By Tom Ehrich
For the fifth time I watched Lady Gaga’s powerful performance of “’Til it happens to you” at the Oscars. The song points to an epidemic of rape on college campuses.
On stage with her were several dozen survivors of campus rape -- women and men, gays and straights – who stood in solidarity with each other in saying “We did nothing wrong,” “Not our fault.”
Then I watched another performance of Lady Gaga’s song by a women’s chorus at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY. As the chorus sang, another crowd of women and men gathered on the steps of a college building. They, too, were survivors of sexual violence. They, too, were standing in solidarity.
While the chorus continued to sing, a college kitchen staff held up a sign proclaiming, “In solidarity.” The dean’s office did the same. So did other campus groups, including at least two male fraternities and a group of athletes, the two groups often associated with rape culture. “In solidarity,” they said. We won’t tolerate rape on our watch.
This is how the revolution will happen. Not with angry whites raging against people of color, not with a mob of Trump bullies beating up black protesters and raising their hands like Germans in the 1930s, not with a Texas ideologue threatening a new inquisition, not with Southern legislators and judges trying to rekindle the Civil War.
The revolution will happen out of beauty and hope, out of mutual respect. It will happen when a renowned singer, herself a victim of sexual abuse, has the courage to sing it out, and her courage gives courage to others, until women and men are saying together, “No more rape.”
The revolution will happen when straights stand with gays as vicious intolerance comes their way. It will happen when men and women serve together in harm’s way and have each other’s backs, and when the military itself has the courage to face up to its rape culture. It will happen when a female police officer is murdered on her first day on the job, and her colleagues put on full dress uniforms for her funeral.
The revolution will happen when the good shines so brightly that the darkness cannot put it out. It will happen when people who believe in other people step up to microphones and talk back to the bigots trying to “make America white again.” It will happen when someone in the crowd taunting a black woman has the decency to see the wrong being done and the courage to stand with her. It will happen when people who believe in a loving and merciful God stand together against those whose phony god is wealth and hatred. It will happen when a brave preacher says to the wealthy, “Your greed is poisoning the well for all of us.”
At the end of her performance, while the Oscars audience shed unscripted tears and stood in their own solidarity with a gutsy singer, Lady Gaga took the hands of two fellow survivors and fixed the camera with a look that was all determination.
Right-wing extremists taking over the Republican Party know nothing of beauty and hope. They know nothing of the good. They know nothing of the actual God of creation. They know nothing of the love and mercy that make societies work. They do know fear, they do know hatred, but in the end, in the fullness of God’s time, love and mercy carry the day, good sweeps the field, and survivors stand in solidarity with other survivors.