Molestation — When Will Enough Be Enough?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this blog for days. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to say. I’ve just been trying to think about how to make it cohesive, easily understood, and not written in a way that gets me pilloried by anyone who only reads part of this (although, I suppose I should be happy when anyone reads any part of my posts).

I wrote a blog back in June, 2016, after the political insanity and outright viciousness within the Democratic party during the primaries (from both Sanders and Clinton supporters) did something to my psyche, that awakened a memory I’d been suppressing for 50+ years.

Between the ages of five and seven, I was molested, repeatedly, by the older kid (male), who lived next door.

It started with two of them — the Protestant fuck next door, and his Roman Catholic buddy across the street. They both came from rabidly anti-semitic families (my family was part of an influx of newly middle-class Jews from NYC, to the suburbs), with the kid next door being the son of a member of the John Birch Society (an organization not particularly keen on anyone to the left of Attila the Hun). But the kid across the street declined to participate after the first time, so it was the guy next door who was the real molester.

After regaining these memories, I can’t begin to state the level of emotional trauma I went through. There was a point I even questioned my memories, my own sanity — did these events actually happen, or was my psyche just losing it.

Fortunately, after posting the blog, I received a call from someone whose identity I’m still protecting. This person told me about the trauma and guilt they’d lived with for most of their life, because they had been witness to this motherfucker molesting several other neighborhood kids (in this case, girls). The trauma came because, as a five-six year old, they hadn’t done anything to stop what they didn’t even have the capability to realize was happening at the time.

Nevertheless, dealing with the trauma of my recalled memories, plus a few other major events going wrong in my life around the same time, I ended up spending 72-hours in a psych ward, on a suicide watch (an experience almost as traumatic as the molestation, which I also wrote about).

However, with the advent of the #MeToo movement, which I feel very much a part of, I’ve been very involved, as I have for most of my life, in fighting for the rights of women. I thought the rage I felt at what women have been, and are continuing to be put through (I’m talking to you, “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” the Republican members of the Senate, and the serial molester in the Oval Office), had to do with having been brought up by my feminist mother. Until recently, it never occurred to me there were deeper reasons, other than my love and respect for women, for my particular passion for this cause.

But social media can have a funny effect on one’s feelings. For example, while a number of women (minus one truly nasty person) truly supported my right to consider myself a member of the #MeToo movement, and while I understand that probably 98% (or more) of the sexual harassment, molestation and rape in this country is perpetrated on women, by men, still, I felt the boys and men who had suffered through these same things, were being given short shrift.

Granted, I have skin (pardon the expression) in this game, but over the past week or two — possibly because of the particularly disgusting treatment received by Dr. Blasey Ford, at the hands of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that orange shit in the White House, and Mr. Kavanaugh himself — the fact there were boys and men who had suffered equally, was getting lost in the shuffle. I would also point out, being this is the (supposed) United States, while taking nothing away from any of the women who have shown courage in telling their stories, it’s no easier for men to tell theirs.

So, yeah — I was feeling the small percentage of men who’ve gone through these traumas, were getting lost in the shuffle, among the huge numbers of women who had.

Then, listening to women talk about how they had never told anyone, or honestly believed (at the time, anyway) they did something to deserve what happened to them, a thought occurred to me which hadn’t, before. What happened to me as a child, wasn’t my only experience with what could be deemed, at best, harassment, but also, molestation.

When I was 20 years old, and just starting my acting career, I spent a short period of time, working in the psychiatric department of a hospital in Queens, NY. Every morning, I would hop on the express subway from East 86th St., near my apartment, down to 59th St., where I would transfer to the RR or N line to Queens. When I was 20, especially clean shaven, I looked closer to 15 or 16 years old. And if you’ve ever taken a rush hour subway in NYC, you know what it feel like to be a sardine, packed in tin.

One day, as I was making my way downtown from 86th St., there was this very strange looking man standing in front of me. He was tall, dirty, with long, straggly hair, and an unkempt beard. If you’ve ever seen the album cover of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, that’s pretty much who I was facing.

In any event, “Aqualung” was kind of moving up and down, with a very strange expression on his face — to put it bluntly, he looked like he was cumming. Then, I realized I was feeling something I shouldn’t have been. I looked down, and realized this guy was rubbing his hand over my crotch. The subway was too packed for me to move, and I was beyond way too shocked to say anything. But as soon as we hit 59th St., I pushed my way out of that car — fast!

I’ve told that story over the years, thinking of it as a really strange, if very NYC subway, experience. In all the years since, it actually took until this very week for me to — or, maybe, accept is a better word — I’d been molested.

My second subway story was also kind of strange. On another day, I was one of only two passengers on this particular RR car, headed toward Queens. The only other passenger in the car, was an old man in a long, black trench coat. For anyone old enough to remember Artie Johnson’s dirty-old-man on the bench character from the 1960s sketch comedy show, Laugh-In, that’s about as close a description as I can give of this guy.

Anyway, as the subway pulled out of the 59th St. station, I was seated on one end of the car, the old guy at the other end, across the aisle. But as the subway started moving, so did the old man. First he moved halfway up the car, in my direction. Then, he crossed the aisle to my side of the car. Finally, on this otherwise empty subway car, he sidled up next to me. And by next to me, I mean he was leaning into me. As soon as we hit the first stop, Queens Plaza, I jumped off that train. Again, I thought it was just another typically bizarre NYC subway story.

The final story I want to recount regarding these events, may be the strangest. A number of years ago, my wife and I were driving cross-country. We’d either stay in cheap hotels overnight, or, if we had friends in the area, we’d crash with them. In one city, we crashed with a friend — a woman — who was kind enough to give us her bed, while she took the bed in her son’s room, since he no longer lived at home.

The following morning, my wife woke before I did, and went to take a shower. A few minutes later, I woke to find our host — nice person, but not someone I was sexually attracted to, in the least — in bed with me. To say it bluntly, I woke up to find her sucking my dick! That brought me to consciousness, really quickly. I stopped her, trying to be polite and not offend her, saying I didn’t think my wife would appreciate walking in on that. In truth, I was repulsed. But as we’ve all heard and read in so many variations, I was a guy, and she was a woman, so it had to be a misunderstanding. It couldn’t possibly be considered molestation…or, g_d forbid, rape!

I recount these last three stories, because up until this week, it never occurred to me what these events really were. I have no idea if it was denial, or because I was an adult male, or what. The point is, realizing all this regarding myself, I believe I now understand much more clearly, why, every time I hear a similar story from a woman who’s been put in a similar situation to those which I was, I go into something of a homicidal rage that’s not pleasant to feel, or be around.

As those who’ve been there during these times can attest, were I within striking distance of, for example, a Chuck Grassley or Orrin Hatch, especially while they were questioning Dr. Blasey Ford, or even making their disgusting, misogynistic comments about her (and all the women victimized by men) to the press, I would happily take a baseball bat, and break every fucking bone in their worthless bodies.

The final story I want to recount in this saga, kind of goes in a different direction. I want to preface this by saying how incredibly grateful I am, to have had the parents I was blessed with. I believe it was their deep love, care, concern and respect for each other, that helped my brothers and I become the men we are.

When I was 29, I was performing in a show at a regional theatre. When working away from home, it’s natural to bond, and spend time with your cast-mates and crew. But at this particular theatre, there was a young lady working in the box office, who I would speak with regularly. She was cute, sweet as could be, and the mutual attraction was fairly obvious.

So one night, after the show, I asked if she’d like to go to a nearby diner and get something to eat. She said she’d like that very much. So off we went to grab a meal. Over dinner we talked about a myriad of subjects — me, what it was like being an actor; her, why she enjoyed working in a theatre so much. We told each other a little about our lives. She was only 19 or 20 at the time, and had graduated a very strict, all-girls Catholic school. I told her about my life and aspirations, and we got to know each other a little more.

Afterwards, she drove me back to my hotel, where I asked if she’d like to come up to my room, which she did. We talked a little more, before we started kissing. The kissing developed into more intense kissing, followed by a bit more than kissing, ending up with us naked on my bed.

This is where the story becomes kind of an inversion of the usual way this would go. I was on top of her, ready and more than willing to proceed. But I looked at her face, and could tell there was something wrong, so I stopped. I didn’t know if she was scared, felt she wasn’t ready for this step, or whatever. So I asked her what was wrong. She told me she really liked me, and wanted to, but was also scared, and not sure if she was ready to take this step. So I got off her and said, “then we don’t have to do this.”

Here’s the part that freaked me out. It seems she felt, since she’d gotten me “excited,” and we’d gone this far, it wasn’t fair to me, and she didn’t think she had the right to stop at this point. To say I was totally shocked by that comment would be the ultimate understatement. I mean, this was the 1980s, for crissakes!

I held her for a minute, looked at her and said, “listen to me. It doesn’t matter how excited I am. I could be halfway inside you. If you decide you’re not ready or don’t want to do this, you say, no — and I stop! No questions, no arguments, no nothing. And, I added, this didn’t apply to just me — it applied to anyone.” Her response stunned me — she asked, wouldn’t it make me mad? Wouldn’t it make any guy mad?

I responded with, if I was the kind of person who got angry over something like that, then I have the right to not see, or go out with you again. I’d be a dick if I did, but you never have to do anything you don’t want to do, or are not ready to do. And if anyone ever tries to make you think you have to, or you owe it to them for some sick reason, fuck them (I know, ironic choice of words)! And get away from them, immediately!

What was unfathomable to me at the time — and still is, all these years later — was the fact I had to explain this to her. How did we get to the mid-1980s, with women, even young ones, not understanding they have the right to control what they do, and don’t do, with their bodies. The fact that, to a frightening degree, that lack of understanding still holds true today, is something I cannot comprehend.

In any event, I held her for a while longer, we talked some more, and she left. We remained friends for the run of the show, but the relationship never gained any traction after that, mostly, I think, because she was embarrassed. But I have never forgotten that night, and will forever be grateful to my parents for helping make me the kind of person who reacted the way I did.

It is often said, as justification by men who believe women exist to service them — people like the orange pig whose name I refuse to say, the Brett Kavanaugh’s, and their ilk, “a hard dick has no conscience.” That’s very convenient thinking if you’re an over-entitled, spoiled, narcissistic, misogynist. But that hard dick is attached to a human body, with, hopefully, a brain attached. One that understands right from wrong. Unfortunately, as we have seen all too clearly in the year 2018, that is far from the case.

A Few Thoughts On the Democratic “Process”

sanders-stewartI’m just going to say this and be done with it. Naysayers and rationalizers, fair warning up front: I will delete responses questioning the veracity or accuracy of my recollection, as I’m over it.

In 1992, my brother Richard and I were asked to be local Jerry Brown delegates for the presidential nominating process in Norfolk, VA. At the time we were excited as hell to be part of the process. What we didn’t know was, the Democratic Leadership Council — a group founded in 1985, by a number of prominent and powerful Democrats whose concept was to push the party to the right, in order to counter the Republican move rightward — had already chosen their golden boy, former Arkansas Governor, William Jefferson Clinton.

When we, and I don’t know how many others, raised our hands at the nominating meeting for Governor Brown, we knew none of this. However, even though the support in the room was resoundingly in favor of Gov. Brown, when the gentlemen (and I use the term in the loosest sense) running the Southeastern Virginia Democratic Party — two brothers from a prominent Norfolk law firm that advertised frequently on television — counted hands, they somehow managed to call the majority for Governor Clinton. At that point it became clearly evident the fix was in — the candidate had been pre-selected.

To say there was an uproar in the hall would be putting it mildly. The Brown delegates, who outnumbered the Clinton ones by a sizeable number, were in open rebellion. I think the Democratic Committee folk realized their mistake and tried to backtrack. The Brown delegates left that hall, knowing support for our candidate had won the day. Except, somehow, that’s not how it turned out.

I witnessed first-hand the machinations of the Democratic Party leadership, albeit in a small way. But if you extrapolate and multiply those machinations around the country, it constitutes a frightening indictment of our so-called democratic process.

No one, unless you are deaf, dumb and blind, can deny, Hillary Clinton is the predetermined choice of the Democratic Party hierarchy. Simply look at the Superdelegates already pledged to her, and this is plain to see. The DNC, under the chair of Clinton stooge, former co-chair of her 2008 campaign, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has given every conceivable edge to ensure Secretary Clinton’s nomination. And, as with her husband, the leaders of the Democratic Party are not going to be stopped by something as insignificant as the challenge from Bernie Sanders and the millions of voters who support him. Steal a nomination? Why not? They’ve done it before. That’s our party!

And Clinton’s stupefied supporters witness the process, refusing to accept the reality of what’s happening, even though it would be obvious to a supporter of Donald Trump.

So if millions of Democratic voters, sick at what the party they have spent a lifetime supporting, end up sitting this election out, or writing in the name of the candidate whose name should have been on the Democratic ballot, or — a possibility looming larger and larger — separating from the Democratic Party to make a fresh start, remember: you saw the corruption and stood by, saying nothing. As your party slid inexorably to the right, you did nothing. You got your candidate and were happy. Now live with the consequences.

A Few Thoughts On the Democratic Party From The Depths of An Anxiety Attack

bernie-sandersI’m writing this in the midst of a full-blown anxiety attack, so if this comes across as somewhat disjointed or incoherent I apologize. Right now my mind is in overdrive, with thoughts coming at me far faster than I can process them. I am in psychic agony — angry, hurt, scared, disgusted, fed up, and worst of all, there’s a hopeless dread gnawing at my soul.

For the past year, everyone on the Democratic side of the political spectrum has gleefully watched as the Republican Party implodes before our eyes. In the drive to direct American capitalism into fascist channels, where corporations and bankers run the country, the right has, for a quarter century or more, successfully used the anger, hatred, xenophobia, racism, and fear of the Republican base as a political tool to divide this country. But now, in 2016, that nabob of narcissism (take that, Spiro Agnew!), Donald Trump, has been throwing a monkey-wrench into the process, and the Dems — drunk on holier-than-thou Kool-Aid — have been having a party.

Unfortunately, what eluded many mainstream Democrats was our party’s own ineluctable slide to the right. As the citizenry dozed, major corporations and banksters were busy buying Democrats by the bushel. In reality, President William Jefferson Clinton was hated by the Republicans, not for being too liberal, but for stealing their thunder; while he had the priapic tendencies of a Kennedy, on a political level he co-opted many Republican ideas and programs. Rather than being the victim of “a vast right-wing conspiracy,” as Hillary alleges, the Clintons adopted much of the right-wing agenda. By the time we reached the second decade of the 21st century, in the bizarro political landscape of America, the Democrats had come to embody Ronald Reagan conservatism. As for the Republicans, their anthem could well have been the Horst Wessel Lied.

That Clinton was able to con so many Democratic voters, is a sad but very real tribute to his indisputable charm and talent as a flim-flam man. And now, once again, they’re back; this time out, we’re given Ms. Clinton as the Democratic front-runner and the Party’s entrée de jour: the one, the ‘inevitable’ … Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Senator from my home state of New York, as well as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. And once again, many in the Democratic Party are blindly falling for the con.

To state the obvious, I am not a dues-paying member of the Clinton Fan Club. At their best, I believe they represent the status quo — day-old goods. A more realistic appraisal would describe them as war-mongering, neo-cons representing a privileged elite. Many immigrants to these shores called America the Golden Land, and we all know that he who has the gold makes the rules. The status quo in this country — which the Clintons embody — is one where banks and corporations preside. The Clintons are good friends with the Bush Mob. And why shouldn’t they be? The two families front for corporatist interests and lead the charge for the same interventionist military policies and disastrous trade deals that have bankrupted this nation and caused so much havoc and destruction around the globe.

If, God forbid, Hillary Clinton is elected president, we can forget about overturning Citizens United. A candidate who raises hundreds of millions of dollars, primarily from major corporations and banks, ain’t gonna bite the hand that feeds her so lavishly. As George H. W. Bush might say: “it wouldn’t be prudent.”

As Senator, Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, claiming she was misled by the Bush administration. You’ll have to excuse me if I call BULLSHIT on that. I have not served as a United States Senator. I do not have access to inside information or classified CIA files. But even to me, a plain citizen, it was unbelievably obvious the Bush administration was full of shit, and was using the pretext of a tragic terrorist event to go to war in order to line the pockets of their corporate cronies. Our last five-star General, President Dwight D. Eisenhower — a Republican — cautioned America to be on guard against the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, we have not heeded his warning. Because of this, a lot of rich people got much richer, and a lot more poor people got, and continue to get, dead.

To my continuous astonishment, Clinton’s supposedly liberal supporters don’t question her militaristic proclivities. I have raised this issue literally dozens of times over the past months, and not one Clinton supporter has given me a direct, let alone thoughtful, response. Typically, they divert the discussion to something unrelated — they talk about her vast experience and foreign policy expertise (remember Henry Kissinger is her go-to man) and ultimately fall back on “it’s time to elect the first woman president.”

Senator Clinton voted for the notorious Patriot Act. As an attorney, she doubtless understood the bill was unconstitutional from top to bottom. She nevertheless voted to subvert the Constitution, which forms the bedrock of our political institutions because it was politically expedient, a calculating and cowardly act — one certainly unworthy of the potential leader of this country. But ask, as I have, supposedly liberal Democrats how they can bring themselves to support a candidate who pisses on the personal liberties that are the birthright of all Americans and all you get is deflection and denial.

And now, with Senator Bernie Sanders campaign fomenting something of a revolution, the division within the Democratic party is threatening to fracture this party every bit as much as the Republicans are imploding theirs. The Democratic National Committee, under the stewardship of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a long-time Clinton stalwart, has thumbed its nose at democracy as they have done anything and everything they could to discredit Senator Sanders, so they can quickly anoint the candidate they’ve chosen, voters be damned.

A number of Sanders supporters have said they will not support Secretary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee, resulting in a hue and cry from more mainstream and party Dems, invoking — not without merit — the memory of the election of 2000, and the results thereof. However, what most of these people are in complete denial of is the fact that a number of Hillary Clinton supporters have said the exact same thing in reverse, if Senator Sanders is the nominee. I guess, in that case, a repeat of 2000 would be fine in their eyes.

I have not missed voting in one election in the past 42 years. I am a lifelong Democrat, having grown up in a politically active, “progressive” Democratic family. I have always voted for candidates of my party, even if I wasn’t always happy about it, simply because the alternative, allowing more Republicans in office, was the far worse choice. And up until a short time ago, I felt the same way about the coming presidential election. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, I thought, I will vote for her as the lesser of two evils. Events over the past few weeks, however, have caused me to rethink my position.

I recently took a three-week sabbatical from Facebook, as well as this blog (where I frequently write about things of a political nature), because things were heating up to such a degree — animosities, vitriol and divisions among friends, myself included, were getting so horrific —I felt someone whose emotional grip was already as tenuous as mine, was best served putting myself in a time-out.  Recovery from a nervous breakdown and a vicious political cycle is a potent mix — not a particularly beneficial one.

But even during my time-out, I couldn’t help but read — I subscribe to so many print and online news outlets, I was barraged with information on a daily basis. And one particular strain that kept surfacing made my blood boil to the point my resolve to stay out crumbled. Like Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Every day, I saw some meme, or article, or post saying the exact same thing — anyone who didn’t trust or support Hillary Clinton was the victim or prey of decades of anti-Clinton propaganda propagated by the political right. People I knew, liked — respected even — were spewing this insulting, patronizing and demeaning drivel, as if Sanders supporters were too moronic to be able to think, read, analyze and decide for ourselves how we felt about Ms. Clinton. No, we were poor pathetic dupes of right-wing propaganda.

In my fury, I wrote a scathing, profanity-laced diatribe, which I posted on my Facebook page, condemning these unfounded insults, pointing out a number of the reasons there was such distrust toward Secretary Clinton among Progressives and Independents. As narrated above, when I asked the Clinton supporters who call me, and others who believe as I do, “dupes of right-wing propaganda,” to explain Clinton’s voting record as Senator, her actions as Secretary of State, and her intimacy with the business oligarchy, there is no logical response, simply more obfuscation and bullshit.

When Senator Sanders won the Wisconsin primary, the shit really hit the fan. The Clinton machine came out blasting to spin the story (they have plenty of guns — two of her top corporate donors, after all, are Comcast and Time Warner, which happen to own a huge segment of the American media, including NBC, MSNBC, and CNN).

Studies show these outlets have, so far, given more than $400 million dollars of free publicity and coverage to the Clinton campaign, over five times more than the coverage given to the Sanders campaign. Within one day of Senator Sanders’ stunning upset in Wisconsin, articles appeared in newspapers and online news outlets all over the country, misstating Senator Sanders views on gun control, the Mid-East, and you-name-it, followed by even more memes and posts from Clinton supporters on Facebook, flinging the old, “ha ha, I told you so,” propaganda line, and anything else they could think of to demean Senator Sanders and his supporters.

The colossal arrogance demonstrated by Clinton supporters, even as they steadfastly refuse to question anything their candidate has done, the outright lies told, the vicious, accusatory attitude of complete contempt they continuously demonstrate toward a man who has spent his entire life fighting for the rights of Americans — rights long forgotten by most politicians and all too many citizens — very clearly demonstrate to me that Republicans don’t hold a candle to Democrats when it comes to self-destruction.

So now, I find myself for the first time in my life, actually considering the possibility of sitting out this election. And while I know many people will wonder or be outraged that I could possibly consider such a thing when so very much is at stake, my response is this: I have been so deeply offended at the callousness and blindness of so many in the Democratic party, their refusal to look in the mirror and hillary_clinton_american_traitor3see a political party corrupted by the forces backing the very candidate they unquestioningly support, I would rather leave this country upon the election of a fascist like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, than bring myself to vote for someone whose sense of entitlement to the Presidency, allows her and her supporters to say and do anything to secure that position, with no sense of conscience or decency. That just makes Secretary Clinton a more cunning fascist. This, in my opinion, makes her eminently more dangerous.