Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hate at home

Artwork Credit: Chris Preksta

On Saturday morning a deranged man walked into a synagogue and shot 11 souls to death.  He also shot and wounded two other members of the congregation.  They were targeted because of their religion and murdered in their house of worship.  Four police officers were also shot and wounded in the response.  Make no mistake, this horrific massacre was a hate crime.

This time it happened in my city.  At a synagogue I've driven by hundreds of times, each time admiring the stained glass windows.  In a neighborhood where many friends and colleagues and students live.  In a community where I work with several different schools, including the one right across the street.  Squirrel Hil is my favorite neighborhood in the city.

I don't know any of the victims.  I wasn't anywhere near Squirrel Hill when it happened.  While I intend to pay my respects at the memorial, I don't want to cause more traffic or congestion in a dense neighborhood as the funerals for the victims take place.  This is about them, not about me.  Sometime next week, maybe.

To say it's rocked the Jewish community in Pittsburgh is an understatement.  I'd even go as far as to say it's rocked the Jewish community in the entire US.  It's rocked Pittsburgh to its core.  It's rocked me too.  But Pittsburgh is strong, and this city will prevail in the face of hate, all while surrounding the Jewish community with love.

I don't know what to say.  If a place for worship is not safe, then where is safe?  I can never wrap my head around mass shootings and the senseless loss of life that comes with them.  But this time it's more personal because it happened in the city I call home.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

I believe her

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a goddamn American hero.

She put herself out there.  She knew when she agreed to testify that she'd be raked over the coals and that her character would be assassinated.  She (and her family) received death threats and had to move out of their home in the days leading up to her testimony.  I think she knew that in the end, her words wouldn't matter.  But she did it anyway because the cost of not testifying was far greater than any personal cost she suffered.

She was a rock star on the stand.  She answered every single question with accuracy and poise.  She handled the backlash with grace.  She did her civic duty, despite the fact that most of those questioning her had made up their minds before she ever even swore the oath to tell the truth.

I believe her.  I believe every single word she said.  I believe her when she says there are things she doesn't remember.  And I believe that the things she doesn't remember don't take anything away from her account.

There are things I don't remember.  And there are things I can recall in vivid detail.

This is one of the few times I'll write a trigger warning on my blog.  If you are triggered by first-hand accounts of rape, sexual assault, and the like, please don't read any further, and take care of you.

I don't remember the location of the house where the party was.  I'm pretty sure the host's name was Megan.  Or maybe it was Morgan.  I don't remember what I was wearing, and frankly, it doesn't matter what I was wearing.  I don't remember most of the people who were there, and honestly, I don't think I knew most of them.  I don't remember the date, but I think it might have been in June.  It was the summer I turned 19, but I don't remember if it was before or after my birthday. 

I remember being there and not having much fun.  I remember walking towards the door to leave and the guy following me, insisting that I stay for a while and have a drink.  It was his birthday, after all.  I worked with him.  We were acquaintances.  I had no reason to not trust him.  Yes, I know his name, and yes, I'll remember it for the rest of my life.  He handed me a drink (a beer, I think, though it could have also been a hard lemonade or something of that nature).  I remember thinking that I'd let him see me take a sip or two, excuse myself to the bathroom, and then sneak out when he got distracted.  And then I took a few sips of whatever the drink was and started feeling woozy.  I remember him picking me up and carrying me to a room.  The bed had a floral duvet and there was a dog, an Irish Setter, laying on the floor.  You can figure out the rest.

In the aftermath, I knew I had to get out of there.  I found my clothes and got dressed.  I knew I was in no state to drive and I didn't even know where I was to call someone and ask them to pick me up.  I locked myself in my car.  Maybe I was there for an hour, or maybe it was six.  I don't know.  I stayed there until I felt ok to drive.  It was on the way home where I made the decision that I wouldn't call the police and that I'd never say anything about what happened.  You see, in order to file a police report, I would have had to admit to drinking, and small-town cops, at least where I used to live, were far more concerned about busting young people for underage consumption then they were about busting a young man for drugging and raping a woman.

It happened the summer I turned 19.  I turned 37 this past summer.  I didn't speak a word about it until the last year or so.  Still, only a small handful of people, maybe five, know about it.  Or at least did before I put it all out there on the internet.  I don't know why I'm telling this story now.  I think because can do so semi-anonymously in this space.  Because even after all these years, I'm still ashamed to talk about it.  But also because it's consumed me since Dr. Ford's testimony.

I'm inspired by many of the responses to Dr. Ford.  And I'm sickened at many others.  It doesn't matter if it's been 25 minutes or 25 years, it doesn't take away from the trauma of the experience, and it doesn't make it any less valid.

I believe you, Christine Blasey Ford.  And I believe every single other person who has gone through this hell.

Tomorrow the man she testified against will likely receive enough votes for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court where he will shape policy for the next 30+ years.  While it remains to be seen, what we know about this man and his track record of treating women poorly, it's not "out there" to think that women's rights are going to take a huge hit.