Hello Winter!

Hello Winter!

I kind of picked up on it over my car radio driving home from work that the weather was going to change drastically. I didn’t really pay much attention. I was more than aware that it was a very cold night, so I missed seeing those white fluffy snowflakes drizzle down from the sky overnight.

I live in Houston, where we get excited over a slight drop in temperature. Seething, steamy days are what we’re used to. The nights are not any different.
‎This morning, we were thrilled! Overnight, the temperature dipped below freezing and it snowed. We woke up to snowy covered cars and rooftops, as well as newly white backyard lawns, with picturesque views of pine trees washed in snow; the kind that Christmas greeting cards are made of.

The last time it snowed out here was in 2009. The year prior, we had just arrived from California and my kids and I experienced our first hurricane. (Remember Hurricane Ike?) The benefit of daylight made the “snowstorm” of 2009 fascinating for those of us who’d never been around true winter weather. The snow from the “storm” froze over the windshield, which made defrosting an adventure of sorts. It took some ingenuity to get through it. This time around, it felt like beach sand in my bare hands as I safely scooped it off the windshield.

Back in August, we had another taste of a nasty hurricane. Harvey claimed my car as it hovered over the Gulf Coast for 2-to-3 days, focusing on Houston and its environs after making landfall in Port Arthur and Corpus Christi. Here’s an interesting pattern: between 2008 and 2009, Hurricane Ike and the rare snow incident; now this year, Hurricane Harvey and the snow last night. And that’s just four months apart!

Back to this morning: as I stepped out to leave for work (even though I’d have rather preferred staying home, in my warm bed) I was gleefully greeted by Frosty the Snowman, artfully put together by janitorial workers at my apartment complex, assisted by schoolchildren snowballing while waiting for their school bus to arrive.

As I marveled about a banner year of weather I’d seen — a year for fires, hurricanes and (mild) snowfall — the excitement was short-lived for me as I worried about the six major wildfires currently burning in our home state of California. I wished for a minute they could have the snow to help quench the treacherous threat facing them this moment. That put a damper on my excitement, knowing how many lives and how much property have been lost.

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Breaking the Doors

Philip Arabome is a journalism major at Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas and my guest writer on today’s blog. He’s taking on the trending issue of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, especially as it relates to big names in the media and entertainment industry crumbling like a pack of cards. I’m particularly glad to get a male perspective on the hottest topic of the moment.

Sensitive issues will be discussed. Reader discretion is advised.

As a junior in college, I attended a feminist rally. My reasoning was simple (and in bad faith): there was a persuasive, attractive young woman, the chairman of the board, who spoke with conviction about her steadfast dedication to feminism and women’s empowerment. Male allies were always welcome, especially in a culture that had women swimming alone when it came to talk about sexual abuse.

It had come to my attention that women might have a point.

Within months, I joined the feminist organization. As is my life’s passion, I had a desire to discover the truth: are women right? How pernicious was sexual abuse – assault, battery, harassment – in the daily lives of women? How valid was men’s reflexive defense against these accusations?

I dove in headfirst. I listened to numerous stories about sexual abuse. I read firsthand accounts by survivors. I asked myself, perplexed, why people would defend what couldn’t be an invented rape story. These girls must have vibrant imaginations, I thought to myself, or they’re not lying.

As I leaned in further, I, too, sided with the latter.

As the “MeToo” movement aims to steamroll the patriarchy by uncovering the inconvenient truth of sexual violence against women, titans of the glass ceiling have crumbled under its wheels. From Hollywood financial tycoon Harvey Weinstein to NBC News icon and Today mainstay Matt Lauer, men of considerable power have been uncovered. It has touched politics: Roy Moore, an ex-judge in Alabama who plays to an evangelical audience, is bombarded with accusations dating back to the 1970s, from women who were as young as 14, which could derail his senatorial bid this month. It has unraveled in entertainment: everyman Louis C.K., a comedic superstar with a considerable television profile, has been discovered to be a serial public masturbator and sexual predator. It even has made its home in alternative journalism: Vice magazine has been called out for the wide-ranging sexual power its superiors have held over their female subordinates.

It doesn’t have to be a man of note for it to be a distinctly male, power-based problem. It doesn’t have to specifically involve sexual power for it to be an issue: for generations abound, men have asserted their privilege and supremacy over women, rendering them docile or servile, never to challenge the power structure for fear of lack of respect or, worse, harm. The commercialization of post-World War II America was built on the myth of the pleasurable, amenable female partner-cum-servant, responsible for domestic production of both progeny and nutrition.

The voice of women strengthened with the rise of feminism in the 1960s and ‘70s. While the first wave, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries, concerned basic rights, such as self-determination and suffrage, the second called for a distinct and independent womanhood, not forged from standards ascribed to them by the marketing machine but of their own creation. This spirit carried young women from the universities, diploma in hand, to the workforce, eager to conquer the establishment and derive autonomy for themselves. That go-getter attitude is retained by most modern Western women, which has led to most campuses being majority-female.

However, it has remained as clear that women’s presence in the marketplace has not fully been recompensed with the requisite financial or social confidence. They are the secretaries and clerks; human resources managers; teachers and clerks; social media managers; vice presidents; and television personalities –their unique talents continue to be dictated by a masculinity that enforces the cultural borders, polices their tone, ascribes likeability and viability based on physical attractiveness and belittles their effort using terms both subtle and explicit. In short, women are in the workforce but not of it. There is a reason women earn 77 cents to a man’s American dollar: they are still playing from behind, confined to positions that both reduce their optimum value as performers in the marketplace and reinforce their value as docile, servile, quiet.

Equally as devastating for women is the culture that pits them 10 feet behind their male counterparts from the beginning. Not to speak of specific gender roles – despite the future personality quirks a child will acquire over time – but young girls are instructed to emphasize their personal looks (for the glory and desire of boys and men); not emphasize their personal looks (for the glory and desire of boys and men); never seem bothered by churlish male behavior; speak softly; and tacitly accept their role as the Gentle Gender, despite what their true personality belies. (For some at home, this may explain the current crisis with regard to understanding gender constructs, including LGBT sympathies.)

Men and boys, on the other hand, are welcome to be rambunctious and lawless. When adjusted for privilege (i.e. white) and power (e.g. fraternity member), the rules are off. Life is good; beer and drugs are great; sleeping with multiple women is a prime goal. I think back to an experiment done by a woman in New York a few years ago, in which she videotaped herself being “catcalled” – public, unsolicited verbal admiration of her body – by various men as she walked down the street. She wore nothing garish, nor did she attempt to draw any attention from the men she walked past (besides her existence, as if she was a piece of meat destined to be caught with a good punchline). For men, women exist in a limited space – to be docile (attractive, quiet, sexually pursued yet “pure,” “fun” yet noninvasive) and servile (sex upon request, hushed tones, accepting, motherlike, obedient). Best described by a former ESPN employee in a novel about her profession in the late 1980s: “We were supposed to look fun and f–kable.”

A woman who crosses these lines? Bitch. Slut. Shrill. She is reduced to an “emotional” person, insubordinate to the male-based rules of engagement. For this very reason, women often reduce themselves around more aggressive men, so as not to cross their hairs.

Which leads to tacit acceptance of problematic male norms.

Why do men rape?

The question comes across each time we learn about a publicized incident of sexual violence. Why would Brock Turner feel the need to violate a woman’s personal space, utilizing her incapacitation via alcohol, to fulfill and impose his personal pleasure without her clear-headed consent?

What about Bill Cosby? Weinstein? Patrick Kane or Derrick Rose or Ben Roethlisberger? The Baylor University football team? Duke University’s lacrosse program in 2006?

The game of cat-and-mouse following a prominent rape case always follows the same path:

  1. Public figure accused of sexual assault
  2. If beloved, public attempts to mitigate their disappointment by either victim-blaming, postponing judgment until formal conviction or outright denial
  3. If not beloved, public attempts to mitigate their surprise by the same as choice 2

 

Men are raised to believe they are invincible and immune to most things, including but not limited to: the law; death; destruction; bias; reason; emotion; violence; pain; suffering; and, especially, a woman’s rejection of their sexual or romantic advances. Every young Romeo in grade school was convinced he could “pull” as many of his female classmates as possible, which was reinforced by cultural and social myths in mass media, including music and television. The notion of the “alpha male” – a man who has reached personal, communal and (especially) sexual nirvana – became the fortress for which cultures were built upon. Libertarianism, for example, garnered followers with a promise of the total fulfillment of the American national fable: pure, rugged freedom. (It’s no surprise that 69 percent of its adherents are male and 95 percent are white.)

We begin to fuel the laggards among us with narratives – the infamous “nice guy” label comes to mind – which reduces certain unworthy men to beta status, perennially fruitless in traditionally hyper-aggressive dealings with women. A man who cannot hunt won’t eat, and the game is the seduction of the opposite sex. Countless numbers of men have confided in me their inability to “get laid” has reduced their self-confidence and terrorized their mind with fears of incompetence, impotence or outright bad luck. The toxic stew of cookie-cutter masculinity continues to drive men’s hostile attitudes toward women, a reductive hot-or-not passion play which derives negativity from both parties. How has Tinder worked out so well? You understand.

Am I suggesting all men who think like this rape? No. Sexual abuse and general female discomfort does not require clothing to be removed or appendages to be fondled; it is quietly approved with simple, presumably amicable gestures, such as hugs or shoulder-touching. There’s a reason H.R. departments are vigilant in policing physical contact in the workplace: the complete comfort and safety of employees, especially women, should be paramount. Cutting the small stuff can (should) mitigate larger physical problems. Yet they still happen, even beyond the boardroom.

I return to the notion of consent. Since men have been guarded without a leash for generations, there is an intrinsic desire to plot out methods of “getting laid,” which can border on criminal. Obfuscating the presumptive no – generally, by drinking copious amounts of alcohol, a staple of fraternity events – is a half-baked method of achieving the final goal while only feeling partially guilty about it. With greater university resources, such as Title IX, dedicated to combating sexual violence, it’s become a sport – trying to become more discreet without placing a spotlight on their sin.

Relative to this is my experience with women and their self-protection. Mace or pepper spray is a staple in any young woman’s purse. Headphones have become a discreet signal for disinterest in communicating with others, especially in large cities. In more abrasive situations, popular with conservatives and families, firearms usage is becoming more common. The amount of self-defense tools for women – and that’s after being told what to wear, how to walk and how not to draw unfavorable male attention – is contradictory to what little regulations are held by men.

That’s a problem. It fosters entitlement. An undesirable situation should not result in sexual violence; when men’s and boys’ more pitiless methods of courtship are normalized, women’s bodily and social autonomy is reduced – that’s as much of an economic issue as it is a social issue.

In modern feminism, there has been a push to be more vocal about what you can do with a partner, even for basic actions such as kissing. In our earlier years, this had to be implied (pretty heavily) and often was not for fear of rejection – again, rejection being the ultimate symbol of incompetence. Reverence for the right for one to exist, with full consent of contact and interaction, should be cherished and honored. For men to consistently miss the point, or (worse) belabor it, is to reinforce the culture of privilege and unchecked authority men have held over women for time eternal.

The culture that created Cosby, Weinstein, Moore, Lauer, Trump, me and you dates back farther than you imagine. The patriarchy evolves with time and season, reflecting itself in another botched H.R. case or a publicly litigated “false rape” claim. Heterosexual men consistently place their selfish sexual desires toward women over all other factors (even their careers), fueled by a society that claims women are equal but consistently behaves contrarily. This extends past assailants and into the hands of friends, allies and even women – a culture that must be deconstructed and unlearned, while alternatives are taught to future generations.

The question, of course, is if men will finally listen.

Guest written by Philip O. Arabome * Twitter: @PhilipArabome

Get People Help

Get People Help

Here’s an interesting fact: I’m not a pet person.

My last memory of pets in the home was as a child, living with my grandma: meowing kittens; purring cats; soggy milk; and a terrible smell I’ve never shaken off. I don’t hate animals. I’ve been inclined, more than once, to own or keep some, mostly because of my daughter.

When she was six, we were gifted a pair of dogs by a friend and lived with them for a week before their owners found them. We gladly took them back. It happened again when she was 14, but the $25 fee to just keep it in our apartment was a roadblock compared to the upkeep we would foot to care for it. I expect well-kept dogs and a clean, odor-free home – vet visits for vaccines, pet grooming and all. I wasn’t about to care for an animal like I would a human child.

I don’t know if I can be called an “animal lover” – as in “defending their right to exist” while living how I do: drinking cow’s or goat’s milk or eating steak, chicken or fish. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, even though there could be other things in my life I’m hypocritical about. We all do. I liken it to not supporting gun control, yet welcoming poaching of African tusks: I don’t think of myself as an “activist” for the ethical treatment of animals. I wouldn’t know how to define that in a logical, common-sense fashion.

I also don’t hold anything against overly doting pet lovers, but what about the ones who abuse their pets? What deranged minds! Yet, if someone I know loses their pet and posts about it on social media – and I don’t make the same comments as if a human passed away – am I being insensitive? I can’t pretend to feel what I don’t. I’m sorry you lost a pet, but I’m not going to pretend to be deeply moved by the incident. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I lack compassion for animals. There’s something bigger at heart.

For me, humanity is central. My concern circles that of my fellow beings. I believe many people treat animals better than humans; I struggle with that thought. There are those who spend thousands on surgery for pets, knowing their life expectancy is roughly one-sixth of a human being’s, and I could never understand why. I look at impoverished communities at home and abroad, wondering: Why can’t we do the same for people?

Is this just an American or North American or Western phenomenon? Maybe because of my background, even if my homeland has pets it was never as dire a situation for care as it is in the West. The culture of love and support I saw at home for people is used up on animals here. With all due respect, is there a social disconnect I don’t get?

Animals are God’s creation too. They’re cuddly, adorable and lovable and should be treated well. I understand. However, who comes first: your loved ones or your pets? How far should we go in displaying love for pets, knowing there are millions of human beings enduring far worse around us?

Children all over the world are dying from treatable medical conditions – or are in untenable circumstances and need help. Many others are in war-torn nations, befallen with death and destruction around them. There are children being abused, sold into slavery and sex trafficking.

Perhaps I differ from the crowd, but that is a crisis I truly am moved by. There will be those who dedicate their lives to saving animals, which is needed, but I need to let you know: don’t forget about people. They need help too.

Born To Rule

Baby boy Cambridge, now named Prince George Alexander Louis, was born July 22, 2013 lbs. 6 OZ. 4:24 P.M. I am actually holding in my hand a copy of a Special  Collector’s Issue of People Magazine. I plan to preserve this copy for the purpose for which it was published….a keepsake. I have better plans than those of anyone else. I want to preserve just in case some loony in the future decides to contest his birth and eligibility to the throne. Some of the claims may be that he was not born in Great Britain, or that he was swapped at birth, or the he was actually born here in the United States and therefore is now a citizen of the United States. Just in case he refuses to produce his birth certificate, just delaying to do so just because he feels it is preposterous to even suggest that his citizenship is in question.

So if at anytime in the very distant future, something remotely similar to scenarios I have hinted rears its ugly head in Great Britain, please feel free to wake me up from my grave and I shall gladly dust-up my Special Collector’s Issue of People Magazine and zealously come to the defense of the prince. Yes, I hold the evidence, even though the royals hold an enviable place as far as longevity goes.
In case you are wondering why I would even think of this…well, we have had our own example here in America, where Barack Obama, even though he too was born to rule (although his parents did not hold any crystal ball to figure it out), had his birth place disputed. They actually went on a search led by and funded by the renowned Donald Trump. We all know how all that ended. Well, I’m not about that right now, but to just let the Prince of Cambridge know that if his birth place and birth to the royal monarch of England is ever in question, I do hold a publicly disseminated  information of his birth…my “Special Collector’s Issue” of People Magazine, just like I hold a few special editions of newspapers and magazines documenting the rise of the first black president of the United States of America. Who knows, someone might just decide to rewrite history.

This is why we take these documented facts to the grave with us for posterity. So, again if there is ever any question regarding where or who this young prince was born to, I have the facts. Also, because it has happened before, if there is ever any reason to suggest that there was never a black President of the United States of America, just feel free to wake me up in my grave. I’ll even turn over the “Do not Disturb” sign. For these reasons alone  should anyone wake me up from my peaceful rest.

Are You Listening?

I’ll attempt to describe how in the course of a five hour ride around town, under temperatures of 102 degrees, God in His loving kindness “deployed” an angel to minister to me.
God speaks, but the pertinent question is: Are you listening?
Yes, I had a few questions on my mind that I desperately desired answers to, sought them fervently in prayer, and God was silent!

I recall coming out of the human resources office, deciding that the job I was offered a few days back was after all, not a match. I also remember Sarah saying to me; “It’s alright if you have to leave; God deployed you to meet me.”

All of a sudden she felt strangely familiar, and in that moment of illumination, I became aware that God had been speaking to me the whole day. Jesus literally took me on a ride in this car and was having a conversation with me through Sarah. All evening long, sitting at my bedside I kept wondering why she felt so familiar? Like I ‘d known her before? Her face floats up before my vision with such ease. I just picture her so clearly. I think I know why.

All day long, for nearly five hours, Sarah and I drove around the Harris County area visiting patients in their homes. I was new to the company, seeing I wasn’t familiar with the area; she had offered the previous day to drive me around in the company’s car which she checked out herself. Just this once she said, to get me started.
Then, somehow down the the road, the conversations about God had started. In my head, I thought funny how my recruiter had told me not to talk about religion at the interview. Who does that at an interview anyway?Or did she mean on the Job? She had also added no discussions about politics. Whatever! I sighed quietly. I have this chutzpah, while engaging in conversations about God, because I’m excited about Him!

Anyway, Sarah talked about her new house, and how a few friends in benevolence, were going to help her out in a move that would otherwise, be exorbitant to execute. Family members from out of town would also come out to shower their love and support. I chose to just listen more, rather than offer any suggestions mostly, trying to get to know my benefactor and simply enjoy the ride and the moment; she didn’t seem to be soliciting any, but did jokingly ask if I wanted to come out and help her move. I told my kind driver that I would love to but for the distance. I meant it. If she lived close to me, I would have gladly done so for the adventure. I felt a keen sense of kindred tie with this woman, didn’t exactly know why, as she continued to share about God’s goodness in her life.

I love testimonies. They keep my faith invigorated and my hope alive.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” That is the biblical definition of faith. I had recently meditated that scripture. Sarah may not be a preacher, but her testimonies refreshed my mind of how faithful God had been in my own life, His ever present help in numerous times of need, and an all sufficient provider of all that I have ever needed. Each time she testified, my heart warmed up at the unfailing love of God.
God had met her every need, she said. Her home is paid off. She had it rented out due to some changes in her financial situation. That resonated with me. It reminded me of a similar time four years ago, and how God came true for me. Her testimonies reinforced to me that whatever I was going through now, was going to be just fine.
She’s now moving into a new place, a beach house she was blessed with through the generosity of friends. With this arrangement, she’ll only have to pay $300 a month, and take care of just basic bills.

Now, the testimonies snowball into those of others who have come into her circle. She is renting her house to two sisters who have been praying for a place to live. One of the sisters has been paying $30.00 a day for taxi rides to work from where they live presently. In prayer one day, the two sisters had been walking around Sarah’s neighborhood, and “claimed” her house which was advertised for rent. Sarah, also was seeking guidance concerning who to rent to. When Sarah heard their testimony, she understood why an earlier prospect had failed to call her back as she had promised. “How God works,” she said.
One of her renters, will now be living within a five minute walk from her job. Saved from an expensive 30 dollar a day taxi ride to work, the sisters readily paid an up front deposit of $1400 which helped Sarah out of a financial muddle.
As I sat in the car listening to all the testimonies, my faith was bolstered, and flashes of reassuring memories of how living by faith works, warmed my spirit, emboldened me to stay in prayer and believe God for a turn around in my own trials.
God does indeed speak! And how I needed to hear those stories of faith to help mine increase, so I can stand and believe God to meet me at the point of my own needs.
Thank you Sarah. Yes, God deployed me to meet you! Your light shone so bright, and those words of testimony…salt angel! I hope in some way, He used me to to touch too! Stay in faith as I will!

P.s
For some reason, I felt like I was supposed to pay for your lunch when we went out to eat. I also recall another testimony you shared of how you needed two hundred dollars, and a lady had come back to tell you God laid it in her heart to repay you two hundred dollars from a previous transaction. That was an exact amount you needed to meet some need.
This adds another dimension to this story. It isn’t so much, whether you are listening. An equally important question is; How are you listening? Are you listening for answers to your needs alone, to bolster your faith alone, or to be driven to obedience to meet someone else’s need, to lift another up who is down? What does God need you to do?
On the road to Damascus, Jesus met with Paul and he was given the ministry of reconciliation of the Jews and the Gentiles. While on the road doing and being, listen up.