Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Another Shining Example

This blog is about an email (3 emails actually) I received from a member of Abate regarding the last blog I posted. I would like the motorcycling community at large to see what kind of people Abate puts in office; another shining example of "brotherhood" among bikers. Not hardly.

I would have kept this to myself, and a few others, for in no way was it broadcasted among the public at large. From what little information I can gather, an email I wrote to someone, was forwarded to someone who forwarded it to him for response. I have never contacted this person, or his chapter president directly. However, after being trashed in the first email, and then trashed even worse in the second, well, I've never been known to keep quiet, especially when told to "shut up". Just ask my mother.

In the first email, he found it necessary to expound on all his titles, to obviously support the reason for the arrogance he would eventually display; beating his chest I'm sure. It brought to mind Tim-the-Tool-Man and his grunting response to his garage full of tools. As if I'd be impressed over a bunch of titles. I'd hoped at first that I was dealing with a rational person with a bit of intelligence, but that opinion has steadily lost any substantial reasoning.

Overall, I believe it was in response to the blog I wrote on the
Freedom Rally, not the first freedom rally I'd ever been to, but the first in Florida. I always welcome another opportunity to speak with legislators anyway. Since moving here, it has become part of my agenda to learn about those who have an affect on laws in Florida, where I now live.

I was accompanied by 6 other Abate members, whom I'd invited to stay in my home, and with whom I have become friends; Strongbow, and 5 others from his Palm Beach chapter. I didn't know much about Strongbow, other than what others had told me. I wanted the experience of knowing him personally. What I saw of them all was a unity and a tolerance for each other's uniqueness and beliefs. And this is what I felt from Strongbow. He didn't care that I fight outside of Abate, or what my personal beliefs are. And they all afforded me the kindness I afforded them, even before knowing me.

Here in Tallahassee, I don't see much of an Abate presence, though I know they are here. And I know they do good things up here in the Panhandle. Diana of Whitesands keeps me posted on what her chapter is doing, and I am aware of a driver education program that someone in the Big Bend chapter was conducting in area schools, because I attended one in support of it. But recently it has come to my attention that the person who spearheaded this program has been
stifled as well. I know there are many within Abate who do good things. I'm sure a lot of them were at the Freedom Rally. But when these kinds of actions take place, it makes one wonder.

It was nice to have the opportunity to ride with Strongbow and his crew, and Strongbow introduced me to others he knew at the rally. They stayed in my home for four days and I got to know them well. We had rousing conversations about bikers rights, personal riding experiences, and even some soul searching exchanges. They're bikers, my brothers (and sisters), and they have heart. No arrogance, no personal agenda, just a desire to live the lifestyle we all enjoy and keep the right to do so. They did try to get me to join, but accepted my reasons for not doing so. They know I'll be there to fight beside them regardless. Strongbow's chapter has since earned more of my respect by their actions in the
A1A attack on motorcyclists.

I've ridden my own on and off since 1971 and lived a lot of places. None of them were states where this particular Abate member has lived. There are a lot of people in this country, and it's unlikely I'll ever meet everyone who fights for bikers rights. I tend to be more of a "sniper", for my independence and singlemindedness in the way I fight, than a MRO "politician". I don't particularly like the club scene, or the numerous meetings, though I have been known to attend a few. And, true, being a mother has taken my attention from the matter at hand more times than I can count. It is the only priority that ranks over all others.

And riding my own in the early days wasn't always a picnic either. Women were expected to be "old ladies" and ride bitch. And freedom fighters back then didn't appreciate a woman with a mind of her own. But I found my ways. With my daughters in college these past few years, more of my time is my own, and these days, women are accepted up front much more than the past, with the few exceptions on occasion.

It is not surprising that not many know me. That's OK. I'm not in this, nor have I ever been, to achieve notoriety, or make a "name" for myself, only to help get the job done. Those who do know me, and take the time to do so, find all they need to know. Those that don't are of no concern to me.

This person seemed fixated on the fact that since he'd never heard of me, or hadn't met me, then I must surely be a "fake". Meaning, I'm not a "real" freedom fighter, I just play one on the internet. He also thought that since I'm not an Abate member, or held numerous officer positions, then I can't possibly be a true freedom fighter. I had a good laugh over that one. But whatever, it matters little to me what he thinks of me. And eventually he will learn that he is wrong.

I tend to look at MRO membership from a different perspective. That I'm not an Abate member just means I don't agree with their practices as an organization. The organizational practices may or may not be the same agenda as many individuals within an organization, but in the end you are expected to support those practices and decisions. You pay your dues, you become part of the organization, and you are assimilated. One of the first things I heard about florida Abate is their intolerance for radical opinions, coupled with how women of said radical opinions are treated. It's a waste of my time and energy to oppose such ingrained obstacles when I can focus my energy elsewhere to the greater good. I personally refuse to accept that which contradicts my fundamental belief about freedom in general.

Freedom of speech gives me the right to oppose any decisions made by any organization, MRO or not, and if those decisions affect my own rights, I will speak out against it, guaranteed. I use this forum as a vehicle for those beliefs, and judging by the thousands of blogs and websites out there, so do many others.

Apparently he feels differently. And that's OK, just not in the convoluted and unprofessional way he addressed it. Were I to write a legislator and attack the way he dressed as a reason for opposing what he does, my letter would go in the trash. I gave him the initial benefit of the doubt, but he proved me wrong by continuing his tirade.

Not being one to jump to conclusions about those I don't know, I forwarded his email to others I have immense respect for, asking what they thought. With only 14 months of residency, and not knowing this person, I wasn't really sure what to think, for he started out his email "addressing my concerns", followed by apologizing for Abate, then proceeded to attack my integrity, ending his email with the following:

"STEP UP or SHUT UP. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. You talk the talk, can ya walk the walk? Whiners we got plenty of." I think I agree with the "whiner" part of that, but the caustic nature of this last line negated anything positive he previously said.

Now, I don't think I've ever met this person, nor did I know his name before, and if I don't know him, by his philosophy, wouldn't that make him a liar and a fake in my eyes? It would if I were just as shallow. So what if he has held positions in other state MRO's. I know that many positions are taken by the only person to hold up their hand. It means nothing to me. I've known some who held office and did nothing, and some who did more harm than good. It seemed to be his intention to WOW me with all his past titles, as if that somehow makes him better than me, or substantiates his position.

I judge people by what they do, not by the titles they have or the dues they pay. And I sure don't make assumptions about people unless I can prove them out. Well, most of the time. But I'm not in the habit of doing so and then sending a scathing email to the person. That would be rude and uncalled for.

So, before I could respond to the email myself, one of my friends wrote a lengthy email back to this person, from his perspective. I was out riding most of the weekend, and I even started a reply, but hadn't finished it yet. The reply was very well written, and not at all derogatory. Indeed, my own reply was very much like it, and I thought, well this is good, I'll answer his questions about me personally and the rest is taken care of. All will be OK. But that didn't happen. I never had the chance to respond in an intelligent manner, for another instant response came back, adding more insults; why I need someone else to speak for me, and more on my identity, blah blah blah. The indignant reply contained much more pettiness and nasty commentary than before. And I sat here thinking, well that was nice, now I've lost all desire to be courteous in the face of so much anger and contempt.

And I'm thinking, what level of intelligence are we dealing with here? Does he really think his petty remarks have an affect on me? Perhaps he thinks because I'm a woman I will go crawl in a corner and cry? So sorry to disappoint you, dear Abate member. My self-esteem is intact, as yours apparently is not. I won't apologize to anyone for something I've not done, and I certainly won't aplogize for writing about what I saw.

Frankly, I didn't really see anything in my last blog that would get someone's shorts in such a bunch. It really does take a rational thinker to be objective. And now all I see is an irrational person who is unable to look at anything objectively, for his attack on me was as childish and immature as the neighborhood bully who can't have his way.

In the last year, of all the hearings I've been to, was he there? No. Yet his curent "title" is Legislative Trustee. The only Abate person who shows up at any of these hearings is the state lobbyist/president, and even he doesn't hit them all. Regardless of what state I live in, or have lived in, or how long I've lived here, he knows nothing of what I do, or have done. So I am judged as guilty right up front. There may be all kinds of reasons he was not at these hearings, and they may be good ones for all I know. And that's my point; I don't know his reasons. I don't know him at all, other than this display of unprofessionalism.

Perhaps that's why he hasn't met me, ya think? Or maybe it's because I don't go to bike nights, parties, or poker runs? Who has time for that when there is so much to keep up with in the legislative arena here in Florida? I don't have a "wife" or "girlfriend" to cook, clean and do laundry for me either. And when I do have time for other things, I'm riding with the PGR and other Veteran supportive events, or researching other state laws in an effort to help other states with their battles, and thereby gaining knowledge that will help me to defend my own battles in the legislative arena. Somewhere in there, I work a day job, so I can keep doing all those things.

So let's look at what's really going on here:

I wrote a viewpoint about the Freedom Rally, which Abate organized and sponsored. The two main points were, less than 4% of Abate's membership, whose total membership is less than 4% of Florida's registered motorcycles, showed up for the rally, and about half of those left without going into the Capitol and speaking to any legislators (the real purpose of the rally). As Abate is Florida's only "MRO", this truly astounded me, for I have seen much larger gatherings for such an important event in other states time and time again.

I also mentioned two facts about the state Abate meeting, in which a member was voted out without following protocol, and another person was prevented from attending when the meeting was open to all. All because they have opposing views. It wouldn't matter to me what MRO did this, I'd still mention it. It's wrong, it's unethical, and it makes Florida Abate look very bad indeed.

Apparently he took exception to expressing these facts. But instead of looking at it in a positive light, he chose to attack me personally, as if somehow that would erase the facts I wrote and make them go away. Or perhaps it's denial. For this information is no secret to many. What it does, however, is reduce Abate down to the size it really is, and something many cannot seem to accept or want to hear. I am sick to death of hearing that Abate is the "voice" of Florida's bikers. That he personally doesn't have this viewpoint has nothing to do with the the fact that it is said.

I would support Abate 100% in a heartbeat, if their overall goals and philosophy was the same as mine, but it isn't. I simply refuse to give up rights to get a few dogbones thrown my way.

And the irrational rebutted by the rational:

I'm not an Abate member, so I'm not allowed to point out their shortcomings.

Wrong. I have the right to post anything I like here. It's called freedom of speech. You remember that constitutional freedom? I don't edify any comments to my blog posts, other than irrational personal attacks, or profanity.

I don't post my given name on my blog, so I can avoid Google hits from spammers, so that makes me a fake, hiding behind "Sam I Am".

Wrong. Sam is the name I use every day. It's not a "biker" name. It is a nickname given to me a long time ago. And since you're such a jerk, you'll have to find out my last name all on your own. Won't help you though, since I've had three different last names in my lifetime and rarely give it out. Ask around. You might even find someone who knows me. Ask for Sam.

He's never met me so therefore I can't possibly be a "freedom fighter". If I was, he'd have heard of me.

Wrong again. If I thought everyone I'd never met was a liar and fake, I'd be delusional. Arrogant at the very least. With an attitude like that, no one would like me. (Oh wait, he really believes that.) There's that arrogance thing again.

I don't have scads of titles, so I don't deserve to call myself a freedom fighter.

Wrong. Titles don't make the freedom fighter. It is the brotherhood and the heart of the American biker, and an unflappable determination to fight for what is right; unadulterated freedom. What part of that do you not get? Or maybe you think being a "biker" only applies to men?

Step up or shut up.

Since it is such a burning question on what I do or don't do, I'll ask the same. Where were YOU when the hearings took place when the last few horrific discriminatory bills were heard in the House and Senate? And where were YOU when your lobbyist supported the last discriminatory bill, SB 1992? What have YOU done recently for others throughout the country? How much did YOU contribute to California's Judicial Fund, or Michigan's fight against their helmet law? What about the ROW Stiffer Penalty bill in Massachusetts? How many noise ordinance tickets do you have? Helmet tickets from other states? Or do you just sit in your own little Abate world contemplating the next bike night you're going to go to, where I will NOT be?

You're right. You DON'T know me.

The blog I wrote about the Freedom Rally was intended to spark some interest from apathetic bikers, and to point out a few atrocieties that are going on beneath the membership's noses. But instead of looking at in a positive manner, and thinking, "How can I make this better for next year's rally?" he chose to attack me personally. The response from my friend specifically listed out suggestions to achieve this end. Yet while he groveled plainly to this response, he continued to blather unsubstantiated accusations against me.

Now that makes me all warm and fuzzy about Abate. He even challenged me to join Abate and run for an office. Even if I didn't already have a bad taste in my mouth for the way things are run within Abate, knowing of someone like this would turn me away in a heartbeat. No amount of "open arms", as he claims they would have if I join, could convince me he wouldn't turn on me at the very next opportunity.

Why would I want to be a member of Abate when at every turn they openly condemn those who fight as independents? And what is this prevailing attitude that Abate is the "voice" of Florida's bikers? It certainly isn't mine. You won't find me telling my brothers to "behave" when you ride through Delray Beach. You won't hear me supporting a bill that removes individual rights of Americans in exchange for a paltry "feel-good" legislation (and one that will be stripped out anyway). And you won't see me making a distinction between any biker style, only apathy. If it's a two-wheeled motor vehicle, it's a motorcycle. Any law that discriminates, violates, or compromises the rights of those who ride is worthy of my attention. There but for the Grace of God go I.

And as long as Abate's president and lobbyist steps on my rights as a biker, or anyone else for that matter, I will "spout off" (as he so eloquently puts it in his email) and I will do so, whenever, and however I feel like. As long as I have to fight to achieve absolute freedom, I will speak out. I am a Florida biker, and I have the right to oppose that which violates my rights. Abate does not get a free pass on this, just as lawmakers do not either.

In the second email, after ripping me to shreds, he ends it with, "We choose to attend our own affairs by our own means and if Sam [and friend] wants to join ABATE of Florida to dig in, work for the organization and help, then we will welcome both of you with open arms and put you to work, if not then keep your opinion to yourself and let us get on with what we are accomplishing in Florida."

Gosh, gee, golly, you'll put me to work? I guess I've been loafing. Keep my opinion to myself? Only if I don't join? I've seen what happens to people within Abate who don't keep their opinions to themselves. Get real. Accomplish what? Supporting bills that take away my rights? That goes against my most basic of principles.

Now I ask you, why would I join any organization after being treated this way? All for writing my viewpoint, which was fairly accurate, and for keeping my real name off the internet? An organization that makes decisions that compromise my freedom, and an organization where controvery is squashed through unconventional means? Especially when I can fight for my rights all on my own? Thank you, but no. Had I received a polite and courteous email asking who I was, I might have obliged. I don't dance for anyone, especially an arrogant pissant like this one.

So, Mr. Abate I-are-a-freedom-fighter, just like Abate takes care of their business the way "they" want, I take care of business the way I want. If Abate makes a decision that violates my freedom, the world will hear from me again. If you aren't man enough to deal with it, get over it. I have the right to disagree, just as you do, and I guarantee you, I will again.

OK, this post is long. But as as I prepare to publish, I see yet another flaming email from this person. Interesting how this has all escalated through such ignorant and arrogant behavior. He claims yet again how it all stems from my vicious "attack" on Abate, yet he hasn't as of yet posted any comments on the blog, but instead prefers the yellow-bellied method of sending personal flaming emails.

In this third narrative, he attacks my clean leathers as grounds for not being a biker. Now there's a solid reasoning for someone's belief. I am a woman, after all, and I rather like my buttery soft (and clean) leathers, same as the silk I wear under my clothes. I take good care of my leathers, so they'll last me another 10 years. I guess the picture doesn't show the right leg where the leather has become distorted from being too close to hot pipes too many times, or the back where I've hand-stitched them over and over. I'm actually flattered that he thinks my 10-year old chaps look new. I guess keeping my bike clean also means I'm not a biker. Ooookie. Now I'm wondering if there really is something to this Koolaid rumor....

Oh, and now I am labeled as "Queen Bee", but he has it wrong. It's Queen BITCH. I wish people could just get it right for once. Sheesh.

Remember, I did not initiate a personal attack on this person, or any other person. If you want to be angry over this blog, by all means, that is your right. I left his name out on purpose. It is enough that his behavior is described here.

One of the reasons I choose not to become part of Florida Abate is I don't want to be associated with officers such as this man. I simply expect better. From all people. This makes the fourth chapter I have become acquainted with one or more members. The tally is 2 and 2. Thumbs up for Whitesands and Palm Beach, who seem to operate with common courtesy, genuine friendship and are open to all who would fight for bikers rights, Abate or not. Thumbs down on the Big Bend chapter and the chapter this "person" belongs to. Rumor has it that the Big Bend chapter has the habit of culling members for less than valid reasons. They have not responded to an inquiry. The "un-named" chapter is busy attacking people for invalid reasons and since their president has not contacted me, I can only assume he approves of the exchange. Should he do so, I will let you know. I would even print a retraction should they convince me their chapter does not condone such treatment of others. Though I'm not holding my breath.

Ride safe, ride free.

1 comment:

Shirley Vandever said...

Well done, Sam ! Well done !

You have put into words many of my own thoughts and feelings.

Some people just don't get it. You do. It helps to know that there are at least some out there with the true spirit of freedom fighting.

Touche, girl.