This Hate Has Got to End

What I’m about to do is one of the ballsiest things I’ve probably ever done. To be honest, I don’t really want to do this, but I feel like I am left with no choice. 

As I’m sure many of you already are aware, earlier today, Missouri Republican and Senate hopeful Todd Akin went on TV this morning in St. Louis and stated that few rapes end in pregnancies. An absurd statement, I know. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first absurd statement Todd Akin has ever made. Nor is it the most offensive thing he’s said, which is why I’m all fired up. Todd Akin has also spoken about rape, only in terms of “legitimate rape,” meaning that a person has not been raped unless he or she has been forced.

But before I get into the heart of my post, I would like to point out one very important fact. What I am about to say has nothing to do with my political leanings. I would say this even if Todd Akin were a Democrat, a Libertarian, or from any other political party. Because this issue goes beyond political parties. It goes to the very essence of who we are as humans, and sadly, I think so many people are so caught up in being the moral fiber police that they simply stop thinking about us as individuals.

So who am I, and why do I care?

Well, for starters, I am a rape victim. But I am quite certain that Todd Akin and his counterparts would never agree that I was raped. Why? Because I was raped by a partner.

Years ago, my partner (whom I have since left) would force me to have sex, but because we were in a consensual relationship, many people do not believe that it is “legitimate rape.” It doesn’t matter that I was forced to do something against my will. It doesn’t matter that my pleas went unheard. What the man in a relationship says goes in the minds of people like Todd Akin.

Very few people on this planet know what happened to me, and I thought that I would go to my grave without sharing that information. But as lawmakers around the United States continue to band together to strip women of their rights, I cannot be silent any more.

I do not want to be a martyr. I do not want people digging into the skeletons in my closet. But what choice do I have?

I currently live in a state with one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the country, short of banning it outright. Less than 10 miles from me, across the border is the state I was born and raised in, the same state Todd Akin hopes to represent in the U.S. Senate. 

If I keep my mouth shut, women in the United States will continue to be stripped of their rights. We will lose the choices we have that involve our very own bodies. Have I ever gotten an abortion? No. Would I stand up in support of loved ones who have had no option but to have an abortion? I have and will always do so. 

If you don’t want to have an abortion because of your beliefs, whether they are religious or not, that is your right, but that does not give you the right to infringe upon my own rights. 

How long ago was it that Rush Limbaugh decried that unmarried women who want to use birth control should have to show videos of themselves having sex? What happened? He lost a few sponsors, and there was an outcry from those of us who realize how sexist and disgusting his request was, but that was it. It did not stop the state of Missouri from honoring him earlier this year.

And Rush Limbaugh would have a fit, because I do use birth control, even though I am not currently having sex, because that is my right. 

The voices of ignorance seem to be growing louder as the election draws nearer. As much as I wanted to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all, I can’t. I tried, but I can’t. Because if women like me keep our mouths shut, one day we will have no voice at all.

Our country is a mess, as the religious right seems to forget the fact that this country was founded upon religious freedom. I have done my research on the First Amendment and written papers on the topic. I know that we, as a country, should be as open as we can and accept that not everyone here believes the same. Yet, so many in this country still openly hate against anyone who doesn’t fit in the Christian code.

I grew up Christian, and it was that very hate that drove me from being an active Christian. I could not sit down and listen to all the hate that was spewed forth in the name of God. That same hate that drives people like Todd Akin to want to control everything about us, to strip us of the rights we had to fight so hard to get in the first place. If people like Todd Akin have their way, anyone who is not a white, Christian, God-fearing hypocritical male will be a second-class citizen. And all that progress we will have achieved since our founding will have been for naught.

So, to those of you who, as I do, believe that this hate has got to go, please stand up for our rights. Show your legislators that you will not have them relegate large portions of the U.S. citizenry to the back seat. Whether you are fighting for women’s rights or gay rights, you are fighting for human rights. Please stand up and help us work toward a democratic society that is truly democratic, where all citizens – regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, status, etc. – have the same equal and unalienable rights we deserve.

Please register to vote, if you have not already done so. And when November comes around, vote for anyone who is willing to stand up for equal rights for all. It is the least we deserve.

The Russians are Coming!!

This Thanksgiving, the US will experience a remake of one of the most harrowing movies of the 1980s. It’s a movie that leaves me cowering in terror, plotting escape routes, and leave me with flashbacks of all the nightmares I had as a child. In other words, it’s my ‘Nam.

So what is this terrifying piece of film? Red Dawn.

Stop laughing.

Seriously, stop laughing.

If there’s one thing about me that’s both a blessing and a curse, it would be the fact that I have a very overactive imagination. I couldn’t shut my brain off even if I tried. I have actually had the following thoughts: machines will rise up, led by a demonic semi featuring the Green Goblin, and they will destroy everyone I love; a demonic midget clown named Chuckles is watching and waiting to pounce upon me and steal my soul; and the troll from Troll lives in the woods and will attack me whenever I walk outside at night.

I couldn’t even babysit as a teen without plotting escape routes in the event that murderous robbers broke into the house and started murdering everyone. Never mind the fact that I was babysitting for two cops, who could probably handle themselves in such a situation.

But the worst, most terrible nightmares I had as a child stemmed from the Cold War, especially the Star Wars program. It’s funny, I wasn’t even a glimmer in my father’s eye when schoolchildren in the US were forced to endure air raid drills in the event of nuclear attack. (By the way, what good would hiding under your desk do if you’re vaporized?? Schools should have been teaching yoga so kids would be flexible enough to kiss their butts goodbye.)

If you asked me now what Star Wars was all about, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I just knew it was something to do with satellites and was not to be confused with the George Lucas films. But hearing about it night after night as my parents watched World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, I knew that it was not going to be good if shit got real.

I never said a word to anyone about my terror. At that point, I was just worried that the world was a seriously dangerous place and kept thinking that I may have been better off had I been born a street urchin in Edwardian England. Especially if I could have worked for Sherlock Holmes, but I’m a geek like that.

So, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, I was only slightly crazy at that point. What moved me over the boundaries from Kookyland into Bat Crap Crazy Town was my family’s Friday night movie night movie ritual.

It’s funny, I can tell you exactly what my dad rented that night, besides Red Dawn. I remember, because the night started off great with the classic Disney film The Gnome Mobile (and if you were cool enough to have seen that at any point in your life, you are now singing the theme song).

The movie was a great way to unwind from a stressful week in second grade, so I had no qualms when I my dad put in the next film. Of course, that peace only lasted for a few minutes, as the intro of the film left me more chilled than even the most horrific of horror movies has ever managed to do. Honestly.

After the initial outbreak of Russian terrorism, I burrowed myself into the couch, hiding my head under a pillow, then cocooning myself inside a blanket. I didn’t see another shot from the film. But I heard every shot, death, order in Russian, and shout of “Wolverines!”

I’m getting goosebumps just writing this.

The film left an indelible scar upon my brain, which continued to haunt me each time I fell asleep. My first nightmare is the most vivid.

My brother and I were at my great-grandmother’s home, where we spent most of our childhood. We were hanging out in the backyard, goofing around per usual.

And then the planes started flying low overhead. We watched as parachutes fell, depositing raging Russians hellbent on American destruction in the neighborhood around us. 

Fortunately, my brother and I acted quickly. It was well known that my granny slept with a machete under her mattress and kept an arsenal of rusty hatchets and axes in her shed (seriously, she did). So, we armed ourselves and hid in the backyard, killing any Commie who tried to climb the 6-foot wooden privacy fence. 

Around that point, I woke up in a panic. Instead of realizing that it was just a dream, I would look around my darkened bedroom plotting how to survive if the Russians were currently lurking in the dark outside my home waiting to blow a hole in me. My favorite plan was to hide in a footlocker that sat at the foot of my bunk bed and served as a toy box. I’d cower in there among the Legos and Barbies, trying my darndest not to breathe too loudly and give my location away.

For the next few years, until the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR disintegrated, I would panic every time an airplane flew low overhead. Doubly so if it actually was a military airplane.

And funny enough, I don’t think that’s weird. Well, too weird.

About 25 years have passed since that first nightmare, so I thought that enough time had passed for me to realize how ridiculous the whole situation was. When the trailer for the remake popped up last week, I thought I could give it a watch and laugh at the absurdity of the plot – I mean seriously, North Koreans with a super weapon that shuts off our electronics? Actually, wait. That would really suck. I bet they wouldn’t like me too much, what with my love of South Korea, especially Lee Byung Hun. Crap, I’m doomed.

But I digress.

I pulled up the trailer, expecting that I would have no issues with the film. I mean, seriously, it stars Thor, Peeta and Josh from “Drake & Josh.” It’s gotta be a great big ball o’ cheese, right?


I couldn’t even watch the whole trailer.

Once it got to the shot of parachutes falling from the sky, my flashbacks ramped right up, and I had to shut off the video and leave my office.

In other words, I’m still Queen of the Megaweenies.

When they start running the trailer on TV this fall, I’m going to be so screwed. Nightmares every night, I tell you. And what can I do about it? Nothing short of moving to my own island and starting Mindayland.

Maybe Captain America will come save me.

Bad Moon Rising

Every small town has a cast of characters so unique they become infamous. The small Missouri town I grew up in is no exception. We had the guy who drove a hot pink hearse. We had a religious cult. And of course, like every small town, we had our very own Elvis.

Elvis wasn’t the young, handsome man calling others hound dogs. Nor was he an overweight drug addict squeezed into a rhinestone jumpsuit. Our Elvis sported a pompadour with his patented lip curl, and he was more likely to be wearing jeans and boots than leather or blue suede shoes.

I had never seen Elvis in person. I only heard tales of him and his Priscilla – a chubby, older blonde whose hair was straight out of Hairspray. Priscilla jumped out of the ’50s or at least Grease with her satiny Pink Ladies jacket that she paired with jeans. Like her elusive husband, she was only someone I had heard gossip about from my parents or at the cafeteria lunch table at school.

At the time, I didn’t care much for Elvis Presley. I knew who he was, especially as a girl I knew had a mom whose house was a shrine to the singer. You couldn’t move anywhere without some Elvis picture, doll or tchotchke in your immediate line of sight. The obsession is exactly why I didn’t care much for the man. Instead, my heart was all aflutter for New Kids on the Block. What can I say? It was 1989, and I was a wee 10-year-old lass.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, my family would order from Pizza Hut every Friday night. It was a ritual my siblings and I looked forward to every week. Such was our love of supreme pizzas.

When Friday rolled around, Dad would call in the order, and after the prescribed amount of time, we’d jump into the car, drive downtown and pick up our dinner. I loved this ritual, because I usually was allowed to run in, pay for and pick up dinner. And the night of The Incident was no exception.

When we arrived, I raced into Pizza Hut and paid for dinner. The food wasn’t quite ready, so I sat on the bench by the take-out window to wait. I won’t lie, I was bored and fidgeting as though I had drank a case of Coke. My dad had given me exact change, so I didn’t even have a quarter to play Super Mario Bros. Resigned, I sat there and looked around at everything and nothing all at once.

And then Elvis walked in the door.

In the early dusk of late fall, spotlighted by the headlights of cars driving past, Elvis seemed to glow. Maybe ghosts got hungry too, I thought, not even trying to hide my gawking. But as the man stepped up to the take-out window, I realized he was flesh and bone. A lot of flesh. Way too much flesh.

I’m shuddering as I type this.

The staff didn’t immediately step up to help, so Mr. Presley decided to make good use of his time by relaxing his boot. Clearly, Mr. Presley’s mom never taught him to bend at the knees. So, like a drunken woman with a tramp stamp, he leaned over, giving me an eyeful of tighty whities and plumber’s crack.

I’ll understand if you have to stop reading so you can go vomit. 

Better? Okay, I’ll wrap this up.

Before Elvis finished tying his boot, I heard a teen shout, “Kinnaman!”

Looking away from the mentally scarring butt of the King of Rock, I saw my pizzas being held out to me. Unfortunately, in order to access them, I had to stand next to Nightmare on Crack Street. I took a deep breath to steel my nerves and ran for my pizzas. Yanking them out of the teen’s hands, I ran to the car. My dad turned to me once I jumped in the passenger seat. “Did you see Elvis?”

“Oh yeah.”