Poem – It isn’t them

Don’t blame other people
for your problems.
Don’t expect other people
to rescue you
either.

They are not
the cause
or the cure.

Your choices
determine your reality.
Things happen
that are beyond your control
but your reaction
is within it.

What you do or don’t do
is your choice.
How you respond
in thought, word, and deed
is your choice.

Take ownership
of your life
and take
your own life
back.
It was yours
all along
after all.

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Don’t shoot vs. don’t rape

Something is wrong with the world when we have to teach people using videos on YouTube on how to interact with the police so that they don’t get killed. I’ve seen videos for young black men and most recently for deaf people on how to have a safe interaction with the police if they are pulled over. The idea is so that there won’t be a misunderstanding where the police get jumpy and pull a gun on them.

This reminds me of the campaign to teach women how not to get raped. The campaign might say that you need to travel in pairs and always be aware of your surroundings. Or it might say you should make sure you have your phone on you, or that you don’t drink any unfamiliar drinks at a party. All these things are written with the idea that it is the woman’s responsibility to make sure she is safe at all times. It takes away the responsibility from her rapist. While these are good ideas, they don’t address the root of the problem. Fortunately the idea is turning around. Now instead of saying to women ‘don’t get raped’ we are saying to boys ‘don’t rape.’ We are teaching them what “consent” means and what it doesn’t mean.

Maybe we need to do the same thing with the police. Maybe we need to train police to think first and pull their guns second. Just like don’t rape, we should say “don’t shoot”.

Just like how we say it isn’t right to say that a woman dressed in a miniskirt is ‘asking for it’, we should also say that the person being pulled over by the police and being suspicious isn’t ‘asking for it.’

Shame

Why is it that the person who has been attacked feels shame? The person who was abused by a parent wasn’t the person to blame. The person who was raped was the recipient, not the aggressor. The person who is the recipient of violence is most often female, but is sometimes male. Abuse isn’t exclusive. And the abuser or rapist isn’t always male. Physically, emotionally, sexually, abuse is abuse.

For the sake of simplicity I will say “she” for the person who is abused or raped and “he” for the abuser or rapist. I’m concerned I’m perpetuating a stereotype, so I want to be sure that it is understood that anybody can be attacked, and anybody can be the attacker. But our language has no appropriate third person singular, and saying “his or her” all the time is tedious, so I’m doing it this way.

I’m also making a point of not using the term “victim”. That is part of this. I believe that if she identifies herself as “victim” then she is perpetuating the violence that was done against her. More often though, the person who was attacked feels shame. They act as if they did something to deserve this. They feel shame so they don’t go to the police. They feel shame so they don’t go to the hospital or to a counselor.

Shame is another word for guilt. When a person feels shame, she feels as if she caused the problem. She feels that she brought it on herself. She feels responsible.

This is so totally backwards. The abuser, the rapist is the guilty party. The one he attacked is passive.

You do not cause someone to attack you. It has nothing to do with what you wear or what you said. Now, yes, I’ve recently written a post saying that women should dress modestly to protect themselves. I also think it is a good idea to get a handgun carry permit and take self-defense classes. Prevention, you know. But sometimes you can’t get out of the way of a problem, and there are a lot of damaged people out there who are ready to cause a problem with you.

One thing to notice is that the attacker is giving control of his emotions and actions to everyone else. The attacker blames other people for his losing control.

When Dad gets home from one of his many business trips, he has no right to beat his child for breaking something. His child is a child, and it was an accident. He has no right to yell at his child. His short temper is his fault, his failing.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

The same is true of anger.

But how is it that the person who is attacked feels shame, feels guilt? Do we teach that in our society? Is that normal? Is it something that is part of being attacked?

It certainly isn’t helpful. It renders the person who was attacked open to more attacks. It opens her up to abuse from not just the original abuser, but new ones. Bullies can spot weakness.

Again – that is not the fault of the person who is bullied. The bullies need to be responsible for their actions. It is not the “weak” kid’s fault that she gets her lunch money stolen from her – that is the fault of the bully. It is important to remember where the blame goes.

The odd part is that bullies themselves were often abused. Instead of feeling shame however, the bully learns that abusing others is normal. The bully patterns his actions on this warped lesson. The way to feel bigger is go make another feel smaller.

Stop bullying. Easy to say. Tell us how to do it.

Stop feeling shame for being abused. Stop thinking you are a victim. Again, easy to say. Hard to do.

I think there is something to teaching everyone that it is important to say no, to establish boundaries. That this is what you are willing to take, and this isn’t. Perhaps there is something to learning how to dialogue, versus debate. It helps if people can express their opinions without having to be “right” or “wrong” – but just be different.

I used to feel guilty for saying no, for telling someone that I wasn’t OK with what I was being asked to do. I’ve spent too much of my life feeling resentful that my life wasn’t my own. Even reading books about how to find my own voice, how to establish boundaries, I felt awkward. How dare I stand up for myself.

It was painful to read those books. It was like having to re-break a badly-healed leg. Emotionally, it was as if my family had broken my legs and because I’d not been allowed to get treatment, they’d healed badly. I was walking with an emotional limp. I just got used to it. It became my “normal”. Reading those books made me have to look at that wound again, and realize how it was affecting my life, and every relationship I had. I had to re-break those bones and let them heal again.

Emotional wounds hurt just as much as physical ones. And they are harder to spot. A broken leg – that sticks out. A broken spirit? That is much harder to spot. The damage runs deep there, and affects every part of your life.

But somewhere in the middle of reading those books, I was standing up for myself, and realizing that I wasn’t a victim, and I wasn’t to blame. By reading those books I was taking control of what had happened.

There is no shame in being abused. There is shame in being an abuser. You aren’t to blame for what happened to you. You are, however, responsible for what you do afterwards. You are responsible for your own actions, not the actions of others.

It isn’t stealing if you give it away.

Perhaps you have read about the New Hampshire man who recently lost his life savings on a carnival game. For some reason he thinks that he was cheated. There is something seriously wrong going on here, and it isn’t with the carnival game.

Perhaps it was rigged. That is par for the course with carnival games. It is how they stay in business. But they didn’t have a gun to his head. He felt cheated by them, but he let it happen.

The man is 30 years old, and his life savings amounted to $2,600. That alone is kind of sad. I certainly understand it. I’ve been there. This is the American way. Don’t think about the future at all. Don’t save, don’t plan ahead, don’t think about the repercussions of your actions. This is why people who smoke for years get surprised that they get lung cancer.

There is something very dangerous in this way of thinking. We are asleep when we think like this. But let us continue with the facts of the story.

He was trying to win an Xbox Kinect. They cost anywhere from $200 to $300 based on the capacity of the model.

He was playing a game called Tubs of Fun. The object is to toss balls into a tub. The problem is that the balls kept popping out the further he got into the game. He kept playing, and spending more money.

This is the very definition of throwing good money after bad.

He lost $300 to start off with. He would have been better off just buying the console, but by then he was hooked. He said “You just get caught up in the whole ‘I’ve got to win my money back.’”

Then it gets even worse. He went home. He didn’t keep working on impulse and the excitement of the game. He had time to cool off. But he didn’t. He got the rest of his money ($2,300) and went back to the carnival and continued to play the game. He lost all of it.

He did however win a stuffed banana with dreadlocks.

He contacted the police and is considering a lawsuit. The company that put on the carnival has since pulled the game and is interviewing the contractor of the game.

It isn’t the game that is at fault.

I find it doubtful that you can sue anybody for taking what you hand them. He wasn’t robbed. He got caught up in the game. He had time to cool off and didn’t use it. Nobody forced him to play the game.

“For once in my life I happened to become that sucker,” he said. “It was foolish for putting up my life savings.”

It is a sad story. It isn’t unfortunate. There wasn’t bad luck involved. There were a series of bad decisions. It is sad because he lost a lot of money for no good reason. It is sad because he didn’t know when to stop. It is sad because he still thinks it is somebody else’s fault that he threw away his money.
We have to stop letting ourselves be victims of our own lack of attention. We have to start being intentional. We have to wake up. We have to think about the repercussions of our actions, and our lack of action.