Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Local and National Politics

The Divide and Conquer Club


Thanks for visiting and commenting on Misfit and Misbehaving. And a big thank you to John in Australia who linked his blog to the post.

My grade-school experience began in my home. My father was the consummate divide and conquer ruler of the household. He made the rules. He called us out on the rules. He was the judge, jury and executioner of punishment. Four daughters. No sons.

My father ran a full-circle, all services provided under one roof enterprise. His best ally was my mother who couldn’t afford to go against him. She was already a wounded warrior—not just because of polio and its aftermath, but because of her own childhood deprivations and humiliations.

We four daughters learned early to survive by way of dividing and conquering. All we had to do was join forces against one of us. It worked wonders. The other way we survived was by not talking to each other about what was going on in our family. It was against Daddy’s Rules. No secrets. No chatter at night after lights out. No comparing notes or comforting each other. No plans to go against Daddy’s Rules.

What happened in my grade school classroom was a version of what I already knew. Only this time it was in a setting I perceived as safe. So much for safety.

The tactics of divide and conquer are so familiar we scarcely perceive them. Whether consciously or not, they cause division and divert attention from what’s really going on. Thus the divider has things his or her way.

Without knowing it, the girls in my classroom were reinforcing values of the upper class. Clarifying the dividing line between us and them. That may sound simple, but the other side of divide and conquer isn’t all that complicated once we understand how people abuse power and to what ends.

I’ve also experienced this in churches and in academic settings. It happens everywhere, often in ways that seem as innocuous or even praiseworthy.

In the USA today, I see this tactic as a deadly weapon of non-warfare. No one wields it so skillfully right now as POTUS—with the possible exception of Russia.

But the subject I care most about is women. Women of all colors and nationalities have experienced the tactics of divide and conquer in the home and in workplaces, churches, organizations, academia, the government, human trafficking, prisons, retirement homes, and any other setting in which women work or live.

This constant division serves the interests of white male supremacy, not the interests of women no matter how fancy the rhetoric sounds. It’s no accident that the USA is steadily falling behind other nations when it comes to women having access to all levels of government, healthcare, and other vital services.

It pays, it seems, to keep women in their place. Especially if we do this by promoting them. Feeding them a little of what they want and watching them fight over it, while withholding equal and proportional participation in deciding what that is.

Not every male is a white supremacist. However, without women banding together across significant divisions, all the men in the world with good and noble intentions will never save us. We must speak and act for and with each other.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2018
Cartoon found at mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com

Thank you, Anita Hill

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017
Photo found at gq.com

sequestered spaces

We retreat into sequestered spaces
somewhere on the boundary
of lived reality and death

Inexpressible loneliness
greets and enfolds us in grief
pierced raw by sorrows

Death of a child, a spouse, a friend, a stranger
Declining trust and good will
Specter of lost leaders and followers

Inexpressible anguish
stalks this land of promised opportunity
with freedom and justice for all

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 Aug 2017
Image found at chicagotonight.wttw.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Solitary

In the finest tradition

In the finest tradition
of street money politics
abuse of power flourishes.

Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Before our eyes
In and out of headlines
Behind closed doors
Projected in a heartbeat
Tweets and twitters
An ever-present reminder
Of the cost to those
Who just say No
Or fail to do obeisance

A legacy
not easily
bankrupted
feeds from one
generation
to the next
exploiting
fear gone viral.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 July 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Traditional

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