And an Upcoming Novel
How Kelly Oxford Transformed the Trump Video Debate & Opened a New Line of Attack in the Fight Against Rape Culture
When you look at the history of men in relation to the earth, it's hard not to conclude that males are unable to apprehend Beauty without the pornographic desire to possess and destroy it. Maybe this explains why there are so many sexual assaults against women. Too many men do not understand how to appreciate women without allowing them simply to be. Few know anything of Paul Valery, who wrote, "The ardor aroused in men by women can only be satisfied by God." Almost no one recalls what James Joyce said in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man about "having without possessing," which he defined as aesthetic arrest.
It occurs to me today after reading through many sexual assault stories submitted by women on the @kellyoxford Twitter feed that one remedy for this situation might be to expose boys to Art early in life.
Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys - without first exposing them to the humanizing influence of Art. Let them understand what it means to have something without possessing, destroying or abusing it. Teach them to allow beauty to offer itself up of its own accord.
Through the outcry it has generated, the Donald Trump sexual assault video has accomplished at least one good thing. The millions of women now telling their own stories on Twitter are exposing the extent of the unwanted gropes and grabs. Mothers, daughters, wives--from the very old to the very young--they're all talking about it. As of this writing, Oxford has received more than a million responses to her own courageous retelling of a sexual assault not unlike the one Trump bragged about on the infamous leaked video. Oxford's original tweet had more than 9.7 million hits by the end of Saturday. By Sunday, the story had been covered by every major news outlet in the country--including Teen Vogue, the Huffington Post, the Boston Globe, NBC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. What this shows, at the very least, is that the problem of the Trump video reaches far beyond one man running for president. It reveals what Kelly Oxford refers to as the underpinning of "rape culture" itself.
Mothers, take your boys to the museums. Put a paint brush in their hands. Don't let them be teased and bullied or called homosexual for writing poems or listening to music. Take them to see a sunrise. Sit with them at sunset. Walk with them through a garden. Show them how to balance the biological imperative to run the gridiron and swing a bat with the other qualities they need for a happy and successful life. Help them to become familiar and comfortable with Beauty. So that when they encounter its embodiment in a woman, they will want to admire and appreciate it. And possess it only when it is offered to them.
The deeper problem, of course, has to do with man's fear of the feminine in himself. He wants it and needs it in order to be whole. But he has no idea how to get hold of it. And so he gropes and grabs at it in others, tries to snatch at its secrets here and there, hoping that will do. Only to find that these things take him further from his desired goal. Creates hostility and puts him at odds with the thing he wants most.
How does one navigate that terrain, become whole and wholesome? That is a question that can only be answered individually and often alone. It's a question that applies not only to men but also to women.
Wouldn't it be helpful if there were a map of some kind to get, as T.S. Eliot puts it, "from where you are to where you are not"? Well, there is one. It's embedded in just about every hero story ever written--from Frodo and Harry Potter to Katniss Everdeen, Iron Man and the Knights of the Round Table.
The late Joseph Campbell referred to this map as "the hero's journey" in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you haven't come across Campbell, you might find the following 84-minute film interesting. It's called The Timeless Tale of the Hero's Journey and is posted on YouTube. I've included it here, but videos come and go on YouTube. So enjoy it while it's available. There's also a much better DVD featuring Campbell himself here, which I found more satisfying than the PBS series that Bill Moyers filmed shortly before Campbell's death. Of course, all of his work exists in books that fully explore the subjects these programs can only touch upon.
Will watching a video put a stop to sexual assault? Will a million tweets do so? Of course not. But you know what Lao Tzu said - "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." For the women tweeting to Kelly Oxford, that step is an unburdening of the shame inflicted by a shameful act. For the rest of mankind, watching a film on how to navigate the treacherous inner landscape of one's own life isn't a bad place to start.
When the P-Word Does Not Stand for Presidential & Why the Boys on the Bus Are Just as Guilty in the Trump Tapes
To say that our political discourse has reached a new low is putting it mildly. History--if our species survives--will look upon this time within the context of Spengler's Decline of the West and Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. We no longer even pretend to have a culture.
Although the hypocrisy innate to society must be called out and excoriated, it is sad to witness the lack of any effort to establish some standard by which we should live. Television has led the charge in this mad-dash rush over the Dodo bird cliff, since its ubiquity lends a tone of acceptability to the banal, the coarse, the shocking, the vile and the violent. But its comrades-in-arms are explicit lyrics in music, the no-holds-barred content on social media, and the overall tone of least-common-denominator marketing.
Gone viral now are video clips of whether the word pussy--in its lewd context having nothing to do with cats--should be used on television, and if so by whom. Give me a break.
Comedian Lenny Bruce claimed that you take the power out of racial slurs by overusing them. An idea that makes sense to me. But do we want to make those words part of our public discourse?
I champion the right of James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Erica Jong, and even Henry Miller to write any words they want. Yet I cringe when I hear the F-word flowing as freely as water from the mouths of 10-year-olds on bicycles.
Maybe societies--especially free ones--need boundaries the same as children do, if only to draw a line in the sand between acceptable and unacceptable. The late Johnny Carson was funny because his humor knew the locus of that line and danced as close to it as possible without crossing. His audience also knew where that line was, and that's what made his antics hilarious.
Which is why people often use the word "class" when referring to Carson. A word sadly lacking from the 2016 presidential campaign.
Of course, there would have been no TV commentary about the p-word had a presidential candidate not been recorded using it to describe his assault on a married woman who managed to fend him off. That incident speaks for itself. There is nothing I can say that has not already been covered in the politically motivated din. Except to ask, as one had to do with Deep Throat during the Nixon administration, who was it that leaked the tape. We need to know about people operating behind the scenes whose motives are suspect at best.
And while no would publicly approve of Trump's comments, shouldn't we also be looking at the role of Access Hollywood's Billy Bush and the other "boys on the bus" who went along with what Trump was saying, tacitly cheering him on and agreeing with him? This is the frat-boy mentality women must deal with every day. This is why there must be protests when a Stanford swimmer gets a slap on the hand for a sexual incident with an unconscious woman. This is why it was wrong for Megan Kelly to play footsies with Trump after he trashed her in the media and on Twitter. This is why parents must teach their sons to eschew vile language that belittles and dehumanizes women.
Because when language goes everything goes.
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