouble, if possible. I think that's what Hynde is saying, that she could have avoided what happened, because she knew the risks, knew the environment. 

We don't always have prior information. When we do, we should make the most of it. Run. Avoid. Be aware. Use wisdom. And if things happen anyway... get help. Make noise. A lot of noise. By yelling, and telling, by prosecuting if that's possible, you're helping not only yourself, but future possible victims.

Chrissie Hynde bashers should get over it, already.


(c) Ellen Gillette







Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Letter to Indiana From God (a bit presumptuous of me, but He can handle it)

Dear Indiana,
I am known by many names, and many of your citizens know me well, but allow me to introduce
myself to the state as a whole, because the state as a whole is currently in the news: I’m the Creator of the universes which spread out endlessly (I came up with infinity, as well) and have been around since Time began (that was mine, too).

Out of all that I created, Earth has been my pet project. What would happen if I created mankind with a free will, showed clearly the best way of going about life, and let them have at it? Of course, I already know the answer, because I’m outside of time, but it’s been a very interesting process for the last multi-millennia.

You may ask why I’m writing, when there are so many other pressing issues. Trust me, I have it well in hand, although you need to remember I see things from a very different perspective. When you see it all from beginning to end, it’s a little easier to see the reasons, but just as a forest fire may look – at a particular moment , to humans – as a disaster, the living forest knows that fire is a necessary cleanser periodically, allowing for better and more productive growth.

I am regularly accused of (1) not existing at all, (2) being cruel for allowing any number of things to continue, (3) being ineffective because I didn’t intervene in this or that tragedy, or (4) needing your help. Aside from  the sheer entertainment value of (1) and (4), I put up with (2) and (3) out of mercy and patience, and the obvious knowledge that my creation’s limited understanding was, after all, built in. By moi.

But there are times, such as the current uproar over your Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Bill 568), that I am inclined to give a little fatherly nudge. I could have sent tornadoes, an alien invasion, the zombie apocalypse, or plague – could, doesn’t mean I won’t…doesn’t mean I ever did! – but that isn’t how I roll. I wrote the book (literally and figuratively) on love. I AM love, if you remember one of my publicists’ words (I John 4:7).

Governments are raised up with my permission and for my purposes. As one of my other writers said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1, NIV). Rulers always think they accomplished things by might or wallet or even qualification, and certainly I take all that into consideration, but I’m on an eternal clock. What happens today or next month or the next hundred years is not the pressing issue it always is with you, or them.

But Indiana. I’ve got some thoughts.

This bill troubles many of your citizens. It troubles many of the citizens of what you call the United States. For those with enough vision to see beyond the geographical lines and boundaries mankind has set up, it troubles citizens of the world, not so much for what it says, but what it implies. What it could lead to in the future.

Your governor, Mike Pence, wants to clarify the sticking point of discrimination protection, specifically discrimination against men who marry men and women who marry women, or would like to.

Not so long ago in your nation, Jim Crow laws kept the races separate, as if whites might catch black germs, as if blacks could not be trusted around white women, as if blacks were second-class, subhuman. Other countries went even further, gassing millions of Jews and other so-called “vermin.”  If ever there was a point that I questioned myself, it would be when my creation, my children, are so blind that they lose sight of the fact that they are all, each one, exactly the same below the skin. Same bones and muscle, same veins filled with blood, same brains with electrical energy.

Masterpieces, each and every one. How often you forget this one basic fact.

Your bill, on the surface, seems innocuous enough, providing protection from lawsuits if a person, business, organization, church, etc. refuses to provide services to someone on the basis of the person (business, etc.)’s religious beliefs.  Frankly, I would hope that folks would just as soon take their business elsewhere rather than get their knickers in a twist, so to speak. There are plenty of businesses that are not, for lack of a better word, jerks. Plenty of businesses who are in business to make a profit and not to make a political stand.

People need to be honest about such things.  “This business is owned by a self-righteous hypocrite who still thinks whites are superior.” That might work. Or “We prefer to serve only those who attend our church/synagogue/mosque/coven/temple” – I wouldn’t think such a business would succeed, but it’s worth a try.

Because you see, even with the law in place, the religiously inclined for whom you claim the law is desired,  are going to have a difficult time convincing the public and the courts that they are taking a stand based on religious beliefs if they are, at the same time, doing things that circumvent that very religion.

Religion is man-made, true – all I started out wanting for was that my creation love me, and one another. People have gone in various directions, and this is not the time for further explanations and apologetics. The fact remains that in the U.S. there are multitudes of religions operating freely, and your laws must apply equally, as your Constitution states.

Muslims will have difficulty proving that their unloving business practices are based on religion, since they know me as al‑Wadud, He who loves.  Sikhs profess love of God and his creation (fellow humans included), therefore, good Sikhs would serve anyone. Buddhists strive for enlightenment, which comes through unselfishness – not likely to hold up in court if you are selfishly refusing to serve someone in a restaurant.

And Christians! Not so-called (their name is Legion) but true, sincere adherents to Jesus Christ, will be laughed out of court if they try to convince anyone that being unkind, unloving, intolerant, etc. is due to their religion. Really? Perhaps they mean a different Jesus than the one I know so well.

Religious freedom is lawful, and I make all kinds of allowances, constantly, for the behaviors and attitudes I observe in the United States, because your government places such a high priority on this one universal right. One’s right to religious freedom is not less important than one’s right to obtain services.  We are in agreement here.

Common sense would dictate that if an organization states clearly that it is for men, or women, or heterosexuals, or gun-toting anarchists, or Baptists, or Catholics, or tree-worshippers, that anyone not in that particular category would stay away. Not wanted. Find somewhere to chillax after work. Common sense would dictate that if I want to buy something, and the owner would rather hold on to it than take my money, I can find it elsewhere. (I don’t literally mean myself, obviously…what do you have that I could possibly want…except your love!)

But people don’t always show a lot of common sense. That’s just reality. Every ornery agenda you can imagine is going to latch on to this bill of yours, challenge it, tie up the courts, eat up your budget. What you perhaps intended as a help for your 6.5 million citizens, a speculative protection just in case they ever need it, is overkill. Unnecessary. And it sends the wrong message.

Do you really want to go from the state known as The Crossroads of America, to simply Cross, as in Cross and Surly? Find ways to be more loving, more inclusive, more tolerant. Not less. As my guy said to the Romans years ago, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10, ESV).

I can bless that. I will bless that.

Thanks for listening,


God

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Taking up an Offense

A Facebook friend posted an article about marriage, by a self-proclaimed "truth sayer" by the name
of Matt Walsh. Because of my respect for my friend, I took a look.

Walsh begins by announcing that Nicholas Sparks, author of multitudinous and much-loved romantic novels that all seem to end tragically (some of them anyway), is separating from his wife of 25 years. Note the word "separating." Walsh carries it to its logical, but not always accurate, conclusion by implying divorce. I know couples who have separated and remained married, getting counseling and enjoying a marriage that was stronger. It may not happen most of the time, but it happens. So that is strike one.

He then goes on to talk about how culture has negatively influenced us on the idea of marriage. There is the thought that there is that "one," a perfect soul-mate. He says that his wife wasn't "the one" until he married her. Okay so far. We have freedom of choice as to whom we marry. We aren't forced into it, as is the case in some cultures. We decide who to propose to, or who to say yes to. But then he starts to meddle.

There’s a very real danger inherent in the “there’s only one particular person out there for you” mentality. Think about it. If you are “meant” for one specific person, who’s to say when and if you’ve met them? Who’s to say that the person you married is them? And who’s to say that you don’t get married and then, just like that, someone moves in next door, or you get a new coworker at the office, or you run into someone at the grocery store, or you lock eyes with the cashier at Trader Joe’s and all of a sudden you realize that this is your real soul mate, the person you were “supposed” to marry? If we are meant for someone in particular, who’s to say you’re wrong? Sure, adultery is evil, but this is your soul mate we’re talking about here. This is the person God Himself designed for you. Can He really be mad if you ditch the mistake in favor of your true Prince or Princess Charming? Maybe you’re technically a backstabbing, adulterating cheater, but you’re just following your heart, and who can fault you? You’re correcting a mistake. Resolving a cosmic injustice. Fulfilling your destiny. Isn’t that what cheaters often tell themselves, especially women cheaters? This is the dark underbelly of pop culture fairy tales. It gives a free pass to adulterers, and convinces married people to follow their emotions rather than stay true to their vows.
What do I find offensive about this? The implication is that married people are always supposed to stay married, that marriage is always preferable to divorce, and that if a couple divorces, it's probably because of unfaithfulness. (In a way, it is, but more on that in a minute.)

I used to be so naive that I would have bought Walsh's logic without a second thought. Of COURSE! Marriage is sacred and divorce is wrongwrongwrong. Years ago, I even encouraged a woman to stay with her husband - because it's the Right Thing To Do - and later learned of his horrific emotional and verbal abuse. It pains me to think that she remained for even another day because of my well-meaning but ignorant advice.

I know a beautiful, lovely young mother who married a man in her church. After she and Mr. Right had a child together, she discovered a heinous crime and pressed charges. There were people who told HER not to get a divorce. Good-freaking-grief. The man is sitting in prison, where he belongs, and she's supposed to put the rest of her life on hold because of HIS mess? I think not. Where is the justice in that?

The problem is...well, there are a lot of problems, perhaps the most significant being that it's none of my gosh-darned business why a person who gets a divorce believes he or she needs to get a divorce.

Another is that while we may look at the Bible and traditional values, etc. and see an ideal presented, life is anything but. People change. We make decisions based on what we believe to be true and best at a particular moment, but I just can't wrap my head around the idea that staying in an abusive sham of a marriage is more glorifying to God than exercising that "free will" we talk about and getting out while the getting's good.

Another problem is that the ease of divorce today (from a legal standpoint) can easily lead to laziness and a lack of wisdom, to hard-heartedness. So I want to be clear that divorce would be sort of a last resort, after trying all available options. Chinese author Watchman Nee wrote that a divorce is the public declaration that the oneness God intends in marriage is dead. I like that - two become one. If they emotionally split back into two, a divorce is really nothing more than acknowledgement of that fact. It's an end. Probably not a happy ending, at least not at the moment. But not the end of the world.

A husband and wife (or in many states, a same-sex couple....that's going to get some folks riled at me, I'll bet) make vows before God which ideally will be obeyed. Except that life isn't ideal. People develop addictions, suffer economic setbacks, lose loved ones, have mental health issues, become criminals or abusive or assholes. What a blushing bride in her teens or twenties promises...what a lovesick groom of the same immaturity tells the world he'll do...changes. Always.

If both are able to keep up, emotionally, with the changes, great! Hallelujah! What a great example of love, romance, and commitment! Yay, those people! Pat them on the back and throw them a party!

Not everyone experiences that, however. Sometimes one person practically kills himself  or herself trying to do all the heavy relationship lifting, while his/her partner becomes more and more distant. Sometimes two kids marry and when they grow up, realize they aren't the same people who said "I do." What's more, they don't want to be those people, ever again.

I said that divorces are the result of unfaithfulness, but I didn't necessarily mean sexual infidelity. Those promises in the traditional marriage ceremonies talk about honoring, cherishing. If a wife leaves her husband for another man, or leaves her husband and then finds another man...chances are, her husband was unfaithful to his vows long before that. The same thing is probable when a man leaves his wife. It's never because of one person falling in love, cheating, screwing around, or other phrases for what Walsh paints with a fairly wide brush as "evil." Two people say vows. And two people, working together, loving together, are necessary to maintain a healthy, happy, forever marriage. One person can't do it alone. Can. Not.

I suppose Walsh's blog struck a nerve because I have known many couples in loveless marriages who held on so long they turned into withered, bitter copies of who they once were. Ideally they would have sought help, gotten help, and experienced healing and transformation. That would require both parties wanting the same things...and if both wanted the same things, it's far less likely to end up in such a crisis in the first place. Ideally everyone with cancer receives prayer and treatment and experiences healing and transformation too, but we all know that the reality is that some people die. Only the most arrogant and cruel would blame them for not trying harder.

Some marriages end. I have, I say to my own shame, been arrogant and cruel, blaming one or the other or both partners in my heart for not doing enough, not trying this or that, not forgiving, not loving, not obeying. If I communicated that abysmal representation of Christian love to anyone reading this, I ask your forgiveness. I was stupid, self-righteous, and wrong. Oh, and young. Getting older definitely has a way of turning some of those black-and-white thoughts into more gracious grays.

Marriage problems are a concern, yes, especially when a failed marriage is that of a friend or family member. We don't like being reminded of the fact that none of us is perfect. As long as everyone smiles pretty and says things are fine, doesn't that make it so? When we discover that someone we thought was happily married really wasn't, we feel let down, disappointed. We may feel the need to change minds, offer counsel, send "fix it" books. And our hearts may be right, wanting only the Best for those we love.

That's our national codependency rearing its ugly head. Other peoples' lives aren't our responsibility. We can't possibly know what is Best for someone else, living under circumstances about which we know and understand very, very little.

I don't want to be too harsh on Mr. Walsh. He's young. He's excited about life. But he is also enjoying a happy, loving marriage that he and his wife have been maintaining for...not 25. Not 20. Twelve or thirteen! They've barely begun!  Perhaps they haven't had any life-changing traumas occur - I hope not. I hope they never do. I hope that 40 years from now, Matt is still writing blogs about how great his life and marriage are.

But...if I had written about marriage after only 12 or 13 years, I wouldn't have written these words, either. (We're into our 39th year, and we still don't have it figured out completely, not by a long shot.) But I can tell you one thing: If Matt Walsh and his wife don't make it, I seriously doubt he'd appreciate folks writing blogs about it, building up  the bloggers' audiences based on the Walsh's personal pain, smugly implying that divorce is an affront to anyone's own sensibilities and experiences. I think he would appreciate grace. Mercy. Understanding that since no one's living his life but himself, we don't know the whole story.

Amazingly (I prefer happy endings) Nicholas Sparks has kept millions of readers merrily buying books and devouring them. Anyone who sells that many books has my respect, whether I read them or not. So what if he and his wife aren't the perfect couple? They don't owe anyone an explanation for the choices they make in their personal lives, and they aren't This Month's Example of What Is Wrong With Our Country or Bad People.

Bottom line: I love the idea of marriages lasting and lasting and lasting if they can last with love and laughter, lots of kissing and touching, emotional and physical intimacy based on the sheer joy of being together. Without that, Lord keep me from judging when miserable people have had enough heartache and decide to part ways. Hopefully, as a friend of mine shared with me recently, they part as friends. And hopefully, each finds love again.

Maybe, really, for the first time. Hopefully for the last.

Ordinarily, I don't think it's a good idea to take up an offense for others. Two people may have a conflict and you get offended, then they make up and you're still mad. But Matt Walsh didn't just take on Nicholas Sparks and his wife - he used them to make a point, emphasis on used them. And he pointed his finger at lots of people I know and love, simply because in his world, divorce is the worst thing that could happen.

Earth to Matt: it isn't. Divorce isn't ideal, ever, but not much that passes for this life fits that description. Plenty of folks divorce on whim (and marry on whim, too, for that matter). But there are also valid reasons for divorce - which really aren't anyone's business! I just don't think honor or love or religion or Christianity or God are BEST served by going out of our way to make others more miserable than they already may be.




(c) Ellen Gillette, 2015