157 – Pink Hats, Men, A March, And Liberty

 

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PINK HATS, MEN, A MARCH, AND LIBERTY…

I wasn’t going to talk about this topic today.  My plan was going to mull it over for awhile.  I was going to let it steep in my consciousness for a few days and maybe talk about it on Friday…but, because of the way things are happening and the way news is being spread I have changed my mind and decided to talk about it today.

If you are a regular listener to this show then you know that I try hard to not bring politics or religion into the discussion here.  There is a reason for that, the reason being that these things tend to divide people into groups and I prefer to talk about what unites us.  I prefer to focus on the fact that we are all men, regardless of our political or religious positions.

In this episode I will stray from this policy slightly….only as far as I need to though.  Before you fly off the handle and unsubscribe, I ask you to listen.  Keep in mind that at the core of this discussion I am still addressing the character of men; our behavior, our reactions, our language, and ultimately our best interests. 

I will mention certain politicians in this episode, because they are pertinent to the topic and things that happened, do not take any of my comments as an endorsement or criticism of these politicians, because that would be inaccurate.   

Here we go.

On Saturday, January 21st, I accompanied my wife to the women’s march in Seattle.  I didn’t want to.  To be perfectly honest I thought it was all kind of stupid.  Seattle is 90 minutes away from where I live and with travel and parking and everything else it was sure to eat up an entire day in which I had other, more important things to do.

I was hoping she would just decide to March in the smaller town we live in…so I could get on with my life.

Like I said, I thought the whole thing was a monumental waste of time that would not accomplish anything.  I didn’t share these feelings with my wife because I respect her and love her.  I don’t think it is my job to impose my beliefs on her and tell her how to feel or think, and in return she doesn’t tell me how to feel or think.  We are each allowed to be ourselves, and that works out pretty well.

I decided to attend the march with her for two reasons;  because I wanted to support her in something she felt passionate about, but mainly…because I wanted to be able to protect her if their march was met with opposition.  If she was hurt on my watch, it would be my fault, and there have been a lot of crazy anarchist running around causing trouble lately.

My wife was passionate about joining this march.  In the weeks leading up to it she had been knitting pink hats with little cat ears.  These hats were the identifying attire of choice for the marchers because another name for a cat…is pussy.

The hats were intended to highlight and remind people of the misogynist statements That Donald Trump had made years earlier in 2005, which came out during the campaign.  If you are unfamiliar with what he said, here is a link to it: http://www.beingabettermanpodcast.com/What_trump_said  In his comments he repeatedly used the word “pussy”, so they are called “pussy hats”.

OK…as men, what are we supposed to do with that?  Many of us, myself included have been raised to avoid using that word, especially around women because it is a derogatory nickname for a very private part of female anatomy.  All of a sudden there is an army of women using the name pussy hats. 

It’s uncomfortable, it’s lewd, it seems disrespectful…and, I think that is the point.  Many women feel that his comments were summarily excused as “No big deal”.  It happened so long ago…boys will be boys, and by Trumps own statement; it was just locker room talk. 

Women who are advocates of the pussy hat name do not want it to be swept under the rug.  They feel that any man who would refer to women in such terms is not worthy of public office, not worthy to be in a position to make decisions that will effect their future, because it is indicative of a foundational lack of character, as a man.  So, the pussy hat name, I believe, is intended as a constant, visceral reminder.

I think something we need to keep in mind as men, is that it doesn’t really matter what we think of Trumps statements personally…because we are not women.  We are not threatened by these statements.  What we need to keep in mind is how it makes women feel.  Perception is reality, and the reality for these women is that it makes them feel oppressed and objectified as a group.  How they feel is not right or wrong, it is simply how they feel and that is their reality.

My wife made one of these hats for me…she knew I would not wear a pink one, so she made mine in two shades of blue.  Nor would I call it a pussy hat, I instead called it a “Tom Cat Hat”.

So, I grudgingly went to the march, quietly but firmly ensconced in my own set of prejudices and ideas.  What I’m going to share with you next is the unexpected effect this march had on me.

We parked and took the light rail into Seattle.  As soon as we got out of the car I was seeing these pink hats everywhere, and we were still quite a ways, miles away from the event.

We rode the train into the city.  My wife had brought many extra pussy hats to hand out to those who didn’t have one.  She gave a few away on the train to the delight of her fellow marchers.

We arrived in the city and began walking a few blocks to a park that was to be the rally point for the march.  We were with the group that got off the train, but on every side street, at every intersection, from every paved tributary I saw more pink hats trickling in from every direction. 

It reminded me of multitudes of salmon, returning from the ocean to all arrive at the same stream they were spawned in.  As we walked, the numbers continued to grow and grow. 

I was happy and relieved to see I was not the only man.  I estimate that 30 to 40 % of those in attendance were men.

Finally, we got to the park.  Actually…the park had been transformed into a ocean of pink hats and signs.  I was staggered by the numbers, by the sheer mass of people.  Everywhere I looked in every direction as far as I could see…there were people who had all come together for this singular purpose.

We made our way through the crowd to the north end of the park where we were meeting a friend.  As I looked around and read all the signs I began to realize that it wasn’t just a woman’s march.  Several groups were represented there. 

It was not just an anti-Trump march like I had suspected, it was a march for personal liberty of every kind.  Women who felt their personal liberties were being threatened, along with minorities of every color who had been made to feel marginalized.

People who’s issue was the preservation of the affordable care act, and the LGBT community, and many other people who were not in any of these groups, but were there in solidarity with them because they felt it was the right thing to do.

Some of my preconceptions began to wobble.  I could not help but be impressed by the sheer bigness of it all.  It was remarkable.

One of my original notions was that it was all a waste of time because it wouldn’t accomplish anything.  Nothing would change, no policy would be effected.  They didn’t have any clear demands or agenda and therefore it was all an exercise in futility.

I was watching everything very closely in an effort to support my beliefs…reading all the signs and studying peoples behavior.

I saw some signs that were not very tasteful, some others I didn’t agree with, but many were very creative and clever and some made me laugh out loud. 

All of the thousands of people there were friendly and civil, even cheerful.  I didn’t hear any political rhetoric, there was no man-bashing.  I saw people of every age from infants to the very elderly.  Every size, shape, gender, and color of human.

The route for the march was 3 1/2 miles long.  When the first marchers arrived at the end there were still people at the other end just getting started.  The most recent estimates I’ve heard is that there were 175,000 people there. 

Hearing a number like that is entirely different than being in the middle of it.  I was blown away by how many people had come to this thing.

Somewhere during the march something happened…I got it.  What I had originally thought was a foolish waste of time and effort suddenly became something noble, and real, something I respected.  I understood what was happening to be a very pure form of American expression.

As a man I was moved.  Admittedly very few of the issues represented at the march affected me personally as a white male.  Some of the issues and groups represented I don’t agree with at all.  I realized that I don’t need to agree with everything, I only need to acknowledge the fact that there are many people who feel threatened and vulnerable by a future which has been made uncertain by the actual words of elected officials. 

These people came together under different banners in a peaceful demonstration to send a message to those officials, to put them on notice.  It was that collaborative effort that I found most beautiful.  Indeed, that is how it is supposed to work.

Early estimates are that over 5,000,000 people worldwide participated in the march.  Los Angeles had 700,000 people.  Washington DC had another half million.  Chicago, Portland, Fairbanks Alaska, Oslo, London, every major city in the world and many minor ones all had their own march.

So where am I going with all this?  Why am I even talking about it?  Because, as men who want to be better than we were yesterday, we have an obligation to approach things that impact our world with some degree of forethought.

In my social media I have many people from every walk of life.  Conservatives and liberals and everything in between.  It is the discourse I have seen since the march that has prompted me to talk about this.

A sad reality of our two party system in my opinion, is that everyone who is not with you is against you.  I have seen a lot of men ridicule the marchers, call them names like crybabies and snowflakes. 

Many people are like me before I participated, they don’t understand what it’s all about.  They say Trump hasn’t done anything yet, we should give him a chance, they are getting all worried for nothing. 

In almost every case though, people who are saying this are not from one of the groups who feel threatened and marginalized…they are from a privileged class.

I would argue with these people that things have been done…words have been said…and words mean things.  There were many words uttered during the campaign that have caused people to fear for the liberty and rights they hold dear.

I say again, it doesn’t matter if we agree with these people or not.  One the the fundamentally greatest things about America is the freedom we have to disagree.  The fact is, that is how they feel…and that makes it valid because their perception is their reality.

Is it realistic to expect them to lay down like sheep and do nothing?  Should we expect them to just wait and see in the face of language that made them feel personally threatened?  I am proud of them for doing something, for being part of the process instead of doing nothing, and I encourage everyone everywhere to be proud of them as well.

Regardless of where you stand on issues I encourage you as a man, to be kind.  Think before you speak.  I’m sure many of you spent the weekend debating this very thing…some of you may have already said things that will damage your relationships and ruin friendships. 

Just…have care and be respectful of other peoples feelings and beliefs and remember you don’t have to win every argument, there are more important things than being right.

I foresee more of this in the months to come.  I have a challenge to issue to you as men.  The next time there is a woman march…participate in it, with an open mind.  If you still feel compelled to ridicule it afterwards, so be it.  But until you experience it, you have little ground to ridicule it in my opinion.

For me, this all comes from a deeply held belief that as men we have an obligation toward the safety and welfare of those people around us, wether we know them or not.  I think it’s one of the greatest things about being a man; the ability to leave something good in our wake.

As I said earlier, it was not my intent to be political on one side or the other here.  For the record, I didn’t vote for Trump, or Hilary.  I went with a third party because it’s important to me to believe that people believe what they are saying…even if I don’t agree with them.  I personally am not aligned with the republicans or the democrats.  I take what I like from each, and reject what I find objectionable.

Now head out into the world and think, and act, and react, and speak wisely…with care for others.  In doing so you won’t just be providing a service to them but to yourself as well, because you will be a better man today than you were yesterday.

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