Monday, October 24, 2016

On Treating Women With Respect

For some reason [cough] Donald Trump [cough], I've been thinking a lot lately about the need to treat women with respect.  Before I say anything further on the subject, I need to get something out.

This, sadly, is a true story.  In 2006 I went to México for my last term as an undergraduate to study at UNAM.  In the course of this, I met some other exchange students from the states and I started to attempt to pursue a romantic relationship with one (T.G., for privacy).  It didn't end up working out between this young lady and I.  At one point I got really frustrated and took to social media to vent.  I ended up writing some stuff that was really nasty.  Personal attacks, insults, just really thoughtless, hurtful, disgusting words that I barfed out in a long rant.  After I had time to think about it for a while, I realized that to post that stuff was a terrible mistake and I took the post down.  I went over to her place to apologize, but it was too late.  I got the door slammed in my face.  I understand based on what I wrote why that door was slammed in my face.  That group of people cut me off.  The rest of the semester was kind of hard, but I finished it out, got my degree and flew home.

To T.G., I am deeply sorry.  What I did fills me with shame and regret to this day.  I know you will probably never see this, but if you do, I hope you are living a blessed and happy life despite the lack of respect I showed you.

For what it's worth, I also apologize to the country of México for being one more American who went down there and acted like an asshole.

For anyone who has ever been bullied or disrespected, again, sins I myself have committed, I'd like to share with you something I came up with in México to get through some hard nights as I recovered from my self-inflicted wound.  It's a kind of an agnostic prayer of healing:

You have value, completely, unconditionally.
The only defeat is resignation.
You can do anything.
Don't worry.

Understand. Love. Heal.

I shall overcome.

I realized then that if I was going to make it through, I had to accept myself unconditionally, despite my flaws, and always strive to be a better person.

Which brings me back to Trump.  Now that we have established that "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" definitely applies here, when I see Trump call Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, insult the disabled and Muslims and POWs and women, and even brag about sexually assaulting women, it actually fills me with deep sadness, more than anger.  In a way, I feel most sad for Trump, because for him to truly come to terms with the damage his words and actions have done would fill him with a regret so deep and profound that it is frankly terrifying.  What's even more disturbing is to wonder how a person can avoid feeling that kind of regret for those kinds of words and actions.  He has a chance now, before the election, when it counts, to sincerely apologize to the whole country, not so much to save himself politically (which I believe is a lost cause), but to save himself from living out his remaining days filled with profound regret.

It's not just Trump.  As a society we haven't been very respectful to women either.  They have been denied their right to vote (until 1920), they get less pay for equal work, they do more of the household chores, they have experienced verbal and physical abuse, etc.  It has to stop.  I say it not as someone who is perfect, lording my goodness over you, but as a flawed person, now happily married to a wonderful woman who has illuminated for me how wonderful life can truly be, with a baby boy on the way.

In light of my story, I never cease to be amazed at the irony that I can still blog.  Social media can be a profound source of good.  It can be a way for the voiceless to challenge systems of oppression.  It can also be a force for evil, in the form of threats, cyber-bullying, or government repression of dissent.  Anonymity can take on both forms as well, from the Chinese dissident organizing for democracy at the risk of his own life, to the trolling for sick pleasure that turns so many people off to participating in online communities.

Social media is what we make of it, and it can only be as good as we are.  In this blog, I hope to lift up the people who are suffering under a lack of affordable housing and global warming and show how these problems relate to my chosen field of community planning.  Let's disagree respectfully when we have to, lift each other up, and make the world a better place.  Let our quest to perfect the world flow from our quest to perfect ourselves.

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