How casually we hate, but why?

Today my students kept asking me if I’d heard about the “whole gorilla thing.”  Almost immediately, as soon as anyone mentioned it, someone else would say, “that mom should have all her kids taken away.”  I would simply respond, “let’s trust local law enforcement to do their job,” and move the conversation onward.

But seriously.  Woah.  What is going on here?

I cannot move five feet, virtually or in real life, without running into someone who has already decided that a complete stranger deserves to have her family pulled apart, for a tragedy they didn’t personally experience and could not possibly fully understand.  I have to wonder what in the world we’re getting from this as a society, that we feel the need to execute this stranger and her family when we have to know we don’t have all the facts.

It’s gotten to the point that I’ve pulled the plug on Facebook.  For the meanwhile, I’ll continue posting there, but I refuse to read the news feed.  It was bad enough seeing the non-stop barrage of “you’re an idiot if you’re voting for this person” posts, followed by the “if you really love your friends you’ll share this” posts, and the “only stupid people like (whatever)” posts.  Now, to top it off, there doesn’t seem to be a single person alive who doesn’t have a vehemently held belief that either the zoo, or the mother, or both the zoo and the mother deserve to be prosecuted within an inch of their lives.

I deal with enough hatred on a daily basis without opening a door to allow more in, so sorry, Facebook, I’m gonna have to let the dead bury the dead on this one.  (Or let the judgmental bury the judgmental, whatever).  You’ll have to find another way to guilt me into buying your various multi-level-marketing products or to invite me to your parties that I can’t attend because I live out of state and am to anti-social to ever go anyway.

But back to the subject at hand:  why crucify total strangers over a situation we can’t possibly understand?

There are a lot of things to consider.  First, there’s the fact that women in the United States are incapable of raising their children properly.  No matter what choices a woman makes (breastfeed or bottle?  Cloth or disposable diaper?  Back to sleep or side?  Bassinett or crib or co sleep?  Start on solids or puree?  Veggies first or meats or grains?  TV or no TV?) there is literally no right choice to be made.  A large segment of the population is waiting to tell you how you’re ruining your kid, often very loudly and obnoxiously to your face in the store even though you are total strangers.

So, on the one hand, mother-shaming out of the blue to total strangers in a very real and hurtful way is a national past-time.  So mother-shaming this particular mother is just like winning the mommy-guilt lottery.  This is the Moby Dick of mommy-shaming moments, how could we POSSIBLY pass it up?

Second, there’s the fact that there’s a huge segment of the population who distrusts any authority figures and can’t wait to blame them for handling things wrong.  In some cases, like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray’s death, there’s both good reason to distrust the authorities as well as evidence that perhaps they weren’t entirely wrong.  In other cases, like the constant malingering belief that Barack Obama is going to steal your guns and impregnate your teenage daughters just to forcibly abort their babies, there’s not a lot of good evidence but the hatred remains.  So who WOULDN’T want to hate on a zoo for killing an innocent animal just to protect a human baby?  I mean, let’s hate on them hardcore!  Even though none of us are animal behaviorists, none of us were there, the video is short and doesn’t show the most violent actions towards the kiddo, we’re obviously anthropomorphizing the gorrilla by describing it as “protective” when we don’t really know how gorilla’s express protectiveness versus possessiveness, etc, let’s just decide to blame the zoo because blaming authority figures is our second favorite past-time right behind mommy shaming.

Then, there’s the fact that everyone loves to feel like their opinion matters.  Me too.  Having an opinion that matters is fun.  Mine matters a lot to me.

But last, and not least, I think we all just want a sacrificial lamb.

Boy, don’t we have a LOT of guilt as a nation?  We do, and we have a lot to feel guilty for.  Most of us enjoy lives of relative luxury, and the news reminds us on a regular basis of all of those people who have less than we do.  The migrants, the refugees of war-torn countries, the people fleeing cities we’re currently bombing the hell out of.  We live these privileged lives and routinely we see the evidence around us that it may not last.  Our place of privilege in the world is threatened constantly:  by our own greed and avirice; by a shaky economy based off of invisible money we don’t understand; by terrorism; by immigration; by jobs being constantly outsourced; by the cost of education skyrocketing while low-skills jobs pay less and less of a living wage; and so on.

We’re terrified.  And in the collective mind, we’re not too far removed from the Judeo-Christian values that say that when society wears a collective stain, it requires a sacrifice.  Sacrifices we’re all too happy to make.  Welfare moms?  Throw those bitches under the bus.  Bankers who are just banking the way society has taught them to?  Slash those golden parachutes.  Politicians doing what we ask them to?  Smear them.  Mothers trying their best?  Shame the hell out of them.  And the gays, and the single parents, and the transsexuals, and the celebrities, and everyone else to.  Whoever the news parades out for a public stoning, we are locked and loaded and ready to cast our own chunks of granite and rotten vegetables at their tear-streaked faces.  And why not?  We’ve got anger and fear to spare, and no-where better to put it.  We’ll put it where the media tells us to.

Harambe shouldn’t have died, we say.  Let’s stone them all.

Only in the midst of all of this, we forget that the world is a place where sometimes bad things happen even though no one meant them to, even though no one may have been able to prevent it.  What we have, most times, isn’t a failure of foresight but a failure of imagination.  Perhaps we could have never known such things would happen, until they’d happen.

As human beings we’re always learning from our mistakes.

Only we live in a society that has become intolerant of mistakes, so we take out our own anger and frustrations at our own failures for whatever sacrifice-of-the-week has been pulled out for us.  The terrorists, the Kardashians, Johnny Depp, who cares?  They made mistakes which we can paint as worse than our own.

Kill ’em all.  Take their kids.  Make them pay.

Anyway, I need out of the big societal rock-throw, so I’ll be stepping away from social media and focusing more on blogging as a way to unwind from my plethora of bad days at work.

Perhaps this is my own way of casting out for a sacrificial lamb.  Who knows.

All I can say is that the more I see people polarized- willingly, gleefully polarized- the less willing I am to participate in a society that thrives off of division, instead of unity and understanding.

As my students would say, “byeeeeee Felicia.”

Heh.

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FYI (for girls and boys)

So in the wake of one lady’s attempt to get her son’s Facebook friends to cover up (complete with bonus pictures of her topless sons), as well as one friend’s wife’s attempt to bring a little clarity to what it feels like as a Christian teen trying her best not to be seen as a hussy temptress, I’ve been thinking a lot about what responsibility women do have to their bodies.

Here’s the thing:  women have heard it all.  “Don’t be a stumbling block.”  “Don’t cause your brother to sin.”  “You have a responsibility.”  “If a guy sees your breasts he won’t respect you, you’ll forever be an object to him.”

I can’t help but remember one time when I was wearing a pair of hole filled jeans my brother had given me, and a band tee that was two sizes too big.  I remember walking around at a (Christian) music festival feeling pleasantly asexual, when one leering guy loudly said to one of his friends, “girl tries to hide it but I bet if you peel away the layers there is one sweet body wrapped up in there.”

God, I was so embarrassed.

I never wanted to be a sexual object.  When I was young, a so-called friend of my brothers grabbed the neck of my tshirt and pinched my ass and ogled my breasts.  It scarred me in a serious way.  Some girls, after something like that, choose to be sexy to feel in control.  I chose to be asexual until I was in college.  I’d dress in baggy clothes and keep my body hidden and blush for any attention at all.  Yet, guys still talked about my body.  Guys still asked to see my breasts.  Guys still obviously lusted for me.  So what was I doing wrong?

I would be openly, violently opposed to any male advances to the point that guys called me a lesbian.  Yet once, one drunk friend got me pinned in a corner and kissed me.  What was I doing wrong?

I was being female.

I realize now that it was all I ever did wrong.  I was a girl in a world that tells girls that their bodies are a problem.  Yet I cannot stop being a girl.

Here’s the problem:  when you tell a girl to cover up her body to keep men from stumbling, you are telling her that her body is a stumbling block.  Her body, which you also say was made to glorify God.  You give her conflicting messages, saying in one breath that her female form is a source of shame but also telling her that she should glorify God through childbirth.  As if the end result is holy (she will bear children) but the function itself is vile (she has an attractive body which she will give to a man in order to conceive.)

It simply doesn’t make sense.

Women cannot control men’s attraction.  Even by covering up.  The knowledge that the female body is possessed of breasts and a vagina does not fade just because they are out of sight.  Pure attraction, involuntary attraction, the longing of one body for another to touch, doesn’t fade no matter what clothing is involved.  The only responsible way to handle that primal, human, urging is by teaching our children what it means and how to control it in themselves.  Blaming it on females is recklessly irresponsible; especially, given the knowledge that males are not the only ones who experience it.  (Yet we do not caution our men to hide the traits which women most find appealing.  Imagine if we told our young boys to speak in high pitched voices, avoid growing muscles, and to disdain showing any affection or appreciation towards girls in order to protect girls from feeling lust!)

Women’s bodies should not be seen or treated as a source of shame.  Yes, I understand that in the Garden of Eden, after eating the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, both Adam and Eve felt shame in their nakedness and God clothed them.  Yes, that is all good.  But didn’t God at the same time throw layer upon layer of curses on them?  Are those curses, and that shame, things that we as redeemed people should embrace?  Absolutely not.  We have freedom from those curses, we seek out a more perfect state of being, one in which we can taste the taste of Eden and walk unashamed at the side of God.

Let me be absolutely blatant:  This fervent, senseless shaming of young girl’s bodies is a stumbling block to achieving that blessed state.

I would never unfriend a young girl who posted a coy selfie.  I would never tell my daughter that it is her fault if young boys see her as a sexual object, and I would never tell my son to blame a young girl for his attractions.  No.

No.

No.

I will tell my daughter that her body is a blessing and a beautiful gift.  That it can give her joy, it can give her future lover joy, it can offer comfort and safety and warmth.  Her body is capable of creating the miracle of life and her breasts are glorious gifts that can give sustenance to a child.  I want my daughter to rejoice in her body.  Will I explain to her about society’s expectations, and dressing in a way that people show respect?  Yes.  But I want her to understand that there’s a difference between dressing in a way that shows respect for your body and others and dressing to hide yourself.  Those two are not the same and should not be treated as such.

A woman who wears shapeless dresses and lives in terror of being seen as the sexual being that she is does not show herself, or others, respect by doing so.  She shows fear.

And I will explain to my son that the things he feels are not to be blamed on the people that incite them in him.  It’s not other people’s fault when he is sad or angry or bored, nor is it their fault when he is sexually excited.  They are his feelings, his to understand and his to control. Those feelings, when shared with others, can be a blessing or a curse.  I will teach him not to curse others with his sexual urges.

So, remember that your body is a gift, the feelings it can create in others and yourself are also a gift.  There is no reason to be ashamed of having that capability or feeling.  What matters is how you take responsibility for yourself.  You cannot take responsibility through blaming or shaming.  Women, dress yourselves with grace and love.  Men, treat your attraction with grace and love.

And don’t be ashamed.