Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Barbara Boxer”

Rape is a Crime. So is Silence.

Disclaimer: I am writing about a topic I know nothing about. I am a man. I have never forced myself upon a woman, never been forced, and it is a topic that I feel no one is talking about. I live in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area and I am experiencing a wave of shock at the three incidents I have heard about recently.

This is America…California…San Francisco…and it feels like I am living in a primitive or totalitarian society.

All three incidents (as much as I was told) involved women who reached a point where during the attack they went still, played dead, from fear that they could not stand more physical abuse and pain, or maybe for fear of their lives. They tried to mentally detach, to distance themselves from what was being done to them.

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As far as I understand, this desperate survival act, compromised their ability to have the criminals who did this to them brought to justice. The fact that the physical evidence could have been from just having ‘rough (consensual) sex’ means that they are not believed that they were raped, and are often treated as sluts, liars, or unstable.

The fact that the women I spoke with were apprehensive about reporting the crime to the police is a terrible reflection of our police force. Why are they having to report this to a man, in a uniform, who symbolizes ‘power-over’? Do we not have enough women in the police force that it is standard procedure for a woman police officer to interview the (female) victim?

So this is a man’s world. Maybe, but here is California we are blessed with some amazing women in leadership. Where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and the other strong women leaders I look up to and admire? In my work, and the activism part of my life, I meet such incredibly strong, empowered women. Why the silence? Where are the men in power who have the responsibility to protect all citizens?

When I first came to California, a gay friend was explaining the fight to crush DOMA here. He said something like: It has to start here. California is a start-up nation, not only in hi-tech, but in social policy. If it can be done anywhere, California must lead the way to change.

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That a person must walk around for the rest of his/her life with this crime eating away inside, constantly in a  state of hyper-vigilance, being a painful reminder every time someone close tries to be intimate with them, is a life sentence.

Bringing the rapist to justice will never erase what they did to the victim, but it might go some way to closure. At least there is not that haunting feeling that the assailant is still walking free.

If we are to suggest that America has any claim to moral and social leadership, if we are to preach freedom to the world, then we must eradicate this criminal act and the damaging silence that surrounds it.  

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, Ashbar – Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

State of the Left Coast Union

Last week (at least at the time of writing), President Obama gave his State of the Union and I enjoyed it. I even subjected my sons to listening live as we ate dinner (PST) – actually I bribed them offering that they could watch The Simpsons after homework (reverse psychology – two teaching opportunities for the price of one – kids haven’t caught on yet).

Speaking as a new American, (the 49’ers run finally had me watching American football) I am still puzzled at how much power and attention this jewel of democracy gives its President. We elect representatives to Congress as our direct representatives. They are paid to protect and advance our interests. The judiciary, while a very important watchdog, is there to ensure that the laws are interpreted and enforced.

Now I am all for strong leadership and a steady fan of the President. I have one of his books on my iTunes and when a chapter randomly comes up (usually while I am at the gym) I listen. I should also confess at this point, and did a year ago, that I am a faithful devotee of West Wing.

However, I often feel that the media frenzy that dogs the Presidential trail (and that includes the Primary circus) provides a comfortable distraction for those we sent directly to Congress. The vast majority of laypeople, myself included, know more about the activities, thoughts and efforts of the President than we do of our representative. I wonder how many people of voting age even know who their representative is? I have read two books by the President, but have no idea if Representative Barbara Lee or Senators Boxer and Feinstein have even written any books.

The role of the President should be to represent our country and to have a strategic overview. Many have criticized President Obama as being too conciliatory with Republicans, but I admire his collaborative nature, even though I am frustrated that it cost us a serious health care bill.

While I believe that  Congress should be more prominent and accountable, I enjoy the State of the Union – certainly better than the Queen’s (bless ‘er) Christmas Address at 3pm every 12/25.

The President should be the communicator to the nation. The State of the Union should be a 10,000 foot view of our accomplishments and challenges over the past year and looking ahead, but it should never replace, or give the illusion that, the responsibility lies with all our leaders.

President Obama’s speech did give the impression of electioneering, but there was an important recurring message: Put it on my desk and I’ll sign it into law.

President Obama was addressing the nation, but he was also addressing Congress. Partisan stagnation has no place when our nation is suffering. So my State of the Left Coast Union is simple:

Electioneering be damned: Our nation is hurting. Stop the circus. One debate, one half hour uninterrupted prime time TV slot to each candidate and let’s go to the ballot.

The rest of our politician’s time should be spent doing what we pay them to do. I realize this will seriously hurt our media industry, but perhaps they might be inspired to focus on real news and analysis to empower the people to make informed decisions.

Too Radical?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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