Sometimes No Context is Needed

There are often times when you read comments made by people and without context they may look bad, but they seem less terrible when “in context”. That’s the famous argument celebrities and politicians use, right? “That comment was out of context.” “You didn’t read the comment in its entirety.” Whether that’s a legitimate excuse or not, that’s the one we get. Then, we get to debate about whether or not the context was worthy of the comment. It’s a crazy cycle; one that does its job of division.

In my city, comments from a councilman went viral. Comments like “…if you go to a sketchy nightclub known for these types of attacks with inadequate security, you bring unreliable friends with you and something happens, don’t be surprised.” And that seemed to be his defense for his other comments like “…use common sense and avoid the best you can if you want to avoid sexual assault. I assume that you wouldn’t go hiking in an area littered with grizzly bears, would you be surprised if you were attacked?” On social media after this story made it to our local forums, he defended himself by saying “…someone asked my opinion about something so I answered it truthfully. I could have lied just to make everyone happy but I’m not that type of person. I’ll be honest even if it hurts me.”

So was this commentary out of context or an honest statement about what he truly believes? Is he just ignorant of what those type of statements could mean for people who have experienced their own assaults, some who still suffer in silence because “it was their fault”? Or does he mean it and truly believe victims should be the ones to not put themselves in public, rather than maybe saying “okay, no matter where you are and what you are wearing, it’s never the rapists fault. Unless you happen to be in your own home and they break in. Or you’re at someplace where rape doesn’t happen. Because, there are ‘rape-free zones’ that are always obeyed.” But, if they broke in and someone was wearing just a t-shirt and that’s provocative, maybe that was their fault too? It’s obviously not the rapists fault. If it were, then maybe there would be harsher penalties for those who commit these devastating crimes.

So, was it out of context? I mean, potentially. I don’t know the guy. I don’t follow him on Facebook to know. But, I mean, is there ever a good context for saying things like that? I’ve been pretty pissed about something when talking to someone and I don’t recall ever comparing their victimhood about something to the plight of a rape victim. But I mean, I suppose you could claim ignorance about the implications with those statements. Again, who knows. Maybe they never had to watch someone suffer through the aftermath of an assault to take it as seriously as they should. Was he baited into the comments by someone else who just got under his skin? I’ve seen people annoy my husband, never heard him ever say something like that to prove a point.

Was it ignorance? He kept repeating the emphasis of how people should be taught in schools about sexual harassment and the like. Then, people can learn. I remember being in high school, where I graduated 18 years ago. I definitely remember learning about what sexual harassment was and what my rights were. I don’t really remember there being a section about how not to rape, but I sort of assume a decent human being would already know that lesson… though arguably any decent human being would just know sexual harassment is bad.

Or, was it just that this was how he personally believes? Again, I don’t know this person. But based on his interactions on this topic, it seems that he does believe this and stands by his opinions. I honestly admire people who stand by their convictions. Even if I find their convictions to be disgusting and disturbing and not one that I would want representing our city. If he truly believes this misguided notion that there are just some cases where women had it coming, then that’s his belief and who are we to tell him what to believe?

He’s not my city councilman. I’ve only engaged minimally with my city councilman and I found him to be a decent man that cares about his constituents. He fixed the problem I had as soon as he could and I couldn’t be happier. This councilor in question insists he will be re-elected anyways despite this, defiant to anyone who tries to help educate him on the errors of this thinking. How this type of thinking resonates with women, which is why many assaults even decades later go unreported. Because after something like this happens, they blame themselves when they shouldn’t. But now, they have an elected official that believes it. Whether out of context or not, whether out of belief or not, this belief system is why we are still behind on the times. Why rape is still something that people sweep under the rugs, as a shame that a woman brought upon herself and her family. Why rapists can walk free because “why should this few minutes of his life destroy his future”, disregarding the fact that those few minutes already destroyed another life. Any notion of assault being the fault of the victim isn’t one that I would ever support, no matter the context.

We Look Towards Our Leadership… And They Failed

We trust our school council with the lives of our children. Our children, the most precious things in a parent’s life. These are the people who we are entrusting right now to make an informed decision on what’s best for the education of our children during these uncertain times. Sure… we have an option of remote learning no matter what they decide, but that’s not the point. The point is: why weren’t they better prepared?

The schools should have been working on a plan since March to come up with all of these “what ifs”. What if this virus gets worse? What if it’s still a major issue come fall? How do we do a great remote learning plan in case we need it? How long do we offer remote learning? Will we open school in phases, like the state did? There are so many questions I have. What if my senior in high school gets exposed one time, then needs to quarantine for 14 days? He can only miss 16 days for the entire school year, so what happens if he gets sick or has to quarantine for another 14 days? Are they getting rid of the attendance rules? My youngest has anxiety attacks. Are we going to put him in a “sick room” with another kid who might have the virus because he’s showing symptoms, so he can get infected? What if he has an anxiety attack and tears off his mask because he’s hyperventilating? These are real concerns and I’m not unique in struggling with them.

The meeting had flawed statistics. Of course the remote learning wasn’t successful. Half the time the sites were down and the teachers were completely unprepared and were thrown into this remote learning plan without any real experience with it. How can you say that you can’t really measure attendance and the success of remote learning and then show charts of how unsuccessful it was? Great, there haven’t been many cases of kids getting sick in Chicopee… because parents have been smart about protecting their kids. My kids also didn’t get a bad flu like they normally would during the early spring because they weren’t in school either. The original basis for the recommendations for face to face learning are flawed to begin with. But we’ll stick with the flawed recommendations because…. why not?

Maybe we should listen to our teachers. You know, those people who are severely underpaid for what we expect of them and under-appreciated who are tasked with educating our children for 180 days a year. Maybe we should take their concerns, being on the front lines and all, and listen to what they think is best for our kids. They’re the ones in the schools. They are the ones we are asking to risk their lives for our children. Maybe they should have more of an impact on this decision.

At the meeting, it seemed like the representatives were unprepared. I sat through this 2 1/2 hour meeting for answers, because I wanted to be prepared. So I could make the best decision for my children. So I could be prepared. I looked to the school council to help me be prepared. I looked to them, the people that we as citizens of this city voted in, to give us answers so that we knew what we were going to do as a family for our kids. And these leaders and our mayor failed us.

Some members of the council, including my ward 7 councilman, asked great questions. What about lunchtime in the high schools? The representative from one of the high schools stated the precautions they were going to take. My son laughed. “I can barely get lunch some days because the cafeteria has no room for us. How do they think we’re going to accomplish 6ft. distance?” He’s right. My kid gets it. Why don’t they?

It started out to be a reasonable discussion with the school council giving their comments, until the Ward 1 councilor passionately spoke on the subject. Which led to a heated… tantrum. Which led to a postponement of the vote. For a week. Us parents need to wait anxiously for another week when they should have been better prepared. They should have had a better plan. The meeting was a failure. It was embarrassing as a resident of the city to see things turn ugly like that. It was frustrating to sit for nearly 3 hours to get answers, to get nothing but watching grown adults shout at each other. It was awful to realize that we have trusted these people to make these decisions and they couldn’t do it. Instead we get a “Well, let’s do remote learning until Springfield starts their hybrid approach to see if it’s safe enough for our students”. What? Let’s see how those sacrificial lambs do in the next city over to see what we’re going to do? Insane.

At this point, I’m not sure why I’m more afraid to send my kids back to school. Is it because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be going away? Or is it because these representatives of our city are the people making the decisions that directly impact my kids?

Voting In Your Local Elections

I would argue if you aren’t going to bother with voting in major elections, because you don’t think your vote counts, you should at least focus your attention on your local elections. These are the elections that are going to have a significant impact on your everyday life. The people you elect in these elections impact your schools and safety. They will be the ones that decide things like stupidly small trash barrels and overpriced but cheaply made yellow bags for your overflow trash. While the national elections have an effect in ways, these local elections are crucial to your way of life.

Today in my city, we are having a preliminary election. The big piece of this is narrowing down the list of mayoral candidates, though some wards also have candidates fighting for their place on the city council ballots. In my ward, our councilman is running uncontested which isn’t a surprise. He seems like a reasonable person that genuinely cares about his job and his constituents. Even though the outcomes on my street are probably going to go back to exactly how they were, he tried to make the street safer. I don’t fault him for anything other than trying to make everyone happy.

The big race comes down to the mayoral candidates: a past mayor who wants to run the city again, a guy who thinks of himself as the heir apparent to the position, a public servant of the city for a long time, and another candidate. This list needs to be narrowed down to 2 candidates.

I struggled a long time with who to choose here. Well, I already had the list down to two people. One already had their chance to run the city. The other, well, my personal opinions based on what I’ve seen made that a non-starter. That narrows it down to the perceived heir apparent of the city and someone who hasn’t really involved himself in politics. After a back and forth on that decision and meeting one of the candidates, one thing hit me. One of them had a place to make positive change in the city, to say no to those ridiculous trash barrels, to come up with some solution long before the “Oh crap, what do we do now?, and chose not to. The other seems to have a genuine heart to improve the city and serving in those schools my children are/will attend so he understands what can make these schools even better.

It may only be a preliminary, but it’s still an election. The city needs a positive change and today is the first step in making that change. So getting out and voting is a necessary thing to do today.

When You Become the Most Hated Person in Your Neighborhood

A while back, I discussed my disdain for the local politics. I live on a horseshoe-ish based street, right on the bend of it. When I bought this house, about 4 or 5 years ago, I loved the lawn. I loved the fact it stayed in my oldest son’s school district. I liked the fact that the elementary school was right behind my house, an elementary school that was known for its special needs program. A school my son, who I’ve been very open about his struggles, could really thrive at. (He has done very well, because of the amazing teachers at this school.)

The downside was the parking on the street. The street, a narrow, curved street, that had cars parked on both sides. This didn’t really become annoying until the first 2 tractor trailers ended up on my lawn, tearing up my grass. Then my son’s bus struggled to make it up the street several times, especially during the winter when this already narrow street was made even narrower by plowed snow. Then I started noticing that firetrucks and ambulances, which frequent my neighborhood on a near daily basis, were struggling to make it around my street.

I became concerned about this for a few reasons. One, on the other side of me are two senior neighbors who have been exceptionally kind to my family. In recent times, ambulances have been very common on that side of the street, and an ambulance struggling to make it up the street could take costly time to get to them. Then, I thought of my own family. What if my son’s appendix burst and we needed to rush him to the hospital? Those are precious minutes that you can’t dwindle away.

After writing the letter, it did finally reach someone who cared enough to check this issue out. They came out with a city engineer, and very very quickly determined that my concerns were valid enough to act on. I didn’t care that they were parked on the street; I cared that this blocked up the street and posed a safety hazard. It wasn’t safe. So I did what a responsible citizen should do: fix it. With the help of my brother, of course, who was very helpful in getting my concerned letter noticed.

The downside? The people who parked on the street now hate me. They feel this is racism and unfair. They are outraged that they didn’t get a chance to fight for their right to not park in their parking, opting for the street instead. How inconsiderate of them to make this type of law without asking the citizens first? There should have been a public hearing so that they could find this harmful law.

My conscience is clear. The fact that ambulances and firetrucks can make it down my street easier is worth being the most hated person in my neighborhood. The fact that kids can have an easier time using the sidewalk to get to the school or their bus stops that are at the school, makes it worth it. The fact that the neighbors who want to walk to the church behind my house can do so now, is worth it. It was for the greater good. My goal is not to be liked. I don’t really care who likes me. My goal is to have a positive impact on the community.