I was recently interviewed on a radio program and the host asked me if I might name one way my mother influenced my life. I immediately knew the answer to her question. Evelyn, my mother, taught me to fight for the under-dog. She never verbalized it, but I think she felt like an under-dog. She grew up in Louisiana in the 1940's. It was a time when women had little choice about the direction their life would take. She had no protections like Roe v Wade. Her mother was a janitor and education for women was not a priority. Her world view consisted of getting married, keeping a roof over her head and her kids fed. I can still remember her and my step-father, too poor for a decent meal because selling vacuum cleaners door to door was not putting food on the table, eating corn chips with some cheese spread for dinner. Sometimes my breakfast cereal did not come with milk, but water to moisten it. Ham was out of the question and I came to love bologna sandwiches, especially if I had potato chips to slap between the slices of bread instead of lettuce. I didn’t know how poor we were and that seemed like a fun treat!
Never having taken a class in Women’s Studies and a product of the conservative South, I don’t think Evelyn can name the cause for her circumstances. I can still hear her misplaced loyalty to her Southern roots as my step-father, a northerner from Iowa, would tell her of the rampant ignorance and racism in the South. Sexism never came up, however. Afterall, women just had their role in society. Evelyn’s life path was not in question - it was normal for the times, but I doubt she was happy. I wonder if she even felt happiness was something she could hope for. I got the feeling she was happy surviving. I wonder how her life would have been different if she had the option to finish high school and go on to college or if she could make enough money not to have to get married or fulfill society’s expectations that women have children. So, yes, Evelyn instilled in me to fight for the under-dog, probably because she felt there was no one fighting for her.
She encouraged me to reach out to the lonely kids on the playground who were rejected by the popular kids. We shared what little we had with neighbors who had less than us. She told me to go out and get what I wanted in life because it would not come “knocking on my door.” She tried her best with what she had to work with, which wasn’t much materially or education-wise, but she had compassion and empathy, which I believe, made her very rich.
So it’s no surprise, today I consider myself a social justice advocate. I fight for “THE OTHER” because today, so many more of us are THE OTHER. We are the ones with a boot on our neck. The boot of white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who benefit from the oppression of others. Yes, this is the root of so much of the oppression and denigration and it’s not just oppression from the elites. Often it’s poor, white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who play their part in this patriarchal scheme.
Naming this foe sounds radical or scary to some, especially coming from a white woman. They don’t recognize white male privilege in our society because it just has always been the norm. They don’t recognize institutionalized sexism, misogyny, racism and homophobia because it’s also always been the norm, taught at their dinner tables and spewing from the pulpits on Sunday. Poverty is a punishment from God, some say. Capitalism, the free market and rugged individualism cures it all, no matter there is no level playing field out there and everyone doesn’t have the ability to get into a good school or borrow $20,000 from their parents to start a company. It’s survival of the fittest out there - no matter the teachings of Jesus. If you need help, you’re a taker - no matter corporations get corporate welfare with our tax dollars everyday, but helping human beings is becoming less and less a priority.
Predator capitalism, injustice, inequality, voter suppression, human rights violations, poverty, destruction of the social safety net, infrastructure crumbling, environment being poisoned, militarism, income disparity at all time high levels, children going to bed hungry, women being subjected to state sanctioned vaginal probes for exercising their constitutional rights. So what? We used to have a name for some of you, though it has gone out of fashion. WASPs. White, Anglo-Saxon-Protestants. Google it.
So, you just keep scrap booking. Keep listening to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh so you’re safely insulated in that cocoon of media-sanctioned callousness. Don’t learn how your religion has devalued women and decimated cultures. Don’t explore how history has been re-written. Those things don’t touch you. You’re comfortable. Why should you care? That suffering is the plight of The Other, those people not like you. The ones that don’t really count, at the margins of society. Their suffering is their punishment for not being like you and playing by your rules and worshiping your God, or more accurately your version of religious dogma written by men.
Only more and more of us are becoming The Other: black and brown skinned people, immigrants, gays, non-Christians, the poor and elderly, workers and women. Now imagine if your life path suddenly takes an unexpected turn. What if suddenly you’re The Other? Will you be sorry then you did not stand in solidarity with the unions before they are destroyed for supporting worker rights against multi-national corporations as they give workers less and less while they pay no taxes and become extraordinarily wealthy from human exploitation? Will you ever be sorry you did not care about our violent and male-dominated culture’s domestic violence against women or women having to resort to back alley abortions? Will you ever be sorry you did not fight for equal pay and reproductive rights for women so they might achieve independence? Will you wait to care about environmentalism until your water is poisoned by fracking or all our food is GMOs? Will you care when it’s your daughter’s life in danger but she cannot have an abortion because white Christian men have obliterated the separation between church and state with their ideology? Next time you go shopping do you know, or care, that the cashier standing there works a 38 hour week rather than 40 so her employer does not have to pay her any benefits and her wage is so low she has to get tax-payer funded food stamps, but food stamps too are under attack by Republican men who would rather spend all our tax dollars to further enrich corporations already making sky-rocketing profits.
I could go on and on but this is a blog entry, not a chapter or a book. You either get it or you don’t. You either have empathy for the planet and humanity or you think if they are not like you, hence, they are not your concern. Why think outside your bubble? Why risk and rock the boat? What would your peers think? Shudder! You are either part of the problem by your ignorance or complicit in your comfort. There are none so blind as those who will not see. And you probably are not seeing the ground swell of The Other rising out of the ashes. Peaceful rebellion is a’foot around the world. Women, workers, gays, immigrants, brown and black skinned people, the young and elderly, the poor, the environmentalist are all weary. We are weary of that boot of injustice and exploitation on our neck and we are calling out our oppressor. It is patriarchy. It is white, male-dominated, mostly Christian fundamentalist authority who would continue to control the masses because the Bible tells them they are entitled. No wonder Republicans have to cheat to win elections. More and more people are getting a clue their policies benefit no one but the 1%.
Do you hear our sacred roar? We are coming armed with ideals of the Sacred Feminine. We are carrying with us the archetypes of not just Mary and Kwan Yin but Kali, the Morrighan, Libertas and Sekhmet. We’re tired of waiting for you to evolve and do the right thing. No more will we tolerate a world of injustice and inequality. No more will we allow the destruction of Mother Earth. No more will be sit quietly and obediently as our dignity is stripped from us and our futures stolen. No more will our sexuality and reproductive rights be in the hands of religious zealots and their handmaidens. We want partnership. We want accountability. We want dignity and freedom. We want reverence for the earth and all of humanity. We want a world of compassion and empathy where we recognize our interconnection and practice caring and sharing for the 99%.
And before you get the wrong idea, I don't hate Christians. I know too many good ones doing great work in the world. Myself, I'm a recovering Catholic and I see the Divine Masculine in Jesus and believe in his message as he taught women and preached empathy, compassion and charity while rejecting greed and wealth. And no, I’m not a lesbian, nor am I on welfare, as some white men have assumed when they read my posts on social media. Neither do I hate men or need sex as I've been told by far too many white men on Facebook, ironically their own comments proving my point. I have been married to a wonderful man for over thirty years. So call me feminist. Call me a pagan. Call me politically incorrect or divisive. Call me a loud-mouthed and uppity woman. Call me radical if you will for shedding light and having the courage to name the root of our problems. Call me anything you like. That’s another thing my mother taught me: Stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.