October 09, 2016

Let Me Speak: A protest to Donald Trump's "boys will be boys" defense

in response to: http://m.paysonroundup.com/news/2016/oct/04/phs-assembly-warns-girls-not-provoke-uncontrollabl/?templates=mobile

I am a survivor of sexual assault. LET ME SPEAK.

The rape culture in which we live is out of control--so clearly evidenced by this article and today's Facebook commentaries that defend Trump by soooo many men, even women. LET ME SPEAK.

I remember being taught in Grade 8 by a "hot" student teacher in our science class at Slauson Jr. High in Ann Arbor, MI, that us girls in the classroom were responsible for exciting the boys in the class to the point they wouldn't be able to hold back and would have to follow through with their arousal. Here's me: skinny, shy, unseated by danger. I cast a quick glance around. I was at their mercy? I thought of all the boys brushing up against me in the hallways. Their arousal somehow my fault? How was to know what would set them off? How was I to accept as my fate any boy's violence against me?
I did something I NEVER did in class. I raised my hand and I asked a question. Fear overcame my shyness.

An inarticulate question, to be sure. I had no words. My teacher did not give me words. I had only this helpless angst. I tried:
"Boys HAVE to hurt girls because a girl wears a pretty blouse? They can't just go squirt their stuff into a toilet? It HAS to be IN a girl?"

Silence. Then this: "Yes, but you can't expect them to do that. It's not fair.

Not. Fair????

LET ME SPEAK.

She didn't tell me that such action is illegal. She didn't put the law on my side. She just said I'd be "unfair" to the poor, suffering boy, overwhelmed by his uncontrollable urges--and only God could know what THOSE urges might be. Yes, the poor boy, overwhelmed by his own desires.

WAS DONALD TRUMP IN MY CLASS?

Was Billy Bush one of the sniggering boys?

LET ME SPEAK.

So is it any wonder, then, that at 17, when a doctor tells me to take off all my clothes (against the previous instruction of the nurse ) and then spends an HOUR--one HOUR--doing everything short of penile penetration?

My mother in the waiting room was frantic. I could hardly walk to the car. I was nauseous, faint, trembling, sore. I had no reason to believe that my vicious violation was illegal. Only that somehow I was too pretty (it had to have been my face because I had no clothes on, let alone a pretty blouse) for Dr. Don Mattson to resist. That what I suffered was society's concept of what was "fair" for boys. That my responsibility was to accept in silence my fate. My mother? She wanted to know what was wrong with me. What was I to tell her? My teacher's voice of four years before that fateful day of November 11, 1969, clanged in my ears.
LET ME SPEAK.

A year and a half ago I had a double mastectomy. I have massive scarring in my chest. And every morning when I wake up, and I move, and I stretch, and I pull back the covers, the tearing and tugging I experience puts me right back in that doctor's office 47 years ago next month. Can you understand the terrible pain that any mastectomy brings? And add to that the pain of molestation so severe I had to bite my lips and go somewhere deep inside my head in order to endure? In order to survive? And now I have feel that doctor's hands on my body every day--for the rest of my life? And this is only half of it. Above the belly button. It will be another 47 years before I speak of what else happened...
LET ME SPEAK.

Donald Trump is NOT a man for presidency of even the local Elks Club. He is of the rape culture that continues to blame women and exonerate the boys who can't help themselves.

I have spent some of my day weeping for that girl forever lost. I emerged, though, to find myself enraged, ENRAGED, that THIS is STILL going on!

At the high school level in Payson.

In the US presidential election.
LISTEN TO ME! And LET ME SPEAK!

Stop the madness.


July 10, 2016

On Racism and Police Brutality

I came to the US at the height of civil rights and found a voice within me that decried all forms of prejudice and racial scapegoating. This is when I began to write.
Ann Arbor, MI -- 1964
Tresa, Tim, Me, Dad, Linda, Mum

Coming from a county where policemen did not apply fire hoses to anyone, I discovered my twelve-year-old self outraged that so many white people had so many excuses for police brutality--especially in the name of God. I see we've come full circle.

For decades we've lived in slow but sure progress, at least on the surface, but with the election of Obama that surface shattered, giving way to the entrenched and systematic hatred that seems to define America.

When St. Louis Police Office, Ronald L. Fowlkes, can email 23 other city cops the day after elections with "I can’t believe I live in a country full of NIGGER LOVERS!” (followed by 31 exclamation points) it's indicative that blacks DO live in a scary shadow no white person ever has to know.

Rather than deflect and scapegoat by bringing up past behaviors and even rude and inappropriate responses of those killed by corrupt cops with their own history of aggressive overreach (in the same way we blame women for their rape, beating, etc. for what they're wearing or drinking), we can only escape the escalating violent chaos by naming that we have a problem. This should not be interpreted as anything but what it is. To say corrupt cops shouldn't shoot blacks is NOT saying all cops are corrupt, nor is it saying we don't appreciate good cops. The two statements are not mutually exclusive. And no problem is ever resolved if it remains unsaid. And by resolving the issue? We rid ourselves of racism with the added benefit that we make the lives of good cops--hard at work to keep us safe--so much safer!

I was twelve when Sandy, a black girl, and I became friends. I was twelve when I had sleepovers at her house, with too many children crammed into close quarters, Sandy and I curled up on broken bed, my back to the thin wall that allowed me to hear the black dialect of Michigan's impoverished working class. I was twelve when I understood that her family faced discrimination daily, that violence met her every day at school. I was twelve when I understood that I loved this family.

Love forever freed me from the sin of racism--or prejudice of any kind--so prevalent in this country I adopted as my own.

The following blog http://maryalicebirdwhistell.blogspot.com/2016/07/we-can-not-not-know-any-more.html was written by my son and daughter-in-law's minister. Her thesis is that we have to know what it's like to be black. I did this when I was twelve. I invite everyone to do the same.

February 27, 2016

John of Gaunt and Lady Katherine Swynford: A Royal Lineage

John of Guant Planatagenet
Katherine De Roet Swynford Plantagenet
The story of my 18th great-grandparents—Katherine de Roët Swynford and John of Gaunt—is the most endearing and enduring love affair in all of English history. My grandfather was the “greatest English nobleman of his time”—tall, lean, handsome, a mighty warrior, chivalrous, politically astute. He was the richest and the most powerful man as well; second only to his father, my grandfather King Edward III, and so great a prince that he was called the Greatest King England Never Had. My grandmother was renowned for her beauty, her kind and gentle nature, her financial acumen, her creative independence, most of all her piety. As his mistress, she was not his wife until late in the game. Still, she was (and is) “Mistress of the Monarchy,” for it’s through her children by John that Katherine became grandmother to both English and Scottish royalty, down to the present age. Several books have been written about their illicit and enduring love; their devotion to each other knew no bounds and withstood the test of time and the censure of church and state and public opinion. Lovers for twenty-five years before finally being able to marry, I’m not sure why there’s never been a blockbuster movie made, for their story is the very stuff of Hollywood: adultery, betrayal, chivalry, passion, sacrifice, separations, and murder. Ultimately, their devotion to each other changed the course of the royal bloodline and altered English history. The very least that can be said about their relationship is that without it I would not exist.

King Edgar of England
I actually plug into royalty long before John and Katherine. The very first kings of both England and Scotland were my great-grandfathers thirty-eight generations ago. Grandfather King Egbert reclaimed his English Wessex crown in 802 and by his death in 839 he’d been acknowledged as the first Sovereign over all of England. My Scottish grandfather, King Alpin MacEchdoch, was king of two kingdoms in what is now present-day Scotland, but because his son, my grandfather Kenneth I, increased the territory, founding Scotia, ancient Scotland, he is more often regarded as Scotland’s very first king. Still, the Scottish timeline begins with Alpin and from both Kings Egbert and Alpin I hopscotch down through the centuries: In England for about 600 years via the royal Houses of Wessex, Norman, Angevin, and Plantaganet; in Scotland some 500 years via Clans Dunkeld, Canmore, Balliol, and Bruce.

Alfred the Great
Some of my more illustrious grandfathers are Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, John Lackland (who’s cruelty and bad behavior prompted the Magna Carta), and Richard the Lionheart. A notorious grandmother was Isabella of France, married to my grandfather King Edward II. She did not like him much. Under guise of diplomatic mission she returned to France, took a lover (exiled for bad behavior), and together they crossed the channel with an army so large it scared off all the King’s men. She immediately deposed her husband and later had him barbarically and brutally murdered in the Tower so that she and Roger Mortimer could act as regents for her fourteen-year-old son, King Edward III. And this is where I tumble out of British royalty. 

King Edward III
King Edward III is my last English king grandfather. On the Scottish side I’d already fallen into obscurity by at least 100 years. King Robert the Bruce is my last Scottish king grandfather. Both kings were regarded as heroes and both were dearly loved. Probably my most adored kings in their time.

Still, I’d not fallen far from either tree. On both sides I remained (and remain) cousins, and my dual ancestry was reinforced because they intermittently intermarried—English royalty with Scottish, Scottish with English. The two crowns finally merged in 1603 when my British cousins ran out of heirs. We’re all fairly familiar with the basic precepts of this particular story. My cousin, King Henry VIII, went through six wives—divorced, beheaded, survived; divorced, beheaded, and died—and a break from the Catholic Church in order to begat a promising male heir. This never happened. Upon his death, his young and sickly son Edward VI, then Mary, and finally the “Virgin” Queen Elizabeth succeeded him. All three of these children died without issue, leaving England without a royal heir. 

King James VI and I
The crown was forced, then, in 1603 to slide sideways to Queen Elizabeth I’s Scottish cousin—my cousin King James VI. The crown slid his direction for two reasons: he descended from two of John of Gaunt and Katherine’s grandchildren—on the English side through their grandson John III and subsequent Tudor kings and queens—Kings Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VI, VII, VIII, Edward VI, Queens Mary and Elizabeth. On the Scottish side, he descended from John and Katherine’s granddaughter Joan. She’d married Scotland’s King James I way back in 1424 and begat Kings James II, III, IV, V, Mary Queen of Scots—who was mother to James VI. And so, as much as England and Scotland hated each other their thrones were united in 1603 under this man, renamed King James VI of Scotland, I of England—and from him come every king and queen since.

So what actually happened to me? How and where did I lose my direct lineage to the first kings of England and Scotland? I fell out of the Scottish family tree after Robert the Bruce, descending from his daughter rather than his son. I dropped out of English royalty with King Edward III, descending from John of Gaunt, third son rather than first. I was, however, grafted back in three times to keep my cousin thing going. 

King James I of Scotland
One: The first grafting was when John of Gaunt and Katherine’s granddaughter Joan married King James Stewart I of Scotland in 1424. He was brutally assassinated. She was injured trying to protect him but survived and married Scotland’s Black Knight, Sir James Stewart. I descend from the Black Knight.

 Two: The second grafting came about when John of Gaunt and Katherine’s great-great grandson ended the War of Roses and crowned himself King Henry IV. The throne until then had been held by John of Gaunt’s first wife’s children, but was now held by John’s offspring with Katherine, my kin. 

Joan, the Fair Maiden of Kent
Three: The third grafting happened when my 19th great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Holland, died. His beautiful wife, my grandmother Joan of Kent—known as the Fair Maiden of Kent—remarried, this time to John of Gaunt’s oldest brother and heir to the English throne, the Black Prince. Joan of Kent therefore went from being my grandmother to being my aunt. Unfortunately, her new husband died when their royal son was but nine years old. A year later the king himself was dead. This left Joan of Kent’s ten-year-old son Richard king—my step cousin. These three graftings, then, keep me still very much tangled in the royal family tree. Queen Elizabeth, although many times removed, is nonetheless my cousin.


I have always been frustrated by the lack of story in my forebears. For instance, what of my 4th great-grandfather George Wilbee, born in 1763 ?He was grocery store owner. What else? The sketchy storyline of Isabella Pettigrew Goodfellow has always driven me crazy. She weeded turnips at the Denholm Estate in her bare feet when she was sixteen years old, this I know. Her stepbrother raped her. Or was it consensual

See? So little detail to the drama! But then I bumped into royalty and out rolled the stories in all their brutality and treachery, their inspiration and innovative. The greatest story, of course, is the love affair of my 18th great-grandparents. John of Gaunt and Katherine de Roët survived the test of time and open censure from church and state and public opinion. Their illicit love changed the very course of English and Scottish history. And teaches us all that love can be triumphant.

Always a good story.