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Friday, March 29, 2019

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Film Making…

Roe v Wade, two names that became one of the most divisive rulings by the United States Supreme court in history and remains a hot button topic even today. Ruled 7-2 as a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, women were legally given the right to ownership of their own bodies. Yet women continue to face scrutiny and their autonomy remains threatened as lawmakers seek to overturn the decision and give constitutional rights to a nonviable fetus housed inside a living breathing person.

One could even argue that forcing a woman to be pregnant and give birth is a violation of the 13th Amendment as stated by Andrew Koppelman; “When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to involuntary servitude… even if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.”
The right to life entwined with the overall debate of when life actually begins, continues to be debated among leaders and voters, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. The barrage of defenses gets more radical with each election cycle as myths, rumors, urban legends and out right lies are mingled with the facts. The accusations of killing babies in a back room after they have been born to repeated untruths that tax dollars are funding it, leaves everyone with an unbalanced sense of what is really happening.

The long standing Hyde Amendment of 1976 barred all federal funding of abortions (accept in the cases of rape, incest or threat of the life of the mother) yet it has gotten lost in the crossfire as Pro-Life megaphones attempt to change the narrative with false information and outright lies.
To add fuel to the fire Georgia has introduced and passed the HB481 bill, also known as a ‘heartbeat bill’. Georgia is not alone as many other states have attempted to pass or have passed such legislation in recent years. Of course, it includes verbiage for exemptions in cases of rape, which will also require a police report that will only allow for further legal red tape as her accusation is weighed. The oppression of women continues and its mind boggling to me that in 2019 we are still fighting for equality in a country founded on the ideology of freedom.

Numerous unions and individuals from Hollywood have spoken out against this bill and threatened to withdrawal the film industry from the state, taking with it the millions of dollars it generates in taxes. The opposition, demanding these ‘elitists’ save their performances for the screen, don’t seem to grasp what the fiscal impact of this decision will have on them and their state. Governor Kemp doesn’t seem to care either, and why should he? This is a man who sought to suppress the vote of thousands in his state in order to steal an election from a woman. It’s no surprise he would support a bill that indeed oppresses women and suppresses their constitutional rights. The party of 'less government' doesn't seem to understand what LESS actually means! 

I stand with Hollywood and applaud those with a global, national and influential platform for using it for the greater good of ALL! Women must not allow their bodies to become the property of any government! *The Handmaid's Tale ring a bell to anyone?

Abortion is a medical procedure for a medical condition. Believe it or not, pregnancy is a CONDITION, one that like others is treated by a doctor until which time the condition is no longer present. All people should have the legal right to make their OWN medical decisions in regards to their own medical conditions. You can call it whatever you want, but until you have been forced to be pregnant, forced to give birth and forced to become a parent you really need to sit down and shut up!
No where in these unconstitutional bills does it ever include all factors leading to the condition. Women get pregnant and the burden falls to them. The men that participate in causing the condition are not held in any level of accountability. They are not required to put their bodies through the trauma of pregnancy and birth, or the financial hardship of child bearing and rearing. They do not face any legal or financial implications for their participation beyond an order for child support which many states don’t enforce. Pregnancy is a woman’s problem, period. If you are pregnant you are solely responsible, which is exactly why a woman should have the legal right to decide how to treat her condition.

If we are going to punish women for expelling a potential life, then men should have equal legal ramifications for every sperm they expel that does not result in a human life. Their sperms ‘potential’ is no different than a nonviable fetus’s potential after all, yet men continue to dictate the rights of women while keeping their own intact.

Let’s not forget that the same megaphone squawkers demanding women be forced to give birth are often the same radicals screaming against affordable health care, food assistance and subsidized housing. Reverberating to the masses the standard message of “We don’t want to assist you in raising a child but dammit you WILL have one!” and somehow that seems right and just.

Equality looms in the balance every day in this country and the battle is wrought with hatred and fear. When we as a society cannot accept our brothers and sisters unconditionally, how can we expect to raise another generation and ensure love is at the helm. Freedom remains an ideology that is as fluid as any ocean, one never knows what form it will take or how we will all survive the storms it brings, but one thing is certain it has never come easily or free.

May we all rise up and greet this ever winding road with peace in our hearts and freedom still outside our front doors.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Compliance is Not Consent

In this current atmosphere of he said, she said the voice being heard is often not the victim. In an era of sensationalism and being first to report, the truth often lies somewhere between maybe and plausible.

We as a nation watched as a woman, with nothing to gain, spoke her truth against a man with everything to lose. The world listened, but did it hear? As the smoke settles other women have come forward, only to be blamed for ‘jumping on the band wagon’, as though the tragedy that played out in front of us was something to attain. Their accusations diminished by their timing alone. These women disparaged and reduced to mere attention seekers. After all, no one would wait to report the most humiliating, catastrophic moments of their lives. Their allegations referred to as nothing more than ‘timely’.

In recent weeks a man stood before a judge, accused of inappropriate sexual contact with an 18yr old boy. The victim claiming, he reached into his pants and groped him without his permission. The sound byte of his attorney blatantly asking the investigating officer if the victim ever said ‘NO’, did he ever say, ‘I do not consent to this’, now looping across the 24 hour news cycle we all live in.

A growing list of men coming forward, proclaiming they too were victimized by this same man when some were merely teenagers. Again, the echo of ‘why did you wait’ reverberates through the media, the coffee shops and gossip circles.

The heartbreaking docu-series Surviving R. Kelly completed its run and once again we are slammed with a barrage of ‘Why didn’t they come forward before?' 'They are just looking for attention'. When did the victim become the accused? Sadly, always. Time hasn’t changed the perception of who is at fault when sexual advances, conduct and rape happen. Time, still proclaiming it’s too easy to accuse someone. Is it?

Time. The taker of the moments, the minutes and the memories of our lives. Stealing the joy, the love and often the memorable. What time does not take, however, is sorrow, fear and despair. Those are the things that get ingrained into our very breath. The things that darken our days, overshadow our joy, seep into our souls and haunt our dreams.

Time does not judge us, or condemn us, nor does it release us. Time does not take our nightmares and hide them away in the crevices of a day celebrated, or in the shadows of a successful career, nor in the paths of a life well lived. Trauma is seldom hidden in the dark where it happens, it dangles its presence whether or not its victim moves forward. Echoing its pain in a moment of happiness, often reminding its keeper on the heels of laughter, pilfering the moments often held dear, replacing them with reminders the past is never really that far.

Every 98 seconds in America someone is sexually assaulted, and every 8 minutes that victim is a child[i]. Statistically 34% of children molested and raped are by family members, or a friend of the family[ii]. The very people charged with protecting you, hurt you.

We teach our daughters to say 'No'. We teach our sons, 'No means No'. ‘No’ is an interesting concept. We teach our children to ‘tell’. If someone touches you, tell. If someone treats you badly, tell. Tell your parents, tell an adult you trust. ‘Tell’ is another interesting concept. We take these lessons and we mix and mingle them with other words and phrases; ‘don’t be a tattle tale’, ‘don’t tell your father no’, ‘listen to me or else’. Childhood; a messy complicated world of contradictions.

When something bad happens to anyone, if she/he is sexually assaulted in any way the first question often asked is ‘did you say no?’. That is often followed by the usual list of inquiries to determine your validity. Not the validity of the incident you are reporting, but your validity as a person. Perhaps you were asking for it. Certainly, there is something about you that holds a deep seeded desire to be held against your will and violated in the most intimate of ways.

This will be determined by what you were wearing, whether you were flirting, if you were drinking, if you knew the alleged offender, had you dated him previously, had consensual sex with him previously, if you’ve ever been sexually active with anyone, and of course, how many sexual partners you have had.

Keep in mind, of course, you will also need to explain why you are telling, why you are reporting this incident to anyone. Do you have a vendetta against the accused, are you trying to ruin someone’s life, and of course, was it really that bad? This will be followed by the request for you to explain why you didn’t tell sooner. Even if it happened last night, you will be asked why you didn’t tell sooner. You will be demanded to explain whether you screamed, or fought, or tried to run. After all, if you were in danger you wouldn’t have remained silently still and allowed it to happen.

All of these things a requirement, a prerequisite to ascertain your legitimacy as a witness to your own assault.

Who remembers being 3 years old? Actually, many survivors do. I was three years old when my mother sat me on the lap of ‘a friend’, she had a lot of ‘friends’. These men, whose laps she would set me on, would smile at me and comment on whatever dress my mother had put me in. I would listen as she told them how well behaved I was, how cute I was. ‘She is all girl’ she would say to them, explaining that I would cry if she put pants on me instead of a well ruffled and laced dress. She would tell how my tears would fall if my little patent leather shoes got scuffed, or dirt found its way to my hands. She recited these same things about me to each of these men that visited whenever my father was at work.

This was always immediately followed by her stating how much I liked them, whoever they were. She would insist she saw me flirting with them, and that I had asked to sit on their laps. As she spun her tale of lies, I would sit quietly still. I was an unusually compliant child, I never argued, threw temper tantrums or refused to do what I was told. I certainly never told my mother ‘no’.
These men they would hold me, their hands always managing to find a way under my dress as they touched and fondled while rocking me on their laps – I never said ‘no’. Did my compliance equal consent?

I was 4 years old the first time someone’s fingers found their way inside of me. My mother was there, smiling and straightening my dress. Pulling it down to cover the hand working its way inside- I never said ‘no’. Did my compliance equal consent?

I sat on the laps of many men - I never once said no.

I began to refuse to wear dresses around the age of 6, as my young mind began to understand the vulnerability of being in one. As children do, I blamed myself. Why wouldn’t I? Society certainly would. If I had just worn something less accessible, these things wouldn’t happen. 

I cried a lot as a child, perpetually sad for what appeared to others as no reason. It was said I was just overly sensitive.

I was raped the first time at age 11 – I never said no. Did my compliance equal consent?
My parents divorced and the men visiting my mother became more frequent. By the time I was 13 I had stopped crying. It would be years before I did again.

Another man, followed by another, just another place in time as life moved forward around me. I was 17 years old the first time I said no. My mother’s man of the moment dragged me through her bedroom and into an adjoining room. I fought this time. I said no this time. My mother went into her usual tirade about how I had been asking for it all day and that I needed to stop pretending. This was provoked by my again refusing the advances of this ‘friend’ of hers, and others previously. She couldn’t comprehend that I didn’t want these men touching me, so I must be gay. 

The year prior she had approached a boy I liked and offered to pay him to ‘fuck the gay’ out of me. She couldn’t see that it wasn’t I didn’t want a man touching me, I simply wanted no one to touch me. When he didn't agree she set about finding someone else to do it, and now she had.

As she name-called and berated me through the closed door, I was raped and sodomized. I was left bloody and bruised on the floor; my mother in the next room. I screamed, I fought, and I said no. I said no, and my non-compliance was met with violence.

Only 12% of child sexual abuse is ever reported to authorities[iii]. As a child, I told no one my story. Not my friends, not my teachers, certainly not the police. It would be many years as an adult before I told anyone. Who would believe me? Who would believe that a mother refused to protect her child? Although of those that sexually abuse a child, 34% are family members[iv].  Who would believe someone who never said no? Who would believe someone who remained silent for so long?

I remember the first time I told. I remember it as clearly as the first time I was assaulted. Another defining moment etched into my psyche.  A friend was telling me her story. She was telling me what had happened to her as a child, of all the years she spent in a nightmare waiting for it to end. Her story urged me to reach out, to tell her she was not alone. Her truth did not make my truth happen. It certainly didn’t leave me wanting to experience the horror that she had. Her story merely gave me courage. The courage to tell my truth.

No does means no, but Silence is not permission. Compliance is not consent. Whether you're a child or an adult, the feeling of helplessness is the same. Your age doesn't suddenly make you powerful.

Time does not determine what parts of our history were real, it does not erase the nightmares, nor does it nullify our experiences by simply ticking forward.  It doesn’t matter when you tell your story, it matters only that you do!

We must all tell our stories and we must stand witness to the stories of others. We each must be the strength for those too weak to stand. We must be the comfort for those lost in despair. We must be the courage for those that believe they walk alone.

It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, how many sexual partners you’ve had, if you were drinking or flirting or if you can remember the exact date, or whether you said no.  Time is not the judge. Silence is not permission. Compliance is not consent.

We must tell our stories. We must tell them until we are the loudest voice in the room. We must rise up and speak out until the only sound the world can hear is the sound of our silence breaking.

[ii] National Sexual Violence Resource Center
[iii] National Sexual Violence Resource Center
[iv] National Sexual Violence Resource Center

t.r. mugler 2018

Monday, January 09, 2017


The world is filled with literally billions of people. We are all here, we are all present and accounted for. We each walk separate journey's, different lives and each have a belief system that is sometimes similar to anothers, but never identical. Each of us, told we are no less and no more important than another. Yet we know this is not exactly true. Our lives, livelihoods, connections, friends, family, neighborhoods etc, in fact divide us up in very real ways. Long before politics and religion come into play. The platform we find ourselves upon, may not be as large as the one we need; the spotlight may not shine on us in the same way it does someone else. 
If ever given the opportunity to speak in a very public way; to reach millions of people in one moment, I do hope that I would choose to make it about something other than myself. 
Meryl Streep had her moment last night. She has had a career that is one to echo greatness and delight. She has entertained us all for many years in many ways. She had a choice, she could stand there, on a stage being broadcast to literally billions of people and spend her time patting herself on the back. Throwing out wistful advice for those less experienced, or turning a phrase to just make us all laugh. 
She chose instead to recognize how fortunate she was to be standing there, in that moment, on that stage. She took that privilege and used it to highlight something much more important than herself, her career or the award she held in her hands. 
You don't have to agree with her words, you don't even have to like her movies or theater performances. That's the unique blessing of being in America, she can say and believe what she wants, and so can you. 
I, for one, thought her message was a much better use of her moment, than spewing self-professed accolades of how awesome her career has been. She chose to speak in defense of those who often can not defend themselves. She chose to remind us all that while the world is indeed troubled, we look to our leaders for guidance; that these leaders should in fact guide us and not degrade, seek to humiliate, nor bully the vulnerable. 
With the arrest of 4 Chicago youth last week for literally torturing, humiliating, degrading and bullying a young man with special needs, how can anyone NOT see the problem with our countries most important leader mocking the disabled, inciting violence, bullying and degrading. 
I do not blame him for the choices these youth made; yet we must ask ourselves what influence is it we want our children to look up to. We can choose to sit in silence or we can speak up. We can respectfully disagree and still call out disgust when we see it. It is our job as parents, citizens and human beings to call out the wrong and project the right. Being the President is not a free pass!! 
We can not become 'involved' if we do not speak up and speak out. We MUST always, always SPEAK. 
#MerylStreep #GoldenGlobes #CecilBDeMille #AmericaFalling #AllCitizens#UnitedWeStand

2017 ~ America or Bust...

So here I sat on the eve of the official winding down of the clock. The elusive time keeper that ticked away the hours, scratched off the seconds and tracked the moments of yet another year. 2016 may now seem a blur to some, while to others a long and never ending uphill crusade. Another 525,600 minutes filled with joy and tragedy. A full 8,760 hours of loss and hope.
No matter which it was for you, it was simply just another year. Another 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days of time passing. While we flip thru our photo’s, revisit our facebook status’, let our minds wander to those moments we long to relive, and count our blessings, all we can do is move forward. Move onward into another calendar of ticking and tocking.
What we do with the time before us matters so much more than the hours that have passed us. Life is a journey to be traveled. Whether its quickly or at a snails pace, with happiness or sadness, heartbreak or celebration; we each walk, run or stumble forward as best we can with the tools and knowledge we collect along the way.
Regardless of where it is our future leads us, what awaits us around the next corner, or where it is we long to be; we simply have today. Today to make a difference. Today to gather goodness. Today to choose love over hate.
As we pack up 2016 may we take with us, all that collectively shaped our lives for the better. May we load our pockets with the pebbles of crumbled stones; not so that we remember the battle, but that we never forget we survived. May we fill our hearts with forgiveness; not for those that have wronged us, but as a reminder to be gentle with ourselves. May we stack our minds with the chapters we’ve cherished, and file away those which we’d rather forget. May we also overflow our souls with the peace of a promise, as we illuminate the darkness that looms just behind us.
May we continuously allow the warmth of tomorrow to embrace us today; and always recall with quiet grace, those that have lifted us up.
No matter what kind of year it has been, how far we have traveled or what we find waiting for us on the other side, may we all remember in this life, in this one moment of time, its all about today, and what we choose to do.

May you all have blessings to count, memories to recall, moments to embrace; and may each of us awake tomorrow with love, peace and freedom still at our front doors. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

America Bleeds

The blood that flows from America runs thick and chaotic. The land of the free no longer so brave. I can not even wrap my head around the barrage of violence and hatred, that filters through every sound bite, of every media outlet, of millions of social media meme’s; but I’m sure there is someone I can ask, who will explain it all to me.
A persons character was once judged by their ability to face their adversaries, head on, strong and vigilant in their beliefs; willing to die for their god, their family, their country. Always lending a hand to help a neighbor, a family in need, a community. I grew up in a world where one didn’t have to pass a litmus test before they were loved, cared for and protected. Sure racism and bigotry has existed, probably since the beginning of time itself, but these were the things that I was being taught to reject, to cleanse our world of. I was being instructed to lift my fellow man up, that no one was beneath me and that we all are responsible for one another.
For a decade now, people stopped speaking up, stopped asking questions, stopped helping their brother an sisters. They no longer stood in the light of day, ready to defend their rights, they instead chose to hide behind a keyboard, held up in some obscure room in some remote place not found on a map. Tapping out hatred and bigotry. Relieving themselves of all the pent up judgments and discourse filling their hearts. Filling blog after endless blog with their conspiracies and theories of a government trying to control them, trying to obliterate their rights and stall their pursuit of happiness. Why they didn’t just demand term limits and transparency from the very government they were electing into office escapes me, but I am sure there is a politician I can ask.
Now the pot is boiling over, the steam has risen to the skies and a darkness has rolled in.  The have reappeared, slowly they have crawled from the darkness and safety of their homes and they are now running rampant on our streets, in our cities and towns. They are carrying the pitchforks of propaganda signs and spewing the rehearsed rhetoric of the day. Most have no idea what it is they really believe, but they are certain their beliefs are being trampled on, and they are looking for a leader to point the finger for them, to name a target, to give them the sacrificial lamb that will bring back what they perceive they have lost. I’m not sure what it is they have lost, but I’m sure there is a newscaster I can ask.
I do not advocate violence, though I can understand the knee-jerk thought of throat punching someone who has just spit on me. Though I am of the make love not war mindset, I have also found myself on occasion curling my fist and wishing to pummel another human being. I am after all human.  I am someone who believes in protecting all that is good in this world; our children, our elders, our freedoms and our country.  I believe that being the loudest voice in the room doesn’t make you the right voice. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure there is some psychologist on television I can ask.
I don’t understand the deep rooted hatred that is spilling over our country and ensnaring our citizens, like a serpent in the night. I do not subscribe to any specific religious order, but I know many who do. My favorite Aunt was born and raised in the southern vein of our country. She fiercely believed in her Christian god and prayed for me a time or two. She was never heard speaking ill of anyone, nor would she turn her back on someone in need. I’m sure there were people she didn’t particularly care for, and am certain there were many ideals in this world she would have never subscribed to though she never said so. She was of the belief that if it did not serve her god it was not worth her time. She didn’t live as though she were above anyone, nor would she ever accept she was less than anyone else. If you were of a different belief she still prayed for you and she still embraced you. After all, the son of her god regularly embraced thieves, prostitutes, adulterers and liars. It was not her job to change others, it was merely her calling to live life in such a way as to emulate the god she worshipped.
When I see Christians today chanting for the death of someone they don’t even know, or advocating for violence against anyone who does not believe as they do, I am baffled and confused. This is not the example of Christianity I was raised with, and I can not begin to comprehend whom this serves; I wish she were still here so I could ask.
There is this one cousin of mine, she and I are a lot  alike. We help those in need, advocate for peace and love our families fiercely.  I have never heard her utter a word against America. She doesn’t dribble the remnants of hate from her lips nor does she plot against anyone. She was born and raised in this country, she comes from a family of strong women. She also happens to be Muslim. I know there are radicals in this country and in others, that use their religion like armor and stand behind it in some twisted, unrealistic way to justify their need to murder. The Muslims I know, are not like that. Just as all the Christians I know are not bigoted. I am not sure why some are, but I’m certain there is a conspiracy theorist I can ask.
My daughters are young adults, they are strong and independent in their own ways. They know and believe in hard work and sacrifice. They aren’t sitting around waiting for the government to hand them a life, they were raised better than that. Yet they, like so many others,  are tired of the status quo in this country. They know that when government began subsidizing college it gave the Universities free reign to jack their tuitions up. With guaranteed funds from the government ensuring anyone could go to college, the schools had nothing to lose. Now the costs are so exorbitant the only way, our children can further their education is to submit to a life time of debt, for a degree that no longer guarantees them a job. 
I know people believe this group of 20 somethings have no clue about life, working hard and building a life for themselves. Yet those that came before didn’t leave them a piece of the American Dream, we left them with a crumbling government, no industry, no decent paying blue collar jobs, and no paths to pave to greatness. They face a country that is forcing them into suffocating amounts of debt, into purchasing health care that they will never benefit from, all so those that refuse to work can have complete health care coverage at no cost to them.  They know that working hard doesn’t mean rising up. They know a system that rewards the lazy and punishes the self-sufficient. They are facing neighbors that recite hate on a daily basis, they can’t escape the constant machine of the 24 hour news cycle. As they sit in a classroom trying to learn, they are made to practice drills in case of a shooter. They know more than any other generation how quickly things can change, how swiftly their lives can be over. They have no idea why things are like this, but I’m sure there is a political party they can ask.
I grew up shooting guns, working hard, making sacrifices.  I have many life experiences with which I can learn from. I have never believed America owes me a thing. I have watched this country go from great respect around the world to a laughing stock, and I don’t believe a single President caused that. A country is made up of millions of people, each of us representing what it stands for, and more importantly what it stands against.  No President has ever taken my guns, nor threatened too. I have never lost a job I wanted to an immigrant, legal or otherwise. My life has never been minimized because of someone else’s marriage, or choice in life partner. I have never been denied the right to have children or not, nor have I been forced to worship a particular god or sect. I have never raised my voice in hate toward my fellow man , while standing behind religion to justify my own failings. Everyday it seems the relentless back and forth of blame, discontent and loathing need only a shot of whiskey to be the next hit country song. I don’t know why people are proclaiming the things that make us different, will be the downfall of America, but I’m sure there is a songwriter I can ask.

You need only turn on the television, open your laptop or tap your phone to know that America is in trouble; and its not going to be saved by dividing it further. Building walls and dictating change won’t make it happen. Greatness has never been built when hate is your foundation. I can only deeply hope and pray that when this upheaval is over, we all awaken along this winding road with freedom still at our front doors.