Here lately, humanity seems to be struggling with concepts that should be pretty straightforward. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It is causing conflict and anxiety that seems completely unnecessary. Given that so many people these days don’t seem to want to think, let me lay down some basic concepts for you:
Texting while driving? Deadly.
Waiting your turn? You freakin’ better!
Compassion? Karma, baby.
Net neutrality? Crucial.
Racism and/or sexism? Idiotic.
A fur coat for your schnauzer when people are starving? Unconscionable.
A right to health care? Obviously.
Voting? The most important thing you can do.
Helping yourself to my french fries? Get your own.
Not pulling right up to the car in front of you in a traffic jam, thus preventing the people behind you from getting through intersections sometime this century? MORONIC.
Abuse of power? May your chickens come home to roost, and soon.
Courtesy and Respect? The bedrock of civilization.
Education? Critically important.
Smoking? Bad for you. Even worse for those who love you.
Human rights and basic freedom for everyone? Duh.
Paying your fair share? Of course.
Vaccinations? Not important, as long as you’re okay with having the life expectancy we had in the freakin’ 1600’s.
Global warming? HERE. NOW.
Abuse of children or animals? Sick. Demented. One of the few things worthy of torture.
Taking care of the planet? A good idea if you want to live.
Blocking the grocery aisle because you’ve run into a friend? STUPID.
None of these concepts seem particularly controversial to me. And yet here we are, a world divided on these issues. I don’t get it. I really don’t. Please make me understand.
I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.
I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)
Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.
Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.
I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.
What I’m about to say is probably going to make a lot of people angry or upset, but as a sexual abuse survivor myself, I think I’ve earned the right to form strong opinions on this subject. Believe me, having this particular opinion makes even me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, here it is.
I have known many people in my life who have been abused in one way or another. The first thing I try to tell these people is that the abuse was not their fault. I point that out because no one bothered to tell me that. I had to figure it out on my own, and it was a good decade before I reached that point. A decade of thinking I had done something wrong, something to deserve such horrible treatment. That’s way too long. Even one day is way too long to have that kind of thought in your head. No one deserves that.
If you have been, or are being abused, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t want it, and you shouldn’t have to experience it. But here’s where it gets controversial. Here’s my upsetting opinion. Even though you never wanted this role, even though it was thrust upon you completely against your will, you now, unfortunately, have a huge responsibility. You have to speak up. You have to out your abuser.
The reason I say this is that I know several people who experienced abuse and kept relatively quiet about it. It’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s awkward. Speaking up can break apart families or even cause jail time. Speaking up means being publicly outed yourself, for something you didn’t do. You will be judged harshly by many.
But here’s the thing. Abusers aren’t going to stop abusing just because you’ve “aged out” of their emotional prison. They’ll most likely move on to someone else. And whether you like it or not, your silence enables them to do just that.
From an adult perspective, putting several puzzle pieces together, I am fairly certain that my stepfather must have abused his own daughter before he abused me. If she had spoken up, my life would be much different. I wouldn’t bear the scars that I bear.
Fortunately, that man has long since slithered off to hell where he can no longer hurt anyone, but when he was alive, I spoke up. I spoke loud and I spoke clear. Because one day I saw my two year old niece toddling over to his outstretched arms, and I wanted to make sure he would never, ever touch her. Ever. Unfortunately the adults in my life never stepped up once I spoke out, so he never got all the justice he deserved, but he also never got the anonymity on which he thrived.
So if you have survived that sort of evil, whether it was sexual, physical or emotional, I’m profoundly and truly sorry. But you have to speak up. For all the victims that are in line behind you. You are a survivor. Now it’s time to also be a savior.