The last two weeks I’ve attended back to back trainings. One conference featured all the problems while the other offered promising solutions. Trauma-informed care is a service delivery model being implemented all over the country in part due to the study on Adverse Childhood Experiences. I’ve been researching it for ten years and advocating for its implementation for 5. I’m tired but stubborn. When qualified, white males in power come into understanding of what is, change happens. Change also happens when people speak up, share their experience and ask for what they need, although this process tends to take longer. Just ask ‘non-whites’, differently-abled people, women, children, foreigners and any person who is not our old and dear friend, Social Norm. As such this summer I had the word Patience stitched permanently into my arm. I trace the letters each time I’m sitting in a conference and the phrase ‘culture of poverty’ is uttered. It still feels like bad manners to stand up and say ‘I’ve seen a mailbox used as a weapon. Can I maybe skip this part? Also, for the record, fried Spam is amazing.’
Enter Me Too; a grassroots hashtag movement created by Tarana Burke, recycled this weekend in response to that old Hollywood guy who sexually harassed famous women. Social currency has power which can be used for good or greed depending on who we are. I welcomed the opportunity to join the other Me Too voices and flip the script on shame, silence and this illusion that it’s not happening. Some argue the onus shouldn’t be on ‘victims’ to have to tell our story and advocate for change. I’ve found myself researching the pathology of sex offenders and wondering what we’re doing as a society to essentially breed dysfunction and what we could do to change our course. I often hear the cry for systems, public servants, doctors and other types of providers called into the role of ‘informed party’. As if to say they must take responsibility off trauma survivors to advocate for and protect ourselves from being retraumatized. It reminds me of the expectations we have of parents to be ‘good’. You should do this! You should do that! Cut off my crusts! Love me unconditionally! Get me 110% Ok, that’s nice. But what happens when they don’t, can’t or won’t? Really, who outs themselves for being crap, terrible, hurtful or a criminal? ‘Hi ya! That embezzlement scam? All me.’ Not so much.
I tend to believe it’s both and; we’re all responsible for our part in sorting through our healing needs, contributing to paradigm shifts and at the very least, not being an asshole. If survivors have to take the first steps, so be it. This has been the case with other marginalized or afflicted groups. I coached my mom through our first adult conversations about my sexual trauma. It’s clunky sometimes but overall I’m proud of us. Turns out she’s a Me Too, too. Sometimes we get interrupted by rogue screams to a dog or my stepdad but it adds character. Like salt or chili powder. Our ability to at least try to be honest gives me hope for other families. Doctor Spock’s advice runs out at homemade teething rings. She still thinks I’m too thin. Progress not perfection. I’ve learned to do the same with doctors appointments. I share a quick and tidy version of my trauma history, telling them what I need so I don’t end up on the cieling. A list of santitation ingredients used on that probe sure would be helpful doc. Oh and if I cry it’s involuntary. My safe word is Batman. Humor helps. I disagree that it’s pandering but if you’ve found a more effective form of assertive self-advocacy I’m all ears. Not sure I’d ever expect someone to know those particular needs without explanation.
Nick Hanauer is a wealthy person who advocates for equality and has an intriguing Facebook page. I took a peek and found this inspiring quote: “we need a politics of class uplift and solidarity to overcome the schisms”. I barely understood the rest of the article but boiled down my thoughts to meat and potatoes for the rest of us. Ya know, in keeping with this theme of ‘me too’.
We need solidarity whether those schisms be race, wealth, health, adversity, gender, sexual orientation or which way we reload the roll of toilet paper. I’m an ‘over’ roller myself but if you happen to prefer ‘under’, more power to ya friend. Perceived threats to primal safety feed fears which foster division. Whatever resource we have access to grounds us in a stance of protective defense. These defenses become our weapons. For some the weapon is hatred, for others it’s wealth, achievement and socially normative privileges like being white, having legs and all 5 senses. For many others we’ve been taught to use our victim-status or dis-ability as a source for being loved, having a voice and feeling powerful. Remember the show Queen for a Day? The woman with the very worst/best sad story won all the prizes. We’re essentially encultured to be either codependent saviors or bully addicts whose soul-mission is obtaining the ultimate and blameless cry of The Hurt Person. Poor Joseph Campbell tried to tell us, but man refuses to be parted from his leading roles and symbols. “But dad, I’m Jesus Christ.” (Remember that Bill?) The truth is we all inherently possess gifts and abilities which, within the right context, could allow us to obtain self-actualization. Many people with monetary wealth fail to achieve realization of their whole potential due to the same fears which might be a barrier for someone without money; fear of losing the love or approval of family or ‘tribe’, fear of the risks involved, complacency, ambivalence and general existential crisis. Jamie Johnson’s documentary Born Rich does a great job portraying this but many refuse to watch it because who wants to feel empathy for wealthy, young heirs? I did, believing that compassionate understanding is the answer to bridging all the divisions. When we see hatred or division we need to begin asking: What are they/I afraid of losing?Who or what is their/my hatred or greed protecting? What changes could we make as a community or nation to replace fear with love?
Me too is all of us. Ego is the root of evil. Love is the answer. xo