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Sea Change or Rogue Wave?

The latest chapter of resistance to Trumpism in particular, and society’s ills in general is the refreshingly feminist movement to “out” sexual harassment. This development is long overdue and parallels all other movements for social justice, whose progress often display a ratcheting quality of a couple steps forward, and then a couple in retreat. In many ways the latest round is built on the waves of social change going back to the original fights for emancipation and suffrage. The fact that feminists have reached public position and office, and are using those rostrums to speak out offers a glimpse of what is possible if we don’t slide back. Unfortunately we can find too many examples of women in public roles playing the “man’s” game, and too often the results are dismal. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Sarah Palin, Madeline “500,000 dead Iraqi  children were worth it” Albright, and Hillary Clinton all demonstrated that gender itself did not ensure humanitarian/egalitarian actions. Nor did  avowed liberalism guarantee its proponent, of either gender, to walk in another’s shoes.

In many ways the social/sexual revolution of the 60s has brought us to this place. The need to change course then was obvious to many, but our efforts were often clumsy. Long standing insensitive, or just plain bad  behaviors of gender stereotypes prevailed through many a movement. Those times were as difficult as they were exhilarating. Brothers and sisters and lovers set out to change the world without a road map, and often fell into old behaviors. For all the hope for change, the new language of sexual freedom showed how hollow those efforts could be.  The crude idiom of of hoping “to get some” was at its core an act of conquering, instead of sharing and realizing connection. The Al Franken case illustrates this point well. One person’s shtick is another’s offense due to lack of consent. While a basic truth of all humor is pointing out someone’s discomfort, sexual and gender based humor also implies  a power relationship of dominance.

Race relations at home, imperialism abroad, the environment, and sexual preference all have been focuses of efforts parallel to the feminist movement. All have a great deal more to accomplish, in part because the fundamental concept of nurturing has not risen high enough on the list of acceptable actions for society to take, even in reform movements.  The idea of placing one’s own needs below those of another’s, to make someone’s life better is quite different than taking, using, and dominating. In this regard gender relations parallel our financial relationships, where fiduciary responsibility is given a wink and a nod, and self interest is celebrated. Greed is good.

Time has smoothed over a great deal of the radicalism of the 60s, allowing retrenchment into the “establishment”.  Many of the worst behaviors of “the system” are enabled by our not insisting on acting sustainably towards life. We accept too readily the collateral damage we inflict on others including the many other members of the Ecosystem we share.

While the immediate goal of eliminating sexual harassment and assault should take center stage, the future of the planet would be well served by employing the positive role of nurturing most associated with the feminine gender.  To a large extent the mothering role has been too long reduced in importance by the forces pushing for dominance and control of the resources and actions of human society. While many men have accepted their responsibilities to become more sensitive, and assume more fatherly roles in the family context, we as a species still have not evolved to recognize how the dominating traits of our biology/psychologies are working against life itself. The enabling role  (Stand by your Man) that women traditionally played has worn thin , and the new rising should be celebrated.

To see this in a religious context, consider the fundamentalist teachings that “man” has dominion over the world. This unfortunate translation of the original Aramaic could (should) have been “stewardship”. Stewards sustain. Shepherds manage. Husbands conserve and protect. Dominators control and destroy.

As the resistance seeks to slow down and stop a slide towards fascism, we need to develop a common agreement on where we are going, if we really want to make a difference. The ratcheting back will return with a vengeance if we don’t have a deeper understanding of what we want to achieve. There are resources sufficient for everyone on this earth to live comfortably. Internalizing a nurturing approach to the stewardship of our ecosystem will create a way to check if we are walking in another’s shoes.

If life is benefited from our actions we should proceed. When we need to balance our actions with the necessary suffering of others, we are on the wrong track. Collateral damage, side effects and external costs are excuses. We are the adults here. Let’s take a long look at our own actions and find the better angels inside each of us, and combine them into a peaceful and prosperous world for all.

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