Letters ~ and More

In my last blog post, {not the last one posted, but the last one by me} I mentioned the letter that had been published in our local newspaper, and our response to it.  Kirsty wanted me to share the letters here, and I’m glad to do that.  Here’s the letter originally sent in:

CIVIL DECENCY

There may be no more contentious place in our entire city than on the sidewalk of Second and Market streets every Tuesday through Saturday morning. Before the sun even peeks out from the eastern horizon, locals begin converging in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center. There they take their positions in what has become a nationwide culture-war for over 40 years. They come at 7 a.m. because the abortion issue means more to them than sleep, convenience or blissful apathy.

But far too often, proponents on both sides arrive with scowls of anger and moods that in their younger days would have required extended periods of “time out.” Simply put, these principled agitators come cranky, and they often stay that way. I will readily grant them their right to act like spurned adolescents in public — even in the name of truth or justice; but I cannot pretend that forgetting the meaning of the word “civil” in civil society furthers either cause. Perhaps we didn’t really learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten…

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013307130039

When I first skimmed through it, I really was convinced he was just talking about the protesters, but then someone pointed out that he says: “proponents on both sides arrive with scowls…”   AND he said that we come “cranky,” which ~ you know ~ being the author of The Cranky Escort, I sort of took personally.  Besides which, I don’t arrive cranky, if crankiness happens, it’s after I’ve been there for a while.

So we put together a response.

CIVILITY AND COMPASSION

In response to the July 13 letter about civil decency, we, who wear orange vests emblazoned with “Clinic Escort,” want to explain why we come to the sidewalk at 2nd and Market streets five days a week. We come not to agitate, but to provide safe passage for women and their companions who are seeking reproductive health services. We come to create a space on the sidewalk that is not blocked by people or signs. We always ask permission to walk with the women and never assume that they want us or need us beside them.

Our goal is to de-escalate the atmosphere on the sidewalk. In that spirit, we prefer not to engage in conversation with the protesters. We try to ignore the comments and taunts that are leveled at the women, their companions and us. Our goal is to be a calm buffer when the protesters yell at the windows and doors of the clinic, wave pamphlets in the women’s faces and broadcast their sermons on amplifiers.

We are not on the sidewalk to make a political statement. We are not there to engage in discussions of reproductive health issues. We are not there to change anyone’s opinion. We are on the sidewalk to support the right of women to access safe and legal reproductive health services. Our goal is to do this with civility and compassion.

Our hope is that one day we will not be needed on the sidewalk at 2nd and Market streets. Until then, we will be there five days a week, 52 weeks a year for the women and their companions who come to the clinic.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130719/OPINION02/307190031/Letters-Civility-guardian-angels-Trayvon-Martin-case-Yum-Center

Thirteen of us signed it, although they could only publish one person’s name.  Interestingly, it  didn’t generate a lot of hateful responses, and it felt good to respond and see it published.

In other updates, I participated in FtbCon, the on-line conference, and think it went well.  Here’s a link to the part we were involved in, just in case anyone wants to watch it:  I have to tell you though ~  we had a technical glitch ~ Bree and I were presenting together, and so we met at my house for the actual event.  My microphone wouldn’t work right ~ which was really annoying, because I’d tested it ahead of time and it had been fine.

So in a moment of near panic, {on my part anyhow}  we realized that her mike was picking up my voice, and we just ran with that.  What we didn’t think about was that this strategy meant it looked like she was talking when it was really me.

But there were some interesting other panelists and I think our material was good ~ we were examining the protesters claims that abortion causes psychological harm or that “women always regret their abortion.”   I may write about that too sometime, it’s interesting research.  But not today.

Finally ~ the last post I wrote was right after the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict on George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin.    I didn’t mention that in my post that day.  And it might seem like it doesn’t have anything to do with reproductive rights or escorting.  But it does.

Misogyny ~ the War on Women ~ and Racism are a result of the same patriarchal power structure.   They are inextricably bound, and first of all, I want to acknowledge that ~ it’s the least I can do.  Those issues are part of a larger tangle of social justice that includes classism and  marriage equality and able-ism, cisgender privilege and a variety of other issues, all of which involve one group of people telling another how they “ought to” live, or one group setting the standard for what’s “normal.”

There is so much more I could say ~ about my own privilege, and how that contributes to the problem, about intersectionality and the importance of recognizing it, and about the ways we can take action.  But that’s way beyond my scope today, and maybe not ever for this blog.

Today, i just need to acknowledge that what happens to Trayvon Martin, and how we respond to George Zimmerman, affects us all.  And I want to provide this link for other white people who are also interested in using our privilege to stand against racism.  It’s the least I can do.

6 thoughts on “Letters ~ and More

  1. I love that original letter was so concerned with the expression on another person’s face or them appearing “cranky.” Nobody gets sent to “timeout” for a scowl. I would think waving fetus porn on public streets, screaming at people from atop a step stool, blocking access to a medical clinic, lying to vulnerable people and bullying vulnerable people would all be “timeout” offenses. I am a person who works to hold my tongue, but I make no such effort for the look on my face. If people are acting like jerks or I am in general having a bad day then my lack of pleasant, painted-on smile should in no way harm them.

  2. I’ve really found no differences between all the bigoted -ism’s. They all end in violence. Black kids are shot, gays are curbstomped, women are having their rights yanked, fat people are shamed and laughed at day after day…all are treated like second-class citizens.

    We have to start seeing these things are all the same. Violence for no reason other than it makes us feel better about ourselves.

    THAT is what should be shamed and punished severely.

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