Monday, September 15, 2014

While We're on the Subject...

So there's been a lot of talk about domestic violence, what should happen to Ray Rice,  #whyistayed #whyileft, what Janay did or did not do to provoke him, and on and on. I do not believe it is ever okay for a man to hit a woman, or vice versa for that matter. But...let's talk about what happens before. Let's discuss what might happen in your life that could lead to a place where your man knocks you out in an elevator and drags you like a bag of trash into the hallway.

I was abused until I was 17. Punched, slapped and kicked. Called fat, stupid, worthless and a whore. By the time I was 18, I already believed I somehow deserved whatever bad things happened to me. I already felt worthless.

So before we crucify the NFL, let's consider the underlying problems. The real issue at hand is not limited to the NFL's handling of Mr. Rice or whether Janay should have left her husband. Let's consider: Are we instilling in our daughters a healthy self-image? Are we teaching them to love and accept themselves and others? Are we teaching our sons to be respectful of women and people in general? Are we teaching them that it is great to follow their dreams but not to crush others' in the process? 

OR are we showing our kids that it is okay to push somebody around to get what they want? Are we giving them a sense of entitlement? Are we letting them believe they deserve whatever they want and can go to whatever lengths necessary to get that? Are we teaching them that it's okay to take what you want even if it means hurting someone else? What the hell are we doing??

Yes, let's address how the NFL handles Ray Rice. Yes, let's talk about how society addresses domestic violence. BUT, let's take a long hard look at how we raise our sons, how we talk to our daughters, how we treat our spouses. Let's think about how we talk to our neighbors, our bosses, the homeless guy we pass on the way to work, and the cashier at Dunkin' Donuts.

When I was 16, my body was everything I idealize now, and I would give my right arm to have it back. At 16, I hated it and thought I was fat. I wish I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self, "You are good and beautiful and you deserve to be loved and cherished not pushed around and insulted and hit." 

I can't. I can't change the fact that no one taught me that. I can't change the fact that no one protected me. BUT, I can teach my daughters and my son how to be good people. I can teach them that they are enough just because God created them, and it doesn't matter what brand of clothes or shoes or book bag they have. It doesn't matter who they sit with at lunch, and maybe sit with that person over there who is by himself. And it doesn't matter who they date or who thinks they're pretty or how tall they are or how much they weigh because they are created exactly how they are supposed to be. They are loved simply because they exist. And that their classmates, teachers, parents, and friends also deserve kindness and compassion and respect. Because they are also enough.

We need to stop blaming a society that idolizes football players and start being a society that treats our fellow humans with kindness and respect. Firing Roger Goodell isn't going to stop men from hitting their wives. Kicking Ray Rice out of the NFL isn't going to end violence against women--although stiffer penalties for domestic violence would certainly be a step in the right direction. We need to start taking responsibility for the people we are and the people we are raising. 

If you're not happy with the direction this world is headed then do something different. Be radically compassionate. Instead of holding up a protest sign, hold a door for someone. Instead of writing a critical letter to the editor, write a letter to your child's teacher telling her how valued she is. Instead of raising a hand in anger, open your arms in love. Instead of complaining about how messed up things are, fix something. And if you can't fix anything? Then for heaven's sake just don't make it any worse.