The Color Purple

October 16th, 2012

The color purple stands now for both domestic violence awareness and bullying and October is the month.

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms,and it would be the lead story on the news every night.”– Rep. Mark Green

“Bullying is killing our kids. Being different is killing our kids and the kids who are bullying are dying inside. We have to save our kids whether they are bullied or they are bullying. They are all in pain.”  Cat Cora

Preventing violence is the most crucial work I will ever do in this lifetime.  Herman Wouk said once, “Either war is finished, or we are”.  I believe him.  We need to stop the wars we wage against each other every day, in the home, at work, and in school. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legalizing Love

September 20th, 2012


I love this sign.

“My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow.”  Washington state Sen. Ed Murray (D), Feb. 13, 2012 as marriage was legalized.

“This is an earthquake issue. This will change our state forever. Because the immediate consequence, if gay marriage goes through, is that K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural, and perhaps they should try it.” — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), March 20, 2004  (Huh?)

I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.” Clint Eastwood

Those who say my home state of Iowa is a swing state know what they’re talking about.  Our opinions are as varied as our weather.  On the one hand, Iowa should be proud to be one of the handful of states (8 have legalized, but with legislation pending in 2 of those) that legalized same sex marriage in April of 2009.  Iowa is home to Chuck and Jason Swaggerty Morgan, two fine men I know, who are raising beautiful children, and who were one of the six couples who challenged the Iowa Supreme Court.

Conversely, Iowa is home also to the leader of what is called “The Family Leader’, a group who successfully ousted three of those brave judges, and are now threatening a fourth as of today. The three ousted judges deservedly received the John F. Kennedy “Profiles in Courage” awards  just this year.

This isn’t a political blog and it isn’t a religious blog.  I’m tackling this subject today because the right of same sex couples to marry in this country really shouldn’t be about either of those issues, it should be about the subject of this blog-love.  Period.    It may be about religion or politics for them, but there are gay rights supporters on both sides of the aisle and supporters as well as opponents within organized religions.   Could we not stop all the ‘fussing and fighting” and re frame the case, take it beyond the courts and the elections and look at it from a human standpoint?  Couldn’t this just be simply about love?

It’s not about love, not yet.  Sadly, as a nation, and as a planet, we aren’t there yet.   But I am encouraged and here are a few reasons why.

WE ARE SLOWLY, VERY SLOWLY STARTING TO GET HOW DANGEROUS DISCRIMINATION CAN BE. Social scientists, human behavior experts, and more and more policy makers are beginning to understand the process by which we can easily dehumanize others and what that can lead to.  One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in 20 years of violence prevention work is what they call “the pyramid of violence”.  The pyramid is inverted and starts with the more common acts of violence, which is words. Violence doesn’t start with the physical generally.   As my friend and colleague Kit Gruelle says, “Violence is just a punctuation mark”.  It starts with thoughts, attitudes and words.   Here’s how that works.  A group, usually in the majority, can begin to stereotype and dehumanize another group simply by disapproving words.  Even something as innocuous as “hate the sin and love the sinner” can be dangerous, as you’ve labeled someone with “sin”.  Then comes the separation and isolation of the smaller group from the larger.  They are ‘sinners” and therefore we don’t approve, we don’t understand, and we don’t love.  We begin to hate, and what we hate doesn’t deserve the same rights.  We isolate them physically, psychologically, and spiritually until this becomes “normal” and acceptable to do.  It can then escalate to acts of bullying,violence, assault, “hazing”, rape, and even murder.  That’s how batterers do it.  If the target is dehumanized, it becomes ok to separate them, ok to deny them rights, ok to attack them.  Hitler didn’t wake up one day and lock up all the Jews.  He slowly and surely over many years moved up the pyramid of violence to his final solution.  In short, as a culture, I think this has been what we’ve done to not only women and minorities but also to gays and lesbians, and mercifully, more policy makers are making the connection.  As always, the opposition must push back and they push back hard, but the connection has been made and hopefully that will lead us to more enlightened and LOVING policies, attitudes, and behaviors.

-“THE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION”.  My own community had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century, as it took them years to simply add the term”sexual orientation” to our human rights laws.  But it happened.  In 2004, there were no states that had legalized same sex marriage.  In eight years, we’ve added 8 states, and several more have legislation pending.  It’s not enough, and again, the push back is swift and sometimes violent, but it’s beginning.  We’ve made measurable change. My friend and colleague, anti violence activist Jackson Katz told me years ago that “that train has already left the station”.  It’s moving, slowly, but it’s moving.

THE ATTITUDES ARE CHANGING.  In 1996, only 25% of Americans approved of full marriage equality.  Today, from 51-53% support it.  That’s a big leap in 15 years.

THERE ARE MOVEMENTS THAT WENT BEFORE THAT GIVE HOPE.   Let’s face it, as daunting as the “push back” can be, and in these days, it’s daunting, there is a movement, and that’s always the start.  If I’d been born in 1896, not 1956, I would have had to wait to vote.  My own great grandmother, who I knew, couldn’t vote until she was 44 years old.  As crazy as that sounds, this was within the 20th century.  My friend who lives in San Diego, and is white, could not have married her husband, who isn’t, 50 years ago.  My husband is Jewish.  He was born in 1952 in New York.  Had he and I been born 30 years before, in Germany, where some of his relatives came from, our marriage  would have been illegal.   Look at old film clips of groups of whites taunting  African American school children.  This was in my lifetime.  When I watch those, I feel shame and horror.  I absolutely believe, that even 25 years from now, we will look back on this time with deep regret that many of us failed to respect those who live their lives as they were born to do.  Ranting loudly against another’s rights may work for a while, but history will tell this story and things will look different from that perspective.  Let’s be proud of supporting human rights and open ourselves to change.  This isn’t a revolution, it’s an evolution, or so I hope.

THE ANTI BULLYING MOVEMENT WILL HELP.  One of the most frustrating things for me over the years, as an anti violence activist and philanthropist, is the completely insane opposition to anti bullying legislation for our children from those who feel that they push a “gay agenda”. HUH?  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who tried to pass anti bullying legislation while he was Governor of Iowa, met constant opposition simply due to the “gay agenda” nonsense.  I always wanted to say to these people, “so it’s ok to bully gay kids”?  Are you kidding.  They weren’t.  Some of these same adults who are horrified by school bullying overall, see nothing about dehumanizing gay children and adults, and wonder why hate groups exist, and gay kids are killing themselves.   It’s insane.  But there is hope.  By simply humanizing the children so brutally  tormented in his documentary “Bully”, Lee Hirsch helped change the conversation and perhaps led us to a tipping point as a nation.  But, we have to make the connection that by making gay marriage and gay rights abhorrent, we feed into a collective bullying that no longer should be acceptable.  If we want our children treated well, let’s set an example…with love.

-OUR KIDS WILL STRAIGHTEN THIS OUT.  By the numbers, again, I have hope.  The same survey that named 51-53% of Americans now supported marriage equality, told us that fully 69% of those under 30 supported it.  I’ve been taught by those who know about such things, that when social norm change approaches 80% of a population, you are there.  Our kids will get us there, and teach us a lesson in life, in harmony, in human rights, and yes, even in love.





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