I'm supposed to be working on cleaning the garage.
I'm supposed to be planning a name recognition campaign for NET cancer.
I'm supposed to be prepping for a craft fair this weekend.
I'm supposed to be doing some PR for another craft fair later in December.
I'm supposed to be working on my annual fruitcake baking.
Instead, I'm listening to the news and wanting to disappear.
In the last week, my president has retweeted racist videos about Muslims from a White Supremacist website; he has endorsed an apparent pedophile; he has made a presentation to Native Americans in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson; and has fought for a tax reform bill that looks like a giveaway to rich folks on the backs of the rest of us--and that adds trillions to the national debt.
Yesterday, the North Koreans launched a ballistic missile capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States with a nuclear weapon. The president mentioned above tells me not to worry--that "we're taking care of it." He thinks a war would be a good thing, as far as I can tell.
Every day reveals another man in a position of power who appears to have used that position to force sexual favors from women. They do not deny the charges--and I have learned enough from friends and former students to believe this is the tip of a very large iceberg. I am angry at myself for having not done a better job of protecting those people from these predators.
Worse, I wonder if I've been one. Did what I thought was an innocent hug come across as a demand? Did I push someone physically further than they wanted to go? I've never intentionally touched anyone's breast or backside who hadn't given me clear permission to do so. But that doesn't mean I haven't encountered either one unintentionally--doesn't mean I've not been so embarrassed by it I couldn't speak--even to apologize..
But I grew up white and male and oblivious to the advantages those things gave me. I like to think I negotiated the minefields of racism and sexism without doing any lasting harm along the way. But I don't know. I suspect I am as guilty as too many of us. And just as oblivious about the harm--or even the discomfort--I've caused.
I worry about all the women I've been intimate with. It's not a big number. But even one misstep is more than I want any part of. I worry about what I've said to female friends over the years. What comes out of my mouth doesn't always come across as I intend it. I worry that I sent wrong messages to female students about the value of their work or the clarity of their thinking or the importance of their place in the world.
My conscious thoughts are pretty feminist for a person of my age and gender. My mother was a feminist before we had a word for it. She insisted her sons be proficient cooks, proficient housekeepers, proficient enough with a needle and thread to sew on a button or patch a hole or tear. Jane and I shared all the chores equally--we both cooked, we both cleaned, we both took out the trash. We both worked equally hard to educate our students. I believe more deeply than most in the equality of the sexes, but I will confess Jane was of greater value than I was. I could tell my female students they were capable of anything. Jane was a daily demonstration of that fact cowgirl wedding items for a country wedding
But I am also deeply aware that too many people--male and female--don't agree with me on that general equality of the sexes. And I am deeply aware I have lived in a patriarchal culture for so long that my own understandings are warped in ways I may not see or understand.
I like to think I've been a good man most of the time for most of my life. But I also know there is plenty of red in my ledger. One doesn't cancel out the other, much as we desire to think so.
Where I have caused harm, I am sorry. I try to use that knowledge to avoid causing future harm, but it cannot erase the sting from those on the receiving end of that evil.
Part of me thinks I should withdraw from the world. Today, especially, I feel overwhelmed. I have no influence on those in positions of power, no ability to stop what seems an inevitable war, no real idea how to put an end to the hurt and ignorance I see everywhere I turn. Even the work I do on NET cancer seems too little and too ineffective.
But I am addicted to the world, addicted to the people living in it at this instant in time. My candle may be burned to a few drips of wax on the floor and I may be about out of matches--about out of hope--but quitting has never been an option. I will keep trying to move things forward--even when I know I will make mistakes, will fail to be good as I need to be.