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I Can’t Remain Silent

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

It’s probably a good thing I’ve been too busy to post anything this week. I’ve struggled over today’s post and it’s been on my mind since last weekend. It’s hard to write and even harder to put it out there on social media and in the blogosphere. You see, as much as I enjoy writing of God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy, there are times when I fall far short in extending the same to others. This is one of those times. Please allow me to explain.

Margaret and I each had grown children when we wed nearly six years ago. Our daughter, who has come out as transgender and changed her name to Gael, moved in with us a couple of years ago so it would be financially easier to complete her college. I only mention her identification as Gael, so you’ll know who I’m talking about. I’m still new to speaking and writing of our kid in the third person, but that’s the accepted means by which to refer to transgender individuals and what they have requested of family and friends. Moreover, I’m not sharing anything that Gael hasn’t already made public their self.

Perhaps because our children were young adults when we married, blending families went a bit smoother for us. Margaret and I have no ‘step’ children, just our kids and grandkids, and we love them to death. So, when Gael asked about moving home to finish school there was no thought of saying no. I’ve become closer to them as a result.

Margaret has been open about Gael having been sexual assaulted by their uncle when they were twelve years old. What I didn’t know until the last couple of years is how deeply that affected them. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land after sexual assault accusations probably triggered Gael’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) last weekend. As a result, we had an emotionally volatile weekend. I saw, and see daily, the lingering results of emotional pain caused by perpetrators such as their Uncle Phill. Although he, and people like Mr. Kavanaugh, go on about their lives without a care in the world, victims like Gael and their families live with the consequences of such heinous acts for a lifetime.

Needless to say, I’m angry: so much so that I want to lash out in revenge. I have a special place in my heart for women and children, but especially when it’s my kid. I wasn’t part of the family when it happened, but I am now and I see their lingering pain regularly. I see the tears and pain of remembrance. They, like all survivors, bear the scars of their trauma daily. Their uncle, like so many abusers, has never shown remorse and prefers to sweep it under the rug, ignoring the harm he has caused. Unfortunately, that happens in families and society as a whole. Part of me wants to make sure he pays a consequence, and quite frankly, I’d like to ‘kick his ass’, but that isn’t the answer. My first thoughts about anything like this are usually wrong…

It’s not my place to act as judge, jury, and executioner. God has freely granted me grace and mercy, not justice. I’m so glad I didn’t get what I deserved. So, who am I, having been lifted from the depths of addiction and self-centeredness, to withhold grace and mercy from others? That isn’t how my life works today. Revenge and ill-will only lead to resentment and bitterness, neither of which are appealing to me.

That being said, an acknowledgement of the wrong would allow some healing to take place, and that is what Margaret and I want for our kid. I’ve learned the importance of taking responsibility for my actions, acknowledging the harm done to someone else, and being willing to go to any lengths to make it right. Such an admission made it possible to receive the love, grace, and mercy waiting for me. I have no illusions that it’s not the case for men like their Uncle Phill or Brett Kavanaugh. Ironically, much can be forgiven when the crime is acknowledged. That’s when the healing begins…

So, what am I to do? Three things come to mind. First, I will love my kid through this and, though I wasn’t able to protect them then, I will do my best to protect them now. That means keeping my kid away from their perpetrator even if he shares DNA. That, too, has lasting consequences for others far beyond my kid or their uncle. They affect family get-togethers and holidays. Even when forgiveness is involved, it doesn’t mean forgetting. I will not allow my kid to be victimized over and over, placing them in the same room as their assailant and acting as though it’s all in the past so it’s okay re-traumatizes them.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I can pray and seek God’s guidance through this whole mess. I truly believe in Jesus’ teaching. When he said that there is a better way than “an eye for an eye”, I believe him. I trust that his is a radically different view of the world than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s uncommon sense that leads me to live and love better, to be a better human being, and to be there for my kids, especially Gael.

Finally, I need to listen. I need to put aside preconceived notions about someone and listen to survivors of sexual trauma. I need to be empathetic and be there. Trevor Noah said that,

“People struggle to understand that two things can be contradictory and true at the same time. You could know somebody as a great person, and they could also be doing something that you don’t know about that makes them someone who you wouldn’t recognize. With Bill Cosby, people were like ‘that’s not the Cosby I know,’ and yeah, it’s not the Cosby you know. Unfortunately, it’s the Cosby somebody else knows.”

Just because somebody puts on a good guy image doesn’t exempt them from scrutiny when accusations are made. The past year and the emergence of the #metoo movement reminds me that ignoring the issue of sexual assault and harassment is to sanction it. To sanction it is to be a part of the problem. Like Dad used to say, “Son, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution…”

Last weekend, Gael used social media to speak out against her perpetrator. The week before Christine Blasey Ford spoke to the world about her abuser. I applaud their courage and unwillingness to remain silent. Sexual assault, harassment, and, in Gael’s case, the assault of a child, is not a once and done crime. It has long lasting effects that plague survivors, their families, and society as a whole. Thank you Gael for speaking out and being an example. I can no longer be silent either. I hope you, gentle reader, won’t either.

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Foxes and protest marches…

Disclaimer: My editor, (Margaret) is out to a late breakfast and a movie with a friend of ours. It’s really hard to edit myself so please excuse any errors. I love you Margaret and your help is greatly appreciated. I love baby…

 

I slept in this morning. It was after nine o’clock when I was finally awakened by Miss Maggie giving me my morning bath. All you pet parents will know what I mean. Please understand that Maggie is half Catahoula and half coyote. She has her “wild” moments and she’s quite the huntress, catching birds in mid-air, and bringing dead rats and possums in the house. Her eyes are different from most dogs I’ve known. You would have to see them to know what I mean, but there’s an alertness and an awareness that’s goes well beyond that of domesticated dogs. I guess that what makes our bond so special. Our other two, Jameson and Sadie, favor Margaret, but Maggie is all mine…

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The porch was unbelievably pleasant this morning even though the sun had been up for a while. I sat with my wife for a while and got to speak to our kid before she left. I was curious as to why she was up so early. Classes are out for the summer and I know she was binge-watching Jurassic Park movies with friends last night. The only reason I was up early on Saturdays when I was twenty-seven was because I had kids by then.

 

I was extremely pleased when she told me she was off to the Families Should Stay Together march in downtown Fort Worth, protesting the insane, inhumane, and immoral immigration policies of Mr. Trump and his cronies. I’d love to be there, but I’m still tethered to my little IV buddy (only until Monday!) and can’t be in the heat. Margaret wanted to go as well. Even though she’s far more conservative than I am, she’s a mom and she’s outraged that families are torn apart. We asked Gael to please raise her voice a little louder and represent us as well.

 

Our daughter has officially `come out’ as transgender. Since she posted it on Facebook I don’t have a problem with saying it (or writing it) aloud. I’m not sure what all that means. She has asked us to refer to her in the third person. As a writer I have some difficulty with that. It’s just not proper English. However, out of respect for her I’ll refer to her in the third person for the duration of this post. I’m not sure how I feel about that if I’m honest with you and with her. It doesn’t make a difference though as I love our kid no matter how `they’ identify.

 

It’s taken me a long journey to reach that point. I was raised in a very conservative religious background, so I carried a lot of baggage into adulthood. Like everything else in life, it requires a lot of conversations, a lot of prayer, and a lot of meditation. I still don’t have all the answers, but I refuse to preach drivel when I know that all of us are God’s kids. If I’m wrong, and I don’t believe I am, God accepts us where and for who we are regardless of labels and identification.

 

I must admit that I don’t often understand all the labels. I know it’s important for people who have lived with discrimination and, often hate, to come out and let everyone know that they’re one of God’s kids just like everyone else. Growing up as a socially awkward introvert, I know what it’s like to bully to fit in with the crowd and be bullied because someone is different. I’m thankful that as time goes on, we’ve become more tolerant and less judgmental as a people. We still have a long way to go. I’m grateful for those who take a stand for dignity, equality, and what is right. I’m proud of who `they’ are.

 

When Margaret and I married five-and-a-half years ago, we decided that we had no `step’ kids. They were all our children, even if they were grown. So, when Gael asked if `they’ could move in with us, so `they’ could go back to college, we invited `them’ home, and this is `their’ home.  I emphasize that because we are known to have our occasional conflicts and frustrations. The reason has more to do with the fact that she’s so much like me than anything else. Even though I didn’t come to know her until she was a young adult, she’s like me in so many ways. She’s as passionate about loving others, social equality, and injustice as I am. It’s not surprising that we but heads from time to time…

 

So, that being said, `they’ probably don’t have a clue how special this morning was to me. I’m proud that `they’ are marching today, and a heartfelt thank you out to `them’. More than that, it was when `they’ were leaving this morning, Gael went in a brought me out a cup of coffee. I know that sounds incredibly trivial and unimportant. It’s what `they’ brought in that was super special.

 

When Gael moved in, `they’ had a coffee mug that was singled out as one we couldn’t use. It was `their’ `fox’ mug and had special meaning for her. We’ve always respected `their’ wishes and we’ve never drank from it before. When Gael brought my coffee, guess what it was in! I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were short on coffee mugs, but the dishes are done and there’s no shortage in our house, believe me. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but Margaret tells me it’s a big deal. Heck, I was just thankful `they’ brought me a cup of coffee. I didn’t know I was getting so much more.

 

So, Gael, I’m sure it’s hot and uncomfortable downtown this morning, but thank you for being there and for simply being you. I’m proud of you and want you to know I love and appreciate you – even when I’m a stubborn old fart…