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