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(how to save) a life

A few weeks ago, one of my sisters sent me a string of loving texts. We share such strings often just because, but these particular texts were inspired by a Facebook memory. 

Facebook had just reminded her of a post she wrote for my blog four years ago. In one post, “The Gift of Fear,” I wrote about how the book The Gift of Fear might have saved her life. A few weeks later, in “Her Escape, Her Words,” she wrote about the journey as she’d taken it.

I reread both posts after she texted. Her post filled me with joy; she not only escaped, but has come to flourish here in SoCal. I am so freakin’ proud of her and how she makes choices to protect herself and enable herself to thrive.

My own post, though, left a pit in my stomach. When I’d written it, I’d almost completely failed to grasp how deeply systemic features–which I’d call “flaws,” were they not parts of systems designed to protect some few at the expense of many others–conspire against abused partners. I’d said, “You deserve better!” as a strictly individual initiative, without understanding just how much U.S. systems neither broadly support nor encourage that. To escape successfully requires not only defiance but faith (which can’t come easy when you live your life in fear, an island surrounded by thousands of people who don’t appear to notice your suffering) and–here’s where it really falls apart–resources, be they time, money, or social.

When she came over and sat on the stinky old couch that had served for six weeks as her bed, I explained my remorse. I told her I was so damn glad she’d escaped, but that I also feel such deep remorse how few women have resources to successfully make the escape. How miserable it is that life-or-death matters should come down to who you know, and who you know will have your back no matter what.

A system that “works” like that is a terrible, no-good system.

And yet, I explained, it doesn’t mean I’m not enduringly grateful for The Gift of Fear. Far from it! The fact there’s a book that can help guide some women to escape, and to understand it’s even possible, is a book well worth keeping spare copies to hand out (as I do). Better still, the fact that the same book helps inform other women–and men–how to avoid creeps who only seem charming makes it priceless. 

With all this joy and outrage still churning in my heart over the weekend, I searched for podcasts including Gift‘s author, Gavin de Becker. I was delighted to find a two-parter.

If you’d like to get better at trusting your instincts and making them trustworthy, these are for you. Thanks to this podcast, you needn’t read the book to learn some of its most important lessons. 

You can find part one here. Part two is here.

Such lessons might have saved my sister’s life. Sure, they might not be enough to save everyone, everywhere, given American systemic biases for the strong and against the struggling … but I’m here to tell you how beautiful it is, from the outside, to watch that one life grow.

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We Grew Up in Violence

Don’t sacrifice my husband

November 19, 2016 Comments off

After months of fury, I finally found my way to empathy earlier this week.

Finding it–seeking it–changed everything for me.

Doing so enabled me to find the root of my anger, followed by empathy for myself and then empathy for those with whom I’d been angry.

Read about that here.

(What’s written below is incomplete without it.)

Friends who voted for Trump: Please stand up for my husband and sons, and anyone else you witness being persecuted in the days and months ahead. I will stand up for you even as I rail against any and every injustice so much as suggested by Trump’s team.

Friends who voted for Clinton: Please stand up for my husband and sons, and anyone else you witness being persecuted in the days and months ahead.

Know that people of color–like my husband and sons–and other vulnerable citizens will bear the brunt of hostilities when fans of hate are flamed. Engaging potential allies with empathy is thus one of the most important ways you can protect more vulnerable members of society. Please stop fanning with your proclamations that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot to be scorned.

Many people who voted for Trump are allies. I know a few personally, and know from listening to them that their votes were not cast in support of hate.  Others could be allies, if approached with empathy instead of blanket condemnation. If understood as more than the sum of a single vote.

If you stand for my husband, my son, for Muslims, for hardworking immigrants, for refugees, for anyone who is currently on precarious footing as we all face a Trump presidency, you’ll practice engaging with empathy.

Please act in pursuit of peace. Protest not each other, but each and every Trump policy and action that is hateful.

Please don’t sacrifice my husband or sons to loudly condemn someone else for their vote and tell me you’re doing it for my family’s good.

We’ve all got a fight ahead, and we’ll fare better if we undertake it together.

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An olive branch

I grew up poor, abused, and preyed upon. 

Before my single mom of four divorced my abusive dad, she’d already lost her family over her departure from the Mormon church.

My godmother was her truest support. Most her other friends were friends of convenience: people low enough on the social totem pole to lose nothing by hanging out with her.

"There was remarkably little crying up until I saw my godmom. When she drove past, I didn't see her facial features clearly, but I knew it was her by the look of love on her face. Most of my crying that day had to do with her, in a really, really sweet way. She was there when I was born, through all the life events since, and the love emanates from her in a way I think you can see by looking at this picture. I could feel her and my mom in her, and having her there . . . it was little me and adult me all at once, all wrapped up in endless love."

My godmother–here for me, too

One particular example illuminates who my mom kept near to have any human contact. Rita’s husband had raped her daughter, but she got back together with him, saying, “It’s just easier to stay afloat this way, you know?” Read more…

Spotting the (terrible) denominator

I recently finished reading The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It’s one of the grimmest books I’ve ever read, but I persevered.

I can’t hope to change the world without first understanding it.

In almost 600 pages full of reflections both painful and useful, one sentence stood out for me:

Just as ecologists define ecosystems by the presence of certain “indicator species” of plants and birds, torture is an indicator species of a regime that is engaged in a deeply anti-democratic project, even if that regime happens to have come to power through elections.

I have waited a lifetime to find words like these, but would never have found them had I not intentionally begun learning to speak politics.

For many years of my youth, my father was a prison guard.

He didn’t often show up for visitations, but I’ll never forget a short exchange we had one weekend he did.

We were driving through the Oregon wilderness when he mused aloud, “I want one of the prisoners to try and escape so I can shoot him.”

Until he spoke those words, I’d thought he abused my mom, my siblings, and me because he had poor anger management skills.

The moment he spoke them reframed the situation for me: his abuse was a part of something deeper and more sinister than that.

Wanting to shoot someone was an indicator species of something else. I just didn’t know how to express this for another 25 or so years.

When my just younger sister was in high school, she met a group of guys that would become her lifelong friends.

I loved almost all of them. One gave me an uneasy feeling I couldn’t explain rationally to any of our common friends.

When he gave my sister a titty-twister, knowing full well that she had been molested, I chewed him out initially and kept my distance thereafter. In addition to being repulsed by him, keeping him too close felt dangerous.

I mostly stopped trying to explain to my friends. I left it at, “That is not something a loving person does.”

He later committed murder-suicide. I fretted for years over how my inability to explain might have played a role in this. The murder-suicide was not inexplicable. It was simply the severest expression of an underlying darkness a titty-twister had once laid bare.

Many of you know that I once planned on voting for Hillary Clinton.

My changed vote reflects many factors, core among them one 12-second video.

I was going to describe it, but I’d like you to watch it.

Before Clinton-pushed U.S. (pretextual) intervention, Libya was a flourishing direct democracy.

Thanks to Clinton’s push for regime change, achieved by the brutal murder of Muammar al-Qaddafi, it is now a ruined shell on the brink of economic collapse. Countless Libyan lives have been taken by the U.S., directly by its own acts and indirectly by the acts of those enabled by the subsequent chaos.

Clinton’s reliance on information from conspiracy theorist Sidney Blumenthal, whom President Obama would not permit to work within his White House, quite literally led to the toppling of not only Qaddafi but Libya. How else, after all, could Clinton have possibly helped Obama’s ratings in the Quinnipiac poll?

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I later found ample supporting evidence corroborating the horror I felt watching Clinton laugh in the video linked above, but watching the video was when I knew: what I was seeing wasn’t some anomaly. It was an indicator species of something more sinister, and something for which I could not–under any circumstances–grant my vote.

“We came, we saw, he died.”

I’m not laughing.

This 11/2/16 post transferred from L2SP 9/18/17.
Please see here for why I’m reposting this.

Power protecting power

daddy littler j

I am a white woman.

My gentle, articulate, Yale-alum husband is black. His blackness didn’t matter to me when we started dating, or when I discovered I was pregnant. I couldn’t really believe it mattered to anyone.

I’d seen otherwise long before July 19, 2013, when I tried to make people laugh while recognizing the limitations of misunderstanding their own experiences and insights as universal.

A police officer repeatedly shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. I didn’t pay Mike’s death much mind until two months later, when I saw how many people were still protesting and “suspected it likelier I was uninformed than that they were delusional.”

One month later, I was no longer uninformed. I’d spent countless hours poring over news and watching devastating social media clips reflecting very different fact-sets than those set forth by policemen and their mainstream media spokespeople.

I discussed Ferguson with my then five-year-old son that day. “But they won’t shoot me?” Li’l D asked of policemen, punching me straight through the heart with his words.  Read more…

I will only hear “no” when I want to

“Rape is not about sex,”
instructors explained.
“It’s about power. It’s
about taking power.”

Taking power:
this violence
expresses
itself
many
ways.

(If you will not
give me it, I
will seize it
from you.)

Bob: I need (to have sex with you/you to vote like me).

Ann: No, thanks. I know what I want, and it’s not that.

Bob: I told you what you have to do. Now do it. I need it.

Ann: No. No.

Bob: You won’t give it up? Fine, bitch. I’ll take it from you … because I’m bigger. And I can.

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