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Friday, October 29, 2010

What's on my back

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. "
Thomas Jefferson 

 Fear is what drives the most discontent, confidence-lacking, and bitter among us.  My brother defined the concept as "thinking everyone wants what I have and everyone wants what I might get."  Profound, is it not?  EVERY day of my life I see this overtly exhibited,  and at least in my walk, the more conservative and "religious" the person, the more rabid the defense...hence my opening quotation by Thomas Jefferson.   Coincidental the correlation?  Not really with regard to TJ.
Last year I visited Monticello.  Not being up to date with my Jeffersonian history, I brushed up in anticipation of my homage to Charlottesville.  Jefferson was a controversial figure to say the least, and continues to be so today if you truly delve into what he was, what he stood for, and those things upon which he was conflicted.
He was opposed to slavery yet he chose not to free his own.  He is aligned with Christianity, even though he was adamant in his belief in Deism.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In flight

Flash forward from college to just a few years ago.
Flying from NYC to Memphis and am seated next to Gloria Steinem. She is writing profusely on a yellow legal pad. I am determined not to begin incessantly talking...asking, telling her things I know she must hear all the time from people such as me.
She is beautiful...truly. A fact that belies that she is in her eighth decade of life. Nearly everyone who passes us recognizes her, and I am surprised that the majority of people who comment are young men...."Ms. Steinem, I have been so influenced by your work." "Gloria, my girlfriend has read all your books. "
Midway through the flight, her pen stops working and she asks if she may borrow one. Thus begins a conversation. She is on her way to speak at a university. We talk of her marriage to her husband ...her one and only marriage (David Bale) which occurred in her 60's. She mentions that she had waited so long to meet such a profound man, and was grateful for every one of the fleeting years she had with him before he died. ("David went through the world with few possessions and great empathy for all living things. He had the greatest heart of anyone I've ever known.") She tells me her UES apt is decorated in pink! She asks me about my work with fitness and wellness.
A gracious genuine human being. And oh so very intelligent.
I am thankful for that time on the plane, for the privilege of meeting someone who has made such influential contributions in my life and the lives of so many women. And I would venture to say men, as well.
I close these posts with her latest quote regarding our upcoming elections. This quote is what set me on a journey to blog my thoughts. For quite some time, I have been trying to formulate my thoughts regarding women in the Republican party and what I see as a step backwards for those things we have accomplished in the name of parity.
"I don't know if God is embarrassed by being given credit for Christine O'Donnell, but I am. I think great Republican women like Margaret Chase Smith and Millicent Fenwick would be, too." Gloria Steinem
Oh, and Millicent Fenwick is another of my heroines.

Gloria Steinem

I begin this blog with a snapshot of my life in the early 1980's on the campus of the University of Alabama in a little known radical elective class entitled "Women's Studies." I was floundering somewhere in my third year...disillusioned with and restless in my day to day existence as sorority girl and party animal. My life was filled with nothingness, loneliness, and complete lack of self-worth...all I might add, of my own doing. I was making unwise decisions, searching for and depending on things external to provide me value, and giving very little in the way of contributions to the world around me.

I found the class by default. I remember walking in to a round table discussion, clutching a crudely typed and bound collection of works by feminist authors that was to serve as my text. The all female class was collectively confident, outspoken, and to me appeared fearless. I remember feeling absolutely fascinated, compelled to learn, and instantly at home. This is one of the few times in my life I remember with precise clarity.

"Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described -- and will be, after our deaths -- by each of the family members who believe they know us." Gloria Steinem

Looking back on this class, as I often do when I run, I realized that this was pivotal in how I saw the world from that point, and how it shaped that which I hold sacred today. I really didn't feel a connection with much of anything until then, and perhaps because the time was right, I felt it then, and still do to this day. The women who had the courage to speak of the denigration and disparity against them, against us...the refusal to be victims.

I witnessed how different this was from the recent expulsion of a woman from a neighboring sorority because she had partaken in drug-laced punch at a frat house. I was at the party, and heard undercurrents that the punch in the huge garbage cans was laced. Guess I was one of the lucky ones to have had a heads up. This young woman became so out of her mind intoxicated that she publicly engaged in sexual intercourse with a line of fraternity members on their house rooftop. I feel certain today that this would be considered gang rape. She was subsequently disgraced and "scarlet lettered" while the fraternity brothers were heralded with back pats and "attaboys." This behavior encapsulated the blatant, egregious, and deep-seated thought process that pervaded our 1980's misogynistic society, co-existing defiantly with racism in the old south.

That was then...this is now. Is it really so different?