Author Archives: Lizzy

Giving Tuesday

EDIT: Sooooo I posted this a whole week early. Giving Tuesday is November 28, not November 21. Adjust your donations accordingly!

It’s Giving Tuesday tomorrow and I’m looking over my 2017 donations–trying to be both more focused and consistent as well as more aware of when and two whom I’m giving. I want to make sure I’m budgeting appropriately and adequately covering the organizations I want to give to. There’s also the odd appeal from a friend who’s doing a fundraiser for an organization I don’t normally support who has a special campaign or sometimes a solicitation directly from an organization will appeal to me–I want to be prepared when that happens, not only with a ready knowledge of how much I can give but whether it will mean not making another donation. Whether I’ve supported that place in the past.

My monthly giving goes to:

My structured annual giving (often in the form of memberships or Christmas presents) goes to:

My scattershot donations usually include (among others):

I also give to a breast cancer walk a friend does every year, and usually to one or more suicide helplines, some political organizations, and a bunch of places I’m probably not remembering because it’s random. Which is the reason I decided to look at things this year. Already, in pulling together the monthly or annual gifts, I see that I’m not reaching my philanthropy goal and I see some gaps. But I never see any gift I regret, even when I see gifts I never repeat.

There may not seem a common theme (although I think there is) among the groups on my list, but there is a very common foundation in these choices–they are connected to my friends. They are groups my friends support, or work with, or volunteer with, or which serve (or have served) their needs. And we talk about our philanthropy together; we volunteer together; we ask for donations to celebrate our milestones.

And every year when my friends and family give to the nonprofit where I work, I am really grateful–not just because we get to keep the lights on for another year or expand our court reform programs–but because I know such generous people. I am so impressed with the thoughtfulness of my friends and their willingness to engage with the needs of their community through philanthropy and through volunteering.

Some of the folks I am talking about

And I never mind when I see their fundraising posts. I never mind when we collect donations for a cause at a pub. There is so much need in our community and such a lack of political will to provide for those needs through our government. All sorts of needs: food, shelter, medical care, but also medical research or job services or youth development or arts. All the things that make us whole. I love that my friends–who help keep me whole–step up to meet when these needs when society fails to.

Giving Tuesday is about joining together when we give. It’s about sharing our motivations, our goals, and our community in giving.

 

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This year I’m also trying to figure out where to donate in honor of my Dad at Christmas. Veterans’ charities have terrible reputations on the whole–I have no idea why this is. A friend suggested a couple which his workplace supports: Vets in Tech, Team Rubicon and Operation Homefront; perhaps I’ll chose one of them. But maybe I’ll look for a scholarship fund, though I think he’d also appreciate a lake and river preservation effort.

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Regret and Rehabilitation

Does it matter if they stopped? Does it matter if they changed? a person asked in a conversation I was part of, about all these sexual assault and harassment revelations.

I think it does, although I know it’s hard to measure and that it may never matter to the people they harmed. And I certainly don’t know if a particular man has examined his behavior, has recognized it for what it was, regrets it or has changed. I hope that all men accused of prior assault or harassment have stopped harming women but I rarely have information about that. There may be no proof; we have no obligation to trust them ever again, but that does not mean they cannot change.

And no, random good work is not sufficient. People are multi-faceted and examples of generous or “good” behavior does indicate rehabilitation with regard to misogyny or sexism or preying on women. Specific good work to combat the harassment and assault of women and the manipulation of power imbalances between men and women does.

So I do think it matters if individual men change. And I hope we will recognize it when they do, without attempting to erase harm they cause and without demanding that victims behave in any particular way toward men who harmed them. But I believe in rehabilitation or I would not work in court reform; I would not make an effort to change myself or my community.

This is what I think “Of course you’ve all done it. Each of you. Even if it was just laughing at a gross misogynist joke with your mates when you were fourteen, even if it made you feel uncomfortable to laugh and not say ‘dude, that’s not cool.’ What separates the good among you from the unsafe among you is the ability to one day stop going along. To one day recognize that you’re not ‘pushing a boundary’, you’re harming someone. To admit that there was no gray area, you assaulted that person. And stop doing it and start calling other men out when they do it.”

So yes, I believe that it matters if men change, even if just in their own hearts and own actions, but even more in the way they respond to the men around them and the shitty things those men do to women. I believe men need to change, and can change, and I believe they do.

Even recognizing the possibility of sincere regret, of actual person growth and rehabilitation, I know there are boundaries to it. I know that the journey from being an adolescent who kisses a girl against her will at a kegger to a man who always seeks consent is a different journey than that of a man who demands sexual favors at the price of your career. It’s clear some men don’t regret their behavior only that they’ve been caught and that the world seems no longer willing to accept their excuses. In either case,

Most importantly, I know that is irrelevant both to consequences and to the opinion of any given victim. No matter how clear the evidence of either repentance or rehabilitation, a person harmed by sexual assault or sexual harassment owes the perpetrator nothing. Not forgiveness, not understanding, not  belief in his rehabilitation, not assistance in repairing his name. Nothing.

These things can both be true: that men who harass and assault women can be taught to change and that the women they harm owe them nothing if they do. By extension, the rest of us do not owe them trust, even when we believe they are doing the work. If you break trust, it will not be readily available to you in the future.

QotD

“The fact that both parties are willing to defend on partisan grounds rapists and sexual offenders based on their political views, in my mind is exhibit A that this indeed is a rape culture. And rape culture always has been bipartisan.”–person on a message board, discussing an article about Bill Clinton’s history of sexual harassment and assault.

Additional reading (which is not the article being discussed by the person quoted above):
“Most of all, as a [male] citizen I’ve come to see that the scandal was never about infidelity or perjury — or at least, it shouldn’t have been. It was about power in the workplace and its use. The policy case that Democrats needed Clinton in office was weak, and the message that driving him from office would have sent would have been profound and welcome. That this view was not commonplace at the time shows that we did not, as a society, give the most important part of the story the weight it deserved. “–Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned, Matthew Yglesias

i\I’ve added “male” to this sentence because in 1998, when I was in law school, small groups of women were quietly calling what happened to Monica Lewinsky what it was: vicious sexual harassment of the sort we should expect when we went to the Hill (I went to law school in DC) or at Big Law. I recall becoming quite angry at a (male) friend who laid most of the blame on the women (Lewinsky, Tripp, Jones and Mrs Clinton), reserving the rest for Republicans who were blowing things out of proportion.

Yglesias is right: Bill Clinton should have resigned; his party should have demanded it. Yglesias is right, as well, that in re-evaluating the situation, we can’t change the past but we should be clear about it. That means recognizing that those of us who saw Bill Clinton for what he was at the time were ignored, shouted down, dismissed as man-haters or of so little consequence in power structures, no-one cared.

But this is a change I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: the recognition of this constant noise and pressure and threat which comes from casual sexism and everyday misogyny. The understanding that yes, every woman is treated this way; that many of us are seriously damaged by it but that all of us are harmed by it. The realization that it is your job not to let it continue.

I still favor repeal

As I understand it (from professional colleagues and other sources), this link between domestic violence and gun violence (whether against a partner or humans generally) is pretty well established–it’s simply a failure of political will to do anything about it. Illinois revokes your gun license when you’re served with an Order of Protection (which is available in a broad variety of relationship contexts–whether familial, romantic or residential). It’s ahead of many states in both this steps, but an OP is not always possible for a variety of reasons (there’s a lot of tension between the “fix things for victims of domestic violence” camp and the “fix all these structural oppressions in the criminal justice system” camp, also for a variety of reasons).

Nonetheless, I find that Mike Quigley is generally stepping up in our bizarro world.

As you may recall, the CDC stopped researching firearms as a health crisis in 1996 when Congress threatened to pull its funding after the NRA accused the CDC of promoting gun control. Sidestepping to the DOJ might be a good idea, but I prefer the CDC be protected in doing its job and that Congress just generally start telling the NRA to fuck off.

At This Moment

I am ashamed of those moments I privileged law over justice or valued order over community. The opposite of law and its attendant order is not, as we fear, anarchy and violence. Anarchy and violence, rather, result from law and order which try to exist for their own sake, instead of which try to serve.

Law and order cannot be the master because law is but the means. Justice is the end.

I Did a Thing

I was a last-minute substitution to the 20 x 2 show last night in Chicago, where 20 of us took two minutes to answer the questions: What Are You Waiting For?

It was fun and the other performers were an interesting assortment of talent and ideas. A couple of them were even friends of mine! The front row of the audience was super-enthusiastic, too.

I am very glad to have been included.

I have my notes of where I went wrong (surprising how much peril lurks in 2:15–I ran slightly long), but mostly, I very much enjoyed the chance to do a thing of the sort I have not done since college. Not just to do my own little bit but also to mingle with others doing their bit and spend some time around the Let’s Put on a Show vibe that I enjoyed before law school.

I have a lovely circle of friends and a great social network here but–well, I have more thoughts to tweeze out here about a community of being and supporting versus a community of doing and facilitating. Thoughts I did not realize I was having. I am about to spend some time at the beach with not much to do, perhaps the thoughts will come together.

In the meantime, this is what I said in response to the 20×2 question: “What Are You Waiting For?”:

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I am never relaxed.  Comfortable? Possibly. Confident? Where appropriate. Calm? As necessary. But I Never Not Ever Relax.

So you might guess that I’m waiting for the blow. Bracing for impact. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Catch. The Hitch. The Gotcha.

Except I’m not. I not waiting at all. For anything.

Because there is no need. There’s no next. No resolution. No finale. No Bang. No whisper.

Just each moment. Just each action. Each thought. And then the next. Then the next. The next and the next. And the none at all. So you might say that I’m waiting for nothing.

Which is not to say I’m waiting for death. Just that I’m not—so far as I know—waiting for anything.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not enlightenment. No carpe diem moment of zen. I put plenty of things off. And I have no more patience than your average middle-aged public interest attorney working in an unjust world.

But waiting? For what? For change? For justice? For the world to catch up with itself? I think not. I’ll wait for the elevator. I’ll wait for the toaster. (I’ll wait for the bus) But I’ve learned not to wait for humanity—I’m already anxious enough.

You see, change happens after you work for it your whole life. So you musn’t wait for it. To wait for it is to drive yourself mad. It torments your hope. Betrays your belief and hobbles you.

I don’t wait. And I never relax.

But in this I find belief in the value of each moment which follows each thought without ever actually displaying this Good we’re waiting for.

Just laying it down. In thin imperceptible layers of progress. Each of us. Each moment. One thought at a time.

 

From every mountainside, let freedom ring

You may have seen this going around: From an essay titled Is Patriotism a Virtue? by Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre:

I understand the story of my life in such a way that it is part of the history of my family or of this farm or of this university or of this countryside; and I understand the story of the lives of other individuals around me as embedded in the same larger stories, so that I and they share a common stake in the outcome of that story and in what sort of story it both is and is to be: tragic, heroic, comic. A central contention of the morality of patriotism is that I will obliterate and lose a central dimension of the moral life if I do not understand the enacted narrative of my own individual life as embedded in the history of my country. For if I do not understand it I will not understand what I owe to others or what others owe to me, for what crimes of my nation I am bound to make reparation, for what benefits to my nation I am bound to feel gratitude.

That last line–that is why I have been marching and protesting and calling the legislatures weekly since November. What I owe others, and what others owe to me, that is community, that is country, that is home. The measure of me and my life is what I do with those debts.

“. . . I will obliterate and lose a central dimension of the moral life if I do not understand the enacted narrative of my own individual life as embedded in the history of my country.” Modern intersectionalists might describe the latter part of this sentence and the next as “privilege”–that we must view our individual lives within in the structure of the larger life of society. What benefits have we accrued from being born white or being born a citizen of a influential rich democracy? That’s the awareness you need to check your privilege. That’s also the awareness you need in order to do good.

In this tiny excerpt, MacIntyre is tying that awareness into the question of why we consider it a virtue to be patriotic and answering that the national context of our personal benefits commands us to nurture those benefits for the larger national community through acts of patriotism: informed voting, paying your taxes, respecting your national parks, war service.

I read it that way, anyway. It follows with a belief I’ve expressed here many times: that our primary duty as human beings is to share the excess we have with those that have less. Not because God commands it but because each human is part of every other human and we express that through society.

The desire to share with your society in that manner–and the ability to recognize your excess as well as apply it meaningfully–comes from a studied awareness of your community and your surroundings. Careful patriotism leads us to question both the goals and the methods of legislators and executive, dogcatchers and registrars. It brings us to examine the qualifications, desires and manner of the people who lead us. It commands us to protest and shout when those people and their character reflect badly upon ourselves and our shared story.

When those entrusted with enacting the narrative of my own individual life as embedded in the history of my country forsake what is owed to others, they have forsaken what is owed to me.

Happy Independence Day. May we create the nation worthy of a larger story.