Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Powerful Men, Accusations, and a Culture that Encourages Silence. Shame on Those Who Cheered.

Let me make it clear from the start- I am not a supporter of Clinton or Trump. I don't think either is evil incarnate, nor do I think either is going to be the savior of our country. I think both have some good ideas, but both are deeply, deeply flawed.

Having said that, this election makes me sick to my stomach. I feel like we've been given two candidates who offer nothing more than the same pile of dog poop, spritzed with different perfumes and wrapped in colorful packaging. Sadly, when one or the other of the main choices gets elected, the American populace will find that the opened present is still just dog poop, covered with incivility, rancor, and dissension.

One of the things that has bothered me the most lately is watching footage of Trump at one of his rallies, starting out by denouncing the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. That in itself is expected (what powerful politician has ever voluntarily accepted blame??!) but what really sickened me was his supporters' reaction. They cheered. Cheered at his denunciation of women whose stories are nothing more than make-believe to him, and by extension, to them. Cheered because he vowed to sue each of them at the end of the election.

What's so disturbing about this? Simply put, it is an indication of the culture that keeps little girls quiet when someone is molesting them. It's part of the thought process that makes a woman fail to report a date rape. It's an extension of a society that doesn't protect girls and women, and what's most sickening is that other women contribute to it. 

I don't know how any woman who has been touched inappropriately, been molested, been raped, been afraid of getting away before being assaulted, or been treated like a sexual object can listen to another woman's accusation of such and have her immediate response be, "she's lying," just because of her political leanings. If you have ever been a victim yourself, or ever had to deal with the trauma and the aftermath of someone you care for, you know how deeply sexual assault wounds. It doesn't just touch the body, it damages the soul.

In our culture, though, we're encouraged to not speak up or out against it. Think about it- who wants to publicly accuse a man, especially one in a position of power or authority, without concrete proof? Are women supposed to wear body cameras to get irrefutable proof that a man has touched them without their permission? Think about how hard it is to prove that you've been the victim of sexual "misconduct." It's often a case of her word against his, and when you're up against someone powerful and/or famous, guess who's word is going to be given more gravity?

It's this crazy twisted faith that we put into men in authority that makes it less likely that a girl will report an assault. When we teach our daughters that those who come out publicly against someone we support is a liar, or deserved it, we are contributing to a society where our own daughter is less safe. If your first response to someone's accusation is that she's lying, or she's doing it for personal or political gain, there's something wrong with YOU. You should stop and ask yourself why your first response wasn't compassion and sympathy. If you're a Christian woman, even more shame on you. You weren't called to judge others unrighteously, without knowing the facts. You were called to love and lift others, especially those who are hurting. And I can guarantee you that if a woman experienced a sexual assault, she is hurting.

I don't know if the women who have accused Trump are telling the truth or not. Ultimately, only they and God know. But I can imagine the courage it takes to come forward and admit that such a powerful man took advantage of them. I can see one or two women maybe coming forward so publicly to make accusations for political reasons, but I find it hard to believe that more than one or two would want the kind of negative attention that was inevitable in accusing a man like Trump. Put yourself in their place...would you want to go through that experience just to maybe make a slight dent in Trump's polling numbers? Do you really think their own self-dignity is worth so little to them?

I find it disheartening that in the 21st century we're still placing blame first and foremost on the victim. We automatically jump to the conclusion that she was acting the wrong way, or "asked for it," or is lying. If her story doesn't come with irrefutable proof, all tied up in a perfect package, we are more likely to believe the man's side. Until we, as individuals and as a society, can make our first response compassion and a desire to find the truth, we're going to continue to have thousands upon thousands of girls and women experience unwanted sexual contact and never say a word about it, because the shame of the abuse is more than enough without adding the shame of public blame to it also.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Jesus Christ: My Beginning and My End

Today as I was reading my scriptures I came across the phrase "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," which is a familiar phrase for anyone who has read the scriptures. This time, as I pondered the phrase, it came to me that Jesus Christ is not just the Beginning and the End for the earth or for creation, but He is my beginning and end. It is Jesus Christ who first put breath and light into me at the start of my life, and it is He who will be there to gather me to Himself when the last of that breath leaves my body. He truly is the Alpha and the Omega of my life, and of every life that comes into being.
This also made me take a look around and appreciate the fact that He is the Creator of everything on this earth. He is the beginning and the end for every tree, flower, blade of grass, and animal. I was filled with immense gratitude for His creativity and His desire to make this earth a place of such awesome beauty and majesty. He could have made a perfectly functional earth, with just enough of each creation to make it livable, but instead He filled it with everything necessary and so much more just for beauty and enjoyment.
I'm so thankful for Jesus and for all He's done for me, and I'm especially grateful this morning as I sit and watch the sun burn off the morning fog through the tops of the trees, and think about how He gives me every sunrise, every view, every breath. There aren't words enough to describe how amazing and perfect and wonderful He is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Love Makes the Difference

If there is one thing I wish my father had understood, it would be this:

“Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united to you, love them! And prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys-however wayward they might be… when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit.

“Speak to them kindly; get down and weep with them if necessary and get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence… approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned…. You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 316-17.)

I wonder how much of my behavior in my younger years could have been avoided had I only been taught gospel principles with love. What I knew of the gospel was rules, harshness, hypocrisy, and punishment. I didn't understand the why of obedience, or the blessing it was meant to be. I couldn't comprehend a loving Heavenly Father because I had never experienced a loving earthly father. I had no reason or desire to follow either because I didn't feel that they had my best interest at heart.

This is why it does no good to try to force anyone to accept or live the gospel. We learn best from those who we feel genuinely care about us, and when we are taught with love, it sinks deep in our heart and makes a lasting impression. The only way to teach, the only way to share what's important to us, the only way to have true communication, the only way to experience unity, is through love. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stay-At-Home Moms

This week in my religions class we've been learning a lot about how families "should" work. It's been really interesting to read the quotes from prophets and apostles and to think about how negatively they would be accepted by most people today, but how I've seen in my own life how true they are.

For example, President Ezra Taft Benson said that fathers "have a sacred responsibility to provide for the material needs of [their] family." He followed up this statement by further admonishing men to work to support their families, and not to expect or require their wives to. Here's what he said, "In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter."

This is an extremely unpopular view today. By and large, men expect their wives to contribute to the household monetarily, and many women advocate for the "freedom" they experience by working outside the home. Many seem to feel that this new "norm" is an improvement over the time-tested and honored organization of a working father and stay-at-home mom. However, President Harold B. Lee taught, “the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home." In my own opinion, the work that a woman can do in the home is of far greater value than any amount of income or self-fulfillment she may receive outside the home.

I'm not just basing my opinion on the statements of some long-dead patriarchs of the church. I've experienced both sides of the argument in my life. My mom was, by my father's urging, required to work outside the home. My siblings and I missed having her at home. We needed the love, time, care, teaching, and nurture of our mother. There were many, many incidents that happened that likely would not have if she had been able to be home with us. My mom did the best she could, but it's impossible for a mother to give 100% to her children when she is at work 80% of the time that they're awake.

Contrast this with the blessing that I had of being able to be a stay-at-home mom with my own daughter. There were a few times in my marriage when disability or other needs necessitated my working outside the home, but by and large I was able to be home to take care of my child. I was able to spend a lot of quality time teaching, playing, and nurturing my daughter. I'm nowhere close to a perfect mom, but my daughter has made it clear to me that she appreciates that I "gave up" those years when I could have been working and spent them instead on helping her to grow and to feel loved. No amount of monetary compensation could have been worth more than the time we spent together.

My own experience, and that of many other adults and children I've known, confirm to me that a woman's place is in the home, not as a limitation on her, but as the most profound and rewarding growth experience that not only she, but also her children, will have.

I know not all women will have that option, and that there are many who do a great job raising their children while also working, and I salute them. They are doing the work of two or more people, and those who are able to successfully raise and teach their children while doing so generally have a lot of heavenly help and are amazing (albeit ultra tired) women. God bless the fathers and mothers, the husbands and wives, and the children who are all doing their best to love Him and to love each other.