Archives for category: civil rights

Be Prepared

A.V. Walters

girl-guide-pin

When I was just a kid, ten or eleven, “they” started a Girl Guide troop in my village. I was elated. The Boy Scouts—the male version of our Canadian youth organization—did all kinds of cool stuff. They hiked. They went camping. They learned sailing and essential survival skills. I wanted in.

But, Girl Guides was a major disappointment. We met regularly, paid our dues and stood around in formation. There was a lot of discussion about earning badges—and we all eagerly researched the requirements in our Guidebooks. There were no nature hikes, no tips on identifying wildlife, no talks on campfire safety (and, needless to say, no campfires.) Oddly enough, there were tips for the application of cosmetics. And, they emphasized the gentle arts of knitting, crochet, sewing, and swapping patterns. If I’d wanted that, I could’ve simply signed up for Home Ec, at school.

Just once, we had a promising project. We made camp stoves out of coffee cans, which were to be used with beeswax candles as fuel. Of course, when we’d finished with the tinsnips and wax, some of us decided to light the damn things. Our Girl Guide leader had a total fit. You’d have thought we were trying to burn down the building! “Who brought those matches?!!!”

I was a problem child. So, naturally, I complained. The organizers, a trio of women from our village, told me to be patient, that they were just getting started. But, I was bored. To amuse myself, I did handstands against the walls. My concerns (and restlessness) stirred up the other girls, inspiring them to look beyond handicrafts and sock-puppets in their expectations. We started practicing gymnastic moves when the meetings were slow or disorganized. Our leaders didn’t approve of gymnastics. (Admittedly, it’s difficult to keep your Girl Guide uniform neat and tidy while practicing gymnastics.) Consequently, I earned demerits, and was soon regarded as a disciplinary problem.

Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts continued their outings to neat locations, like the local Provincial Parks, and did nature hikes. Could we do that? The response was a “hike,” but not in a park. It was through our village, and down the local highway—marching. Marching In formation. We did about six miles. The other girls groaned. This wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Essentially, the entire troop was being punished because of my entreaties. I considered quitting.

Before giving up, I started asking the girls from next town over what they did in their Girl Guide meetings. Needless to say, their troop was far more active and interesting than ours. And, their dues were only a dime a week, while ours were a quarter. Of course, I pressed further, asking other girls, even farther afield what they paid in dues. Always, the answer was the same—a dime.

Finally, I brought it up at one of our meetings, pointing out that other troops paid a lot less and got more out of Girl Guides. Our leaders seemed a bit unnerved at my public questioning. They weakly explained that the excess was used to purchase their uniforms and to cover “incidental” costs. They were volunteers, after all! I retorted that we had to pay for our own uniforms—and we were just kids. I had done the math, and pointed out that uniforms for the three leaders could have been fully paid in three to six months—but that the imposed surcharge had gone on for nearly a year. (Obviously a young girl, like myself, had no appreciation of the cost of a used coffee can.) I knew it wasn’t like we were talking big money, but it was the principle of the thing.

At the end of the meeting, I was unceremoniously kicked out of Girl Guides. Gone. I should have, but I sure didn’t see that coming. I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a Girl Guide. Our motto was, after all, “Be Prepared.”

Needless to say, it was no real loss; it wasn’t much fun, anyway.

 

A couple of years ago, I joined Facebook. As an indie author, I was told that social media was an important part of our “branding.” So, I put my blog feed through Facebook and accumulated a wide variety of “friends.” Though I enjoyed it, my Facebook page never did much of anything from a marketing perspective.

In 2015 and 2016 my Facebook activities widened to include political expressions. I wrote on issues of food and agricultural policies, climate change and the upcoming elections. I joined groups and made even more “friends.” My topics of discussion included resistance politics, protests and, of course, the elections.

Occasionally, I was trolled, challenged on my positions. Some politicians and political organizations were using paid trolls in their programs of disinformation. In my posts, I was always civil and thorough. If you challenged me, you’d best have your facts straight, because I was ready with mine. I’d research the trolls and, in pretty short order, could tell who was a legitimate person, and who was there just to make trouble. Real people had real friends, and they had longtime Facebook accounts, populated by photos and comments and, well, lives. I attracted the trouble-makers.

One day, recently, I tried to log-in to my Facebook account and was greeted with this:

“HELP US IDENTIFY YOU-

We’re working hard to make sure everyone

on Facebook can be their authentic selves.

We don’t allow accounts that:

  • Pretend to be someone else
  • Don’t represent a real person

From time to time, we check to make sure

it’s really you with a few short questions

before you log into Facebook. It won’t take long

and it helps keep Facebook safe for everyone.”

What? I’ve been booted off Facebook?!

The successive security screens informed me that, in order to regain access to Facebook, I’d have to upload a copy of a government-issued, photo ID. Some troll (or trolls) had fingered me! Of course I’m a real person. My posts were always thoughtful, cogent and informative. While I’m shocked that the exotic Facebook Algorithms couldn’t recognize my obvious humanity, I’m equally appalled that it is so easy to silence the voice of someone with whom you might simply disagree. I have a “liberal’s” extreme distaste for Big Brother tactics and I’ll be damned if I’ll provide ID in exchange for access to cat videos, photos of restaurant food and trolls. Make the damned trolls show their ID. For no clearly articulated reason, I’ve been kicked off Facebook.

They talk about Facebook withdrawal. Admittedly, I spent too much time on the site. It’s a major mind-suck. And, like any junkie, I’d talked about cutting back, or quitting, altogether. (“I can quit anytime I want. I’ve done it a million times.”) Hell, a recent study even suggested that low doses of LSD can eliminate Facebook Addiction! But I didn’t see this coming, either. I’m out—cold turkey. I’ve completely disappeared from Facebook. It’s as though I’d never existed. Gone. And, there is no way to communicate with the minions of Facebook to question why I vanished, or to explore other options.

There’s a recurring theme, here. I guess that in my own way, I’m a born troublemaker.

So, I’m recovering my personal time and enjoying it. In any event, the lesson is clear: Be Prepared.

 

 

 

And So It Starts…

A.V. Walters–

This past weekend, in nearby Traverse City, a local off-duty police officer showed up to an anti-racist rally, in a pick-up truck decorated with what is commonly called the Confederate flag. He pulled into a no-parking zone, stepped out of his vehicle and proceeded to down a beer (openly, in a public place) while heckling the protesters.

Naturally, complaints were filed and the Police Department initiated an investigation. It wasn’t his first flag incident. The officer, an eighteen-year member of the force, resigned. The investigation continues. I read the story and did some of my own research.

 

Last night, as I came out of the grocery store, I passed a large man standing next to his pick-up truck, also adorned with a “Confederate” flag. A man was engaged in a quiet conversation with him; I caught the drift.

“It’s a symbol of racial hatred,” the smaller man was saying.

“No it’s not!” The flag-bearer puffed out his chest and then loudly proclaimed, “It’s about my heritage.” Shoppers averted their eyes and scurried off to their vehicles.

I put my groceries in the car and returned to join in the discussion, “I agree with this gentleman,” I said calmly, nodding in the man’s direction, “It is about racial hatred.”

“No,” the flag-bearer bellowed, “It’s about my proud heritage.”

“Then you’ve got the wrong flag.” I responded. The other man confronting him turned to me and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

The “son-of-the-south” turned to me in a way that was only slightly menacing. “No, this is the right flag, alright. My ancestors died for this flag.” I wondered if I was going to get myself assaulted, for this.

“No, I don’t think so.” I answered.

“You calling me a liar?” (Often the refuge of a man short on facts.)

“I think that you are misinformed. Did any of your ancestors fight under Robert E. Lee?”

He looked a little stunned. “I doubt that, we’re from Texas.”

“Then you’ve got the wrong flag. That flag,” I said, pointing at his truck, “Was never the flag of the Confederacy.”

“Huh? Well, sure it was. It’s the Confederate flag.” A few people stopped to listen.

“No it’s not. That flag was the battle flag—sort of the regimental colors—for troops fighting under Robert E. Lee. It wasn’t the flag of the Confederacy. There were a number of different flags adopted by the Confederacy during the war, but that flag wasn’t one of them.”

He looked confused. “But… my people died for that flag.”

“I’m not questioning your heritage, but you’ve got your flags wrong. The flag you’re displaying didn’t become popular until the 1950s, when racists started to use it to oppose the Civil Rights movement and the Brown vs. Board of Education case that integrated the schools. That flag,” and again I pointed, “Was never the flag of the Confederacy and was used specifically to show racial hatred and intolerance.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about those other flags.” Now, he wouldn’t even look at me.

“I can’t help you, there. But, the one you’re flying is a symbol of racial hate and intolerance, not the flag of the Confederacy.” Some of the people around us were nodding, almost imperceptibly.

The other gentleman in the conversation added, “That’s what I was trying to tell him.”

The flag-bearer wouldn’t look at any of us. He turned and stalked away. The small crowd began to disperse without a word. My co-conspirator and I looked at each other, and nodded, before going our separate ways.

 

And that is the danger of having a bigoted bully as President. It emboldens ignorance and hatred. It normalizes bad behavior in ways that make violence and social unrest more and more likely. If we want to live in a civilized society, the rest of us need to step up and stop it, nip it in the bud, whenever we see it. This is going to be an exhausting presidential term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the Money–

A.V. Walters–

IMG_2269

That’s my rule of thumb, whenever there is a whiff of scandal. I remember California’s Energy Crisis—the one that ushered in billions in debt as the state struggled to meet energy needs. Why the sudden scarcity of electricity? I believed then, that the crisis was manipulated. California couldn’t get any traction with FERC—the federal agency charged with regulating the energy exchanges. After all, George W. was the new Sheriff in town, and California didn’t vote for him. Years later, litigation in Washington State revealed the graft and market manipulation that gave us the “crisis.” By then, George W.’s friend, Enron was already gone, and California spent the next decade digging out from the debt of that fraud. Follow the Money.

What if there doesn’t seem to be any money? Then, look to who benefits.

And that brings us to Flint. We are told that the poisoning of 100,000 Flint residents was the unfortunate result of managerial ineptitude. Clearly, at least that is true. But, we need to look a little harder. Following the money doesn’t help, because the very fact that the parties in question were already under Michigan’s draconian and, unconstitutional, Emergency Manager Act, means that the lack of money had already been established. However, we’ve seen enough of the results of Michigan’s Emergency Managers to know that the appointment of a Manager, combined with the stripping of democratic representation, generally means that the troubled, usually minority, community in question, has something, some asset, that the Governor’s cronies want.

It’s too early to know whether the Flint crisis was steeped in some other, darker motivation. But there are early, and troubling, indications that saving money for Flint wasn’t the primary objective. Follow the money—look to who gains. As always, governmental transparency is essential to maintaining the integrity and trust of the citizens. Recently, the State of Michigan dropped to last place in the fifty states, in its score for government ethics. We have a long way to go to rebuilding citizen trust, so I suggest the Governor step forward with ALL the relevant records.

Governor Snyder did release two year’s worth of “relevant” emails on the issue. Unfortunately, those records were not complete, were heavily redacted and did not go back nearly far enough. When someone makes the effort to hide their actions—they are hiding their motives. Then, we need to look even harder at the facts. Let’s face it, it is unlikely that the citizens of Flint voted for this administration—they are not his constituency.

I don’t have the answers. I only have a healthy sense of curiosity and a deep sense of outrage at what has happened to the citizens of Flint, and especially to the children, whose futures have been diminished. To say the least, I have questions.

Emails released by Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) reveal that Flint was offered a very sweet deal for continuing with Detroit water. The price offered was lower than any savings offered by switching to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline, both in the short and long term. Why then, the rush to change Flint’s water supply?

This is not Michigan’s first Emergency Manager water crisis. Long before Flint, the City of Detroit (and DWSD) were placed under the Governor’s Emergency Manager’s powers. Go back a couple of years, to the days when, under the Emergency Manager, DWSD was cutting off water service to delinquent homeowners—while carrying delinquent corporations with far more egregious non-payment histories. It was an international embarrassment. DWSD was caught failing to accurately credit payments made and returning individual customer’s checks—because payments had to be in cash. In short, under the Emergency Manager’s powers, DWSD was making customer payments and accounting more difficult and then, based on the very problems they were creating, suggesting that the only solution was to split up and privatize Detroit’s water assets. Nestle, everyone’s favorite purveyor of necessities, was discussed as the “obvious” choice for privatizing Detroit’s significant water assets. You know, the same company that denies that water is a human right, and advocates that municipal water supplies be turned over to for-profit corporations. What connections did the Governor or the Emergency Manager have with Nestle, or any other private water interests? (Besides the fact that Deb Muchmore, the wife of the Governor’s then-Chief of Staff, is a Nestle spokesperson.)

I question whether the seeds of the Flint crisis don’t start with the Emergency Manager’s efforts, in Detroit, to ‘starve the beast’ of DWSD. After all, the long-term viability of DWSD was enhanced by Flint’s water supply contracts. Only a full release of all documents will tell. Why the rush to a new water source if DWSD was offering a good deal? Why sign on to a new, as yet un-built, pipeline, if it wasn’t the best economic deal? Who was paying for the new pipeline? Whose interests, other than the City of Flint, were to be served by the new pipeline? (It’s been suggested that the pipeline was also to serve Eastern Michigan’s fracking industry.) Is there any truth to this? Even if the new, Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline was a viable water solution for Flint, why the rush to use the Flint River in the interim, especially since it had previously been determined to be unsafe? Experts had warned that the Flint River was badly contaminated. Experts also advised that the Flint River water was corrosive and would damage the city’s water infrastructure unless properly treated. Why wasn’t this done? Surely, minor savings couldn’t justify trashing the existing water system, and risking the release of toxic lead into the city’s drinking water. Whose interests were served by starving DWSD? I have questions, and the citizens of Michigan and the City of Flint deserve answers.

We have a right to know. Those in charge—all the way to the Governor’s office—have to account for what has been done. It needs to go on their permanent record. The legacy of this Governor’s administration, and its appointments, is a generation of poisoned children. If this is mere negligence, those responsible must be identified and removed from any decision-making authority or power. There may be cause to seek criminal prosecutions for decisions that were, at best, reckless. I’m not so sure they were even well-meaning. But answers to these questions may reveal something even more hideous.

If there’s any connection between the crony-capitalist friends of this administration and the results in Flint, we owe it to the children to leave no stone unturned in our investigation. If reckless decisions were made, in order to provide profit opportunities for friends of the administration, then these actions go well beyond negligence. We need to determine whether there was a criminal conspiracy to benefit private interests at the expense of public obligations. We’ll need to look to any and all documents related to Emergency Manager control of or involvement with ANY water assets in Michigan. We’ll need to look to any campaign contributions, or other “considerations,” from companies that could have benefitted.

This isn’t just a question of integrity. (Michigan’s current government is already at the bottom of that list.) It’s a question of intent. If it turns out that this imbroglio was the result of a conspiracy to funnel public assets into private coffers—then ALL conspirators are liable for the damage resulting from the furtherance of the conspiracy. In Michigan we have wondered, how will we afford to remedy this situation—care for the poisoned populace and fix the damaged infrastructure. If this was done for profit, then all those who participated in the scheme will share the culpability and liability. And if individuals knowingly participated in a scheme that poisoned Flint, they must be charged and tried. People have died because of this. This goes beyond reckless disregard, if this was done for profit, it is a crime against humanity.

Like I said, we have to follow the money. We have questions and we need the answers, for the sake of the children.

 

 

 

 

Getting Mike: Part Three

A.V. Walters

Mike sign

We are all, each of us, a bundle of talents and deficits. My sweet Rick would be the first to agree; he is continually amazed that a highly functional, over-educated adult, like me, cannot tell left from right, or measure anything with accuracy. The trick is, that for most of us, we focus on the talents we possess.

We completely fail at this when the object of our attention becomes a diagnosis, and not a person. A diagnosis can be an opportunity, or an excuse, depending upon how one wields it. In essence, a diagnosis regarding mental capacity gives us information about the nature (and maybe cause) of a deficit. It’s what we do with that information that matters.

A couple of decades ago, I worked as a coordinator for an Adult Literacy Program. We banged our heads against this very phenomenon, repeatedly. Students and tutors would blame their failures on learning disabilities diagnosed when the students were children, instead of looking for the work-around. Despite the educational failures of the past, we found that many of our students were highly motivated and, with individualized instructions, were able progress beyond everyone’s expectations. All too often, the diagnosis of a learning disability had quickly become the operative reality—an excuse for failure instead of a challenge for success.

I have mentioned in this series that my Uncle Mike was shortchanged by the educational system. He had speech impediments that, unrecognized and unaddressed, led teachers to believe that he was language impaired and uneducable. A second chance in his late teens gave him speech therapy—and language. Not that Mike doesn’t have deficits but, armed with language, he presented a whole new package. Mike moved away before I was an adult, so I didn’t have much opportunity to get to know the “new” Mike, the one who could talk, until many years later.

Mike is highly literate. (His keen vision and ability to quickly read signs from a distance were a godsend while traveling with him, across the country.) He reads newspapers and follows current events. He is just as opinionated and informed as the rest of the family—which is saying a lot. He is funny and, in particular, gets situational humor. He has a great memory. But, because his speech is not perfect, many expect him to exhibit lower levels of performance. Mike hides behind these low expectations and, even if it means that he’s misjudged, never puts himself in a position where he will disappoint. Surely, sometimes he fails to “connect the dots,” but I never know if it’s capacity, or training. Mike has spent a lifetime fulfilling his diagnoses.

Not that there aren’t deficits. He has great difficulty measuring the motivations of others. Perhaps an early life without language meant that he could hide behind my grandmother’s skirts, and let her do the coping for him. This is especially true when, all too often, in his human interactions he was the victim of bullying and abuse. He doesn’t get arithmetic at all—and is at a total loss with budgeting and money. Beyond that, I’ve decided to judge Mike’s skills by first-hand experience, rather than by maligned expectations.

A decade ago Mike and I worked together to set him up in his first apartment. He was thrilled with it, with its humble furnishings and independence. We bought him a modular desk, (IKEA style) that required assembly. I took the lead—never pausing to read the directions. Mike and I chatted as I worked. About half way through, Mike expressed his reservations, “Alta, I don’t think that will work.” I was tempted to press on, but Mike got up off the couch and showed me that part of my assembly was backwards! (Did I mention that spatial skills are not my strong suit?) We both laughed so hard, we cried, and then finished the project, together.

Similarly, as we approached the end of our travels, I took a back road shortcut, up a steep hill in Hancock. It’s a winding road—I know it well and I took it at a good clip. We were nearly to the top when Mike cautiously inquired, “Is this a one-way street?” It was, and he was right to question what would have been reckless in two-way traffic. Mike gets it. We have to do a better job of “getting” Mike.

The point is, Mike has a far greater understanding about what goes on around him than we give him credit for. His homecoming can be a new beginning, for all of us. We can plan for successes, instead of failures, while providing safe opportunities for success. There are many wonderful possibilities here. Mike is a little intimidated by his return to real winters—but once his health is recovered, I think he will enjoy snow and season. Already, he is recounting childhood memories of winter in a favorable light.

There are decided advantages to small town living. My hometown, Copper Harbor, has about one hundred, year-round residents. Already, I am impressed with the welcome. Family members and friends are pulling together to outfit Mike with clothing and necessities for winter living. All of us are making plans for fun and community engagement as soon as Mike is on his feet. This is a seasonal town, if he wants, there are opportunities for work in the summer. My sister told the owners of a local resort that Mike was coming, and when we rolled into town, he was welcomed home, on their marquis! It brought tears to my eyes, and a ready smile to Mike’s face. Finally, we know that he is safe and loved. Finally, Mike has come home.

 

 

 

 

Asking For It? A.V. Walters–

Billy and I were assigned for the same two days off, a near miracle in our heavy summer schedule at the restaurant where we both worked. We planned it all, hiking and fishing, evenings with friends. Since I had pulled the late shift for our “Friday,” we agreed to meet at his place after I finished. He lived in a little studio in the upstairs of his sister’s summer cottage. I arrived just after our 9:30 meeting time but there was nobody there. I waited outside on the porch for a while, but the mosquitoes were biting. The short sleeves of my little German dirndl waitress outfit, didn’t offer much protection in the cooling summer evening, so I let myself in and went upstairs.

His room was sparsely furnished, a daybed that served both as a sofa and for sleeping, an end table with a alarm clock and a small table with a couple of chairs. I sat down at the table to wait. After about twenty minutes of clock watching, I got up and flipped through the books on his end table. I selected an anthology of sci-fi short stories and settled onto the daybed to read. After a couple of chapters, I dozed.

I heard him stumbling up the stairs, and could smell him, even before I opened my eyes. He was wildly drunk. Even from across the room I couldn’t avoid the rank stench of sweat and stale beer. I glanced at the alarm-clock, radium hands glowed just past midnight. Billy flipped on the light and I flinched in the glare.

“Hey babe, there you are,” he slurred. “Been looking for ya.”

I’m right where I said I’d be. I guess you’ve been at the bar.” I was peeved, and my voice didn’t hide it.

“Aw, don’t be mad. It’s our weekend. Time to party.” He came over and sat next to me on the daybed. He didn’t smell any better close up.

“Jesus, Billy, what the hell have you been drinking? You smell like a brewery.”

“Beer and shots—I kept winning rounds at the pool table…” He stooped to kiss me, but I pushed him back, mostly because his breath was so rank. “Don’t be a party-pooper, it’s our weekend.”

“Jeez. Go brush your teeth.”

He swung his leg over me, straddling me. He leaned towards me and blew in my face, laughing. I turned my face away, nearly gagging, and put my hand up to ward him off. He slapped my hand away and resumed blowing. In no mood for his antics, I put my hand up again to deflect his breath. Rougher this time, Billy grabbed my arm and pinned it under his knee. He leaned right up to my face and huffed his stale breath my way.

“Billy!” I pushed him with my free hand, “Stop it.”

He laughed again, “Ya gonna make me?” He pushed his face into mine for a long slobbering kiss. Even with my face turned I couldn’t avoid it. Billy outweighed me by forty pounds and was a lot stronger. He grabbed my free hand and held it against the bed frame above my head. With his other hand, he grabbed my chin and pulled my face straight, then kissed me again, this time with his tongue in my mouth. I jerked my face free, gasping and he laughed.

He let go of my face and started rubbing his hand on my breast, “I missed you tonight.”

“Billy, stop, just stop.”

“We got big plans for the weekend, remember?” He unbuttoned and then unzipped his jeans, reaching in and stroking himself. He leaned over for another kiss, but again, I turned my head.

“Billy, let me go. You’re drunk.”

“Not too drunk. You’ll see.” He leaned in for another kiss. I felt his weight shift and squirmed, trying to throw him off of me.

Light flashed across my closed eye, as my cheekbone and brow exploded in pain. I screamed and opened my eyes to see him pull his fist back for another blow. I tried to roll my head out of its path, but his fist found my jaw. Pinned in, there was nothing I could do. This was going to happen. The third punch convinced me. It split my lip over my incisor. I was no match and he was just going to batter me into submission. I went completely limp—but took one final blow before he had registered my surrender.

“That’s a girl, there we go.” He pulled the skirt of my uniform up over my face and wrenched my panties to my knees. He wrestled me into position and took what he wanted. I stayed limp and unresponsive.

When the grunting and heavy breathing were over, he started giggling. “Where are you?” as he pulled the skirt down off my face. “There’s my girl. Not so bad, after all.” He kissed me and stroked my hair. I retched. Billy leaned his head in the crook of my shoulder and rocked. “There, there.” Soon, he relaxed and his full weight settled on me as he started to snore.

After several attempts to push him off, I rolled him towards the wall and extracted myself from under him. He never woke up. Shaking, I straightened my clothing and stole down the steps and out into the night. It was only a couple of blocks home.

I stayed up all night, icing my face and pondering what to do over cups of hot tea. I never wanted to see Billy again. I was clear on what had happened, and who was wrong. The only question was whether I should go to the police. I weighed the evidence. We were boyfriend and girlfriend. We’d had sex before. It happened in his studio, where I’d gone willingly to meet him. He was drunk. Neither of us was “local” and with the summer season winding down, we were both about to leave town. The only evidence of a crime was my swollen and bruised face. I knew it was my word against his, and that they’d never pursue charges.

At dawn, I showered and dressed for hiking. I didn’t want to be around when Billy came for the rest of “our weekend together.” I stayed away that day, and most of the rest. If I wasn’t going to press charges, I wanted away. I wanted peace. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was afraid that if my father discovered what had happened, he might kill Billy.

At the end of that second day, I covered my bruises with make-up and went down to the restaurant to quit. I kept my eyes down, the swollen side turned away, “I’ve decided to head downstate early, to get ready for school.”

The owner shook her head. “You know, we were kind of counting on you to work through color.”

“I’m sorry. I’m a transfer student this year. I think I need to get my bearings.”

She eyed me and put her hand on my forearm, “You know, we could just fire him.”

My eyes filled with tears and I waved my hands, “No, no, I’ve just got to leave, got to get out of here.” She nodded and I left.

From the moment the first blow landed, I knew that Billy was a monster. Drinking may have clouded his judgment, but it didn’t change who he was and what he could do. I never questioned myself. It was so clear whose fault it was, that I was relieved of any guilt or self-doubt. It wasn’t about me. I was lucky to get away. Mostly I felt unscathed by it. I didn’t dwell on it; I didn’t talk about it. It didn’t interfere with my sense of personal safety, or factor into my relationships. For almost two decades, I never even said the word out loud—raped. I knew that by most measures I was lucky that I didn’t carry baggage over it. That was, until June, when George Will wrote that column.

In his infinite wisdom, George Will criticized government actions to make college campuses safer. He opined that rape-victimhood had become a coveted status that confers privileges. How dare he? He, who has the ear of the nation, but knows nothing of the facts, how dare he malign the victims of rape? I am not a violent person. I’m not one given to the solace of revenge, but on that day in June, I desperately wanted someone to do to George Will what Billy had done to me. Rape is not a club. It’s not a coveted status on campus, or anywhere else.

We have a rape culture in this country, one that favors the perpetrators of the crime. It’s evident in the pointed questions that arise after a rape is reported— Was she drinking? What was she wearing? What was she thinking? Did she lead him on? Well, what did she expect? Blame the victim—Boys will be boys, after all. I guess she just changed her mind about having sex with him. She’s only trying to ruin his reputation. She’s just looking for attention.

No, you assholes. Given how victims are treated, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that most rapes remain unreported. Victims do the math, like I did, and know that the game is rigged against them. All you have to do is watch the news to know it’s easier, and less painful, to let it go. (Why would anyone want to be violated, twice?) I left town.

If I have any guilt, it’s survivor guilt. He got away with it. Did Billy go on to assault other women? Would a conviction have made a difference? I’ll never know. He was so drunk, I don’t even know if Billy knows that he’d raped me. I do know that nothing will change until the culture changes. We need a culture of respect and affirmative consent. We need to teach young men responsibility for their actions. I don’t laugh at rape jokes—but I see them telling them on the news.

It’s been nearly four decades, why bring it up now? Because nothing has changed! Yes, George back-pedaled later, admitting that he thinks recovery services are appropriate in cases of “real” rape. And we’re regaled by politicians and pundits who make exceptions for “legitimate” rape—in terms of victims’ rights. How is that helpful? Of course, any rape allegation will be challenged and have to be proven in court. It’s clear that the victims of sexual assault will be subjected to the same pre-screening, prosecutorial gauntlet that has always existed, and that prevents so many from speaking up. What exactly was the lesson of Steubenville?

So, yes, when more than one victim speaks up, it empowers others—not because their claims aren’t legitimate, but because victims have no expectation that their lone voices will be heard. So I add my voice in hopes that when our numbers are realized, society will be forced to rethink the gauntlet.

Meanwhile, the media idiots on Fox, in particular, are lining up to reinforce the women-hating status quo. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it from men, who have mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, and still feel it’s simply about sex, about titillation and about keeping score. It’s not. It’s a depraved, violent crime against women. It’s about power and control and entitlement.

And, I certainly don’t understand the women who spew the same victim-blaming blather—and I mean you, Ann Coulter, you and your ilk. Go ahead, line right up with the rape apologists and media whores. You must live in a magic bubble where you’ve never had to deal with the unwelcome advances of men. You help to create the atmosphere of denial that lets men believe they’re not responsible. I guess we’ll all take comfort in knowing that if you’re ever confronted by a rapist, you must have asked for it and, if you have the gall to report it, you’re just looking for attention.

Good Night and Good Luck—

A.V. Walters—

There was a time when I recognized the gentle, diplomatic art of compromise, back when pragmatism seemed like a viable solution to the tensions inherent in any reasonable system. No longer. I’m afraid that, despite the fact that I’ve been unable to rid myself of this vestigial appendage, I’ve come to see reasonable as ridiculous.

You’d have to be naïve or foolhardy to think it was a rational strategy in today’s political environment. Compromise requires a willingness on both sides to surrender some, in exchange for the common good. It requires a measure of good faith, both in the negotiations and in the articulation of each side’s stated starting point. Good luck with that.

Civility is dead. And, it took any chance of an honest broker with it. We have entered the era of the stubborn stalemate, the sneak attack and the tantrum divide. We have become ungovernable.

The symptoms are unmistakable: Rogue Police Departments demanding apologies from Sports Figures, when the latter have deigned to speak truthiness; Law Schools dropping the instruction of rape laws, because it’s too sensitive; Corporations equating any criticism for their policies with Naziism; torture apologists threatening us with what the world would be without the use of their questionable talents; and, of course, the end of The Colbert Report, only in part, because extremism is so ubiquitous as to not be noticeably funny anymore.

Liberals stand, scratching their heads, impotent in negotiations because they foolishly started out with (OMG) the facts. There is no middle anymore. The raging tantrum of extreme politics has, in the name of compromise, pulled us so far to the wacko-right that the balance is forever skewed. I am at a loss for how we find the road back to civility and balance. I’m afraid that the distraction factor is the point, and that nobody is actually interested in governance anymore.

It’s too bad. Serious issues need to be addressed—Climate change; contamination of our food and water supply, the failure to address the peacetime nuclear threats of waste and operations, our disappearing civil rights. All of this stems from the death of our democratic ideals under the erosive influence of corporate money and its undermining disenfranchisement. In the wake of the collapse of our attention spans, corporations do what they will. I don’t know what to do about it. Help me here—I’m looking for a place to start.