Rev. Valerie's Reveries

This blog contains personal reflections from Unitarian Universalist minister Valerie Mapstone Ackerman.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Sometimes you really MUST intervene

My friend Kelly Lee Williams is a very funny man (professional comedian), but he has a very serious side too. Today he posted a facebook status update calling on everyone to intervene when a child is being abused. His call to action resonated with me. It has always been my practice to do whatever I can to stop abuse anywhere I see it. This does not make me popular with abusive people.

Kelly's admonition brought me into reminiscing about a few interventions I have executed and thinking BIG about intervening in abuse of power.

When I was a young mother, my brother and his wife were separated and headed for divorce. Their daughter was a little younger than mine and had already had a very challenging life before they adopted her. To try to punish his wife for her decision to leave the relationship and to control the terms of the separation, my brother "kidnapped" my niece, refusing to return her to her mother. I found out about it, went to my parents home, where brother and niece were "hiding," picked up my niece and started for the door. Everyone made a big fuss and told me I had no business intervening. I just kept going, drove my niece to her mother's house and that was the end of the game=playing by using the sweet child as a pawn. I will not stand by when people use children as pawns in their relationship struggles--someone should stop it!.

Over 20 years ago I was shopping at a mall for a long day. I kept running across a multigenerational family: grandmother, daughter, three pre-schoolers. Over and over I witnessed the two women berating, scolding, smacking and slapping the youngest child, an adorable little boy. Eventually I decided I had to do something. i walked up to the young mother and tried to engage her in a conversation about something, babbling on and on. The grandmother quickly faced off with me, saying, "Don't think I don't know what you are doing. You are trying to distract my daughter from doing her duty as a parent to scold this child. This is necessary to break him so that he will not grow up to be a rapist--your worst black nightmare." I responded, "Actually by treating him with such disrespect you are creating a potential rapist by teaching this child to hate women." I then knelt down to see the child eye to eye and said, "You deserve a better life. No one has the right to treat you this way." The women advanced and raised their voices, but I wasn't listening, I was walking away, having made my position clear to the little boy.

One day when I was in seminary, walking down a Chicago Street (in Barack and Michelle Obama's neighborhood actually) I saw a young man in the street struggling with two elderly women over possession of a purse. Without thinking, I ran across the street waving my arms and screaming for him to leave them alone. He did it! Dropped the purse and ran off, calling me crazy. Maybe it is foolhardy to intervene in robbery, but someone needed to do something to stop this!

I cannot even count the number of times I have called the police when I witnessed men abusing women, boys beating up other boys. And I will get directly into the fray when necessary. Someone has to stop abuse!

People only do what the community permits them to do. If the community stands by and watches, the violence and abuse rolls on and on and on. Of course, as I said, this does not earn me friendships with abusers--except when they are jarred into realizing that they want to be different. I am gratified to know that a few times the person I called out has taken my intervention to heart and made better choices in the future.

Last week Officer Bologna blasted pepper spray into the faces of several young women protesting in the Occupy Wall Street actions and was videotaped by many passersby and protesters. He and the NYPD are defending his abusive actions--as too often happens when people in authority find endless justification for their abuse of power.

Although various media had failed to find any reason to cover the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street actions, the NYPD helped to give them a reason by abusing their power. And that is exactly why the people are protesting. Too many abuses of power are going unanswered in our society--most significantly, abuse of economic power.

Financial abuse by the rich (and consequently powerful) must stop! We already have the collective power of the 99% who are not ridiculously rich.

Here are a few things the average person can do right away to stand up to the mega-rich and corporations who are abusing us all:
1. Stop watching any television show entitled with "The real housewives...". Crazy rich women act like fools to make you think the rich are harmless clowns. They might be clowns, but not harmless. Same with Kardashians, etc. Maybe watch only Current or Link, or Freespeech TV!
2. Stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Yes, you are addicted to the low, low prices, but you can find ways to get by without spending your money on THE WORST abuser of workers and consumers ever to populate a big-box store. The owners OWN YOU if you shop there. After we get rid of Wally world, we'll start in on Target.
3. Refuse to vote for any politician who does not show you where their campaign money originates. Vote for a write-in, vote for a flakey third party, vote for none of the above. Turn in a blank ballot if necessary, but show up and vote in the most radical way you can.
4. Refuse to buy ANYTHING with a recognizable corporate logo. You'll probably need to start small and work your way up to this one. Sometimes, I resort to buying the thing I want/need and then I remove, disguise or cover the logo. OH! that reminds me, my car's logo is still very visible. I was more highly motivated to cover up the Cherokee insignia of my last vehicle.
5. Join or start an Occupy _____ in your community.

Lets see where American Autumn can take us!!

What are your ideas of how we can stop abuse everywhere we see it?

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