*Picture taken at sunset in the woods of Nelson, NH.
Hello, dear ones. This has been a rough weekend for the US, particularly for a large population of women. As I write this, fog obscures the woods, rain gently patters on the foliage, yellow and gold leaves drift slowly to the forest floor, each one a moment of poetry. The resident owl calls mournfully in the distance. Prepare yourselves, friends. I am about to disrupt the peace of my quiet retreat and get fiery about political feminist ideals. If that’s not your bag, you are under no obligation to keep reading, but I hope you will anyway. What’s happening politically in the US right now is happening in other parts of the world, and it isn’t new. For millennia, the globe has been ruled by a patriarchy which favors the needs of a few, while the many are kept ignorant, brainwashed, hungry, and fearful in order to keep them too busy to rebel. Over the years of my life, I have read a lot about equal rights and how it may be achieved, as well as reading about how the masses are kept essentially enslaved to leadership which does not represent their needs. In this time of human history, we finally have achieved a means for supplying plenty of food for all, have the means for providing shelter and clothing for all, and we have the means to educate all. We have everything we need to ensure the health and safety of every human on the planet, and yet the majority of the world’s population struggles in poverty or illness. Why? The patriarchy.
In the US, despite our “freedom,” we are raptly engaged in a system of societal obedience which encourages us to stay silent when we see bullying, sexual harassment or assault, or abuse of power. Girls are taught from the time they are born that they are expected to be kind, nurturing, and submissive, while boys are expected to be brave, adventurous, and dominant. Even parents educated on gender roles, and who encourage gender fluidity, have a vigorous uphill battle to help their children avoid the deep waters of social acculturation which inevitably happens when children see and interact with the culture of patriarchy all around them. No matter how much you work at home, no matter who you befriend, no matter what school you choose, unless you live in a commune in the woods, your children will grow up in the culture of patriarchy. We all learn that girls are expected to suffer the indecency of being seen as sexual objects, to prepare for the inevitable sexual assault which may happen at any time, and that our brains are weakened by hormones out of our control. Boys are expected to be the violent protectors of their loved ones, to stuff their emotions away regardless of what they see or hear, and to handle their problems on their own, without coddling or comfort. None of these things demanded by society are based in any actual scientific research or true human need; rather, they are arbitrary rules we follow simply because everyone else is doing it. I’m sure any of you reading now already knows all of this, but the consequence of us knowing it and not helping to change it is what we are seeing in our political system right now. It’s a repeating pattern, and it will continue to repeat until the population of the globe decides to do what works for the betterment of mankind, rather than just the instant gratification of the moment, and blind obedience to a broken system.
I’ve been reading a book titled Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. It’s an in-depth biography of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder which explores a wide, holistic view of the United States in the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. At the turn of the century, women were fighting for the right to vote, and before that, in the late 1800s the political climate of the US was very similar to what is happening in our country right now: lots of misinformation, political leaders refusing to help the needy (saying the poor should pull themselves up by their bootstraps), and refusal to acknowledge that short-sighted farming methods were causing environmental change which resulted in heat waves and droughts, and then later the Dustbowl. Yes, the similarities are incredibly uncanny. Slavery had come to an end, but not the suffering of people of color. Native Americans were being corralled like animals onto tiny, miserable plots of land after centuries of living free. Here, I will insert my own knowledge from other sources to say the patriarchal march of white male privilege stomped all over the globe, spreading its venomous control through every single society it conquered, assimilated, and destroyed through colonization, war, and creating self-indulgent empires. Unfortunately, Christianity was a massive vehicle for this crushing take-over. Hold your horses if you’re Christian and feeling offended. I am not saying all Christians are responsible for the mess of the world, but Christianity has a long history of male-dominated culture which abuses its power. This is not news, and it needs to be said. Religion should not be used to control others, but it is, and Christianity isn’t the only religion doing it. I was a member of a religion which I thought to be very progressive, but even that religion had brainwashing built into the culture, and it’s less than 200 years old. Because of that, I quit religion and set myself free. I believe I am better for it, even if I can still respect those who wish to remain.
Women and people of color in this country (along with other various groups) have been fighting for equal rights since the inception of the US, and we have made some progress, but largely we are still ruled by a patriarchy which refuses to see a basic truth: when we take care of everyone, we all win. No, I am not talking about communism. Allow me to explain. If you ignore the health of part of the population, disease spreads. If disease spreads amongst enough people, even the healthy may be affected, regardless of how well they eat or where they live. When vaccines became the norm, and science showed us how much better life would be for everyone if we vaccinate the whole population, our global health improved. We eradicated small pox, virtually eliminated polio, and reduced the effects and spread of several other deadly diseases. This is known as herd immunity. It’s a smart decision to take care of the whole population, rather than just a few, even if you’re a selfish wealthy person who lives in a mansion high on a hill, surrounded by a moat filled with alligators. You have to leave your mansion at some point. None of us lives in a vacuum, and you will be exposed to germs when you venture out into the world at large. If you apply this same ideal to cultural norms, when the whole population lives in a state of imbalance about intelligence, contribution, earnings, importance, power, and ownership, you have problems with portions of the population which will be unhealthy emotionally, will abuse their power, and the imbalance of hierarchy creates diseases of the mind and heart. This does not mean we have to be communists, but if we inject truth and logic into the masses which are brainwashed into believing this imbalance is good for them (eg: white women who are raised believing they must submit to the authority of their husbands, and that their place in society is one of submission, which denies them the right to power over their finances, property, and bodies), the patriarchy would crumble immediately. Right now, the patriarchy relies on our acceptance of its norms through obedience, and too many voting Americans are placing all their eggs in the November basket.
When November rolls around, do not be surprised if the Republican party has hijacked the election to remain in power. Proof abounds in a smattering of sources which provide insight into how the GOP managed to leverage its way into the position of power it now occupies more openly than ever before (as if it ever really hid itself). Unfortunately, it’s once again acceptable to be openly racist, sexist, and biased. Being a bully is in vogue again as the patriarchy rears its ugly head to belch flames all over the progress made by activists for civil rights, mental health, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ, and women’s rights (and if I missed anything, please note in the comments—I do enjoy your love letters). Voting alone will not ensure a shift in politics. Democrats are no safer than Republicans in the US. Both parties have their pockets lined by big corporations which pull the strings of the entire rigged system, which also control the school systems, social welfare, health care, farming and food regulation, and pharmaceuticals, and most of it is owned by uber-wealthy white men. Go take some time to research the wealthiest people in the world. Don’t just take my word for it—don’t take any one person’s word over anything. I believe in finding out the truth for myself, and I encourage all people to do the same. My views are mine alone, and I don’t expect anyone to just believe me. Learn about who holds the cards of leadership in our world, discover their political affiliations, read about where they spend their cash, and how it affects policies globally. I have a feeling you will not be surprised to discover a web of intrigue which is meant to keep the populace foundering in ignorance while the wealthy behave like puppet masters. Thing is, I don’t believe the puppet masters are really that happy. When your entire life is wrapped up in keeping secrets, managing institutions of suffering, and maintaining imbalance, you aren’t a happy human.
The truth about our social network of imbalance is that if we achieved a “herd immunity” for emotional and mental health by ensuring safe and affordable housing, healthy food and water, health care, and clothing for all, we would be more likely to benefit from the contributions of individuals who would likely discover cures to deadly diseases, science which helps us better explore space and the deepest parts of the ocean, better ways to replace plastic, or save the water supply. We may already have had such a person alive in our world, but we may have lost our chance to benefit from that individual contribution because we have allowed the imbalance of hierarchical society to keep us enslaved in suffering. If you look at how racism has indelibly damaged our globe, just think about what you know of Africa. Look at the suffering, the death, the irreparable damage to life, culture, and the environment. South America suffers the same fate. The Middle East? Ravaged by war and politics and religion which all play tug-of-war over oil. It’s foolishness to think these are accidental conditions, and dangerous to assume the general populous has no control over it. We have all the power, which is what the leadership has been keen to hide. We have the power of numbers on our side, even if they have all the weapons. With numbers, even technology can’t prevent the overwhelming tide of revolution. We know injustice when we see it, no matter what your religious or political beliefs.
No one should have to feel less than. No one deserves to live with guard towers shining lights into their barred windows, being followed like criminals, or interrogated when out after dark like people living in government housing around New York City right now. Who lives there? High numbers of people of color, single mothers, the elderly. Go look it up, or you can watch the movie Copwatchers. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, regardless of what he or she is wearing, saying, or doing. Only about 5% of the people who come forward to report an assault are lying, which means about 95% of those who say they have been assaulted are telling the truth. If you received a vaccine which gave you a 95% rate of effectiveness, you would be willing to get the shot if it kept you alive. Don’t believe me about the numbers? Go read the info on false reporting from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, or better yet, just read as many sources as you can find. No one deserves to be caged because of their skin color, and yet roughly 13,000 children are still being kept in government custody because their parents wanted them to have better, safer lives. Sexual assault runs rampant in these shelters, as does other abuse. These children will most likely live with the effects of being taken from their parents and kept as prisoners for the rest of their lives. Even if you believe these children should not have come here illegally, they do not deserve to be caged and subjected to assault. The choices of their parents should not be taken out of their well-being. Read about it in any of the major newspapers, like the LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post…the list is long and the sources are varied.
Such injustices create imbalances which keep people in a state of stress, which affects their health and their ability to contribute to society as a whole. For centuries, the United States has touted itself as the land of the free, but that applies only to those who are privileged, which usually translates to white males. Anyone else is subject to the perils of oppression, and even if your argument as a white man is to suggest that your life has not been full of roses and daisies, your life has not been burdened with the racism and sexism that people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, people with mental illness, people with disabilities, and women have endured. White men suffer, too, and some of them have even been sexually assaulted and oppressed, but that is only more proof that the system is broken if it does not care for all equally. We must make the choice to support all lives equally and fairly, rather than to hand over power to those who are privileged and connected to the good old boys’ club. Too often, we allow zeal and popular views to govern our choices, rather than research, considerate discussion, and humane guidance. Logic dissipates in the face of emotional, blistering commentary based in opinions rather than facts. As a society, we must learn to stop simply repeating what we read on social media or hear in passing, and actually research the facts. Learn the science, understand the politics, and know the truth. If you have time to goof around on Facebook or Twitter, you have time to read an article in a scholarly journal or to watch a documentary. Take the time to educate yourself on the views of people completely different than you, and really listen without arguing. Even if you disagree, it’s not going to hurt you in any way to just listen for a few minutes.
When I married Michael, I had no idea what a fantastic education I would enjoy as a result of our relationship. All of my life I have been anti-gun, I raised my children without any toy guns in the house, and I believed guns were the source of way too much violence in society. Though I still believe in gun control and reasonable laws to govern their use, I have shifted my ideas about guns due to my husband’s beliefs. He regards the liberal bias about gun control as fear-based, and disagrees that guns are the basis of our mass-shootings. Though I disagree that we should blame individuals only and avoid discussion of guns as part of the problem, I do agree that guns are a tool, and most people who own them would never go out and shoot anyone. Do I think anyone needs an AK-47? Not really, but even if people do own them, that doesn’t mean they are destined to be killers. The real issue, once again, is the imbalance and illness of oppression and what it does to the minds of everyone in the broken system. Who are the individuals doing the majority of mass shootings? White men. What does that tell you about the mental health of what our oppressive culture does to white men? Though they sit at the top of the heap, even they aren’t happy. In fact, being forced into the role of fierce protectors who must provide in the dog-eat-dog world of business is too heavy a burden for some. They learn that their only safe escape, their only means for stress relief, is violence. Sometimes they duke it out on each other, sometimes they beat their wives or children, and sometimes they get guns and shoot up malls, hospitals, or schools. Healthy, happy people don’t misuse guns, and law-abiding citizens are the ones who suffer when we take away the tool they might use to help feed their families. I know a lot of people in rural New York State who live on the meat they shoot. They aren’t shooting with AK-47s, but they do often have large collections of guns, and they carefully instruct their children on proper handling to avoid injury. The issue is complicated, but the fact that men are only allowed to show two emotions—happiness and anger—under most circumstances is clearly a bigger problem than gun laws can solve alone.
Protests over the last couple of years have erupted over the issue of gun control, inequality, racism, immigration, and much more, but I maintain that the basis for all of the unrest lies deeply rooted in the problem of living in a patriarchy which limits individual rights and oppresses humanity as a whole. We can do better. Womens’ Rights activist and writer, Gloria Steinem, is famous for saying, “Imagine we are linked, not ranked,” pointing out that hierarchies encourage imbalance, while embracing people as equals would improve everything about world society. Al Gore, founder of the Climate Reality Project, states in many of his speeches about climate change that we have all the technology, science, and information we need to solve the problems of climate change right now, and yet spread of misinformation keeps the oil companies in power. The problem isn’t the tendency for a few power-hungry tyrants wanting to seize control, because there will always be tyrants. The problem lies in our blind obedience to systems which do not serve human needs. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (which I encourage you to read in its entirety if you have not already):
“…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will…”
As a white woman, I can appreciate King’s notion of the white moderate who sits on the sidelines of the struggles of others, not wanting to upset the status quo, resting on the laurels of our relative comfort in comparison with what we know will incur suffering if we get involved. And yet, it will require that white people get uncomfortable, question authority, learn about the oppression of others, believe survivors of abuse or oppression, and realize that we simply must honor human life over the systems which enslave us. If we stay home when others are protesting, if we stay silent when others are crying out for help, if we keep our saved dollars when others are donating their last pennies, you have every reason to expect the patriarchy will survive and continue your slavery. Not even white people are really happy in the current system. If we want it to change, we are going to have to help, and that means everyone who sees the truth must come out and do their part. You don’t have to go knock on doors if you’re an introvert, but you can write emails or post on social media, and you can certainly read up on history, current events, science, psychology, and whatever else lends itself to understanding what is happening right now. Anything is better than nothing, and your small expenditure of time, effort, or donation will add to the massive number of active people in the world. You will be joining the millions of people working to end suffering worldwide. If you’ve already joined, thank you for your service to humanity. I hope you keep going. We need you. Stay strong, take care of yourself, remember to laugh. It’s okay to enjoy yourself, even though the world is a mess. The world has been a mess for as long as we’ve been recording history, so do your part to help, and then feel better when you have the time to play. Working at fixing what’s wrong with our world will alleviate your own suffering and stress, because action is one of the best sources of countering depression, anxiety, or rage.
Above all, remember that even people who have completely opposite viewpoints from your own are still people. We don’t have to hate anyone, even those who behave like monsters. Instead, I try to remember that even the oppressors are suffering, which is why they are doing harm to others. If they were happy and well-adjusted, they wouldn’t feel comfortable hurting anyone. Pity them if you have the heart. If not, feel your rage and use it as fuel for change, but don’t let it eat you up inside. No one benefits if you make yourself sick because you forget to take care of yourself. This has been a long diatribe, I know, so I want to say that even though Kavanaugh was voted in because he is part of the sexual abuser club, we will survive. In the words sung by Gloria Gaynor, “…I will survive, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive…” Additionally, don’t just survive…thrive, my friends. As Oprah has said, “Success is the best revenge.” It’s true. Want revenge? Succeed. In everything, seek success. Answers to every problem are out there if you take the time to find them, even if it takes you a lifetime. Be a flame under the iron grip of patriarchy, not just for women, but for all humans. We will all win when we can all be free to contribute in the ways we are most suited, and to live in a society which values human beings over systems.