This month is turning out to be a tumultuous one for me, but also for the country as a whole. The two are not entirely unrelated, either.
Starting locally, I stepped down as Cubmaster for Pack 27, because it was getting too difficult to be effective in that role with work really picking up in intensity and hours. It makes me sad to step back, being the Cubmaster has been one of the most fun, rewarding experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. Now I’ve been involved with Scouting for quite a while, being a Cub and Boy Scout as a kid, getting my Eagle, staying on for a while after turning 18, then coming back when my sons started a few years ago. I have always been a firm believer in the benefits the program has for boys when the program is run correctly. Granted, it’s not always run correctly, and my definition is slightly different than the national organization’s, but it is what it is.
The key for me though is to make sure the kids are having fun, but learning important skills and creating a sense of self-confidence, and in turn give them a greater sense of self-worth. This is especially important in some kids who might be overshadowed by older siblings, or peers with stronger personalities or better athletic prowess. In doing so, we try to make sure that each boy’s strengths are also recognized by the other kids, to show how everyone has their strengths and yes, they may be different than yours, but that doesn’t make you a better person.
As a part of this, I have had to deal with bullying. Both my being bullied, recognizing when I was the bully (not easy sometimes), and helping kids through being bullied themselves. The best weapon against that is having the kids recognize their own strengths, as well as appreciate what others do and have to offer. Also, making it very clear that it is utterly unacceptable in the group is important too, but imposing rules doesn’t attack the root of the problem. That’s why I have stayed with it, despite my disagreements with the national organization.
But the reason I had to step back my involvement is my work has been taking more of my time, and I haven’t been able to devote the time I want and need to the pack. Short version, I am the QA Manager for a great company, and get to work with one of the best teams I have had the privilege to be a part of on some incredibly amazing and important projects. Not just the one we are most famous for, which is still a major source of pride, but great projects like It Gets Better and Lady Gaga’s new Born This Way Foundation, and other organizations working against the bullying and harassment and demeaning of young people based on their race, sexual preference, or just because they don’t fit the “normal” mold.
This is not just a problem for kids, though. And with kids, you can almost make an excuse for them, adolescent brains are still developing, and a lot of impulse control is just not there. However, this week in the news, we are seeing a kind of bullying that literally fills me with a level of rage that bothers me in its intensity.
During the whole controversy over contraception coverage by insurance companies, a young woman named Sandra Fluke gave testimony before Congress, and since then has been the target of unthinkably vicious attacks by the right-wing media, particularly Rush Limbaugh, who has called her a “slut”, “a prostitute” and even suggested that if she wants to get coverage for contraception, she should make pornographic videos and distribute them as “payment”. It’s not just Rush Limbaugh either, though. Several talking heads and pundits on Fox News have taken to showing us how to thoroughly bully and demean a woman, really taking misogyny to a whole new level.
In the past few days, she has been called a “spoiled brat”, a “tramp”, and been told essentially to keep her damn legs together already. Nevermind also, that they are throwing all these comments about condoms around, ignoring how roughly 40% of women who take hormonal birth control do so for valid medical reasons, like extremely painful periods or other menstrual difficulties. People are defending such statements as “Contraceptive Coverage Is Like Woman “Knocking On My Door” And Asking For Money Because She Has To Have Sex Tonight” and other wonderfully hate-filled sexist comments.
Here’s an example, from Rush’s show this afternoon, after President Obama called her personally to offer his support and encouragement during the torrent of abuse she is getting from Rush and Fox News. He has also offered (jokingly, he said) to buy all the women at Georgetown aspirins to keep between their knees, in a great callback to Foster Friess, who proved that no one likes that joke, and he looked like a total ass for saying it.
Now, I have some friends who are incredibly offensive with their humor. I have many friends who are legitimately in comedy, and some who really should be. The difference is that they don’t mean it when they make jokes, they aren’t trying to pass themselves off as serious political commentators or leaders in a political movement. None of them have as wide an audience as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, and none of their audiences take what they say as fact, the way so many people take Rush and Fox as gospel.
This woman bravely stood up for something she believed in, and went before Congress to present her case. In doing so she has been demonized and called so many utterly degrading names, had her reputation dragged through the mud, had other women insinuate things about her that turn people’s stomachs, and been on the receiving end of a shaming that if it occurred in a high school now would result in suspensions and people clamoring for the heads of those involved. And rightly so. But instead this is major national media completely abandoning the ridiculous pretext that this had anything about religion, and gone right into “putting that little bitch in her place for getting uppity and speaking up.”
So, why am I proud of my job, and the work we do, and the hours we put in and the people I work with? Because we are working against that, and if because of the work we put in to get these websites working and getting the message out there, one kid feels a little better about him or herself, decides to not escape the pain by ending it all, if we can get someone elected that can fight against this sort of hatred, then it is all worth it.
And if I ever have a kid in the scouting program who acts like that, he is not welcome if he refuses to treat people with decency and respect. If you are an adult and around me treating people like that, I cannot guarantee I won’t react badly. Actually I can almost guarantee I WILL act badly. Disagree all you want, have a valid viewpoint and argue it respectfully. But to pillory this woman for speaking up and getting involved in the debate is inexcusable, despicable, and completely and utterly unAmerican.
I’ll just close with one statement: If this is how our adults act, our media outlets act, how can we possibly expect our kids do act any better?