Watching the students who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School become activists has both been beautiful and heartening. Seeing their grief and outrage evolve into a national movement that is shifting thinking and promoting action makes me feel hopeful for the future of our democracy.

Last week I read a blog post about those students that shook me up. It wasn’t the nasty vitriol accusing the students of being crisis actors or “deep state operatives”, whatever that means. It was a point of view that I hadn’t even considered. And it made me feel ashamed of myself.

Ashamed that I was guilty of exactly what the writer described.

Ashamed because I could see I had a blindspot.

Shame is something that we not only generally avoid experiencing, but we try not to talk about it either.  But shame is a really useful feeling that helps us to understand when we are wrong, or when we act wrong.

I mulled over this vague feeling of shame in the days after I  read the blog post. I might still be mulling except I happened to have a conversation this week that helped me put my finger on it. We were talking about how blindspots are part of implicit bias which reminded me that my discomfort – my shame at my behavior – meant learning.

I am glad to now have perspective that I was previously blind to. I’ll try to keep shining a light on my blind spot in the future as well as trying to remember to dig around occasionally and see what I’m missing. We are all only human.

I invite you to read the blog here.

Why It Hurts When the World Loves Everyone but Us

 

While I was facilitating a discussion about race this week it came up that some people “didn’t want to get into it” because black people are “always so angry.”

There’s a lot to address in that statement.  I chose to see it as an open door and put aside any discussion of white privilege. Instead, I raised the concept of anger being a response to repeated pain. If the injury is familiar, if it happens over and over – sometimes every day – when it happens again, its possible the response is anger.

Or flame.

I always hesitate to respond too quickly to racial events in the news for two reasons: first, because I want to be thoughtful and not throw gasoline on any fire, and second, because current events take a few minutes to evolve even in our instant world.

I have my personal reaction to the actions of Baltimore mom Toya Graham, but I’m more concerned with the way the narrative about her is shaped to match the agenda of politicians and talking heads all over the political landscape.

How we get our information, what bubble we choose to live in, impacts our ability to process in the present, as well as in the future history books. And even Howard Zinn sometimes left things out.

I am still thinking. And watching. And reading. And processing.

In the meantime, I found Claire Potter’s perspective to be very worthwhile. On the heels of our daughter remarking today, “Why are you guys always talking about such depressing things every morning?” this sentence hit me hard – “because I grew up to study violence, and race, as historical phenomena, I have access to even better informed despair than I did as a child.”

I may have to buy her book Doing Recent History.

Read her blog post Teaching Baltimore, Teaching the History of American Violence.

Baltimore_districts_map

 

 

Every once in a while I wake up with a migraine so bad it gives me black eyes. Like my nose caught a softball. Or a fist.

That’s today.

Pain killers, dark rooms, sleeping it off – the only thing that actually works is waiting it out. The migraine either goes away or retreats to a point I where I can function until it does.

A while back, before I discovered it was connected to my migraines, I wrote about this experience. In light of the discussion around the violence suffered by Janay Rice by her husband Ray, I am re-posting what happened to me when I had a black eye.

Does the current awareness of how to empathize and assist battered women translate into action? I’ll let you know if anyone comments on my shiner or looks askance at my explanation.

I haven’t watched the video of Rice knocking Janay unconscious. I have seen men hit women, and each other, in person and it’s horrifying enough to stick in my memory without a video refresher.


BLACK EYE March 12, 2012
I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

Stop-Button-300x240

An uncomfortable truth is hidden under the national discussion about music being played too loud, and the hoodies that criminals wear. Racism is not going anywhere.

I feel this observation needs to be made especially in light of the recent Academy Award’s presented to Lupita Nyong’o and John Ridley. I don’t wish to minimize their achievements, just to point out that they will eventually be used by someone as an example of our post-racial society.

I’ve written this particular post several times since mid-February when the trial of Jordan Davis’s killer was in the news. I filed rather than published because I’m always weighing the relative merits of my opinions about racial justice issues against the fact that I am white, female, suburban and part of the “chattering class”, which may actually be a generous stretch for this blog.

I hesitated because as good as it feels to vent, or in this case Rant, self-righteousness and hyperbole are rarely positives. I care too much about these issues to be flip or off the cuff.

It is the impact of these “Stand Your Ground” self-defense cases that is haunting my thinking at the moment. Specifically the no duty to retreat provision.

The institutional racism of our judicial system, or any kind of systemic oppression, is a hard sell when people are not willing to acknowledge their own biases. So anyone talking about how the killings of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin are racially motivated is derailed, shouted down and marginalized.

The national discussion of the Stand Your Ground laws invariably skirts racism by focusing on an individuals right to protect themselves against a perceived threat. Self-defense is at the core. Rarely is the fact established that the act of being a black male in our culture IS automatically a perceived threat.

If you are afraid for your safety, and there is no need to de-escalate, a “reasonable person” would be justified in protecting themselves. Media generally presents black men as dangerous, so a “reasonable person” can be expected to be afraid of black men. Except that second sentence is never stated.

Klappstecker_SicherheitNo duty to retreat is the linchpin to this specific kind of institutional racism. Subjective perceptions of threat trump evidence and facts. My feelings about your potential to hurt me justifies necessary force. It’s quite disheartening.

I have heard some folks saying that the celebrating of 12 Years a Slave by the Academy shows that we as a culture are ready to talk about race and slavery in an honest way. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe its true.

If we are ready to talk about race in the US, let’s start the conversation by believing that racism still exists, there is no such thing as the race card, and actions count more than intentions. My recommended moderators for this national conversation:

Onward and upward.

It is disheartening how little impact the mass murder of 20 elementary school children has had on gun regulations. Increased background check legislation stalled, restrictions on automatic weapons and military grade ammunition not happening. I guess the horror fades for some folks if it’s not your kid, and the political will to take on the gun lobby is clearly nonexistent.

In fact “In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law“, however, of the 109 laws passed 70 eased restrictions and expanded the rights of gun owners.

Unbelievable in the wake of the unspeakable.

Below is what I wrote a year ago in reaction to the massacre of 20 children and the 6 teachers trying to protect them.

December 21, 2012

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It’s a place you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based on the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, and we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

After it happened, we talked with our daughter about Sandy Hook. She talked about the intruder drill they had at school the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one particular teacher, and that the room had too many windows. The drill had kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because it’s about as useful as  “duck and cover.”

When she identified other rooms and teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. (I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.”) We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and it was clear that none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies always know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. It’s useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. It’s not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

It’s so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I’m much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office, which just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”.

Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

birds_eye_view_map

Context matters. Until it doesn’t.

Watching and listening to the story unfold of how NFL player Richie Incognito bullied and used racial slurs against teammate Jonathan Martin, I noticed a theme in the commentary and reactions about how “context matters”.

Not quite “boys will be boys”, the explanations and defense of the NFL locker room culture sounded almost antiquated. Most apologists have couched what sounds like hazing, threats, bullying and racial slurs in the context of team camaraderie that only the initiated can appreciate.

It didn’t take long for those “the way things are” arguments to sound ridiculous despite their apparent accuracy.  The truth of the NFL culture (in or out of the locker room) permitting and, if Incognito is to be believed, even encouraging racist, bullying, and harassing behavior goes beyond what most people can justify or excuse even from a violent and aggressive sport.

I have to stress the word “most” because fans commenting on stories think this is the stuff that’s turning America into a bunch of sissies. Being “overly sensitive” to abusive behavior when, in the context of the physically and verbally violent sport of football, the abuse has been historically accepted and expected. Again and again context is the excuse.

I feel sorry for Incognito. The cultural change in the locker room, as small as it may end up being, will be the hardest on guys like him. The new expectation that things do not cross a certain line when players are busting each others balls will be tough to figure out when there was no line before.

The idea that you could be considered a racist if you use racial slurs will be the new context. And a reason is not an excuse. That may be a bit deep for most folks, but I’m putting it out there anyway.

The context arguments reminded me of a scene in the movie Babe when the cow says, “The only way you’ll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are.” The duck (who is fighting becoming Christmas dinner) says “The way things are stinks!” For whatever reason Jonathan Martin, like the duck, could no longer accept the way things are.

I hope the NFL follows suit.

ajhs-85

 

I have been struggling to write about the George Zimmerman verdict while I got my thoughts together. Unfortunately, even though this post has been in draft since 7/15, my thoughts still aren’t together.

We have a hard time talking about race in the US, calmly or otherwise, and the Zimmerman case was absolutely about race. From one side the verdict was vindication for a man trying to do the right thing under a Stand Your Ground law, from the other side it is evidence of a justice system stacked against minorities.

It feels like a miscarriage of justice to me for several reasons the first one being that Zimmerman violated the rule of self-preservation by getting out of his car to pursue Trayvon Martin whom he perceived to be a threat. Even a basic concept of fairness supports that it’s not “self-defense” if you go in search of trouble. Zimmerman made a choice, did not have to get out of his car, but he did.

The Why? Zimmerman got out of the car is trickier. Maybe because he felt he had a “duty” to his neighborhood, because he felt empowered by his gun, or because he suspected Martin was “up to no good” because of how he looked and acted. Any or all of these may be true but its clear that Zimmerman felt he had cause and the right to follow Martin.

The profiling that Zimmerman did, calling Martin suspicious because he wasn’t walking quickly in the rain, seemed to stem primarily from how Martin was dressed – like a black teenager – in jeans and a hoodie. Martin’s profiling happened because black teenagers were seen previously in Zimmerman’s neighborhood breaking into houses, hence the neighborhood watch.

Prima facie it is reasonable for Zimmerman to jump to the conclusion that a kid he doesn’t know, strolling through his development wearing a hoodie is up to no good. The problem is, built into that reasonable assumption, there is a deeper and more troubling assumption that the hoodie itself signals “up to no good”. This is where race comes in.

Whether Zimmerman himself profiled Martin because of his hoodie is almost immaterial in light of the societal profiling of black men and boys. Plenty of racial profiling goes on with black women and girls as well, but I am setting that aside for this post.

Operating from our biases is a daily part of human life. It allows us to make benign choices, like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or use criteria like male/female or young/old, when choosing a doctor.  These choices, based on personal preference, don’t impact society at large. I like female doctors because they have the same body I do, but there are still plenty of patients for the male doctors.

However, some choices are impacted by unconscious biases which are kissin cousins to prejudice and racism.

The expectation that black boys & men are more likely to be criminals or “up to no good” is a bias, conscious or unconscious, that stems from a systemic racism in our justice system, media and public narrative. This means that individual acts may not appear to be informed by unconcious bias or systemic racism, but research tells a different story (happy to point you to longitudinal Harvard studies).

This is the part folks sometimes don’t get –  unconscious bias means that you don’t know that you don’t know.

The people on the receiving end of unconscious bias are the ones who know. Those black boys & men who say they are followed in stores, pulled over by police and generally have all of their actions viewed through a lens of fear and criminal intent, they are the experts on their lived experience. So a good kid has to be an even better kid – and dress to impress – and still might experience racist behavior.

This post is a rambly mess. A mess that resembles the national narrative swirling over the Zimmerman verdict because it is so complex. A narrative that is equal parts rational information and emotional interpretation. The last thing I want to say about the Zimmerman verdict, for this post at least, is that I have an overwhelming desire to tell all boys and men of color to stop wearing hoodies.

That smacks of blame the victim I know, but I want to be public about my biases too. I’m not perfect. I want these boys & men to not be judged by their clothing but I know that brown skin + hoodie =  suspicion. So don’t wear the hoodie! Without going all “Talented Tenth” I want the trappings of gang culture, whether adopted via hiphop stylizing or the real deal, to lose its stranglehold on youth.

Humans judge a person within seconds. Lightening fast information processing takes in your gender, skin color, age, attitude and status. Friend or foe. Its how we are biologically wired. So why stack the deck by signifying danger through wearing clothing that allows you to hide your face?

My conflicted thoughts are a small corner of a big picture. I’m just pessimistic enough to think that changing hearts and minds to accept brown skin + hoodie is impossible, and optimistic enough to think getting folks to drop the hoodie might help a little bit.

Trayvon Martin, as a US citizen, had the right to walk from the store to a house wearing whatever clothing he wanted. Trayvon Martin, as a black teenager wearing a hoodie, had a different set of rights.

clothing-and-accesories

I’m just going to hit the publish button. Apologies for the ramble.

Writing about violence is much like writing about rape.

As a culture we understand the definitions but it gets fuzzy when we move from the general to the specific, or from the specific to the general. However, this post is not intended to be a lesson on the merits or flaws of using deductive versus inductive logic. Rather I am thinking of all the ways “running” is part of the act of terrorism in Boston.

  • People targeted while they were running.
  • The average runner finishes the Boston Marathon in four hours, the time the bombs exploded.
  • People running away, in fear and confusion.
  • People running to, to help and save lives.
  • Thoughts running to fear for our loved ones, friends and acquaintances who might be in Boston.
  • Thoughts running to fear for ourselves and our loved ones at similar large events that might be targeted.
  • Thoughts running to understand, blame, accuse, and ultimately – not today of course – leverage for whatever agenda or prejudice it can be attached to.

The word running is losing meaning as I read it now. Which is part of my point as meaning, or sense-making, will be a Swiss cheese affair no matter what evidence is eventually produced. It seems to me that it’s always the holes in the cheese, the negative space, that is used to support the “leveraged agenda”. The arguments that this proves that “Obama is a bad president”, or “we need more guns” or “stronger immigration laws” or “stronger policy on North Korea” (saw this one already) whether it has anything to do with the Boston event or not.

I watched the violence in Chardon and Sandy Hook get tied to agendas outside those stories, so I’m pretty sure it will happen about Boston soon enough. There’s a whole category of religious, political and news commentators (and I use that term very loosely) “running their mouths”, offering answers that makes national tragedies even worse. For me at least.

The only answer I’m looking for is how to adequately explain to my daughter that we can each decide how world events shape us. We’re not clay, we can choose. And the choices for processing and reacting to world events are endlessly complex – fear, courage, love, hate, action, destruction, paralysis, and on and on and on. Deciding rather than hiding is my policy because ultimately we can never run away from ourselves.

My deepest sympathies are extended to those affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Wishing all those injured or responding a speedy reunion with loved ones.

I am predicting the tag I will use the most on this blog during the next four years will be GOPfail.

The expired Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is back in the news cycle. The objections around VAWA are as political and idiotic as the defeat of the UN disability treaty back in December.

Seems the Senate hopes to get greater House support now that they removed the provision to protect illegal-immigrant women suffering from domestic violence or sexual abuse by granting them additional visas. However, Republicans also object to including language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT folks.

I am continually disappointed that laws and protections designed to normalize treatment of all humans in the US are routinely undermined. I fail to see how condemning domestic violence in the LGBT community can be perceived as supporting or encouraging “the gay agenda.” Then again I fail to understand a lot of the GOP platform.

I am re-posting an experience I had with a black eye last year. It speaks to many of the issues that come up in these “There but for the grace of God” moments.

12 March 2012 – Black Eye

I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, and hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them, and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him. Reactions have been interesting. Some women glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a dismissive once over. People seem to be creating a story about how I got a black eye, yet no one asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I bet the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. And maybe the long stares wanted to to see if I “had work done”. The once-over folks felt judgmental – like I must be someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While the assumption makes me uncomfortable, I would have been amazed if any stranger (or acquaintances like women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my one sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. I talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it. “You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him as she left and went back to him a dozen times.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Today. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that aren’t supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

I made a mistake the other day of responding to a Tweet about the Sandy Hook school shooting. Got a flurry of replies and personal messages from folks saying things like “quit living in fantasy land”, “gun laws don’t work” and “I protect my children with a Glock”. Continue reading

In following all of the upheaval in the Middle East, starting with the needless death of Ambassador Stevens and three others in Libya, violent protests Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen and ongoing protests in front of multiple embassies, I noticed a phrase being used that I found particularly disturbing.

In reporting on the video that is fueling the ongoing violence, some journalists used the phrase “anti-Islamic activists” and included Terry Jones, the nut burger pastor from Florida, as part of this group. I started to wonder, has 9/11 been subtly framing the reporting on this incident, or have we as a society forgotten what the word activist means?

Pro, Anti, and Activist can be tacked onto just about anything, but that doesn’t mean it belongs there. Activism, the way I understand it, means doing something (protesting, boycotting, campaigning) to change something (social, economic or political) to something different (better). For example, a person who is anti-abortion can protest outside a clinic to change minds (social) or write their legislature to change laws (political) and this makes them an activist. Misguided in my opinion, but an activist nonetheless. If you want a refresher, this website has some interesting links and background history on activism.

So what is a person making a movie trailer about a Islam, ridiculing its major religious figure, trying to change? It’s a far stretch to say this is political activism, but lets stretch for a minute:

If you are a political activist/social critic trying to rally supporters by exposing damning information that is withheld, obfuscated or overlooked by mainstream media, you would still have to have a desired outcome for other activists to take action on. Otherwise it is exposing information for titillation sake, which makes it tabloid news not activism.

The trailer-maker – I think we really should stop insulting filmmakers by referring to him that way – stated his goal as exposing the hypocrisy of Islam because “it is a cancer.” By any stretch of the imagination I still can’t consider him an activist.

The purpose of his trailer (which its reported that almost none of the protesting Muslims have seen) appears to be to portray Muslims as violent and insult their Prophet so as to provoke protests and violence. Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood use all opportunities to promote unrest, so now Muslim protesters are chanting “Death to America, Death to Israel” across six countries. The snake eats its tail and the trailer-maker can now say “See, I told you they were violent and want to destroy America.”

Now what.

There are all sorts of free speech & hate speech nuances with this incident, not to mention the way it is playing out with Romney’s statements, and the GOP are circling the wagons, I suspect I will revisit this topic again.

Here’s hoping I will be using the past tense for all further discussion.

While it is no longer actively in the news cycle, the incident with Mitt Romney attacking a supposedly gay classmate keeps rolling around in my head. The history seems pretty clear cut. A group of popular guys at a prep school attack a classmate who is “different” and cut his long (ish) bleached hair. No punishment follows.

In the present this incident is incredibly complex.

Because we now have evidence that the harassment gay kids are subjected to has direct and lasting effects – like suicide – a story like this can no longer be swept into the “youthful hijinks’s” category. Its not as if he held the scissors and didn’t cut a la Clinton’s failure to inhale, witnesses confirm Romney’s actions.

Some people may say that we can’t use 2012 standards to judge 1965 behavior, but while it is true that twenty + years ago there was a great deal more tolerance for intolerance, there were still standards of decency. You can argue that Romney was a product of his time, but the problem remains that no time in history actually justifies lack of compassion or victimization.

It’s true Romney was a young man and we have all been guilty of selfish or cruel acts in our youth that hopefully do not totally define who we are now. A bigger red flag for me is that Romney didn’t seem to remember or regret his actions against his classmate. Now I think I am a very different person at 47 than I was at 17, and I am sure I was casually shitty to lots of people in my past, but I know I would remember a deliberate act of violence.

I guess the smorgasbord of how we as a society condone, ignore, deny and justify bullying is what is under my skin. There is evidence of bullying based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation every day and its a roll of the dice if it is dealt with or dismissed as the product of a PC nanny state.

The President of the US may or may not be the “Leader of the Free World” anymore, but the position can absolutely be “Bully-in-Chief” as easily as it can be Commander-in-Chief. It matters to a whole lotta people if the president has an attitude that can be viewed as condoning harassment of any kind. A ripple effect of intolerance taking place in the midst of the polarization and tea party extremism we’ve got right now is an ugly, ugly prospect.

I can’t think of a novel dystopian enough to reference so here is a mash-up: Fahrenheit 451 + Clockwork Orange by way of The Handmaid’s Tale and then filmed like Children of Men.

Sad fugee face if Romney becomes president.

I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?