Justice is Love’s Surname

Survivors get to decide what they do with their story.

My daughter reminds me of this when I complain about a particular rape narrator who seems to be exonerating people who actively refused to value her need to be heard over points in a game.

What I would tell if she answered my email is:

  • Describing your rape in sexually explicit details obscures the message that rape is always about anger and power and objectifying the victim. Do not give potential felons a script for how to commit a crime.
  • Why exonerate anyone who has now or in the past facilitated rape culture? Anyone who actively compensated for rapists needs to be called out and fired, not hugged and beatified–no matter how many teams he or she has taken on to victory.
  • What happened to you has and will happen to a lot of other people–male, female, gender non-binary, old, young, non-consenting. Don’t sell all of them out by sanitizing or excusing deeply broken human systems.
  • Don’t unwittingly hand potential perpetrators a script for rape. Whether or not you realize it, when you tell a story where no one has enforced negative criminal or civil consequences for raping you, you are not changing rape culture.
  • No victim of rape should walk down the road you have. Every person deserves incisive rules for sexual safety. We need to change those rules.
  • Most victims chose or are pressured into silence. They should not have to fear the stigma of being a crime victim who speaks out..

…but they are, and as long as they are, your message is not enough, whether it is what you say or don’t say to a group of athletes, or what you tell the mother of a rape victim

By not answering her at all.

4 Days Gone

Who knew the bosom of Abraham was the ICU at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital or that anybody could become impatient with the nearly-returned-from-the-grave, this is sleeping beauty territory, he says, so many years after the event, as he stays with me through the insomniac watches of the night. You see only a muted scrim at first, but later you see so much more, the way time can be a tomb, and you in it, Lazarus,

It is He who always has

Walked in and out of these rooms with me

Delivering Light

Occam’s Holster

I am pretty sure oral sex has been a topic of word-slinging for thousands of years.

In order to write this I inventoried some of the times when it seems to have risen to the point of national political upheaval, and some examples emerged fast-

  • The Washington Post editor who chose to nickname the Watergate informant Deep Throat after a disturbingly famous film of the same name.
  • The lopsided “affair” between a young intern and William Jefferson Clinton.
  • Recent, renewed accusations against the mayor of Seattle concerning the sexual abuse of at-risk teenagers who are now fully articulate adult men….

Just to name a few.

Which raises some thorny questions.

Would Colbert have said the victim of the Oval Office hook-up was a holster for a member?  Would he have said the same about Bill’s spouse?  Or other world leaders?

I doubt it.

I admit that I simply won’t google whether the term Mr. Colbert used for oral sex was cobbled together by him or whether it was a lexical entity prior to all of this.

I kinda don’t want to know.

But what I do want to know is whether anyone has discussed all the linguistic implications of what Colbert said.

What we know from context is-

  • He was angry
  • He was not afraid to drag sign language users, primates, and concussion victims into the list of insults
  • Context clues as well as the purely derogatory “only thing good for” component of the reference to oral sex suggests non-consensual sexual contact more than a relationship of mutual affection between consenting adults

“Non-consensual” at least for those of us who had to read it in the morning paper.

Which is why I write.  I don’t have a problem with Colbert expressing his anger toward the President or disagreeing with him.  I have a problem with Colbert’s utter and complete insensitivity to countless sexual assault survivors of all ages and genders who have ever been forced into what Colbert describes…as a joke?

He doesn’t seem to have considered how his obscene and dehumanizing language about a power-uneven and sometimes non-consensual sex act might sound to any rape or sexual abuse survivor.

That, coupled with earlier sexually and racially charged terms for Asian Americans suggests Colbert may share the very same white-man-locker-room entitlement he claims to abhor in the President.

There are clearly many ways to perpetuate a rape-tolerant ethos. I just wish Colbert hadn’t shown us how.

Chinese Box

some stories hold

Such trauma

That in order to 

Tell them

You have to use a Chinese box

What, you ask, is a Chinese box?

A Chinese box is a 

Story

Within a story

Within a story

Not to be confused with 

Chinese handcuffs

(Which is a very different thing indeed)

For example:

Once there were some children who lived in an apartment with their (biological) mother and father.  They did not always eat.  Sometimes they were left alone.  The father beat the mother.

The loss was unbearable, said their foster mother.  The boy was mute.  The girl was cagey.

So small.  So damaged. So angry.

They called her bad mommy, bad mommy, bad mommy.

Because there was only the one.

One room, one closet, one subterfuge, one million wrongs

In the circuits of his mind

He tells the story of the bad mommy, who was (he says) too much drama.

As she pieces together the past she neglects the symmetry of hearts, circles, and peanut butter sandwiches among the survivors

Because, as an ordinary prophet once said–every trauma has its own story…

Within these concentric 

Chinese boxes.

Rape Case in Brooklyn

The case shocked when it was first reported–a man sought help for his daughter who was being sexually assaulted in a Brooklyn park.

The story began to break into pieces within a week of its appearance.  The victim was consenting?  The victim had been having sex with her father!?

Ugh.

Most of us are done by this point in the story.  Too much creepy. 

The young woman refused to “do court” and the charges against all of her sexual partners fell apart.

Which leaves several salient questions–

How safe and child-friendly are parks in Brooklyn?

Why were no lesser charges pursued against any of the principals? Public lewdness?  Indecency? Incest?

And last–(the one which concerns me the most) what will become of these people? 

Especially the young woman.

The explanation of her behavior includes a life of foster care and group homes, a fundamental disconnection from her biological family–a father who could be called predatory at best.

With no more pieces of a biography than that I would hazard that she has attachment disorder, a syndrome caused by neglect and a lack of attachment bonding in babies and young children.

The question of what happens to the adult victims of attachment disorder plagues me because my adopted children have it.

None of us may want to face what happened in that park that night, but we should all question what will happen to her?  

How do you teach a woman her own worth or the value of a father who protects his daughter instead of exploiting her?

And what of the men in this story?  Each put a biological function of his anatomy over the last shred of his humanity.

My adopted daughter complains that I am not to be trusted because I judge people for things like this.

I would argue that one can only trust those who are willing to judge these things.

It ain’t love if you don’t keep all the little girls (lost or otherwise)…

Safe

At night 

In the parks of Brooklyn.

Wendy Davis and Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum

Wendy Davis is soon to release a memoir with her description of the late-term termination of her daughter diagnosed with what sounds like agenesis of the corpus callosum.

Unfortunately while her description of her daughter’s actual physical condition is recognizable, her prognosis for the little girl is not.

Lots of people live long and meaningful lives with this condition. They may need help from developmental therapies, their lives may be altered by their condition, but they are definitely not

“blind, deaf, and in a total vegetative state”

In fact, quite the contrary–Kim Peek, the inspiration for the movie Rain Man was born with ACC.

Neuropsychological tests of people born with ACC sometimes indicate that some people may “think a little differently,” but sustain normal lives and present with average intellectual functions.

Interestingly enough there are many other syndromes associated with ACC, some genetic and some not. Two of the not-genetic are maternal nutritional deficiencies and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Regardless of cause, any child or fetus diagnosed with ACC deserves the full protection of the law and the ADA, not medical termination because of their prognosis.

Wendy made a choice, but it was not a choice that supported the rights of her unborn daughter or any other child diagnosed with a learning difference or special need.

I want to live in a state, in a country, governed by the staunch belief that Americans with disabilities deserve full protection under the law regardless of their age, level of ability, or any other distinguishing factor.

To terminate the life a disabled person just because she is or may be disabled is a tragedy indeed.

Casey Kasem’s Dilemma

I used to listen to him regularly. I bet at one time or another most Americans have.

All those years, if you had told me Mr. Kasem would end up dying of thirst and starvation and medical neglect, I would have been shocked.

And yet no one besides his wife seems shocked now?

Our country has become a full-on fulfillment of sci-fi dystopia. We fight and argue for hardened child-rapists and -murders to have the right to die of old age but we let our judges rule against basic rights for the dying.

The right to water should not be withheld.

The right to nourishment is so basic. And yet time and again the most fragile members of our society are starved and dehydrated to death.

Shame on us.

We neither acknowledge the pain of the dying nor the ultimate cost to our souls of suborning justice to lower a hospital bill.

But who will pay for our lost compassion and our broken souls?

I bet you think hell..

Is a place of great
And universally unpleasant activity
A mine of infinite sorrow and regret
Or the ordinary home of men like Stalin and Hitler
Locked in an endless game of twister
Or country and western karaoke

But what if you are wrong?
And it is this instead–
The nightmare we have all had once
We are the supine
We scream
We try to scream
But there is no sound
No noise comes out of our fire-
Parched throats
Utterly helpless
Crave even Hiroshima rain
Forever.

Extending the Scope of “Soulless” to the Living

Make no mistake: the guy is worried about money.

And so are a lot of other people.

We live in a country where our most powerful democratic officials dispose of the innocent and medically fragile with great ease and increasingly callous language.

But these same officials urge us to believe that dangerous, violent offenders can be treated as harmless simply with the passage of time.

It takes money to raise a child.

It takes money to sustain life.

And it takes money to protect the innocent from criminals.

And because we do not want to spend this money we are extending the language of death to the living.

With monstrous consequences.

When ordinary people who pride themselves on their intelligence and compassion promote tenuous, highly subjective medical definitions that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago they are furthering a calculated agenda of regulating human worth and civil rights on fiscal policy.

The living have become “soulless” indeed and the “death panels” are here to stay.

Brain Dead vs. Coma

I guess, when it comes down to it, this is personal.

When I was researching this post three things coalesced for me:

I am a survivor of traumatic brain injury

My father did not survive his traumatic brain injury.

And this is a sensitive area where medicine becomes highly politicized and where the heart of the issue is money.

When I was in a medically-Induced coma as a child my parents were cautioned against my survival. They were told I would have brain damage, symptoms of psychiatric disorders, be a vegetable if I survived.

So when I did survive it was treated as a miracle.

I still consider it a miracle.

What if the hospital’s grim warning had spooked my parents? What if they did not want to be saddled with a messed -up, cognitively impaired vegetable?

What if they did not want to pay the bill for my care?

Fast forward years later:

My father’s life hangs in the balance after a helicopter crash. His surgeon does all he can to save him. Within two days my father’s life is gone.

I needed to know they did everything they could to save him.

Because the grief that came after was so eviscerating.

The truth is that the scales and diagnostics used to separate one brain injury victim from another are highly subjective.

In one case a family takes extraordinary efforts to preserve life.

In other cases the extraordinary efforts are fought to extinguish, not preserve life.

At what cost to the soul?