Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No Regrets Means You Never Learn And Reveal Good

We all make mistakes. For that, I know I have a lot of company.  These mistakes don't define us for the rest of our lives nor who we are as a whole. Humans are not infallible and I realize that making mistakes and regretting something can ultimately reveal the good.  Having no regrets means you can never learn and regret can be a powerful force for good in our lives.  

The last few days I have taken a step back to reflect on why I reacted so strongly to Mr. Will Estrada's letter as Chairman of the Loudoun Republican Party condemning the Loudoun Board of Supervisor Chair for attending the Woman's march, which I too attended.  

For the first time in my privileged life, I feel a deep sense of anxiety and sadness for the world that doesn't seem to respect me, my daughters, those who are LGBTQ, minorities, etc as full human beings with equal and full rights. I feel the weight of America's misogyny. I feel despair for my friends and family of color, who are persecuted by those who feel they can or are ordained to do so. The Sexism. Racism. Homophobia. All of it. The rhetoric of the last year has just brought out the good, bad, and the ugly. And it hurts. It hurts me to my core. 

Women have been told for far too long that men in our society have dominion over them. Legislative decisions and the court of public opinion tells women on a daily basis that men can do and say what they want without consequence.  

When a female reporter gets harassed online many seem to look the other way or dismiss it. When a female politician is called horrific names for taking a stand it seems that everyone joins in like animals feeding on a carcass. 

What we all miss out on is productive discourse.  

I tweeted to Mr. Estrada about the Article regarding his letter by stating on my personal Twitter account: @Will_Estrada works 4 org whose ideology suppresses women (he works for the Home School legal Defense Association).

Straight away, I was called extremist, asked by a man if he could borrow my vagina costume,  my comment lacked professionalism and that my ideology has blinded you. I was branded a liar, disgusting, vile despicable person, and a nasty vapid joke.  I will spare you the nasty private messages because the supportive ones outnumbered them. 

One person, who opposes my positions on council, wrote, "the issue here is an elected official who regularly conducts herself outside of acceptable council member behavior." Our Council has an adopted Norms and Procedures, Code of Ethics, and a Public Meeting Conduct policy. A thorough look through our policy reveals that I have not violated any of them. I acknowledge though that this doesn't mean I get carte blanche to say anything.  I take responsibility for my actions in a world where I can't control or predict reactions to them. 

I admit. I was angry when I read his letter. It was wrong of me to drag Patrick Henry College or his employer into my argument against Mr. Estrada. Frankly, it wasn't even my argument to get into. What is disturbing is that having an opinion led to the angry mob mentality and likely more so because I am a woman. Both sides dug in our heels and never sat back and asked the question, why? Why did I feel this way and why did it bother me so much? 

In the last week, I have had some back and forth discussions with several students and former students of Patrick Henry College. Some state my comments were spot on while others say it is not their experience.  Ultimately, I shouldn't have commented on what I don't know definitively and I used previous articles and negative press from the past to color my impression of the school.  

Although I did state, "your defense of the indefensible agenda could be construed as being a puppet for their radical agenda" to one student on twitter, I have never said Patrick Henry College students were abominable or used my position on Town Council to advocate against the college. I have been to the school numerous times. Our Town has had students as interns on numerous occasions, and many alumnae are staff members at the town and county level. I find the student body and staff to be intelligent, kind, and very civic minded. My mistake is I allowed my personal feelings toward a founding member of the Home School Legal Defense Association to color my view of an entire school based on their close association.   

According to their website: 

Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000 with a vision to restore America by educating the best and brightest Christian students to take their place as future leaders of the nation and its culture. Its Mission is to prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American Founding.

Their stated mission is to get Christian conservatives into influential positions in politics and culture.  

I believe strongly in religious freedom, which also includes freedom from religion. I have a strong faith; I was raised Jewish and I am married to a Christian man. I was always taught that although Jews don't believe in Jesus Christ we are closely aligned with his moral teachings. Religion is deeply personal, and for that reason, I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. I disagree with any religion inserting their beliefs into the rule of law, although our laws are based on Christian-Judeo values. Laws should be fairly inclusive to people of all faiths. It is enshrined in our Constitution.   

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....." This includes not setting up a state church, passing laws which aid one religion or aid religions generally, forcing or influencing individuals to attend or not attend church, and government participation in religious organizations or participation by religious organizations in governmental activities. 

America is a melting pot of multi-ethnic people. I don't wish to see America adopt values reflective of fascism, communism, theocracy, or a totalitarian government. Ethnicity, race, and religious affiliation shouldn't divide us. Our founding fathers enshrined religious liberty into our Constitution and in my personal opinion, it is disrespectful in this day and age for any one religion or institution to believe that it should reign supreme in our nation. 
I meant no malice toward the school and its students and I certainly didn't mean for my angst to come out the way it did. For that, I am truly sorry. 

For now, I am going to give myself some grace. I will allow myself to feel regret because regret can be a powerful and positive force and may ultimately result in positive discourse. We learn from our mistakes and I have learned plenty this past week.  

For now, I will try and shut out the sexist harassment and political ugliness. I won't deny myself the right of expression but I certainly will say what I think more respectively going forward. When it comes to my role on town council, my decision making has always been driven by the people and I am grateful to the many who chose to provide me guidance and wisdom instead of unproductive beratement.  

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. 
If it's bad, it's experience."
  -Victoria Holt  

Friday, January 27, 2017

When a Woman Dares to Speak......

Recently, I responded to a Loudoun Times Mirror article that was posted on Twitter.  The article was a criticism of one of my local female elected leaders for attending the Women’s March. I too participated in that March. I even brought my three children.  

Problem is. I dared to express an opinion on my personal Twitter account with regards to that article.  

That one Tweet was followed by a concerted attack on me, which I chose at first to fight but it is true, you can’t reason with the unreasonable. I was called "radical." Individuals sent me vulgar pictures.  I was told that my statements were “bizarre," “an attack” and "unprofessional" simply because I am Vice-mayor of the Town that Patrick Henry College (PHC) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) are located in. It was evident; these folks feel that because I am elected, I am not entitled to free speech.

But back to the article…..

I felt the need to point out who Will Estrada and the ideology of his employer because he is not just the Chairman of the Loudoun GOP. His employer is the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is closely connected to Patrick Henry College, a fundamentalist Christian school which has very conservative, religious beliefs. His statement condemning Phyllis Randall, the Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, was nothing more than an attack on a woman for having the audacity to attend a March. 

It is his right to disagree with millions of women marching, but here is why I find that letter so despicable…….

It was a form of punishment.  

It is the epitome of patriarchy.

It is a man dictating to a woman what she can and cannot do.

Attacking a woman who attended the March was an attempt to limit her free speech. It acts to discourage her, and me, and all women, especially those who have high profile positions, from ever stepping out and being vocal.

But let’s get some background…..

PHC is made up mostly of students who were homeschooled. Their parents generally prefer to keep their distance from secular culture. The school was founded so that those students could have a school that could continue that type of education. During my tenure on council, I have been respectful toward PHC. Many of their students and faculty contribute to the betterment of our local community.

With that said, the founder of PHC and the HSLDA, Michael Farris, is known to be outspoken against the “radical feminist proposals” and “homosexual agenda.”  His college promotes a “courtship culture” and they tout themselves as a “training ground for the religious right and a pipeline to conservative jobs in Washington.” Mr. Farris even called public schools “godless monstrosities.”

Ninety-five percent of children in the United States attend public school.  The majority of people in this country identify as Christian. A vast majority of people who consider themselves moral and upright participate in society much like my family and my children who attend public school. It is an insult to that ninety-five percent to refer to our schools and our culture in such a demeaning manner.  However, that is his right. 

Will Estrada injected a woman, who worked on a campaign against my husband’s campaign for Supervisor in 2015 and is a graduate of PHC, into the conversation. Mr. Estrada and others were quick to misinterpret and twist my statements.

I apologize for stating in one tweet that Ms. Chambers participated in throwing my husband’s campaign signs into the woods. It was an unnecessary jab. However, I will clarify that back in 2015 this information was pointed out via campaign media and I posted about it publically on social media at the time. I have since deleted my recent comment on Twitter because it is unnecessary to this week’s conversation. Ms. Chambers seems to perform her job as an aide to our Supervisor well and seems like an amiable person and since that time I have had a cordial and professional relationship with her. 

Now, back to PHC……

I read recently an article where a writer stated, “Religious fundamentalism always involves deep sexual dysfunctionality and a compulsion to suppress and control women.” I certainly hit a nerve when referred to their suppression of women. 

So yes, I used the terms “radical, brainwashed, puppet, isolated and programmed” when describing a woman at PHC. To the women who attend PHC, they may feel it may not apply to them. We can agree to disagree.

I received a message from a female PHC graduate who read the Twitter exchange and the subsequent private Facebook conversation on a PHC Facebook page.  She wrote, “I just hope that after graduation, those students will finally be able to see what the wide world is really like and will realize that women are human beings too and they have value and choice. 

She also wrote, “I am impressed with how you didn’t back down and how you were even-handed. You didn’t vilify the college, but you did point out things that are absolutely, absolutely wrong about that place. Thank you for that.”

I have received numerous messages from PHC alumni this week. Their messages solidify my position. 

I received a rather thoughtful message from a recent male graduate to explain his experience at the school, which included this statement, “at no point during my PHC education was it ever suggested that women's only role in the political or professional arena is to serve men. In fact, I would say I received the opposite impression from the many successful alumnae who frequented campus and from the female students held up as examples of excellence in forensic competitions. In particular, I can name several friends and fellow Literature majors who are female, who identify strongly and vocally as feminists, and who see no conflict between these things and a strong Christian faith.

My husband is a white, Christian male. His view of the world and the way the world treats him is entirely different from the way an average woman experiences the world on a daily basis. Just because my husband doesn’t experience the everyday misogyny that women deal with doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If I didn’t tell him of my many experiences, he simply wouldn’t be fully aware of them. This young male graduate of PHC has an entirely different perspective and view based on his upbringing and experiences. His ignorance of the female experience just means he is unaware. 

Those who have written and been critical of my personal statements on Twitter have been brought up in a culture that believes in male sovereignty. I recognize that not all homeschoolers believe in strict gender roles. However, those who attend PHC tend to believe in a culture that promotes biblical patriarchy and the idea that a wife must submit to and obey her husband, which includes the idea that daughters are under their father’s authority. 

Mr. Farris wrote that wives must submit to their husbands, even warned against “attempting to do your husband’s job of leading the home” and to do so was “interfering with God’s pressure on your husband to urge him to do the right thing.” Inferring such things about the student body when their leadership espouses such things is simple logic. 

Mr. Farris boasts that his college accepts women and has sent female graduates on to law school, which he touts as evidence of their gender equality.  This same man also believes women’s primary role is in the home and that wives are commanded by God to submit to their husbands in all things. Many of the organizations to which he belongs to and host at his college for speaking engagements actively work to restore the legitimacy of misogynistic laws that in my view keep women from fully participating in public life.

So then, why educate women and send them off to law school? 

Simple. Create a foot soldier for their culture war. They aren’t educating these women to fight for equal pay, health care, to end domestic violence, for clean air, eradicate discrimination of all kinds, and the right to protest and speak out. They are using them as tools after years of religious indoctrination. Mr. Farris doesn’t intend them to use that acumen against the culture war they were raised to believe so fervently in. 

I believe in fundamental rights. I think that those who attend, support, and believe in the values of PHC are entitled to those beliefs. That is what freedom of religion and thought is all about and what makes America so great. The fundamentalist movement at PHC believes that government is not allowed to meddle in their faith, but that their faith should intervene in our government. I don’t agree.

There are hundreds of religions and various denominations in the United States.
Christians often hold different views on political issues. The Bible doesn’t endorse any particular political system although it does provide a basis for political philosophy. 

As an elected official, I swore to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It wasn’t to uphold the Bible or any specific religion. I must operate in my elected capacity in a manner that provides equality to all who present to our local government. And I have and will continue to, even toward PHC.   

Those who attend and support PHC must learn to speak reasonably with those whose religious convictions differ from them. The reaction from my statements on Twitter, which I do not use as an elected official and is my personal account, was focused on protecting a dominion rather than engaging me.

Demanding that I be stripped of my position and that it was “unprofessional” for me to “attack” an institution that is located in my Town is contrary to the Constitutional values that they claim to fight for. 

One email to my Council email went so far as to insinuate that I shouldn’t be allowed to criticize an institution that pays taxes that pay my salary. (PHC does not pay taxes since they are tax exempt). President Trump has demeaned women, companies, and institutions on Twitter now and before his election. My taxes pay to house him, feed him, protect him and pay his salary. Does that mean I have the authority to demand that he be stripped of his free speech? 

Or, is he allowed to operate on Twitter with impulse because he is a man?

If I was a man, it is doubtful the President of PHC would have written to the Mayor of Purcellville to “make you aware of a troubling development with Ms. Jimmerson who has been using social media to attack PHC, and PHC’s grads……Her inferences about PHC being involved in radical ideology and suppression of women are troubling to say the least.  We work to prepare all of our students to achieve their goals in life.  As a major employer, we also strive to be a good citizen of our community.

Here was my response to their President: 

Mr. Haye, 

Thank you for communicating with Mayor Fraser your disdain at my personal social media presence on Twitter.  The irony that you chose to bring this up to someone who you feel is or view as my superior is not lost on me.  

While you may see my thoughts as an attack, I was expressing opposing views to the ideology that is publicly well known to come from your institution. A member of your staff and others made inaccurate statements and insinuations about the meaning of my tweets stemming from my criticism of Mr. Will Estrada’s misguided attack, via the Loudoun GOP, on Loudoun Chair Phyllis Randall’s attendance at the Women’s March, which I too attended with my three daughters. 

In my capacity as a member of Town Council, I am not prohibited from having free expression or thought, even though such thought may not be aligned with yours or an institution, which resides within the Town in which I serve.  My views can in no way be viewed as those of my colleagues, staff, or anyone else in this town. Your email and Mr. Estrada’s subsequent email serve as nothing more than attempts to silence and control me, and I find your method representative of the worst elements of patriarchy that persist in our society. Silencing alternate points of view may be your method to counter opposing views, and your attempt to intimidate me is extremely disappointing and shameful. Mr. Estrada’s letter condemning Chair Randall’s attendance of the March, in my view, is no different than you emailing others in an attempt to admonish me; to control and punish any women who dare to speak up, speak out, and oppose your view. 

It is as if you view me as someone else's child or property and no doubt you took this tactic simply because I am a woman. Shall I ask my husband if he too received an email?  Should I assume the habit is so ingrained that you may not even be aware of how your behavior is perceived or how insulting to women your action is? 

We live in the age of opinion, sometimes instantly and in strident ways. Some may claim it to be criticism, and in the most superficial sense, it is.  Although your institutions counter many of my core beliefs, I have rarely if ever expressed opposition to PHC and HSLDA and feel that the two have been good neighbors to residents of Purcellville. Our Town Council recently recognized your institution and its Moot Court Accomplishment, something which I could have voted against and used my position to publicly oppose PHC. However, I did not. Actions speak louder than words and although you may dislike the discourse which has taken place recently on social media, during my tenure I have not used my position or my voice to oppose your institution.  

In the future, should you have an issue, please feel free to contact me directly so that we can have a more thoughtful dialogue. 



Karen Jimmerson
Vice-Mayor Purcellville  

Friday, January 13, 2017

LaRock is Just Wrong!

Delegate Dave LaRock claims on his website that he will “promise that I will provide honest, fair, and conservative leadership, to protect our rights and fight for high-quality services.”  I don’t believe he is inclusive when he uses the word “our.” When he says “our,” he means only those who look, speak, and believe what he does.
As a Constitutionalist, he also claims “government should protect our rights and allow us the freedom and opportunity to make our lives better.” He quotes the Declaration of Independence numerous times neglecting to understand that it is not the law of our land, the Constitution is.

Under our Constitution, public schools must address any harassment against LGBT students the same way they would address harassment against any other student. Sadly, LaRock, by his many anti-LGBT statements, asserts that LGBT students don't deserve to be protected. He also believes that our students shouldn't be exposed to teachers who are LGBT. He has the misguided belief that LGBT people in our community are dangers to our health, safety, and well-being. 

All across this great country of ours, Americans recognize the value and contribution of those who are different from them. Eighteen states currently have protections against discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity and four prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, 55% of Americans support allowing marriage for same-sex couples and 89% of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. have implemented LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies.

In 2015, there were 21 violent deaths of transgender people in the US.  That same year there were almost 6,000 incidents with over 7,000 victims of hate crimes; 95% were targeted due to race/ethnicity/ancestry, 19.7% because of religion, 17.7% because of sexual orientation, and 1.7% because of gender identity bias.  The presence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia all conspired to deprive those people of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The same rights that LaRock state are fundamental rights seem only to apply to him and those who think like him. 

His recent editorial in the Loudoun Times Mirror included outright mistruths, distortions, and religious fear mongering against LGBT people as a whole.  He makes it clear to all voters that he has a right to deny a particular population of their fundamental rights with no credible evidence to support his erroneous claims. 

LaRock quotes the US. Justice Foundation’s argument in Obergefell v. Hodges that the “homosexual lifestyle is dangerous and a social experiment.” He conveniently neglects to add that this landmark case held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Supreme Court and our Constitution do not support his beliefs. 

Sadly, my delegate constantly refers to the “Radical Social Agenda.” I am not sure what life experience he has had that brings him to believe that the LGBT community is trying to influence, indoctrinate, or pollute our children’s minds. I don't know when I started to like the opposite sex. I don’t even recall my parents or my religion demanding I had to like the opposite sex.  But Todd Glass, an LGBT comedian, makes an excellent point in his book that if you genuinely believe sexuality is a choice, then you’re not straight, you just haven’t met anyone persuasive enough.

I can’t think of any reason that any human being would choose to be challenged, scrutinized, and condemned every day of their lives, which is the daily existence for  many in our LGBT community. The human condition is to love, be loved, be accepted, and to be respected. According to the Bible, Psalm 145.3, “God makes no mistakes.” If Dave LaRock were a true believer in the Bible, his heart wouldn’t be filled with such malice toward our fellow human beings that the Bible says we should embrace.  

Further, LaRock believes that allowing transgender students and adults to use the bathroom of the sex they identify with will allow men open access to private spaces designed for women and put them at risk for attack.  He should tell that to the two little girls assaulted in a bathroom back in November, at a Loudoun restaurant, by a heterosexual man dressed as a man.

When the bathroom issue for transgender students came up in Fairfax, LaRock declared adopting “radical sexual orientation and gender identity policies” would be in defiance of the law.  He sued Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and in his public statements about that opinion used semantics and cherry picked quotes to create a false narrative about the Attorney General’s opinion to further his shameful agenda.

In April of 2014, the US Department of Education stated, “sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” It seems that LGBT anti-discrimination policies are in fact sound and good policy. 

North Carolina learned the hard way what bigotry could do to the business climate in their state when they passed a harsh anti-LGBT law last year.  It makes sense that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe would sign an Executive Order that provides protections to those working under public contracts, as well as assurance that discrimination will not subvert business opportunities in our Commonwealth.

More shocking was LaRock's statement in another publication in which he rationalizes against any LGBT protections in hiring school staff because “Loudoun County policies already allow administrators to differentiate/discriminate between good and bad behaviors when choosing who will make the best employees.” His ignorance of employment discrimination is distressing since he is a lawmaker and proves the argument for and why we should seek to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

I was raised in an inclusive environment and was not taught that a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation degraded their moral worth.  I grew up observing that my Uncle Mark and partner Tom loved each other. We were exposed to many types of non-traditional relationships and yet my brothers and I all have heterosexual marriages and multiple children. From what I can tell, none of us experienced the “negative psychological effects” from the LGBT community that LaRock firmly believes will occur and repeats without evidentiary support.  

Let us not forget that Jim Crow laws were created out of fear when blacks began to interact more equally with white people after the Civil War. Many white people feared interracial marriages would destroy America. Laws were created to keep “uncontrollable and predatory” black men from white women. The odious rhetoric that Delegate Dave LaRock is promoting today is the same used to support Jim Crow laws. It was wrong then and wrong today.

The people of this beautiful country and the future will prove that LaRock is wrong too.