A Naked Woman Dancing in the Street

A naked woman dancing in the street is not an invitation for sexual activity.  While societal norms might frown on such activity, it is not an open invitation for men to “have their way” with her.

Whether such things happen is exclusively up to her.

But that is not the way much of America sees it.

She was asking for it.  What did she expect? Look at how she’s dressed, she knew what she was doing.

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Image copyright Elon News network

The plague of sexual assault is one of the biggest threats to women in the world. In theory, we abhor rapists. Even within the insular walls of prisons, rapists must be protected from other inmates because of the inherent evil of their crimes.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. It is the wink and nod tolerance of “boys will be boys” in committing sexual assault in all its variations that places the onus and the burden on the victim for bringing it upon herself.

She shouldn’t have gone to that party. She shouldn’t dress that way. She shouldn’t have acted like she wanted it.

The double standard is appalling.

The normal progression of a child to puberty and the learning curve of acceptable behavior in controlling hormonal-driven feelings are complicated by this unequal expectation between males and females.

Sexual assault is the most underreported crime. We, as a society, place such burdens on victims they fear reporting the offense because of this. Can there be any more horrifying concept than a culture that blames the victim?

Much of this is cultural. There are still social practices throughout the world where women are nothing more than chattel, to be bargained with and traded by a male-dominated culture.

The vestiges of a father “giving away” his daughter at her wedding persist to this day. While we may view this as symbolic and harmless, it reflects a time when it was an absolute right of the family to determine who a woman marries.

A man was never given away, he was endowed with the right to “take” a bride.

When my then future son-in-law asked to speak with us about marrying my daughter, I appreciated the gesture. But I had about as much chance of telling my daughter who she could marry as I have of winning Powerball.

And that is how we raised her. She is not my property to do with as I please. She determines her own life.

In society, there is still the shadow of sexual assault victims somehow being responsible for the crime. Often, agencies tasked with investigating such incidents are wary because of the possibility of it being false.

That is precisely why a thorough and effective investigation is necessary. It should never be viewed as a waste of time because of anything the victim may have done, said, or where she went.

The recent confirmation hearing illustrates the problem. While the sense of fairness to both sides is essential, we must always lean on the side of innocent until proven guilty.

Yet it also underscores the problem.

Had Professor Ford felt more comfortable reporting the incident when it first happened we would not have to make a choice. And let’s be clear, it is our fault as a society that victims feel unable to report these crimes because of what we may do to them for merely standing up for themselves.

Sexual assault survivors bear the burden of being a victim twice. Once by the perpetrator, and again by those responsible to protect them. We live in a world where the President of the United States can mock a victim in the name of politics and many Americans applaud the behavior. If that is what the moral majority represents, we are indeed in decline.

Until that changes, there will be more victims left in the shadows of our immoral morality.

Immoral Indifference to Reality

“Back in our day” is the common refrain from many when discussing the realities of today. Often, the fondness for “the good ole days” is a product of our nostalgia filtered memory. Like most memories, it is rooted in truth yet changed by time.

We face a challenging period as a society. The debates over gun control, violent crime, drug addiction, and lack of responsible behavior focus on the symptoms and ignore the cause. Some of this is a necessary evil; you can’t fix a burning house while it is still on fire. However, once we resolve the immediate need, we must develop a strategy for identifying and mitigating the root of the problem.

maxresdefaultIn the debate on guns and their use in violent crime, domestic violence, and suicides we face an issue of immediate urgency with sparse information or effort at understanding the social conditions at the root of the problem.

Those who oppose any restrictions have misjudged the changing attitudes of most Americans to a more contemporary interpretation of the Second Amendment and gun control.

Those who want to ban all weapons ignore the truth. The overwhelming number of gun owners are law-abiding, conscientious about their responsibility, and willing to find a solution.

Where do we go from here?

First, we put out the fire with realistic and Constitutionally lawful controls on access to weapons. Manage access to firearms with legitimate purposes, i.e., hunting, security, recreation and ban guns having no proper place in society.

Once we get the issue under control, then we must find the cause and seek ways to address it.

To find the root of an issue, one looks for commonality. Violent criminals, prison inmates, and school shooters share a significant common factor, single-parent households. An absent/uninvolved father being the most common scenario. It is not the sole cause, but it is a shared distinguishing factor.

Another reality, sure to be misrepresented and misconstrued by some, is the unintended consequences of the social welfare system. One in five Americans is on public assistance. The majority are off support within a year, the next most significant group within three years, and some within 4 or 5 years.

Some cycle on and off the system making exact numbers challenging to quantify. But, there is evidence of a cross-generational pattern of welfare dependence as a way of life. Bearing a child at an immature age is often the catalyst. This leads to a challenging-to-avoid cycle of low educational achievement and reduced economic opportunity.

Public assistant serves a critical and necessary role. Seeking ways to reduce such dependence without eliminating the cause will hurt the most vulnerable, the children. But this doesn’t mean we can’t find a solution; we just haven’t set it as a goal.

The burden of childcare, borne primarily by women, is one of the most significant factors in economic disadvantage and low-educational success. An absentee/uninvolved father contributes to the problem. Existing laws try to compel financial responsibility. However, the father is often trapped in a similar cycle of low economic opportunity amplified by limited educational achievement. Many men behave in an immature way. Demonstrating selfish resistance to accepting their responsibilities. A considerable number are in prison, compounding the problem.

This cycle of poverty, emotional deprivation of the positive influence of two-parent environment, and cross-generational behavior is self-sustaining. The conditions for propensity to violence or anti-social behavior continue. Combined with unregulated access to weapons with high firing rates and killing capacity, the likelihood of more mass shootings and violent behavior increases.

Solving these issues is complicated. There is no one solution. It will require time and well-crafted efforts targeting multiple societal and economic conditions with a broad-spectrum approach.

Not every single-parent home is to blame here, but the risk such an environment poses to future behavior, absent personal or family resources to mitigate it, is real and widespread.

There is a practical solution to reducing at-risk single parent environments; safe and affordable birth control. It is not a panacea. However, it offers a real opportunity to alleviate the problem while long-term solutions are developed and given a chance to take hold.

So why, if we have such methods available, do we ignore them?

Because the “moral” issue rears its ugly head and intercedes in any rational discussion. The rise of the fundamentalist religious orthodoxy, and their influence in Congress and the Presidency, stands as a roadblock.

Religious organizations vary in their expressed doctrines, but there is a commonality in demanding secular laws comport with primarily Judeo-Christian teachings.

Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam forbid any birth control except abstinence, (just say no?)  This is exclusively within marriage. Some Protestant sects permit the use of artificial contraception, but again it is usually within the confines of marriage.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, all oppose pre-marital sex

Statistics and practical experience will tell us that the horse has left the barn on this one. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average age for Americans to engage in vaginal intercourse for the first time is 17.1 years old for males and females.

The percentage of people living together outside of formal marriage is growing. The reality of changing societal attitudes toward sex outside of marriage, or even long-term relationships, is changing.

This religious prohibition not only fails to curtail this behavior, but it also stands in the way of prevention. This resistance forces young women into having children when they are mere children themselves. Once the hormones kick in, we have physiologically equipped beings capable of producing offspring when they are least able to give financial support and mature emotional nurture.

Absent access to birth control, many enter the cycle of dependence on state assistance. Religious moral decrees hobble secular government programs aimed at prevention. These then create the humanitarian crisis forcing tax-payers to support the single mothers and children.

In these areas, religious influence has done a disservice to humanity. The Catholic Church’s resistance to distributing condoms in Africa has been one of the most significant factors in the spread of AIDS, and the births of AIDS infected children.

Incorporating moral teachings of any religion by choosing one over the other is a dangerous basis for governmental policy. Some fundamental religious groups use religion to argue against well-established effective medical treatments by substituting prayer.

It has proven disastrous. But this is not just about religion. It is about recognizing the urgency of addressing a problem that took generations to develop. Sometimes practicality must outweigh the expressed conflicting morality of religion. Where’s the righteousness in condemning women and children to a life of deprivation out of failed and medieval religious doctrines?

As a multi-cultural society, we must focus on secular solutions while maintaining the dignity of people to make their own choices and bear the consequences.

We can continue unchanged and hope religion reaches more people or accept the changing nature of the world. A rational policy would use the tools available and reduce the number of those at-risk single-parent homes. Leave ineffective moral imperatives to the disjointed inconsistency of the thousands of religious doctrines

Most religious doctrines oppose abortion. The issue is one of the most divisive issues in the US. When presented with a solution to the problem, opponents scream about morality. They say wide-spread birth-control will encourage sexual behavior.

Nonsense, the behavior is natural human sexuality. History shows us that human behavior is universal. Many of the most vocal opponents lead a secret, sexually adventuresome, life. Not to be crass, but the moral imperatives of the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t get priests to keep it in their cassocks. What chance do they stand with hormone ravaged teens? The hypocritical nature of this is offensive.

The stark reality is we’ve lost several generations of Americans to this senseless and ineffective “morality.” We’ve filled our prisons with “prisoners of war” from the war on drugs with little or no commitment to treating addiction. We wail and moan the “murdered children” of abortions yet condemn some to bear the responsibility of child-rearing ill-equipped financially or socially with an inadequate education.

We wrap ourselves in a false morality that fears the wrath of an invisible being if we take practical measures to prevent the need for a woman to make such a difficult choice.

Like the saying from the good ole days. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost to society of preventing unwanted pregnancy is exponentially lower than the price of the continuing cycle of poverty and crime.

The government’s function is not saving souls; it is protecting lives.

Morality, like it or not, is a matter of relative choices. The Bible itself is full of once “moral” imperatives that civilized society now finds abhorrent. We no longer stone adulterers or burn witches.

Today, our morality is hypocritical, our efforts weak and ineffective, our outrage disingenuous. We doom ourselves to the continued creation of a disadvantaged underclass held hostage by archaic pronouncements from the dark ages.

Until we devote as much effort to providing quality education as we do to privatizing prisons and housing more and more Americans without any hope of rehabilitation, the cycle will persist.

We cannot fix 21st-century problems with arcane writings, moral platitudes, or ignorance. Until we address both the immediate and long-term issues, we are doomed to the continuity of sorrow.

 

The Great Myth: Religious Tolerance in America

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging the free exercise thereof…”  So say the first words of the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, those words, in their practical application, have been twisted into a false interpretation of their intent.first amendment

In the United States, these words are meant to prevent abridging the free exercise thereof if it is a Judeo-Christian flavor.

If Ford Motor Corporation refused to allow women employees to drive to work, or buy Ford cars, because of an interpretation of the Quran, what would the reaction be?

If Amazon needed a husband’s approval for any purchase by a woman, what would the reaction be?

If the State of Rhode Island accepted the decree of an Imam on the divorce of a couple and deprived the woman of any child custody or financial support, what would the reaction be?

In the 21st century, our President interjects himself into the personal lives of millions of American women out of concern for “risky sexual behavior” using the cover of supporting religious freedom.

All that one must do is look at the list of organizations that support these latest Dark Ages policy pronouncements to understand the real motivation. These groups miss the days of Biblical imposed male dominance over women. They yearn for a time when men clothed in the robes of priestly garb decided what is moral. They crave the past heyday of influence they once held over American society.

This incestuous intermixing of Christian religious philosophy with secular government is more dangerous to our freedoms than any ISIS terrorist because it comes from within.

No President, in particular, this President, has any place deciding what is moral. Humans have an innate sense of morality. Our problem is we often lose sight in our quest for bigger and better things. Where we’ve failed is in setting examples of responsible behavior for our children. Much of the failure of moral behavior takes place in the halls of Congress and the White House.

Religion does not hold an exclusive on morality. Turning back the clock based on the false memory of a more moral past is self-deception. The purpose of these acts is garnering political support under the false umbrella of religious freedom. Allowing any religious group to set standards is dangerous. How moral was the Catholic Church when faced with the altar boy crisis? And how complicit was our government in ignoring such “moral” behavior?

I don’t watch many TV shows, but I’ve been intrigued by the show The Handmaid’s Tale. It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith (pun intended) to envision an America where such a society could arise when backed by the power of government.

They would do it for our good because God told them so.

The history of moral standards by organizations, be it governmental or religious, is fraught with examples of disaster. Allowing companies to opt out of specific health care provisions under the guise of religious freedom is disingenuous. An ominous portent of sliding down a slippery slope to Theocracy.

What’s next? We can allow companies to end health care for people living with cancer. God gave them disease, who are we to cure it?

Dilemma

This is from a series of short stories I am working on. Posted here for your reading pleasure and review.  All comments welcome.

My cell rang. I didn’t recognize the number. Thought about ignoring it, then decided to give the telemarketer some shit.

“Hello.”

“Tommy, AJ.”

“AJ? What’s this a new phone?”

“I need your help.” AJ’s tone imparted a more serious patina to the four simple words.

“You always need my help,” I answered. “What is it this time, you get thrown out again?”

“Come outside, I’m parked in the lot across the street.

“Why are you parked across the street?” I asked. Silence. After a moment, I realized he’d ended the call.

Grabbing my jacket, I walked to the door. “Where are you off to?” my wife asked.

“I don’t know. That was AJ, said he needs help with something.”

My wife put her hands on her hips, “Tommy, I don’t care what he’s done this time, no money. Promise me.”

I smiled, “No money, I learned my lesson with his last scam,” I opened the door, the cool fall air rushing in. “I’ll be right back.”

Walking down the driveway, I looked across the street. AJ was leaning against the hood of his car, arms folded around himself, staring at the ground. As I got closer, he heard my footsteps and stood.

I’ve read that ninety percent of communication is non-verbal. AJ’s body was telling me this was not one of his ordinary, self-created problems.

“Hey man, what’s up?”

“Tom, Tommy,” AJ stuttered, glancing around. “I need help buddy. Big time. Can you take a ride with me?”

I saw something in his eyes I’d never seen before, genuine fear. This was a man who once took on three bikers in a bar and got his ass kicked. He returned two days later looking for the three bikers. The same thing happened. He went back several more times, but the bikers never showed up again.

They must have recognized crazy.

AJ wasn’t afraid of anything.

“A ride, where?”

“Please man, just come with me.” His body language now in full alarm mode.

“Ah, okay. Let me call Karen. Tell her I’ll be gone for a bit. Where we going anyway?”

“No,” AJ shouted, then glanced around. “No calls.”

“No calls?” I replied. “If you want me to go with you I will after I call my wife. A philosophy you should have adopted years ago. Saved yourself a ton of trouble.”

I could see AJ’s mind racing as he paced back and forth. “Okay, tell her I need help moving something, that’s all.”

I stood there a moment, holding my phone, studying my now frantic friend. Shaking my head, I pushed the call button. “Hey, it’s me. AJ needs me to help him move something. What? I don’t know, hang on,” holding the phone away from my ear I said. “She wants to know what you need moved. How long will it take?”

AJ threw his arm up, slapping them back to his side. “I don’t know, something heavy. You’ll be back in, ah, a couple of hours.”

“There’s a bunch of stuff, I guess. Won’t take long,” listening to her response I smiled at AJ. “Yeah I know; I don’t have any money anyway. I’ll call on the way back.” I walked to the passenger side. “Okay AJ, tell me the story. What’d you do?”

“First, turn off your cell.”

“I’m not turning off my cell, asshole. What is this about?”

“Look, trust me on this. You’ll understand shortly,” pointing with his hand at my phone. “Turn it off and pull the battery. Then I’ll tell you what this is about.”

*****

“You what?” I said, shaking my head and looking out the window. “I don’t believe this. You’re kidding,” trying to gauge the look on his face.

“I’ll show you,” he said as we pulled into a dirt road used by off-road vehicles.

“You can’t drive this thing down here,” I said, my hand on the dash as AJ dodged the ruts and dips in the dirt track.

“Yes I can, I checked this out before.”

“You checked this out… I don’t believe this.”

Checking the rearview mirror, AJ drove several hundred yards. Making sure we were far beyond the houses bordering the property.

“Ready?”

“AJ, please tell me this is all bullshit.”

“Look,” he said, opening the door.

I watched as he walked around to the back of the car, motioning for me to join him

I opened the door, put one foot on the ground, glanced over my right shoulder at AJ as he looked all around the area.

I got out and stood next to him.

“Ready?”

I laughed. “Okay, you got me. What’s the joke?”

I heard the click of the trunk release, watching as it popped up. AJ reached over, opening the trunk.

As I looked in, my mind went into denial.

I looked from the trunk to AJ and back. Voices in my head screamed, ‘Run, you idiot, run.” But my legs remained paralyzed in place. I tried to speak, but my throat was sand. I tasted the adrenaline rushing through my body. The fight or flight response to my brain’s recognizing a problem.

A big problem.

“I had to do it, Tommy. He beat her, put her in the hospital, he molested my granddaughter.”

Words eluded me. I backed away, trying to absorb the reality.

“Tommy, I need you to help me here. I need help getting rid of it.”

For fifty years, AJ had been my best friend. We had grown from GI Joes and baseball to girls and beer to married with kids, together. We’d spent twenty years together as cops, righting wrongs, trying to make a difference.

He’d been there when my first wife died of cancer. He held me in his arms, covered in my blood from the bullet wound in my arm, when they drove me to the hospital.

Never leaving my side.

But this? This was beyond it all. This was too much. I knew the stories. The hospital visits to his daughter. The on again off again boyfriend sliding through the system.

But this? They say friends will be there when you most need them. But this?

As my heart rate slowed, the rationale me resumed control. The panic passed and the realization of the choice I faced came clear.

I knew what I had to do.

I looked at my friend. The tears welled up, the emotions uncontrollable. I took a deep breath and walked back to the car.

“AJ, I’m sorry.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, walking to the side of the car, away from my best friend.

His eyes showed regret as the enormity of what he asked, what he’d done, set in.

I tossed the phone on the seat. Reaching into the back seat, I grabbed the two shovels and the bag of lime.  I’d spotted them when I got in the car. Hoping I was wrong.

Walking to AJ, I handed him a shovel.

“That’s what friends are for.”