Here you go:

CultureSpeak: “Slut”

March 12th, 2012

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Cultural context: Apparently it’s the label given graduate students testifying before Congress in favor of insurance coverage of contraceptives. At least the label Rush Limbaugh gives them…

LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns — no! We’re not the johns. Well — yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word.

OK, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.

You’ve probably read about these comments and been tempted to discount them as more ravings from another obviously polarizing ultra-conservative media figure. I was tempted.

I was tempted to discount them as ravings — the kind we tend to become desensitized to. The kind we assume folks view as ridiculous hyperbole, or just plain ridiculous. It’s easy to gloss past something that is so overtly aimed at fire-starting. Or something that is so obviously a misconstruing of context. Or so incredibly minimizing of larger issues.

I was tempted to discount Mr. Limbaugh’s characterizations as so blatantly prejudicial to gender and family concerns that they are surely to be viewed as ignorant by the larger audience — so outlandish that they are easily found laughable by average Americans. I could numb my brain to the obvious implications or questions those comments raise because surely they aren’t taken seriously. Questions like…

1. Is there nothing commendable about a graduate student who is willing to stand before Congress to share her beliefs?
2. In 2012 America, is there no way for “conservatives” to find a fraction of respect for that?
3. Has the process of public discourse become so mind-numbing that we must resort to the use of euphemisms and outright vulgarity to grab the next news cycle?
4. Are all women who use contraceptives promiscuous?
5. Is there no room in the conservative mindset for a woman who might responsibly use contraceptives in planning her family?
6. Is it really ok in our society for a public figure to go on live radio and call a woman he doesn’t know a “slut?”
7. Does conservative thinking really mean jumping on the bandwagon of whatever mindless banter is spouted in a fruitless attempt at humor at another person’s expense?

Surely the answers to these questions are obvious. Surely Mr. Limbaugh’s comments which raised them are indeed reasonably discounted as preposterous. After all, American companies who pledged their advertising dollars on this radio forum are now retreating. Surely any reasonable person would discount these statements.

Yes, I’ve been tempted. To discount them. But I simply can’t. Because I’m reading that Rush Limbaugh’s listener numbers are just the same, maybe higher since his offensive tirade. Why are you, America?

I’m reading no reports that Clear Channel will be denouncing his actions with a cancellation. I’m reading painfully middle-of-the-road comments from candidates vying for conservative votes — because we wouldn’t want to offend conservative America by denouncing someone who calls women sluts on syndicated radio. Where are you, America?

I’m reading disrespectful name-calling from all kinds of self-proclaimed conservative pundits — no, not name-calling of Mr. Limbaugh, but jump-on-the-bandwagon comments about Sandra Fluke. Oh so witty. Filled with nice, big words and just the right amount of conservative jargon. But still calling a woman a “slut” for stating her beliefs about birth control and the need for women’s healthcare. Who are you, America?

Yes, I’ve been tempted to roll my eyes and deem this another one of those tirades. I’ve been tempted to file them in the “consider the source” category and move on. To discount them. But, I simply can’t. Because I sometimes think conservatively. And I don’t want this man speaking for me.

Wake up, America. Be careful where you lend your ears. It just might be where you find yourself living.

© Haley Montgomery

Joseph Kony

March 7th, 2012

I didn’t know who he was either. Until I saw this video this morning. Once I met him, I knew his name needed to be shared. Joseph Kony is listed as #1 on the list of world’s worst war criminals by the International Criminal Court. He was the first indicted at the organization’s inception. The mission of this video is to make him known. To bring him to justice and to thereby save (or bring justice for) the more than 30,000 children he has stolen from their homes.

No, I haven’t posted in a while, and this isn’t one of my usual Mommy musings. But it is powerful. Since I live in the luxury of having a VOICE, as I’ve written about, why not speak it in advocacy of something that matters?

“The better world we want is coming. It’s just waiting for us to stop at nothing.”

Check my youtube channel for more related videos here!

© Haley Montgomery

Hope Rises

September 11th, 2011

Courage remembered.
Faith undaunted.
Future alive.
Freedom flourishing.

September 11, 2011

 

 

 

 

© Haley Montgomery

Courage to Dream

January 17th, 2011

Of the many profiles in courage available in our time, the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. is shining. As we commemorate his life on this national holiday, I’ve been thinking about the type of courage he possessed and wondering about the lessons it still offers for my own pursuit in 2011.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of controversy to be sure. At least he entered our stage at a season of controversy, a season a long time in the making. He was a catalyst, an instigator in his sheer and unwaivering pursuit of freedom AND peace–at the same time. This man who was so hated and reviled by some, but deemed leader and even savior by many ignited the actions of others like few men in recent history. This man with the ear of pastors and presidents and poll workers and paupers alike demonstrated the life-changing quality of being willing to lend his ear and the power that results when we lend our words and actions to what we see as necessary and right. He was indeed a courageous man.

As I think about the legacy of Dr. King, many lessons emerge, but of all the teachings of courage available in this man’s exemplary life, this one rises:

“I have a dream.”

For me, this courage–the courage to dream–offers a poignant lesson and challenge. Delivered in one of the most profound and memorable speeches in our modern rhetoric, Dr. King spoke not only of life as it was on that day in 1963–as it had been for many years before–but of the reality he envisioned standing in stark contrast to it. Dr. King possessed the courage to look into the face of a dark and hopeless reality and pull from it a new vision of how life could be. A dream. And dreams require courage. Dreams require the courage to look past what seems immovable, to look beyond what has become normal and dare to see it as abnormal. To reject the notion that life as we know it is acceptable when, at our very core, we know it is not. This ability to see and voice the desire for that changed existence brings hope. And often makes a path of action possible.

Several months ago, Little Drummer Boy’s school conducted a book fair. I, of course, went to the school library to peruse the books and find the selections on LDB’s wishlist. I’m always looking for books that make science and history fun, and as I looked through the educational section, I came across one called A Value Tales Treasury by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It was a book that combined an introduction to several American historical figures with lessons in character building. Right up my alley! It used a unique approach to storytelling that highlighted how each memorable person listened to their “true voice” to make the right choices and to demonstrate the character of their best selves. I brought it home to the kids to a decidedly uneventful reaction compared to the Marvel Heroes treasury I also purchased. So, I put it on their bookshelf for later days.

A few weeks ago, that later day came. Little Drummer Boy found the book and became interested in the stories. Louis Pasteur taught us the value of believing in yourself. Helen Keller taught us the value of determination. Will Rogers taught us the value of humor. And, although Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t included, we came to a story about Harriet Tubman–another profile in courage worth exploring, to be sure. Harriet listened to her “true voice” to demostrate the value of helping–helping other slaves find freedom in the underground railroad, as she had been helped herself. It was a lesson in paying it forward, so to speak. And, for Little Drummer Boy, a lesson in a new idea. The idea that someone might be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.

After we finished the story, he wanted to turn back the pages to examine a few points he didn’t understand. The first was the concept of slavery where one person could be owned by another. Then, he turned to the page where Harriet had to ride home after the Civil War in the baggage compartment of the train. And how Harriet told her story. How it shocked many who read it and prompted them to work to change how others were treated. Little Drummer Boy was curious about this. He asked me, “why did Harriet have to ride with her suitcases?”

Realities.

I explained that at one time people were not allowed to go places or do things because they had dark skin. It was a powerful moment for me in realizing that this thought had never occurred to him. Thank God. I further explained to him how very important it was that Harriet let others know about her experience so that people could learn how they needed to be different. “In fact,” I told him, “we enjoy the results of what Harriet shared today.” His face told me another “why?” was coming. (LDB is nothing if not inquisitive.) “Well,” I asked him. “Who is your best friend?”

A smile broke across his face. And a light of understanding. “E,” he admitted in recognition. “E” is a 6-year-old African American classmate of several years and LDB’s best friend. It was his first recognition that E’s dark skin might be anything more than an interesting cosmetic feature that took a back seat to E’s amazing ability to kick and catch the ball or discuss the continuing saga of Transformers. And while in many ways it pained me to introduce the reality that there was a time when people might not have seen “E” this way, I was thankful for the opportunity to teach him that fairness is important for everyone. It’s important so that we are free to see friends near and far for the wonders they really are.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.”

As important as this lesson in racial equality was, the lesson in courage is even more powerful for me at this moment. You see, in my bedtime reading with Little Drummer Boy, I saw the reality of Dr. King’s dream realized in the most innocent and uncontrived circumstances. I saw a young boy who took no thought of the color of his friend’s skin. And, while I certainly don’t take full credit for that reality as his mother, I am grateful for it. And while I can’t claim that this reality is true for all in our nation, I’m thankful for the collective actions and experiences with others in Little Drummer Boy’s life that made it possible for us.

Dr. King never saw the fruition of his dream. But, the courage to dream that dream did, in fact, move what seemed immovable. I’m spurred toward his courage in my own day-to-day struggles, no matter how they pale in comparison. The courage to conceive of a life that is more than the one I see before me. The courage to believe in the best version of myself to make that life possible. Inspite of fear. Inspite of detractors. Inspite of the incredibly overwhelming “normal.” The courage to dream.

© Haley Montgomery

BP, Leftovers & Jesus: A Dialogue

June 3rd, 2010

I think I’ve mentioned my instigator friend, #17. He’s actually an old friend (don’t take that personally, #17) who claims to be a recent and avid EyeJunkie convert. I call him an instigator because he sometimes sends me links or questions or book recommendations to stir the Junkie pot a little, prompting me to express myself on various issues or ideas, and perhaps inspiring me to some essay eloquence. Right.

It happened this morning. Again.

Like many across our country (and indeed our planet), I’ve been watching news of the oil “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico over the past six weeks. The story is of particular interest to those, who like me, live in Mississippi and other Gulf states. But, the implications environmentally and economically are so much more far-reaching.  Anyone who is awake is certainly convinced of that. Right? When I heard of the proposed “top kill” option to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf, my first thought was, “This whole process is an exercise in experimentation with 210,000 gallons of oil gushing daily.” It’s a frightening concept to realize you are reaching the limit of your own capacity to redeem a situation.

Enter #17.

This morning he called my attention to an article from the New York Times about the affect the “spill” is having on Louisiana shrimpers and fishermen. The implications of this disaster on their way of life and livelihood are unmistakeable, including the  larger questions of whether shrimp from the Gulf will ever be safe to eat. The plot thickens on the impact of the explosion at Deepwater Horizon. #17 wondered aloud in cyberspace why the disaster is still being called a “spill” rather than a “crime scene.” Good question. But a crime against what? Against whom?  Then, of course, #17 took the probe one step further.

“WWJD?”

For the unindoctrinated, that means “What would Jesus do?” Yep. Once an instigator, always an instigator. The ensuing dialogue in pursuit of an answer to that question made me think. It made me sad. It made me wonder. It made me ask more questions. With #17’s permission, I thought I’d share it here with little editing…

Junkie: And what’s YOUR take on what Jesus would do?

#17: Maybe He would cry. Why don’t YOU lead me to water on this?

Junkie: I don’t know about leading to water, but random thoughts…

I do think God is grieved by it. I believe a few facts about God that color the situation.

I think God made this earth. I think He designed it to be a living and continual testament to Himself and His existence. I also think He made it to sustain itself in many ways, but also to need a caretaker. The first few chapters of the Bible indicate that God designated man to be that caretaker. I think God designated man as the culmination of His creation — therefore not equivalent to nature, but more important than nature. In many ways, He designed the “system” or nature to serve man. That’s not necessarily a popular opinion with environmental groups.

In those first few chapters of Genesis, there is the account of man in the garden of Eden. Some see it as figurative, some as a recount of history. To me, the concepts are the same regardless. In that story, it was God who killed the first animals to provide clothing for man after his “fall.” The environment was used to serve the needs of man.

So, there’s a fine line with this situation. I think it’s ok for man to explore, ok to tap and use the resources we have available on this planet. However, God entreated man to be the caretaker. So there is an inherent responsibility of stewardship. I think that’s where we fall short. I think that’s where greed takes over. I think that’s where we show our lack of restraint. That lack of restraint and balance is what so often leads us into disaster.

But, above all, I believe God is compassionate. He gave souls to men, not to plants or animals. In this situation, I think he still sees the people as more important than the damage. I’m also aware that the two aren’t easily separated.

What would Jesus do?
I don’t know. I think He would have men act with compassion. I think He would want us all to take responsibility for our own actions, to own them. I think He would want sincerity in motives and actions. I think He wants the extra mile, the giving of the shirt as well as the coat, the recognition of what is priceless. I think He wants this mess cleaned up.

I like the idea of the Gumbo parties. [Gumbo for the Gulf is the benefit brain child of Environment Michigan.] Go out and buy shrimp. Eat it and give. But, is a halt to all drilling the answer? I don’t know.

I know that for many counties in Mississippi and Louisiana, the best job opportunities for feeding families are found in offshore drilling (and ironically in fishing or aquaculture). With the limited educational opportunities and historic poverty, those jobs are essential in many ways. In Mississippi, forestry is one of the largest industries (if not the largest) — another target of the environmental lobby. The current crisis is in need of funds and so are the shrimpers and other fishermen. But what about long term? What economic development can be produced to replace the jobs lost with a halt to all drilling?

And, the reality is that most goods are delivered by freight across this country. A reduction in the amount of available oil (regardless of its source) means double or triple prices on basic needs. I can’t afford that again.

There are many positions here. And not many easy answers. For me, I think the best answer lies in balance and restraint. For regulations and limits to be real. For incentives for alternative fuel to be real and enticing. For disincentives to breeching the limits to be real and detrimental.

#17: I agree completely.

I appreciate the narrative about the scripture. I also see nature as something in service to man. So did the Romans. So did the American Indians. Have you read Wendell Berry? On Stewardship? [more instigation]

I also believe in moderation and compassion. I believe in restraint and delicacy. That’s why I re-read books, why I wear my clothes out, why I have ridden a bike for so long. Its why I took the bus in Cincinnati. Its why I took the train home in Mississippi. That’s why I buy $25 of gas at a time, why I eat leftovers and pack a lunch. Its why I put new lenses in old frames and why I’m careful about how often I wash clothes.

I also believe Jesus would be grieving. And so do many others at a distance from this crisis. We feel helpless.

Junkie: Everyone feels helpless. And, we ARE in many ways.

Presumably the best and brightest minds from the private and public sectors are applying solutions to this problem to no avail. That’s not an easy thing for man to accept. And, it’s not an easy thing to look in the mirror as a race or a people after having created such a far-reaching dilemma. It’s not easy to admit that we had no foresight, or at least inadequate foresight. It’s like the realization after Hiroshima — what have we done? What genie is now out of the bottle?

Bringing it back to the real people, I think what bothers me the most is the rush to embrace agendas. It’s human nature and politics, but it’s taking our eyes off the ball. Party lines, Obama bashing, big oil bashing. The rhetoric has a place, but it is in the back seat. I was disappointed most, I think, to see the immediate adversarial relationship established by the EPA representatives upon their arrival two weeks after the explosion. In reading the tenor of the press conferences since, it put BP in an immediate defensive position. Of course, they’re going to be the fall guy. They are going to be the culprit. That’s obvious. But, that was a mistake in crisis management. To establish advocacy and an environment of cooperation fosters the best ideas. It squelches the need for secrecy and hedging. I think that approach was politically motivated, and it offended me as a citizen of a state that is likely to be affected directly by this disaster for decades. And, to see a Congressman holding up a glass filled with dark liquid that could just as easily have been 3-day old coffee was just ridiculous posturing.

You know, I’m seeing articles where the concept of “risk management” and its viability are coming into question. The assumption is that BP (or any of the oil companies) may have imagined this scenario in some brainstorming session somewhere in the past, but it was likely not even addressed because the possibility was so remote. Now, the remotest possibility has created a situation where a hazmat suit is required to walk in the Louisiana marshes that feed the lowest elements on the food chain — for wildlife and humans. “Managing” risk is an exercise in choosing, in setting priorities. Unfortunately, the priorities provided by probability (and certainly by financial gain) are being shown NOT to match up with the potential consequences. The horror is that just as we can’t conceive of an appropriate solution to this problem we’ve caused, we also can’t conceive of the true impact. For all our smarts, our brains simply aren’t big enough to accurately predict that.

Dialogue is important. Sadly, it’s not always the product of this small world we live in. It’s not always the norm for friends living 17 states apart or issues entrenched an ocean apart. But, I think maybe that dialogue is our greatest hope for solutions.

From there OUR dialogue moved into less weightier topics and pleasantries, punctuated by something like…

Junkie: What were you thinking getting me started with both Jesus AND British Petroleum at the same time?

#17: A *smirk* I could read loud and clear across 17 states.

© Haley Montgomery

    Wander Here

    Thank you for seven years of encouragement and sharing this story. You can find Haley's current essays and design work at smallpondgraphics.com

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