On November 4, 2017, a letter to the editor from local resident John Gable spurred controversy in our town. It was vitriolic. I wrote about how we are better than this. Many of my friends and acquaintances would not agree with the racism, bigotry, and general hate of the “other” that has been occurring in the country.

But those feelings of hate have always been there, under the surface, and it’s rising. Apparently, we aren’t better than this and we need to talk about it.

After the letter was published, I received an email saying the person felt sorry for Gable and they felt as he did. The email said it was brave to write what was true. I shook my head and deleted it.

Another local resident told me in person I should excuse Gable’s behavior. He’s an old man, you see. He’s from another generation. It’s just how they are. No. My grandmother passed away in 2011 at age 88. She would have had a thing or two to say to Gable and those who think like him. Your age is not an excuse.

VICTIM SHAMING AND BLAMING

I spoke with two people this week about an attempted sexual assault at Gering High School. Because my husband works there, I know more than I can say/write. I managed to keep the conversation on the facts, but then, Mike Klein came up.

Klein pled no contest to four counts of first-degree sexual assault, a Class II felony last week. I was asked why these young ladies waited so long to say anything and why they kept going back. I explained these young ladies probably waited until they felt safe and away from Klein to speak out. I said the young ladies were probably groomed and/or put into impossible situations where they couldn’t say anything.

Eyes were rolled at me. They didn’t want to hear that a man named Nebraska Coach of the Year would wield enough power that no one felt they could come forward and accuse him of sexual misconduct. Sports rule in this country and saying anything against someone highly regarded is going to be met with massive skepticism.

When he was arrested, people called for a fair trial. Others said, “people make fake accusations all the time.” Worldwide, the false accusation of rape is 1-10 percent. The U.S. hovers around 7 percent.

The people I spoke with last week continued to victim shame. It was the young ladies’ fault for not speaking up and for putting themselves in that situation.

Our conversation turned toward Roy Moore, Al Franken, and others who have been accused of sexual misconduct – from groping to rape.

One person said it wasn’t fair that journalists, such as Charlie Rose, were losing their jobs. Bill O’Reilly settled for $32 million in a sexual harassment suit, but they felt he did nothing wrong.

I countered that accusations of such misconduct against me would most likely cost me my job. They didn’t think it should unless you were convicted in a court of law. They also felt these women were irresponsible for being alone with men. They asked, if the women were married, why their husbands weren’t there.

I tried to explain that’s not how it works in Hollywood. You don’t drag your spouse with you everywhere you go. It doesn’t even work like that in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. I have been on countless interviews alone with men and nothing untoward happened. The onus should not be on the woman.

They asked why a married woman would go into a room with someone like Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of a variety of sexual crimes against women. I tried to explain he was an extremely powerful man in Hollywood and many didn’t know what he did. They wanted to victim shame. And that’s why women don’t say anything.

I shook my head and sighed. They said it all started with Bill Cosby and “those women” who accused him. I changed the subject and left.

ROY MOORE

A November 16, 2017 article about Nebraska Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse calling for Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama senate race was met with the usual responses.

Some participated in “whataboutism” pointing at Al Franken. Franken has admitted what he did and continues to do so. He apologized. He called for a senate ethics investigation into his behavior. Moore has denied everything, lied, and said even if he did do what he was accused of, he had the girl’s mother’s permission.

Those who aren’t participating in whataboutism are still saying they are happy to vote for an alleged pedophile instead of Doug Jones who prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who killed four African-American girls responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963, solely because Moore is a republican and Jones is a democrat.

There is ample proof that Moore is not fit to serve, yet he keeps getting re-elected.

Their religious leaders are telling them it’s okay to vote for Moore because he’s a man of “proven character and integrity.”

They don’t care about sexual abuse allegations against Moore because he’s against abortion.

DEATH PENALTY

When Pfizer demanded Nebraska return any lethal injection drugs it has that were manufactured by the company or its affiliates because Pfizer banned its products for such use, local residents commented.

The ones that are on death row don’t deserve a humane death anyway. Pharmaceuticals are expensive no matter what they are used for. Bullets are alot cheaper. I’m sure there are plenty of people willing to donate ropes. Could get the job done for next to nothing with no waiting period or excuses ……just sayin

You’re an asshole, just saying. The fact is, 4.1 percent of people who are convicted and receive the death penalty and are later found to be innocent. The death penalty isn’t a deterrent and innocent people do die.

If America killed all of those on death row, taxpaxers would save millions. Cool note: ropes csn [sic] be reused. 

Idc where they get the drugs, just quit wasting tax payer money and kill em.

O please just another set back wasting tax payers dollars to keep these people alive

Due process and the laws in this country be damned, I guess.

HEALTH CARE

A few months ago, I was speaking to a person I know about the cost of medicine. My insurance at work changes every year. The cost of medicine and which medicines are accepted change every year.

With continued talk about health care in America, you would think this person who has diabetes and has gone through cancer treatment three times would be sympathetic to the rising costs. Nope. I was flat out told, “I don’t care. I got Medicare now and it’s all paid for.”

I walked away.

RELIGION

A recent article about David Green who owns Hobby Lobby was also met with lots of hoop jumping.

The story has been told several times this year. Several artifacts were illegally purchased and shipped to Green, which Christians then tried to justify. No, you can’t just wipe away gross violations of international law because you like someone. That’s not how it works.

Responses ranged from “but they took the artifacts away to a safe place” to “now the public can’t see them” to “people who don’t agree with the Greens must have miserable lives.”

Whataboutism reared its head again with several saying other museums have done it so why can’t they (the Greens).

If you willfully break the law, you must pay the consequences. You cannot ignore the provenance of an artifact or take it out of its country of origin just because you want it.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

Too many people suffer from willful ignorance. They scream “Benghazi” all day long, but don’t care about the deadly attacks under George W. Bush or the Niger ambush under Trump.

It’s hard to argue with someone who accepts a president who cheated on his wives, continued a campaign while in a trial for fraud, has been sued more than any other president, continually lies about facts that are easily proven and allegedly sexually assaulted and/or raped women.

Even when faced with the reality that republicans have stated they have to pass the tax reform bill or face donor backlash, their supporters still clap and fall in line.

That “R” is more important than anything else.

When your country is filled with people who refuse to accept evidence and facts, it’s difficult to see how things will ever change.

I have wondered if this is how people felt in Germany as Adolf Hitler rose to power. There are many terrible things happening every day, it’s hard to keep up and it seems many colleagues and acquaintances are justifying every single action that pushes us one step closer to fascism.

How does one respond when ignorance bubbles to the surface, especially given the nature of my job and the number of people I must talk to each day?

In the middle of an interview at the 2017 Scotts Bluff County Fair, a well-meaning person said they were worried about traveling to certain places, including New York City and London, because there are “no go” areas where it isn’t safe and the police are afraid to go.

This happened a month after I had actually been in New York City. It’s a lie. And this person has bought into the fear and lies shoveled out by the conservatives.

Spending decades listening to trash news that push the republicans farther to the right is how you get Roy Moore and Donald Trump. It’s how you believe whatever you are told.

Moving isn’t an option. There are many well-meaning people who live in western Nebraska, helping others and making a difference. If we don’t engage with others, how are we ever going to change? If we continue to ignore the people who think differently from us, how can we be surprised when a misogynistic racist is elected to the White House?

According to writer Jared Yates Sexton, “With Trump’s base showing strong preferences for authoritarianism, and continuing to support a serial predator of children, it’s time to look this problem in its face.

“This isn’t a political problem. This is a societal issue, a major, major existential problem with who we are and how we view the world.”

I don’t want to admit it, but there are many people in this country, in this town I live in, that think this behavior is okay.

It isn’t. And the time for change is now.

Maybe we are like that and we need to begin having honest conversations about why this isn’t okay.