Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Stories Untold: Sexualized Violence

Here's a shout-out to my friend Barbra Graber, who with Hilary J. Scarsella, produces the website Our Stories Untold.  Both have history with the Mennonite Church in the USA, and they work to report and reduce sexualized violence by church members and pastors.

The mission of the OSU website and community is serious:

We are an independent network of people who have suffered sexualized violence, people who love people who have suffered sexualized violence, and people who are just plain fed up with the harm that sexualized violence does in our communities and around the world. We are people who are concerned, specifically, about the spiritual dimensions of sexualized violence and the presence of sexualized violence in communities of faith. Many of us have a connection to the Mennonite church in North America (MC USA and MC Canada), whether we are participating members, former members or are connected in some other way. Those with no Mennonite connection whatsoever are also welcome in this space and in the work we do together.

In this public space, survivors of sexualized violence can share their stories, report perpetrators, find support, seek justice, and educate the public.

"A Timeline of What Happened in Harrisonburg: My View" is a report by Barbra on the series of events at Eastern Mennonite University in 2016 starting with the arrest of EMU's Vice President, Luke Hartman, for solicitation of prostitution.  Barbra lives in Harrisonburg, Va.

With the help of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Our Stories Untold invited others at the university who might have been solicited by Hartman to come forward.

One survivor came forward publicly, two came forward privately, and at least one former EMU employee reported sexual harrassment.

Instead of fully investigating these problems, EMU handed the investigation over to a not-so-independent investigating agency, paying $200,000 for its work. 

Neither EMU nor the agency ever interviewed the young woman making these charges.  Instead, they limited the investigation to her case alone and found that EMU had handled it properly--a point that Our Stories Untold contests.

Barbra examines the larger context of this case:
  • OSU received evidence and filed a report  "indicating MCUSA and its conferences, as a common practice, keep the knowledge of sexual misconduct complaints against ordained pastors and lay leaders a secret from those who may also be in harm’s way.*
  • After following up various complaints, OSU also filed a report "indicating EMU has had a past practice of either failing to write up sexual misconduct complaints reported to them or to discard the files, and to rarely file reports with police.*
But the Mennonite Church and the Eastern Mennonite University continue to protect perpetrators and keep quiet about reports of sexual misconduct by students or employees of EMU.

Barbra concludes:
To date, EMU has not indicated a willingness to come clean about the serious historical problems of sexual violence on their campus or open any secret files they hold on past and present employees or students. In fact, a student perpetrator who was found guilty of rape during an internal Title IX investigation as recently as February 2, 2017 is reportedly still walking free and under cover on campus. He is slated to graduate as a social work major, his charges hidden from other girls who could be at risk on campus. All this with a slap on the wrist, no notice to his employer where he works with vulnerable populations, nothing placed on his student record, no invitation for others who may have been harmed by him to come forward. 

At the end of her timeline she places this quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We [who break the code of silence] are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.  We bring it out into the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be open with all its pus- flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all the tension its exposing creates to the light of human conscience….”
Martin Luther King

From Sweden with love

A fishy story

This portrait turned up on Twitter, designed by someone from Sweden as a tribute to 45's now-famous reference on Feb. 18 to a fictitious terror attack in Sweden.

"We've got to keep our country safe," he said. "You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."

In that comment, we see dt's favorite rhetorical device: repetition.  If you say something 3-4 times, it becomes more true each time.

Here's more humor from Sweden after this fake news:

Seriously, though, he couldn't remember exactly what he heard Friday while watching Fox news.  He didn't know the source was a 10-minute video posted on You Tube in December.

Impaired memory + grandiosity + confusion + simple thinking + shrinking vocabulary = dementia (perhaps Alzheimer's Disease)

On YouTube, the filmmaker, Ami Horowitz, described his ten-minute film this way: "Rape and violence has exploded across Sweden due it's immigration policies. Watch to see what Sweden has done to itself."
The film, called "Stockholm Snydrome," reached a small audience when Horowitz posted it in December. It suddenly gained international attention thanks to a Fox segment on Friday and a presidential mention on Saturday.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rest in peace, Norma McCorvey

What a hard job, being a part of history.  See this obituary in the Los Angeles Times by Mary Rourke and Emily Alpert Reyes.

In 1970 when Norma McCorvey became pregnant with her third baby, she wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

Lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee needed a woman like her in order to contest the law making abortion illegal in Texas.

Norma agreed to work with them, not realizing that the court process would take years.  She ended up having the baby, her third, and giving it up for adoption.

Norma had a hard life.  Her parents barely made a living and divorced when she was 13.  She began running away at age 10.

She married at 16 but was beaten.  After being part of the Roe v. Wade case. she received hate mail and didn't fit in with the middle class feminist movement, partly because she was lesbian and the movement had not yet changed to accept gay persons.

Norma got a job at an abortion clinic but was befriended by an anti-abortion pastor, through whom she became a Christian and began opposing abortion, then writing her second autobiography. 

She was "a very complicated person," said Gloria Allred, the lawyer who represented Norma during her 1970-73 court case.  Norma stayed in touch with her throughout her life.

Norma died at 69 on February 11 of heart failure in an assisted living facility.  She was born in 1947, a year before I was born.

Now she may rest in peace.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Evangelical Left

Thank you to Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist on, for this post of a protestor's sign contrasting the Bible and the religious right on a list of key biblical commands.

The poster says:

Fear everyone
Expel the stranger
Blame the poor
Ignore the sick
Feed the rich
Love only thyself
Trust only Caesar
Throw lots of stones

Clearly, these positions are the opposite of many things Jesus said, as well as opposite of the central teachings of Torah:

Leviticus 19:33-34New International Version (NIV)

33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Just one problem with this post: it concludes with the comment "Not that evangelical Christians ever had any moral authority."

Wrong.  Evangelical Christians like Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army, which is still doing good work today.  In many small, untrumpeted actions, born-again Christians are still following the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 25, verse 40:

If you did it to the least of these my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.

Evangelical and mainstream Christians are a major force protesting Trump's ban on refugees because many churches do hosting of refugees.

I love the sign of the protestor, and it's true that many evangelicals overlooked 45's sexual assault and racism to get an anti-abortion vote on the Supreme Court, but don't smear all evangelicals of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Some of us are left and progressive--such as my favorite group, Christian Feminism Today, which is inclusive of LGBTQ folk and fights for women's equality in Christian churches and parachurch organizations.

Thank you to Karen Kidd, who alerted me to this post on Patheos.

Garry Kasparov vs. Putin

Joy-Ann Reid, national correspondent, MSNBC

I remember watching Garry Kasparov become World Chess Champion in 1985 at age 22.  Then in 1997 he was playing chess against an IBM computer and losing--the first human player to do so.

Today he appeared on MSNBC's AM Joy, speaking as one of the foremost opponents of Vladimir Putin and the author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.

He lives in New York City now because he's #1 on Putin's list of persons to assassinate.

I remember watching John Dean, White House Counsel 1970-73, defend President Richard Nixon during the cover-up of the Watergate scandal. 

Today he too appeared on AM Joy, now drawing parallels between cover up of the Watergate break-in and cover up of 45's contacts with Russian spies during the 2016 election campaign and up to the present.

I never expected to see them both appearing on television in 2017 speaking against a Republican president's ties to Russian spies.  

It's now called Russiagate.

Dan Rather has said that Watergate was the biggest threat to constitutional democracy in the US--"until maybe now."

We need a full investigation--now.

As voters, we need to call our representatives and senators demanding a full investigation.

Hounded by the "Mrs."

I'm used to being called "Mrs. Arthur."

Though I never took my husband's surname, every marketer who dials up the phone of "John Arthur" and hears a woman's voice answer, then addresses me as "Mrs. Arthur."

It's a quick way for me to determine that it's a junk call.

"Please take us off your calling list," I answer several times per day.

I recently stopped using my father's surname, given to me at birth, and took a matrilineal surname, Linstatter.

I filed the papers to get a court order to change my name, then got a new driver's license and new Social Security card.  Now I'm calling various insurance and credit card companies to report the new surname.

Yesterday when I called Chase Bank, the conversation went like this:

"Hi, I'm calling to report that my surname has changed.  It's now Linstatter."

"Congratulations!" the man responded.  "What is your account number and your former name?"

After recording the change, he ended the call by saying, "Alright, Mrs. Linstatter.  Have a nice day."

Mrs. Linstatter?

I guess I'll never get rid of the assumption that I carry my husband's surname.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Alternet's 21 Facts on Miller

Now Alternet takes up the challenge of documenting the life and times of Stephen Miller, 45's "senior" adviser with a piece called "21 Facts That Explain Exactly Who Stephen Miller Is."

Here's the list, in summary:

  1. The NRA was "his first right-wing love."
  2. He dumped a middle-school friend because he was Latino.
  3. He clashed with the administration at Santa Monica HS.
  4. He started connecting with conservative radio talk show hosts while in high school.
  5. He reinstated the Pledge of Allegiance at SMHS.
  6. His racism was well known at SMHS.
  7. He spoke against condoms, homosexuality, Native Americans, and Muslims there.
  8. He argued against Latino and African-American groups on campus.
  9. He spoke against school janitors, black and brown (link to the 6-min documentary.)
  10. He fought multiculturalism at Duke University and accused Maya Angelou of "racial paranoia."
  11. He promoted anti-black, anti-Muslim fear on campus.
  12. He founded the anti-Muslim "Terrorism Awareness Project" on campus.
  13. He made friends with a white-supremacist Peter Brimelow.
  14. David Duke became his fan, and Jared Taylor (admired by Dylann Roof) namechecked him.
  15. He worked for Senator Jeff Sessions, 
  16. He bombarded Republicans with pro-Trump email and lies during the campaign.
  17. He spoke at dt campaign rallies.
  18. He helped write dt's RNC speech and inauguration speech.
  19. He helped write the travel ban.
  20. He showed fascist views on the Sunday talk shows on Feb. 12: "the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned."
  21. Quite a few members of his family are embarrassed by him.