It was a cool Fall evening in South Florida. The breeze was gentle; the sunset glorious. As I approached the intersection where, each weekend I stand in support of peace and tranquility, I did as I do when at this crossroad. I placed my arm out the window. My digits were extended and formed the symbol associated with serenity. When I am in a vehicle, at the locale commonly considered the Peace Corner I work to preserve the intent of my Saturday mission. I strive to advance awareness for the notion, this nation remains at war. Soldiers are slaughtered far from the shores of home sweet home. Civilians, in their native country continue to lose their lives for a want of war. I crave global harmony and will work to restore some sense of civility worldwide. However, as I sat silently in contemplation cries of “Country First” startled me.
The divisiveness that has become pervasive during this political season smacked me in the face. Shaken, I turned to see where the words of contempt might have come from. There they stood, two young boys, perhaps eleven years of age stood on the sidewalk with homemade signs in hand. “McCain Palin” was painted on a poster. Smaller type, difficult to read from even a short distance, said more. I might pretend to portend what the words were meant to communicate. However, I rather not assume. I can only describe what was said and done as the seconds on the street turned into minutes.
As others had done when they passed me with my peaceful placard for oh so many years, I expressed my belief in a manner that might be visible to these youthful demonstrators. I reached for my Obama sign, which is neatly tucked between my windshield and the dashboard. I held the glossy rectangular navy blue sticker up, my arm stretched beyond the side of the automobile. The near Middle School age gents immediately saw my marker and exclaimed. “He is a Muslim!”
I calmly cried, “No, he is not. Barack Obama is a Christian.” “However,” I continued, even if he were as you seem to believe, why would that matter?” ” Do you really wish to be intolerant of other religions?” “What of our rights as afforded by the United States Constitution?” Perhaps as one who taught Junior High School students for so long, an invitation to discuss seemed ideal to me. These young people, not familiar with me, and my love of open and reverent conversations were intent on repeating the rhetoric they likely heard in their homes.
I could not help but wonder would the words Communist, Socialist, or terrorist, pass through the lips of these lads. Might one boy or the other tell me as drivers had days ago when I stood on the corner in vigil for peace, “Barack Obama is Black”? My mind raced as I reflected upon the two chaps. I realized the issues important to them were those the elders they loved had discussed at length. Human as the young men were they knew what they knew. The adolescents were taught to think as the adults important in their lives did. We all do, at least initially.
I remembered a tale I frequently told pupils in the past. In my own life, I later understood, when I was young I was unaware of the infinite options and opportunities to think, say, do, and feel, in ways that were uncommon in my family. I could not imagine what was novel to me. If questioned I would defend my beliefs; however, unlike these preteens I did not dismiss a request for thoughtfulness. A want for greater wisdom was instilled in me from the first. I learned to desire discussions. Fury in my family seemed a futile emotion. It brought more wrath and offered little promise for peace.
However, my relatives did not raise these miniature men. Perhaps that explains why the pair of youthful McCain/Palin supporters began to rant and rage. They chided me for the size of my sign. The littler than full-grown lads laughed as they pointed to a banner firmly planted, permanently into the ground. Behind them was a monstrous sign, perhaps eight-feet wide and six feet high. The words McCain Palin stood strident for all passer-bys to see. On a background, so dark as to appear near black, the white letters screamed support for the Republican ticket.
The boys shrieked; “I cannot even see your sign.” “It is so small,” the two shouted. I did not react. The language the boys used morphed into a lexicon I will not utter, even when distressed. After moments when I avoided actual engagement; although I did not put my Obama sign down, I decided to speak again. “Love and peace,” I proclaimed. I was quickly told there would be none of that. A slew of statements not to be repeated spewed from the mouths of babes. I was stunned, not by the venom but by the similarities and contrast.
While I waited for the light to turn green, I found myself lost in reveries.
As a child, also at the age of eleven or possibly twelve, I first began on my path as an activist, an advocate for people, regardless of race, color, creed, or religion. My civic maturity was intellectually realized through acceptance. I was taught not merely to tolerate others; I learned to embrace all. Amongst my lessons, diversity is as significantly wondrous as similarities. These were our family values. More importantly, the skill that was honed in my parents’ home was listening.
My Mom and Dad helped me to understand that if I chose to hear what another believed, I could grow wiser. Together, communities are greater when the commonweal is the central concern. Fundamentally, my family believed, all individuals believe in love and goodness. “All men [and women, children too] are created equal.
Perhaps that is why, while in Middle School my family participated in a civil rights march. I was invited to join them. Years earlier, at the age of five, I became interested in politics. As my parents engaged in the most animated discussion I had ever witnessed, I learned of elections.
I grew aware of the emotional impact an economic issues and the impact these could have on a vote. Education, the environment, war, and peace all played a part in ballot decisions. At the kitchen table, as I sat and listened to the lively talk on topics that related to every aspect of life, I realized the power of everyday people. All Americans who vote shape our society. I also understood that those to little to cast a ballot had influence.
Mothers and fathers often jest, “My children learn what I never did.” Proud papas revel in the knowledge a son or daughter shares. Modest Mamas marvel when their offspring offer informed opinions. In my youth, I may not have realized the words I uttered as a student enrolled in school were of interest to my Mom and Dad. What I saw and felt taught them. As I talked aloud, my parents learned. We chatted. The child was a mentor. Caregivers were counselors. Each gained and received a greater education from the other.
The difference between my experience and what I witnessed at the intersection was in my family, peace was promoted. A reciprocal reverence was advanced. A word such as “Muslim,” a person’s religion, was not considered a source for a slight.
I was not encouraged to slam or damn another being, not one who stood before me, or one who wished to serve the public. Indeed, behavior than might demean or dismiss another being was sincerely discouraged.
As a child, I was taught to believe competitive temperaments are counter productive. Characteristics that could be classified as cutthroat were considered childish, aggressive, and contrary to the traits that might create peace. Calmness was considered the pinnacle path. In my family, communication was thought to be the greatest travel, that is, next to thinking.
Even in election season, I learned at the knees of Mommy and Daddy; empathy is the best educator. I wondered. What had these young men experienced in their homes?
Would their mothers and fathers be pleased as they heard their brood proclaim prejudice statements from the pavement, “Barack Obama is a Muslim.” Might the Moms or Dads of these chaps be indignant at the discordant idea of “Country First?” Would they rather the children cry in concord, “We, the people, are the change we can believe in.” Likely not. Progeny are the products of parents.
If we teach the children to chastise, they will. Offspring trained to offend others do. Those tutored to act defensively often deliver dubious dictums. Fear fills the spirits of those who were not treated with abundant respect. Apprehension is frequently expressed as anger.
Concerned communication gives birth to calm and care. If we edify praise, as well as unity and peace, our offspring will practice kindheartedness. When mothers and fathers teach attentiveness and acceptance, the children will acquire comparable customs. Elders who choose to listen and learn from and with their progeny teach little ones to do the same.
Perchance what divides our country is not political parties, religious practices, color, or creed. What fractures America is the manner in which we parent our children.
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
~ Bible. I John 4:20
Not in my backyard. Not in my neighborhood. Not on street corners in my community. Certainly, not amongst my friends, and never in my family! These are the cries heard ’round America. In rural regions, in urban boroughs, in the suburbs, and in the city proper the public clamors, “We are not colorblind.” The defense voiced in earlier days is a thought from the past. In the United States of 2008, people see shades. Skin, pitch as coal, casts a shadow. Deep-seated bigotry is displayed on the surface. Today, racism is not only rampant; it is visible on every crossroad. Please consider the campaign trail. Intolerance is evident in the Presidential Election, 2008.
Secular humanist intent on political win and pious, religious persons, who think themselves right (or righteous) believe they have reason to fear their brethren. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is Black. The public may have been aware of this without much prompting. However, chances are the American people would have been polite. Citizens in this country pride themselves on decorum. Yet, with a bit of encouragement people in the States can be easily persuaded to forget their etiquette.
Individuals and crowds can be coerced to remember their fear for fellow beings. If “that (other) one” is distinctive, dark, and has a strange name, so much the better. A person or political campaign can capitalize on the differences. An exhortation offered can cause an explosion. Throngs can be inflamed. Enter Sarah Palin and her confederate John McCain. The two exclaim when they shriek or speak of their opponent Barack Obama, “Not in my backyard.” Republican followers concur. The hordes holler as the Party leaders explain, “He is not one of us.” The Democratic hopeful, for those who will not vote for a Black man, is the source of hatred.
The Illinois Senator was not born to be brutalized. However, people of his brownish-purplish tone are tormented. Those paler in hue have learned to hate, and work to denigrate. Pinkish persons are taught to negate the power of a individual who, by birth wears a brown-black veneer. Persons whose flesh is not light are also engendered to exhibit trepidation; however, in the United States, these individuals may have less authority. Frequently, Anglos [and African Americans] deny that they have learned these lessons. However, human as they are, many Americans, are apprehensive when confronted with the unfamiliar.
Citizens in the States have acquired conventional wisdom; be scared of someone so unique; the intensity of the disdain felt and expressed is deeper since Barack Obama’s complexion is ebony in color.
The reaction to the words Sarah Palin and John McCain emit is as expected. People abhor what or who is unlike them. Citizens have been trained to react, to resent, and to express rage when faced with the unknown. Frequently, the average American is asked by Obama’s political adversary, “Who is Barack Obama?” Surely, the implication is, he is not one of us. Senator Obama does not look like those in our neighborhood, in our family; nor is he similar to our friends. However, this is not said specifically.
The answers offered by John McCain and Sarah Palin have subtly incited intolerance. While the Republican Party Presidential nominee delicately dances during discussions of culture clashes, his surrogates, and of course Sarah, stride confidently into dangerous debates. The reality of racial division is ramped up. Any statement that might awaken apprehension amongst the white majority masses is fair, and now famously in the forefront of stump speeches.
At two McCain rallies last week, individuals introducing the candidate referred to the Democratic nominee as “Barack Hussein Obama,” emphasizing his middle name. Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating called him a “man of the street.”
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said Obama was “palling around with terrorists,” a reference to his association with the 1960s radical William Ayers, and a turn of phrase that critics said was racially loaded.
In the age of attacks on the Twin Towers, alarm for any association that reminds Americans of the foreign forces that caused the World Trade Center to fall will be perceived as problematic. This supposed connection coupled with the whisper campaign that began long ago, Barack Obama is a Muslim . . . even if he is not and never was, has been an effective tool used to annihilate the Democratic Presidential aspirant. After all, he must be destroyed. He is not like the friends, family, or neighbors of average American’s. He is elite, and did the Republican candidates mention, Barack Obama is Black. The esteemed Illinois Senator will not be seen in the backyards of Joe or Jane Doe.
However, signs with Barack Obama’s name are displayed in front yards throughout the country. This alone causes much concern within communities and a campaign scared that a scholar such as Barack Obama might become President.
One would hope the intent among respectable Republican rivals was to destroy a political promotion and not the man himself; however, there is infinite reason to believe the rough stuff is used to do more than motivate voters to move towards the Republican ticket. Americans need only listen to the words of the self-proclaimed “pit bull,” Vice Presidential challenger, Sarah Palin. Days ago, in Florida, the defiant maverick declared her objective and her offense.
“Okay, so Florida, you know that you’re going to have to hang onto your hats,” Sarah Palin told a rally of a few thousand here this morning, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.”
You betcha. And the person dishing out the roughest stuff at the moment is Sarah Palin.
“I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day,” she said.
“Booooo!” replied the crowd.
“I knew you guys would react that way, okay,” she continued. “So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago.” . . .
“Boooo!” said the crowd.
“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'” she continued.
“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.
“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.
Days later, pumped and primed, another McCain/Palin advocate, this time amongst the poised population in Pennsylvania, shouted “Kill him!” The calls of “terrorist” are frequently heard at Republican rallies each time Barack Obama’s name is uttered. The venom is vicious, as are actions on American avenues.
Those who do not have physical access to the dark-skinned Presidential hopeful, Senator Obama, express their fury in other ways. Some overtly ferocious; a few covertly cruel.
Within a somewhat posh population, in south Florida, a fairly prosperous family placed an Obama sign on their lawn. Proud of the candidate they would cast ballots for on Election Day, the female in the household felt a need to express their conviction. The affluent adult trusted in a neighborhood such as hers, even those who did not feel as they did would certainly respect their right to revere a well-educated, accomplished, and “articulate” Presidential aspirant. The woman could not begin to imagine the placard would be burned. Another incident was reported in New Jersey.
A Montclair woman woke up Sunday morning to find that her Barack Obama lawn placard was spread across her car and defaced with a pile of dog feces.
Vandals yanked the advocacy sign out of the Montclair Avenue lawn and wrecked it between 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, and 7 a.m. the next day, police said.
“She just woke up in the morning and noticed the sign had been moved,” said Alex Russoniello, referring to the reaction of his partner, Maryanne Solensky, who has been living in the home for 30 years.
The sign and one of its metal posts was found on the windshield of a Volkswagen Golf that was sitting in the victim’s driveway, police said.
The couple removed the feces with a newspaper delivery wrap and washed down the sign.
They put it back up that same day.
The Boca Raton resident also re-placed her sign. In less than a day, Ms Pearson-Martinez positioned a new Obama sign in her yard. She also painstakingly inscribed a message for the person who maliciously defaced the first banner. The lovely lady wrote on a placard attached to the bottom of her newer Obama poster, “You can burn my sign, but you won’t stop my vote.”
However, it seems some would wish to torch a ballot or a man named Barack. Few argue that the rage expressed is more fervent for the face of the candidate is charcoal in hue. It is easier to find enthusiastic hatred for a person whose complexion is dark. This truth was witnessed, and ignited, in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and other states, near a week ago. Tempers flared and the Republican candidates fueled the fire. Unfettered taunts were frequently hard at McCain/Palin events.
A sense of grievance spilling into rage has gripped some GOP events as McCain supporters see his presidential campaign lag against Barack Obama. They’re making it personal, against the Democrat. Shouts of “traitor,” “terrorist,” “treason,” “liar,” and even “off with his head” have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them. . . .
When a visibly angry McCain supporter in Waukesha, Wis., on Thursday told the candidate “I’m really mad” because of “socialists taking over the country,” McCain stoked the sentiment. “I think I got the message,” he said. “The gentleman is right.”
Is it correct to cruelly condemn a man or a woman; is it proper to stoke a fire or incite fury for a person. Americans might remember hate is taught. Humans are not born to disdain. People learn to love passionately or to loathe avidly. Differences in appearance can provide a target for intolerance. Not in my backyard, neighborhood, community, amongst my closest friends, or in my family is the racial retreat, the rant of those who rather be at odds than be united in the States.
I think that hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.
~ Tennessee Williams [Author] Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth
If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
~ Hermann Hesse [Author] From Demian
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love,
for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
~ Nelson Mandela [President of South Africa] Autobiography
There are many wondrous women. Females are loved and lovely. The face of the “fairer sex” is photographed, fondled, treasured, and cherished. The being that brings life to us all is beloved and beautiful. I am a woman. As such, the idea of misogyny infuriates me.
Yet, with few exceptions, men are not the persons who cause me to fume. At times, a male in defense of a scorned spouse will use define another fellow as a woman-hater. However, it seems to me, a gent will offer this proclamation when the lady he appreciates is not acknowledged in the manner that he thinks just. I realize, more often than not, when my fellow females use the term, and I am exasperated. In all of my life, I have never felt as though a person whose gender differs from my own treated me, feminine as I may be, with disdain.
Indubitably, many a man I have meet openly proclaims an undying devotion to women. Countless chaps cherish those of the opposite sex, in word and in deed. Men, I associate with admire what they consider the stronger sex, females. Still, women scorned, shriek “misogyny,” and I inquire where.
I am well aware of income inequities. I abhor the practice that devastates millions of women, particularly those without a man in their lives. However, as I read the research it seems to me, those without a legal life partner no matter the gender, are shown greater contempt than persons of one sex or another might be.
The Lake Research Partners study, commissioned by Women’s Voices Women Vote, found unmarried women earn only 56 cents for every dollar a married man earns. In terms of personal earnings, unmarried women live on only $37,264 per year, which is nearly $6,000 less than unmarried men ($42,843) and nearly $30,000 less than married men ($66,646) earn.
Bachelors bring in 64 cents for every hundred pennies a conjugal chap nets. Perhaps, we are marriage misanthropes or is it the reverse? Men or women without a band, or a state sanctioned bond, do not garner the greenbacks they might. Possibly, singles struggle regardless of their identity. Matrimony may move millions to the good life, or money may move people to wed.
Wages, as reported, may best explain the adage “wedded bliss.” The statistics may indicate Americans accept a legal union. The data, I believe does not validate that misogyny is alive and well.
A man of means may realize, the woman behind him helped him to secure a substantial salary. Perchance, the phrase was coined for few misogynists walk down the aisle. I know not. I do not recall a time when misogyny was listed as a reason for divorce. Might we ask whether nuptials necessitate bliss or benefits? I struggle to understand how a man who says, “I do” does not like women.
Even single males seem to search for the one. Each year 2.2 million males exchange vows with females. Yet, stereotypical standards have been sustained. Conventional wisdom claims women suffer in the workplace; although, many women are extremely successful. Only tonight, I spoke with one, a stranger to me before today.
Mary mentioned, “superiors” in the business world did not wish to stop her rise. None tried. The woman now in her fifties mused, she excelled and was esteemed. Mary stated she never felt pressure to perform less well. Nor was she stifled by those in the corporate hierarchy were thought to be above her. Indeed, this highly educated scholar soared without hindrance.
The Miss I met this evening expressed her surprise when a peer told her others looked upon her as the “person to beat.” Mary marveled, apparently she was a threat to those akin to her. Misogyny was not her experience. Competitiveness amongst colleagues was the only source of sorrow that affected her climb. Mary consistently reminded me, the subtle antagonism did not have an effect on her career at all. She revealed she never felt she must marry. I was startled. I had not considered the connection. For Mary, women have long been free to be. Perhaps that is true. I ponder.
The majority of my most successful, good-looking, educated, talented girlfriends are still single.
If they had Y-chromosomes, they would have been married a decade ago. Instead, like successful single women all over the country, they trek into their mid- to late 30s on their own – experiencing fabulous professional success, buying real estate and making savvy investments for the future, without much going on in the relationship department.
Carolyn Kaufman, 33, has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches college in Columbus, Ohio. She is a perfect example of a woman who has everything except a date. “I have this crazy belief that I have the right to expect my potential partner to be at least as successful as I am, and to have as many things to offer as I do,” she says.
Good luck, Carolyn. With more women than men earning advanced degrees — 61% of master’s degrees conferred in 2007 will be to women – those kinds of men are going to become harder and harder to find . . .
Then there’s the issue of time. Most highly successful people work crazy hours, which makes it even more difficult to meet a suitable match. Christine Mohr, director of marketing and community relations for the YMCA in Washington, D.C., is out nearly every night of the week at fund-raisers, benefits, and business dinners. “The person I’m trying to find is just as busy as I am,” says Mohr, 29. “If we’re both that busy, when is the time when we’re going to meet?” She says the men she does meet at these events are usually married.
Of course, you have heard all these excuses before, from women both successful and not – I’m too busy, there are no good men left, they’re all married or gay, etc. But there’s another factor at work for women at the top of their game: They’re intimidating to men. No matter how enlightened most men claim they are, few are ready to pair up with a woman who is more successful, better paid and better educated — not to mention better traveled, more connected and more socially savvy than they are.
Women are not weak. They are strong. That may trouble a man, or another Eve. Who we are as a unique being breeds contempt or compassion, a connection or a crack. Fissures and fractures in a relationship with a female are not indicative of the organs within. Nor do men generally define all those of the “fairer sex” by the mannerisms and makeup of one, at least no more than a woman might when she declares with disregard, “Men!”
An individual woman, or man, might threaten the ego strength of a mate, or a person of the opposite gender. The men that might not choose a particular woman do not hate the sex. They fear intimidation, just as a women might. I believe love or loathing is reserved for individuals of one gender or another, not for the inherent sex of a person.
Sex may not stimulate revulsion. However, I experience race and religion give rise to repulsion. There are those who hate a particular “clan,” or rage against a creed. I have yet to meet a misogynist.
Might we ask, were women hung from trees for beauty that was skin deep? Do men burn crosses on the lawns of females whose pious beliefs or practices they despise? Has any chap said, “I do not want one of them to live in my neighborhood” as he looked at the females that grace every enclave. When fathers fondly envision a family, do they forbid their sons to engage with a feminine friend? Has Papa pledged never to allow his male offspring to associate with one of them, women? I do not recall such scenarios.
Men and women differ biologically, they may disagree on occasion. Still, organically the genders are equivalent. I am an advocate of equal rights. I have been for as long as I remember. Glass ceilings, when or if they exist, I believe, must be broken. As I study, I understand as Mary states; many have been shattered. I trust any obstructions can and will continue to crumble. I wonder how many limits were placed in a desire to love, not destroy.
I understand; there are women who feel as though they are less valued. However, I often reflect upon what I observe. The “gentler sex” is more esteemed. We need only consider the contrast; Mother’s Day is observed with lack of restraint. Dad does not fare as well. Perchance, the women in the world are revered. Females are given grand respect and hence the most significant responsibility. Moms, misses, matriarchs are afforded an honor that few imagine. They are frequently cared for and given the opportunity to teach the children. Many a mother, a mentor, a nursemaid, holds mankind’s future in her hands.
Cross-sectional studies usually have supported the idea that the higher the husband’s income, the lower is the labor force participation rate of his wife. This relationship is just what the theory of the backward-bending supply curve would predict-a strong inverse relationship, other things being equal, between husbands’ income and women’s participation rate. A wife’s freedom from the labor market is looked at as a normal good. So, accordingly, only “poor” women work out of economic necessity.
Husbands with higher incomes would tend to have a smaller proportion of wives in the labor force, because they could afford the luxury of stay-at-home wives and the wives could be relieved of the stress of contributing to the family income. However, considering the rise in real income that, in general, has taken place over time, the increase in labor force participation of wives in recent years generates some doubt about the presumptive relationship.
The need for money to help make ends meet seems to be one of the most popular explanations of wives working, but that can hardly be the reason for the rapid rise in married women’s participation rate, because wives stayed home in earlier decades, when their husbands were earning less. Needing money seems to be a universal and constant factor and thus cannot explain the increasing labor force participation of women.
Illumination may be found in freedom. Women have much liberty to think, say, do, feel, and be as they think best. This may be more true now or less. As a society, we cannot be certain. Have the times changed or do the predominate preferences of the past no longer prevail?
Many of us have heard, “When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.” Might it be that Mom, a Miss, or a Madame no longer loves what she once did. Have women wandered into a world they did not imagine decades ago, or has the opportunity to choose evolved over the centuries. Is there more or less misogyny or is there more to consider?
I am intensely cognizant of my desire to be me! I have no interest in being similar to the males of my species. I do not wish to be approached as though I am identical to a mister. I believe gents are not gals, and a guy does not receive greater gratification. Nor does a man hate a woman simply because she is a female.
Granted, at times, monetarily there may be a modicum of difference. Yes, that does need to change. Nonetheless, for me, the hatred of women is not the reason for the discrepancy. Men who despise a woman do not detest her sex; they disdain an individual for whatever reason. She may be a menace, a martyr, a manipulator, or just like the men he has met, who also are a source of misery.
I experience women as people are not hated. Misogyny does not mar an existence. Females who feel slighted might wish to wonder why is he [or she] not fond of me. Might the lovelies look at the image that appears in the mirror and meditate. Ponder the beauty that is reflected back and sense what is not seen. The love or hate others express is not as easily explained as misogyny.
“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness; it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy; it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death; it’s indifference.”
~ Elie Wiesel
It was February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day. Love was in the air. However, the expressions of appreciation offered were mournful. Doctors informed the family and his friends, Lawrence King, 15, was removed from life support. Two days earlier, young Larry was in the computer lab at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California. He sat with 24 other students when Brandon McInerney walked into the room with a gun. The armed classmate, fourteen-years of age, approached Lawrence with intent. Brandon aimed his weapon, pulled the trigger, and shot Lawrence in the head. Without hesitation, the shooter ran from the building. Circumstances led observers and police officers to conclude the act was intentional, calculated, and a conscious choice. Brandon committed what is commonly defined as a “hate crime.”
Students were locked in classrooms. Grief and disbelief filled the air. Adults tried to calm the children. Teens tried to cope. Peers were befuddled. Pupils sought information and shared what they knew. After the event, fingers flew across cellular telephone keypads. Text messages were sent and received from schoolroom to schoolroom. The words were, “Brandon McInerney did the deed.” ‘Not Brandon McInerney, No way.’
But some at the Oxnard junior high school had seen Larry, 15, teased by students in the weeks before the shooting for being gay and wearing high-heeled boots and makeup. Some witnessed confrontations between Larry and Brandon, with Larry teasing Brandon and saying he liked him.
Family members and friends described Larry as a sweet, artistic boy who loved to sing and didn’t understand why people reacted negatively to him.
Brandon, 14, a tall, athletic eighth-grader, was described by friends and acquaintances as a mellow, focused kid, but one who wouldn’t back down in a confrontation.
Brandon had learned his lessons well. He learned to feel deeply. Indifference was not part of his repertoire, intolerance was. Perhaps from within the womb, he began his education. Those who in an act of love came together to give birth to Brandon, apparently knew nothing more than volatile loathing. Perchance, Brandon’s mother, Kendra and his father, William were raised to love or hate, but not tolerate.
We can be certain that baby Brandon did as all infants do after birth, he absorbed all the messages that surrounded him. . Education is not an isolated entity. Knowledge is not gained only in a classroom. Our first school is called home. Structured lessons may inform us; however, these are never internalized as deeply as the wisdom we acquire at the knees of our Mom and Dad. Parents have a profound influence on a child. Those we love most have the power to teach us more. Definitely, the occurrence taught Brandon what to do when he felt troubled.
Kendra McInerney, Brandon’s mother, claimed a night of partying in 1993 ended in a fight and William shooting her in the elbow, breaking it in several places, according to court records. Still, they married later that year, and Brandon was born in January 1994.
The fighting didn’t stop, and sometimes it was witnessed by Brandon and his two older half-brothers, according to court records. In 2000, William pleaded no contest to a domestic battery charge against Kendra. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to attend domestic violence classes. The couple separated in August 2000.
Love, or familiarity can breed contempt. Even when someone no longer shares a physical space with the person that causes him or her distress that individual remains intimately connected in the heart. Parting is not a sweet sorrow. Indeed, it is often the source of more pain. Indifference is rarely evident once an emotional bond is formed.
For Kendra and William McInerney, separation did nothing to alleviate the angst they felt or expressed. , Nor, did living apart make life more livable for the children. Drinking, drugs, and violence were daily transgressions in Brandon’s life. The stories are stark. Yet, fortunately, it appeared Brandon survived. Indeed, some would say he thrived.
Through all the family turmoil, Brandon got involved in activities outside the home, including martial arts and lifeguard training. He seemed to want something more than just the status quo of Silver Strand, Crave said.
“He didn’t want to be involved in that whole thing,” Crave said, gesturing at friends drinking a few beers nearby after getting off work.
Brandon joined the Young Marines – the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a JROTC program – several years ago and became a leader in the group, which disbanded last summer.
“Brandon was a young man that I would never have figured something like this would happen to,” said Mel Otte, his commanding officer.
Otte said he never witnessed Brandon showing a short temper and that he would have been kicked out of the group if he had bullied other kids.
“He was an outstanding young man,” Otte said. “What happened since I left, I have no idea.”
What occurred did not take place in a instant. The image of restraint did not transcend an earlier reality. Change did not come on in a flash. Often calm is a facade for the chaos that lay beneath the surface of a boy [girl, woman, or man] who battles emotional upheavals. What was real for Brandon is true for each of us. We learn and live what we believe is customary.
Even those of us who “know better,” or are exposed to impressive amounts of information, organized to challenge unhealthy conventions, do as we have seen done, or was done to us. Some escape the affects of sensory overload for a time. Few abandon family traditions until long they have repeatedly fallen from grace. Only an individual forced to face his or her “demons” day in and day out thinks to learn new habits.
We all love easily. We loathe with less effort. What we do not do well is authentically accept others. Few beings bother to have compassion, to learn from those who look, think, feel, or act differently. Without empathy, everyone is a possible enemy.
Hate, or fear, of what we do not understand, motivates many a mind to react aggressively. Apprehension and anxiety are not logical. None of our emotions are. Nevertheless, all too often humans, prideful of an intellectual capacity, are galvanized by feelings. We are threatened by what we feel terrorizes us.
For Brandon it was a boy who thought him fine. For adults it may be a secret admirer, or an individual who has authority over us. The neighbor who was unkind could seem a danger. Mature men or women may believe the man in the automobile in front of them is a menace. Even a small girl, on the corner, with her fingers out-stretched in a sign of peace could seem a hazard if our habit is to adopt an angry stance when we feel annoyed.
People are familiar with what deeply disturbs them. They know all too well how to demonstrate love and hate. Indifference is doable, as long as an n individual does not see or hear those outside their sphere. Benevolence, perhaps that is the reaction, the action we do not learn from birth.
We all crave a connection. Humans have needs. Individuals long to be included, intimately involved; we wish to feel as though we have the right and power to make decisions for ourselves. Men, women, and children are not indifferent. Hence the dilemma.
When it seems we are unable to manage our world, humans freak. Each of us responds differently, understandably. Intellectually, people may recognize they cannot control the universe. However, when stressed, we discover the habits we hold dear remain intact. Our reactions are not innate, just well studied. Brandon McInerney was not a bad boy. He is a human being. He reacted as he had learned to do. Barely fourteen years of age, Brandon expressed his deep disdain for a situation and someone he could not control.
Chaos abounds. Nonetheless, we try. Too often, we fail. A senseless murder, and what assassination is not absurd, illustrates what occurs when someone does not feel fulfilled and knows not what to do. People in physical or psychological pain lash out in the ways they know how.
Brandon McInerney was baffled, no terrified, by the actions of another boy. Lawrence did not cause bodily harm to his peer. He did no verbal damage, at least not intentionally. Paradoxically, when Larry spoke of Brandon, he articulated his sincere admiration. That is what bothered the young boy Brandon. Love, especially when expressed unconventionally, caused Brandon’s heart and mind to break. The young lad, now passed, Larry, did not bully Brandon or his buddies. Indeed, the other boys hassled Lawrence prior to his final day.
In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.
McInerney, now in custody, refuses to speak of what motivated him. His lawyer offers the fourteen year old is too young to fully understand his actions. Perhaps all people are too immature to rationalize the unreasonable, revulsion, repulsion, and feelings of repugnance.
What is hate? Certainly, it is an emotion, as inexplicable as fondness. Each can be voiced to the extreme. Neither is inconsequential. Perhaps, when humans feel adoration or antipathy they lose all perspective. The chemistry we feel when we connect intensely is uncontrollable. If only people could capture the energy and place it in a bottle before they pop.
Assemblyman Mike Eng (Democrat, Monterey Park), chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, said we would, with a bit of money directed towards teaching diversity, be able to stop crimes against people based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
Eng hopes to create a pilot program by allocating up to $150,000 to establish a diversity and sensitivity curriculum at a few school districts. The pilot program would serve as a model to be used to develop lesson plans statewide.
Others in the community believe the proposed program only serves to comfort parents and Principals, adults, and not adolescents. Countless argue that similar programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), are ineffective. These simplistic strategies always were nothing more than slogans used to appease anxious adults. Although these agendas survive, they do not strengthen the will or the character of the young persons they serve. At times, instruction is as indifference. If you do not know what to do, or say about an open wound, look for an easy answer. Apply salve, and walk away. Most of us truly believe the sore will eventually heal by itself.
Here’s a news flash: “Just Say No” is not an effective anti-drug message. And neither are Barney-style self-esteem mantras . . .
DARE, which is taught by friendly policemen in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts, has been plagued by image problems from the beginning, when it first latched on to Nancy Reagan’s relentlessly sunny and perversely simplistic “Just say No” campaign. The program’s goals include teaching kids creative ways to say “no” to drugs, while simultaneously bolstering their self-esteem (which DARE founders insist is related to lower rates of drug use). . . .
According to an article published in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, DARE not only did not affect teenagers’ rate of experimentation with drugs, but may also have actually lowered their self-esteem. . . .
The findings were grim: 20-year-olds who’d had DARE classes were no less likely to have smoked marijuana or cigarettes, drunk alcohol, used “illicit” drugs like cocaine or heroin, or caved in to peer pressure than kids who’d never been exposed to DARE. But that wasn’t all. “Surprisingly,” the article states, “DARE status in the sixth grade was negatively related to self-esteem at age 20, indicating that individuals who were exposed to DARE in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem 10 years later.” Another study, performed at the University of Illinois, suggests some high school seniors who’d been in DARE classes were more likely to use drugs than their non-DARE peers.
Still, Americans, intent on straightforward solutions, quick fixes, and immediate gratification, forget that life is not so simple. The family teaches children from birth. The lessons we learn in our youngest years are internalized deeply. In infancy, each day we encounter our mother, father, or guardian, the people we need most, and most want to love us. As toddlers, we are intimately involved with our caregivers, even if they do not seem to care for us. When we are children, the only choice that we have, the only option that gives us a sense of control, is to cling to those who help us survive. Moms and Dads are our first and best, teachers, if only because they are there in whatever capacity.
However, sadly, for some of us, such as Brandon McInerney our mentors did not teach us well. Schools try to suffice. Teachers with ten, twenty forty to a class try to create a relationship with each student. As educators teach Math, Science, Reading, and English, they work to provide a sense of self-worth to each and every young scholar. For a few hours, five days a week, a troubled youngster can call his or her classroom home.
For young people such as Larry, school may have been a place to blossom, somewhere where he felt safe, or for both the boys an educational institution may have been the place where lessons begun at birth were reinforced. Each was teased, bullied, and verbally battered. Each had friends. However, they may not have felt they achieved an authentic intimate connection with anyone. Even acquaintances can say . . .
“He had a character that was bubbly,” Marissa said. “We would just laugh together. He would smile, then I would smile, and then we couldn’t stop.”
An ally in life does more than smile or laugh. Larry King may have felt he had few real supporters, in a school he attended for only months. How close can two people be when they see each other only for hours and then each returns to their own abode. One may return to the place they consider “Home Sweet Home,” the other may reside in an institution, far from those who are “supposed” to love him.
For several months before to the shooting, Larry had been living at Casa Pacifica, a residential center for troubled youths in Camarillo.
Lawrence’s parents are alive and well, as are his four siblings, a younger brother, two older brothers, and an older sister. While the family spoke lovingly of the dearly departed, they dared not speak of why the lad no longer lived with them. Many children today are placed in treatment agencies. The numbers are staggering. The reasons are astounding. Yet, when people know not how to love well, and are not indifferent, they do what they may hate to do.
The number of children placed in residential treatment centers (or RTCs) (1) is growing exponentially.(2) These modern-day orphanages now house more than 50,000 children nationwide.(3) Children are packed off to RTCs, often sent by officials they have never met, who have probably never spoken to their parents, teachers or social workers.(4) Once placed, these kids may have no meaningful contact with their families or friends for up to two years.(5) And, despite many documented cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, monitoring is inadequate to ensure that children are safe, healthy and receiving proper services in RTCs.(6) By funneling children with mental illnesses into the RTC system, states fail-at enormous cost-to provide more effective community-based mental health services.(7)
RTC placements are often inappropriate.
RTCs are among the most restrictive mental health services and, as such, should be reserved for children whose dangerous behavior cannot be controlled except in a secure setting.(8) Too often, however, child-serving bureaucracies hastily place children in RTCs because they have not made more appropriate community-based services available.(9) Parents who are desperate to meet their kids’ needs often turn to RTCs because they lack viable alternatives.(10)
To make placement decisions, families in crisis and overburdened social workers rely on the institutions’ glossy flyers and professional websites with testimonials of saved children.(11) But all RTCs are not alike.(12) Local, state and national exposés and litigation “regarding the quality of care in residential treatment centers have shown that some programs promise high-quality treatment but deliver low-quality custodial care.”(13) As a result, parents and state officials play a dangerous game of Russian roulette as they decide where to place children, because little public information is available about the RTCs, which are under-regulated and under-supervised.
Yet, parents and community services agencies take those who are perhaps most vulnerable, our young and troubled teens, and place them in Residential Treatment Centers not able to provide minimal care. When we, as a culture consider other options, and other means for childcare, we cannot but think of poor Brandon and how he suffered at the hands of his mother and father. We are reminded that Brandon, the tormented shooter, lived in a location he called home. We might wonder; which situation was better, worse, or can we even compare the traumas each child in this story suffered.
Brandon and Larry are not anomalies. They are not alone. Children throughout our country are taught to express love in a violent manner. The little ones watch adults they admire model cruelty. The young are trained to demonstrate their contempt similarly. Sadistic reactive behaviors rule in our society. Listen to people ruthlessly scream in the marketplace. Consider the abundance of “hate crimes” in America. Turn on the television. Tune into the radio. Read the “literature.” Hostile conduct is commended and condoned.
For too many of our offspring, aggression in their daily existence is the norm. They hear it in their homes; see their parent bludgeon each other. As toddlers, tots, children, or teens our youth feel the bruises on their back, and remember the bones broken by those they love most. Ponder the statistics.
During FFY 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect.
Children in the age group of birth to 3 years had the highest rate of victimization at 16.5 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;
More than one-half of the victims were 7 years old or younger (54.5%)
More than one-half of the child victims were girls (50.7%) and 47.3 percent were boys; and
Approximately one-half of all victims were White (49.7%); one-quarter (23.1%) were African-American; and 17.4 percent were Hispanic.
Gender preference did not determine maltreatment when infants and the very young among were involved. Specific biases are learned as we “mature.” While many wish to focus on Larry’s identification with the gay community as reason for such a horrific reaction, the cause for Brandon’s response goes far deeper. Scorn is rarely selective. Disparagement is an equal opportunity employer.
Abusive behaviors are rooted in our personal history. We cannot dismiss the fact that as a society, our past performances towards those we disdain are deplorable. As a culture, emotional beings that we are, we embrace love and hate, and ignore indifference.
We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to our offspring from the day they enter this world, and why. Answers offered after the fact, solutions that do not address the broader question will not stop the violence we see in schools. Nor will it quash the mayhem or reduce the murders we see on our streets. Hate crimes are born at home. Mothers and fathers motivate much that occurs. Moms and Dads often do what was done to them.
Children who witness domestic violence are at an increased risk of having abusive relationships as adults, researchers have found.
Being abused as a child and having behavioural problems also increases the risk of being violent as adults. Receiving excessive punishment is another risk factor. US researchers from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute followed 540 children for 20 years from 1975 . . .
If a pattern of violent behaviour towards a partner has been established, it is difficult to change say the researchers. . . .
If a child was hit by their parents, they were much more likely to see violence as a way of resolving problems as adults, the researchers found.
But seeing violence perpetuated between parents was found the be the greatest risk factor for being the victim of a violent partner as an adult.
Both men and women who witnessed domestic violence were likely to grow up to abuse their partners . . .
“This acceptance of coercive, power-based norms as ways of regulating conflict may have direct implications for young adults’ means of conflict resolution with partners, independent of a disruptive behaviour disorder.”
For too many of our young persons a forceful hand, a furious face, and a vicious voice are identified with those they are most fond of. Children are confused. In too many lives, love does not come easily. Little ones do not know what authentic affection looks like. As “mature” beings, some people seek the wisdom they did not acquire in their family homes. They wish to learn of what could not have been fully integrated in a school curriculum. Grown-up persons harmed by habits that debilitate a mind, body, heart, and soul know to their core, habits die hard. Adult classes meant to teach as Assemblyman Eng proposed exist at West Virginia University an older person can study How To Communicate Love. Learners are instructed, “Love comes from within.” Students are advised to appreciate themselves.
Learning to love yourself will help create your personal appearance of love. If you do not know how to love yourself, you will not be able to love others. Loving yourself also means that you have a loving attitude in your actions and responses toward others; that you look for opportunities to help rather than be helped; that you communicate a loving appreciation of others with “thank you” and “please” as part of your vocabulary; that you forgive others and do not hold a grudge; and that you help people in need without thought of reward or recognition.
However, ultimately pupils are reminded of what Lawrence and Brandon have helped us realize.
How we communicate love to others is learned; we are not born with the ability to communicate love.
Nor are we born with the ability to hate. Each of us, every man, woman, and child is well-trained. If we are to truly end the violence that exists in schools, we must eliminate the hostility in our homes. Assemblyman Eng, perhaps a program in parenting, one instituted in every community throughout the globe might be more effective than any instruction in a school. If we are to truly teach forbearance to our progeny we must acknowledge parents, adults in every avenue are our life teachers. Let us not speak of how best to teach the children tolerance. We, their elders must learn how to love first. Perhaps, if the elders begin to appreciate each other without brutality, next Valentine’s Day Cupid will not shoot arrow. He will bestow gentle kisses on each of us.
“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex.
Larry was a masterpiece.”
~ Reverend Dan Birchfield, Westminster Presbyterian Church
A good friend of mine was telling me a story about some new people he met recently – he was the first Jew they had ever met. In their curiosity, they had a laundry list of questions based on anti-Semitic comments they had heard probably their whole lives.
“No, we do not own the media.”
It is good that uninformed people seek to find the truth, but in the 21st Century, one would hope this level of stuff would no longer be necessary. But alas, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish. Steve Jobs, the largest shareholder of Disney is not Jewish. Steven Spielberg is Jewish however, but he does not own the media – he is a filmmaker. Robert Rodriguez is also a filmmaker but he is not Jewish and neither of them run the Evening News.
So my ultra-patient friend sat through the eye-rolling questions. No, they do not sacrifice babies. They do not have a secret base on the dark side of the moon.
And no, Israel does not have a fleet of flying saucers.
Let us have a discussion, a conversation, to coin a Clintonism. Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow is sharing his view of Blogs. The Press Secretary states they are “wonderful,” “imaginative,” and “hateful.” Might we chat about this. Cyberspace is a connective medium.
Might we come together, converge, or are we, in this new “democratic age” just too divisive?
Please spew your odious, offensive, and obnoxious thoughts as you reflect on the comment Tony Snow offered. However, please, do so gently.
I personally am an assertive, active, lover of peace. In words and deeds, I work to reach nirvana. Expressions of “hate” will not take me to the paradise I seek. Perchance, when I arrive at my chosen destination, those that think blogs [such as mine?] are vile will be there, awaiting my “wonderful” words of wisdom.
I can only imagine that Mister Snow is not searching for solace when he “punches it up” his preferences. Secretary Snow, I invite you to join the “imaginative,” interesting, and insightful peaceful persons here at BeThink.