Sunday, November 27, 2016

patriarchy is a myth-poem

Patriarchy is a myth

that was belted out in fatherly lines across bare buttocks
that sang through and sailed over my head in
wails I dared not publish
it was smeared red with anger across bare thigh backs
the movement of the myth was not like the other stories I heard
rather,  this myth rang violent staccato blows to my spine, my temples
through fatherly hands: BOOM BOOM BOOM
This myth stood over me as a child and stained my bones with fatherly screams
yes, my very skin, and muscles, and heart could not stop the blatant poison
from marking my bones
where were my hands? Not allowed to move
as the gun was pushed to my mother's temple
I will fatherly blow your brains out
you fucking bitch, the hero of the myth spits out
comply, or be fatherly punished
and I will suck the marrow out of those bones
what kind of curious myth has no end
what angered river of tale never ceases to flow
never even tries to father or ache or soften
can literally be beaten into a woman's body
isn't it a scientific marvel? How her very cells and bones
will ever be fathered by storied violence. "We broke her".
-noted with cold intellectual pride. Yet husbands are myths too
Husbanded to magical, mythological patriarchy, cut through with vengeance
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the fatherly
the bank account myth within a myth-that's a good one
told by no one fatherly who sees or has a care
this one is where patriarchy took a deep stab at equality
it was a joking ode and its fathered husband-fist; fat, full of hundred dollar bills
forcefully sanctioned the taking of food out of the mouths of its own children
my account of this became equal to or less than impoverished;
because I am a she who displeased and who cried and who dared
because where man is wealthy, and one-down is poor, that is fatherly equality
(Laugh here)
Some cry under their breath: asshole
Others cry: get HER
some silently applaud from the fatherly sidelines
others move it to their fatherly bedrooms
some say she's crazy, she's stupid, she's fatherly; making it up
others simply cry, for
patriarchy is a myth we don't speak.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Necessary Divide

Matthew 10:34-36

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. "

I understand the common Christian interpretation of this verse is that the divide is between believers and non-believers. My interpretation is the social justice version. I believe that Jesus was an excellent example of a warrior for social justice, and on further examination, this verse will lead us to a principle many fear but that ultimately leads to peace.
Abuse of any kind creates a divide. To relate abuse and social injustice, remember that social injustice has to do with distribution of advantages and therefore, resources. When a person or group of people seeks to gain advantage over another person or group of people through oppression, that is abusive and therefore, injustice occurs. In a family, the leverage is wrought over another through verbal, economic, physical, or sexual means and sets up a false dependency. The abuser sets up a situation, where, by beating into or starving out of or ignoring the needs of another, that other must enter into a struggle and fight to regain their humanity.
This is where Jesus's sword comes in. The sword severs oppressors from the oppressed. It is a sword of protection and truth. Regaining one's humanity and realizing that one's spirit was never meant to be treated with such contempt and abuse requires taking up an inner journey towards wholeness and strength. It means reclaiming one's Self and setting your heart squarely in the light of love.
This is extremely difficult in a family situation. Sometimes, the abuse is rejection and the decision is made for you. In some ways, that is easier. But to stay in a family where the sense of belonging and loyalty to dysfunction is often hard-set and immovable within yourself can be harmful to yourself and others. This is where the sword of love and spirit can free you.

Credit: Jonathan Hillson

One has to choose between the "good" face an abuser shows, and the "bad" actions. One is forced into a black and white, otherwise, you'd go crazy trying to figure out the sweeping contradictions in behavior, the abusers' complete cluelessness about themselves, the extreme entitlement to do as they please and twist the story.
Tenebrism is an artistic technique that was used mainly in religious paintings. Tenebrism uses stark contrasts between light and dark. The answer for survivors of abuse is to enter into a tenebrism of spirit, and violently reject that which is oppressive and abusive to others, and paint yourself with the light of love. Only then can the divide be really seen. Abusive and oppressive situations create muddy chaos and dark, dark confusion. It is important to contrast that by staying out of it, and then maintaining a fierce loyalty to love.
This is the necessary divide. Peace cannot occur until there is a very clear and dividing line between those who choose to cause pain and those who choose what is connected to humanity. It's very much a right/wrong proposition. It's wrong to oppress but abusers can't stop themselves. Make them consciously choose by contrasting their actions with love. It's equally as wrong to take on the abuser's message that you somehow deserve their abuse and their cruelty. Peace cannot occur while simultaneously causing someone pain, although abusers want you to believe that.
Love is divisive. Love really is intolerant of abuse. Love trusts that if you are held to the darkness of your own spirit, that you can work to correct that and come to what is beautiful and true. Love is a sword and demands that you are loyal to a humble walk through empathy and generosity of spirit. Love says to reject oppressors and those who support cruelty. They get to choose their love or their hate. But you can always choose love.
Once the divide is clear, then if you have invested something in a relationship with people who are still in darkness, then you can discern if you have something to work with. If they insist on blindly holding to their fears and entitlement to abuse, then send them compassion for their compulsion to harm and let them go. If, however, they have the capacity for contrition and remorse for their hurtful behaviors, then there is hope for peace and the sword of love did its work. The sword of love quickly shows who cares for their relationships and who doesn't, who has remorse and who doesn't, who feels appropriate guilt and who doesn't, and who is able to change and who isn't.
The verse about Jesus coming to bring a sword, to me, is about healing. Once a survivor of abuse is standing up for themselves, they are wielding the sword of love and demanding justice. This is absolutely what Jesus came to set things right and rescue victims (the oppressed) from abusers (oppressors) through a journey of spirit.
Use the sword of love. I am telling you, there are others who have been harmed too by the violence of darkness and who have struggled in the gray area for a long time. It is a noble and worthy struggle to heal, and to come into the hopeful light, and we are never alone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

a sharing

This excellent essay by Bell Hooks has me thinking and crystallizing my feminism. I've come from the standpoint that feminism is really women asserting their right to be equal in rights, not in capacities, with men...a way of wriggling out of male role dominance and rising up from a one-down position.  But in my heart, I see feminism as a way of affirming the human qualities in all of us and embracing values like mutuality, compassion, cooperation, and tolerance. There's even research that has found that relationships based in feminism have the highest success rate.
While I have written strongly about abusers on here, I have never been a "man-hater". I love men, and have clung to men who were kind like an oasis in a desert. I've been hungry, even needy, for the compassion of men as a result of my experiences. Perhaps that's weakened me. I've remained open and curious about the experiences of men, despite my learning for most of my child and adult life that men I care about the most are the most cruel to me. I don't lump everyone together under "good" or "bad" labels, and there is no "always" for all men. But like anything, there are extremes at either end of colluding with patriarchy. I think narcissism is just a man placing himself in the "always dominates" category. I think I have emphasized that men and women are "always responsible for their own actions." But patriarchy creates scapegoats, who should be able to say something about being scapegoated.

I'm glad she quotes Terry Real, a favorite of mine, and dives into understanding how patriarchy hurts men too. I'm just going to post some quotes...

"Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence"

"Separatist ideology encourages women to ignore the negative impact of sexism on male personhood. It stresses polarization between the sexes. According to Joy Justice, separatists believe that there are “two basic perspectives” on the issue of naming the victims of sexism: “There is the perspective that men oppress women. And there is the perspective that people are people, and we are all hurt by rigid sex roles.”…Both perspectives accurately describe our predicament. Men do oppress women. People are hurt by rigid sexist role patterns, These two realities coexist. Male oppression of women cannot be excused by the recognition that there are ways men are hurt by rigid sexist roles. Feminist activists should acknowledge that hurt, and work to change it—it exists. It does not erase or lessen male responsibility for supporting and perpetuating their power under patriarchy to exploit and oppress women in a manner far more grievous than the serious psychological stress and emotional pain caused by male conformity to rigid sexist role patterns."

"Throughout this essay I stressed that feminist advocates collude in the pain of men wounded by patriarchy when they falsely represent men as always and only powerful, as always and only gaining privileges from their blind obedience to patriarchy. I emphasized that patriarchal ideology brainwashes men to believe that their domination of women is beneficial when it is not:

Often feminist activists affirm this logic when we should be constantly naming these acts as expressions of perverted power relations, general lack of control of one’s actions, emotional powerlessness, extreme irrationality, and in many cases, outright insanity. Passive male absorption of sexist ideology enables men to falsely interpret this disturbed behavior positively. As long as men are brainwashed to equate violent domination and abuse of women with privilege, they will have no understanding of the damage done to themselves or to others, and no motivation to change.
Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male. "

quoting Terry Real:
"Psychological patriarchy is the dynamic between those qualities deemed “masculine” and “feminine” in which half of our human  traits are exalted while the other half is devalued. Both men and women participate in this tortured value system. Psychological patriarchy is a “dance of contempt,” a perverse form of connection that replaces true intimacy with complex, covert layers of dominance and submission, collusion and manipulation. It is the unacknowledged paradigm of relationships that has suffused Western civilization generation after generation, deforming both sexes, and destroying the passionate bond between them."

"By highlighting psychological patriarchy, we see that everyone is implicated and we are freed from the misperception that men are the enemy. To end patriarchy we must challenge both its psychological and its concrete manifestations in daily life. There are folks who are able to critique patriarchy but unable to act in an antipatriarchal manner.   To end male pain, to respond effectively to male crisis, we have to name the problem. We have to both acknowledge that the problem is patriarchy and work to end patriarchy. Terrence Real offers this valuable insight: “The reclamation of wholeness is a process even more fraught for men than it has been for women, more difficult and more profoundly threatening to the culture at large.” If men are to reclaim the essential goodness of male being, if they are to regain the space of openheartedness and emotional expressiveness that is the foundation of well-being, we must envision alternatives to patriarchal masculinity. We must all change."

Thursday, November 17, 2016


"Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves." -Audre Lorde

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” 
― Assata ShakurAssata: An Autobiography

I know oppressors very well. Although I didn't grow up black, or muslim, or exiled as a refugee, I have grown up in a system of oppression, within my family, within my community, and within interpersonal relationships, including marriage. Being well-trained to fit in under patriarchical rule in any situation has been like wearing a huge "kick me" sign on my back. I'm working on taking off that sign.
There is an understandable outrage on the part of those who are oppressed, and also a strange curiosity about an oppressor. The oppressed works so hard to enter into a conversation, to get the oppressor to hear how their behavior affects the humanity of another.
The inability to acknowledge the humanity of another person is abuse, cruelty, oppression. 
When I posted the Assata Shakur quote, a friend asked, "then how do we get to oppressors since righteous indignation doesn't work?"
What I know of oppressors, and these are also hallmarks of abusers/scapegoaters/cruel people, is this:
-They refuse to receive input about how their behavior affects another human being
-They refuse to acknowledge your humanity by not entering into any kind of conflict resolution-their stance is, "my way or no way"
-They constantly insist their way is superior, even when they make mistakes and completely mess up
-They blame others for their mistakes, and take credit for the successes of others
-They don't change their position except to go from perpetrator to victim, and they take everything personally.
-They have an exterior that looks flawless and perfect, and an inner life darkened by selfishness that stands in complete opposition to their superficial presentation. In other words, they are not congruent.
-annnd incongruence means they are hypocrites. They complain they are poor while not working or having fat bank accounts. They claim they are for women's rights while themselves abusing and exploiting women. They claim they are about love while scapegoating. Confusing, right? Which facet do you believe in the moment?
-They have no empathy
-They know they are oppressors and they don't care-they are proud bullies.
-They are invested in the superficial, meaning, image is really important to them. If they can put on labels such as "pastor" "healer" "doctor" "philanthropist" "therapist", they are in a better position to hide behind those labels and work on people's assumptions that those "types" of people are safe. This allows them to manipulate people's sympathies to get what they want, including scapegoating another person.
-They love assuming a victim role when asked to change their behavior, when their negative traits are brought to light, or when they are confronted. They will hear nothing true about themselves...only acceptable fictions they approve. 
-They believe they are superior and for that reason, feel they have the right to judge others according to their narrow right/wrong views, and that view is they are always right while others are always wrong
-For them, the end justifies the means and how you get to an outcome is not as important as the outcome. Doesn't matter who is hurt.
-oppressors don't care, will never care, can't be made to care. 

Clearly appealing to morality doesn't work, since oppressors live under completely different "morals" than most people. The problem with oppressors and the oppressed comes when those who are oppressed do not understand these basic principles of abusers.
Oppressors are dependent people. Notice how many of their characteristics rest on the assumptions of OTHER PEOPLE. Their positions are not based in genuine altruism or kindness or empathy. Their positions are based on how they can manipulate other people, like a chess game. I believe this sets up powerful and ancient reward systems in their brains, and they cannot overcome their compulsion to scapegoat and control. I mean, how rich can the richest man get? At some point don't you just stop?

In my opinion, the way to achieve relief from oppressors is to take away their "dope". Their addiction is targeting other people, and they keep going because others and neoliberalism reinforces that, either by banding with them or by being manipulated by them. They are never REALLY forced to look at themselves, because they can keep replaying their self-righteousness narratives within their family group or social groups, mainly by preying on common sympathies. They are masters at inspiring your pity, and once you pity them, they have you by the crotch. 
"The divide" people speak of is possibly about those who support social justice, and those who do not. Social justice is about distribution of resources. If resources are hoarded and concentrated in one place via exploitation of others, then that is inequality, and inequality means injustice and human suffering. If the exploitation is justified via sexism, racism, or intellectual barbarianism, then a divide is created between people who would not think of treating their fellow man with such disdain, and those who see it as "just business" and cannot count the human costs. We've seen that trickle-down theories almost never work, because the morality of oppressors is such that they do not consider the human costs of their efforts.
I am still thinking through this. I believe that a huge grassroots movement is the way to go. I believe it starts in our friendships, our families, and our communities. I believe if we build from there and do not allow first of all, bullies, then full-on abusers, to take root, then we can get somewhere. I think family court would be a great place to start, because all across the country sexism, racism, poverty, and slavery are perpetuated via family court. In one convenient place, you find the skewed values that are forced on our country, values that serve abusers. Heal families and stop allowing abuse through the courts, and then we can get somewhere.
But we need practice. There is too much talk of uniting this country. I say we need to become even more deeply divided before we can do that, for the simple fact that our collective morality is not clear. If our whole country were truly on board with oppressing people, then we'd have a clear morality. Once we have a consistent ethos around caring for each other, we can build the infrastructure necessary to band together in nonviolence and effectively topple neoliberalism. But we need community and structure. We need to make sure our neighbor the refugee or single mom or black person has all that they need. All this talk of peace and love and unification is neutrality and it's wonderful for abusers.
I also have a heart for those, including me, who do not have all the answers. Not everyone understands everything everyone else is talking about. It's important to know that good hearts are fooled by bad ones, and we can be clear who the good hearts are. This, too, is practice...compassion for what all do not know. But I do know I am sick of oppressed people...I am sick of not feeling safe, first in interpersonal and family relationships, and now as a woman.
We need to deliberately create the divide. We need to bring evil into sharper focus by shining the light of love and care for each other. If you have more, give more. We don't "give Caesar what is Caesar's", especially when it denies us our humanity and enslaves others. We don't get caught up in assessing an abuser's intentions. Abusers and oppressors don't have intentions, not in the sense of thinking through the human consequences of a behavior. That would suggest a conscience. We want to have compassion while bearing no loyalty to cruelty.
These are the wolf-people. It doesn't matter what label you give them, they are wolves and won't change. But if the wolves are surrounded by thousands of strong horned sheep, they will be pressed into shame and be forced to make amends for their hatred.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Little Child

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Inside of each of us is a little child. If our child has lived through an exile or multiple rejections from others, we are likely to reject that child ourselves. We come to adopt as ours the same voices that shamed us as children, or that judged our more child-like qualities. These voices can be brutal and cruel, and cause our own polarization and tumult within ourselves. These are the wars inside of wolf and lamb, of leopard and goat, of calf and lion.

Part of rescuing the exiled child, of holding that little innocent lamb in love, is calling forth your own inner shepherd: your true adult self. In the wounding of trauma, developing your adult Self is a beautiful journey of discovery. My own journey of discovery was entered into and guided by my lamb-like child. She has taught me so much about life and love. She carries the spirit of who I am, the creative impulses I have, the desire to love and be loved and connect with others, the love of all things funny and playful, such grand irreverence through silliness, and big feelings and big pain. She tells me a lot about myself and how I was raised, about how people treated me and how I am inclined to treat myself.

She also holds the belief that people are good, and she still holds that belief. But at some point, through the thorough work of scapegoaters, I came to have parts of me that woke up to the fact that there are “lions” in the world who would tear me apart. The child in me naively wanted to believe words like, “hurt people hurt people” and that people like that are destructive and offensive because of their own wounds.

The awakening came in realizing that there is a very real lion/wolf/leopard nature in others. This lion nature will absolutely hunt down an innocent lamb and tear it to bits. It will purr and lick every last piece of bloody flesh off the bone. It will suck the marrow and discard the fur. The lion’s nature is to take pleasure in the kill. It has no regard for the feelings of the lamb, or the family of the lamb, or the pleasures of life the lamb enjoyed. It only smells blood and relishes each last drop. It is a violent impulse each of us carries inside.

If we have, as children or adults, been exposed to this destructive nature in our fellow human beings, we absolutely have it inside of us to enact our own destruction. Those wolf-like voices, the ones that berate us and shame our child-like beauty must have as much peace as the child must have. In fact, they are often hungrier than the child, and more destructive to relationships. To build inner strength, we must strengthen our Self, the Self who can handle anything, the Self who is wise and knows that there is a time for wolf power and a time for lamb power. And there is never a time, in innate humanity, to unleash a wolf on a lamb. The wolf in the verse is peaceful, lying down. He has been welcomed, fed, and acknowledged by the shepherd, as have the sweet baby animals. He is not a threat to the child-ones in any way. The babies are safe with the shepherd-self in charge.

I love this verse from the Bible because it illustrates so beautifully how it can look. Yes, a little child can lead them. The child inside cries for fairness and justice, cries for love and morality, cries against pain and longing. These are cries for someone to come lead them. What is missing in the picture is that the power of the child is not to lead directly, not to be the one who has the power to make the lion lie down with the lamb, but the child has the power to call the Shepherd…the Self…to integrate all those forces inside of one’s self. The Shepherd alone has the power to calm the murderous instincts of the wolf/lion/leopard, and to also calm the big feelings and loud hungers of the lamb/goat/calf. They can then be in rightful relationship without any fear of terrorizing or overwhelming the other.

Bringing in your own Self, your own shepherd, requires that you work to become self-aware. We all have these parts inside of us, and trauma puts those parts out of balance and running wild. Coming to parent and guide yourself means making peace with the more violent and self-destructive parts and really listening to them. In taking up the conscious practice of listening to, and affirming those parts, we begin to calm them enough that they become manageable, and can be used for our good and good in the world. Then they don't hurt us or others. In embracing our child-like natures, we can find pleasure and joy in the world, and learn to nurture ourselves instead of letting our lamb-child bawl loudly enough to attract predators. Letting our own sweet inner child play, move, laugh, and create is healthy and healing for our souls and for our world.
This practice of listening to ourselves, of becoming self-aware, then becomes our practice with others as we deepen compassion and become other-aware.

The key to self-love is to embrace our child. We must be the champion of our inner child and teach her when we need our own wolf power and that we will never let a wolf-other tear her apart again. We can be a comfort for the hurting child, and indeed, for each other's hurting inner children. If we are waylaid by a wolf, we will let the good Shepherd carry us and heal us, our own good shepherd or the Shepherd of our faith.


"This definition of moral injury is similar to the idea of betrayal trauma, which is a likely outcome of early childhood abuse. Although young children may lack the cognitive capacity to reflect on how abuse affects their moral beliefs, they nevertheless can have a felt sense that abuse degrades their sense of self. Furthermore, the child must often dissociate feelings of betrayal when the person who betrayed their humanity is a caregiver they depend on for survival. Researchers Robyn L. Gobin and Jennifer J. Freyd give the following explanation of betrayal trauma:
Betrayal trauma theory posits that interpersonal violations such as childhood sexual or physical abuse perpetrated by individuals who victims care for, depend on, or trust will be processed and remembered differently than violations perpetrated by individuals with whom victims do not have such a close connection. A violation perpetrated by someone significant is characterized as a trauma high in betrayal and is remembered less than traumas low in betrayal …. Because the victim views the perpetrator as the key to his or her physical and psychological survival, he or she finds it advantageous to remain interpersonally and emotionally connected to the perpetrator…. Thus, the child may become “blind” to the betrayal and fail to identify the experience as abusive. Such betrayal blindness or unawareness of abuse has adaptive value in that it maintains the attachment between child and caregiver such that the child can continue trusting and depending on the caregiver (Freyd, 2003). [Gobin, Robyn L., & Freyd, Jennifer J. (2009). “Betrayal and Revictimization: Preliminary Findings.” Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 1(3), 242-257. ]"

In waking up from trauma, there comes a realization that those "others" who injured you are no longer those you depend on for anything. Entering into, or growing up in, any kind of situation of abuse automatically places you in a painful position.  If you grow up in a home where you are abused, I believe there is this vague knowledge that you are "bad", but not completely because of the shame messages put on you as a result of being consistently violated. I believe it has to do with morality, and a basic sense of humanity. As a child, as the above says, you are not aware of this, but have this low-level sense that not only are YOU bad, but that what is being done to you is wrong.
Unfortunately, most healing work focuses only on this sense of shame, which is extremely important. But you have to come to also learn what is right and wrong, because as a child you didn't even know it was didn't have the words or cognitive capacities to categorize it as such. Not just that, but abuse was normal and OK. It isn't just dissociation, it is social learning. And healing from trauma like that is most certainly a series of awakenings...awareness that brings you back to life, to stop a life of loyalty to abusers, to come out of flight or freeze behaviors and thoughts, to re-learn what is right and good.
This "waking up" feeling is strong. In the awakening, I came to realize that there is a difference between me and the abusers. I lived my life as a child in a state of feeling exiled and "wrong", yet living with complete loyalty and dependence on those who brought me pain. This contradictory state is disruptive, and as an adult, I realized I could not, with a thinking mind, remain loyal to dysfunction. But I didn't know how to reconcile that state. I kept going back into abusive or offensive situations where I simply recreated the feeling I had in childhood: loyalty to dysfunction and trying desperately to get my voice heard so I wouldn't have to feel exiled. Repetition compulsion is a very real aspect of trauma healing, and a force to be reckoned with.
Exiled. I sought those who would find reasons to exile me. As part of awakening, as part of growing up, I am embracing my role as exile for one reason only: I AM different than abusers. I CAN take in information about my behavior and adjust it so it is not hurtful to someone else. I DO make reparations and amends to care for my relationships. To me, that is the moral injury...doing to yourself what an abuser did to you, and trying to belong in a system of abuse that goes against the very highest nature of a human being, which is to be compassionate and empathetic. The separation SHOULD happen, and your life as an exile from abusers will lead you to a world that is much wider and bigger, and you will find that an exile journey from abuse will lead you directly to a promised land of grace...of safe people full of grace.
Being an exile from abuse does not mean you have to be an isolated exile from life, although it feels that way. Trauma survivors often feel different from everyone else: odd, weird, and it's true. They/we are different. They might be scattered, disorganized, ultra sensitive, extremely creative, sometimes rigid and numb, sometimes chatty, sometimes silent and brooding. They/we have an inner life that was defined by chaos and a huge constant moral dilemma: participation versus non-participation in abuse, most often of self.
I want to point out that the abusers in my life have always been adults. That sounds obvious, but I lived through abuse as a child and as an adult. I lived with abusers who abused out of their own childhood wounds, pain, and lack of awareness. Those adults kept their conscience and compassion intact, or even enlarged as a result of their experiences. Other abusers in my life did not keep their conscience or compassion intact, and once I had the courage to confront them, their abuse very much became a deliberate choice because then there was no way for them to not know how their actions were harmful. There it was, plain and simple: you caused destruction and you were hurtful. They chose to ignore it, rationalize it away, sweep it under the rug, dismiss it, and do everything possible to put up a wall between their actions and self-knowledge.
Their actions as adults became the deliberate choice to abuse, to create suffering, to look the other way, to blind themselves to the truth of their inner lives.
Knowing this difference is important in exile. Being exiled from people like that, although initially painful, is a GREAT feeling, because you no longer have to betray yourself. You no longer have to hide your desire for healthy relationships, or suppress your intuition that healthy relationships are based on trust, engagement, support, compassion, courage, kindness, and gratitude. You no longer have to wander the desert of exile status, but can instead embrace healing with SAFE people. It is no longer a moral have chosen the path of honoring your humanity. That means not supporting an oppressor, and not supporting oppression of anyone else, including yourself. In a family situation, often one has witnessed an oppressor's violations and misconduct. This witnessing becomes a moral injury, for if you do not speak up for another's humanity, then you do not stop identifying with an oppressor, and therefore consciously choose to become an abuser. That sounds harsh, but I honestly believe that having a conscience means speaking up against the hurtful behavior of others and not complicitly identifying with abuse through silence. This is one aspect of moral injury survivors of childhood abuse must wrestle with...that they could not speak up against the abuses they witnessed towards themselves and others.
Being exiled has been a long process for me. I used to feel like a victim in my exile because I still wanted to belong with abusers. I believe that was important, because until I acknowledged that yes, I was victimized, I could not wrestle with the morality of the situation. I didn't know. I thought love was supposed to hurt. And it really is immoral to victimize and exploit someone. Now I am proud of my exile status, and hope that I have made myself different enough from violators, and grown-up enough from the child I was that I would be exiled every time I encounter a violator. Exile me, please. Enlighten me to your true nature. I am a loving person and do not belong with hypocrites and judgmental rejectors.
In putting yourself in exile from abuse, you realize that those who love you would never cruelly reject who you are through criticism and abuse. Grown-ups work through their conflicts with care and engagement. You separate yourself from those who deny humanity and become one who affirms humanity. The triggers get tamped down, and you are strong enough to stand up for yourself.
I exile myself to the land of compassionate healing. The sun is shining here...come join me.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

poem for a fight

A shaky finger scrapes
the back of the throat, for want of saying
something. nothing good ever comes out and
it tastes bad all the time and I don't even
know why I do it but the finger to hand to
belly squeeze must bring the feeling that
will correct the current binge. I've heard
too many of your words
They have made my belly fat;
distended, and sharp, they hurt
I am too hungry for my thoughts and words
when I want them more they don't come
and when I get them I swallow them whole
oh, here...the gorgeous heave, the brilliant purge
feathers and bones like the cats bring,
 maybe a mauled rabbit
those who starve themselves
wander with empty commentary
                       -their empty commentary
scattered on the floor like Halloween candy

how can I vomit to you a war?

Like a marriage

I see several things in the aftermath of Trump's election. I come from the standpoint of a survivor of childhood abuse and a survivor of abusive relationships with significant others. I have gone through all of these stages that people are going through with regards to Trump. There is much protest and conversation about two things: his sexist, racist, misogynistic, well, you've seen the lists of his bigotry. We all have. But the fact is, the electoral college deemed he represented the people and it was an extremely close call. The other thing that people are putting out there is a lot of fear. I already wrote about why I was afraid. I've been dealing with this type of hyper-toxic-masculinity my whole life. I live my life in gratitude every day for the therapist who led me to God/dess and deep healing. But the fear is real. People have all kinds of "don't feel" responses to this fear: let's all calm down, let's have peace, let's just love, etc. etc. I say no, you cannot come to love until you acknowledge your fear. I think Walter Wink was right on when he wrote that we have to acknowledge our own murderous instincts before we can fully choose non-violence. Truly acknowledging the humanity of abusers means that you do not allow them to act like abusers and instead invite them to act like human beings.
The fear around Trump needs to be felt and then used to arouse righteous anger and mobilize for change. You cannot trust a person whose agenda is based on dominance and control. The fear of this person comes from the fact that their judgment is clouded by limbic drives and not rational thinking. The zeitgeist of these times is that such limbic impulses must be wrapped up in intellectualization. That way, they look reasonable and pretty, arrogant and superior, and are, therefore, confusing. The rest of us are forced to enter into a practice of looking beyond the superficial and seeing the bigger picture. Abusers can't do that. They may have good ideas, they may have solid policies, we just don't know because they approach it under the airs of arrogance, abuse, dominance, and superiority. That's what feels fearful and dangerous. It feels chaotic and it isn't trustworthy.  No matter how civilized it looks, it's still barbarianism.
Remove the abuse, remove the entitlement, and then you can get somewhere REAL.
This is true of marriages, of divorces, of any relationship. Remove the power-over dynamic, and then you can address the issues.
In an abusive marriage, the couple might fight about all kinds of things: money, children, housework, time. None of that can even get resolved until you acknowledge the elephant in the room: there is an abuser and an abused. There is an oppressor and an oppressed. There is a perpetrator and a victim. And perpetrators LOVE to wear the victim dress, especially when their authority and right to be a perpetrator is taken to task. At any rate, throw away that dress...make them really see their abuses, stop them, and THEN you can do human, adult things like solve problems.
Addressing the issue is NOT putting on a smile and saying "I support you anyway, Trump." I don't support Trump. I don't care if he's the President. I don't support Trump any more than I support family court's egregious policies or heart-wrenching racism or homosexuals not being able to have the same rights and privileges I do. Addressing the issue is insisting that the gross and obvious abuses towards humanity stop, THEN the political policies can and will be heard.
This feels so much like the disappointment I've felt in abusers in my own life. They don't get anywhere with anything because they won't address the abuse. Abuse causes complete life chaos. Abusers are the domino flickers who sit coolly memorizing their rules and creating disorganization and chaos in the lives of others. And absolutely enjoying it. As a consequence, they have taught me much about life, love, and what is real, but it's been a NEGATIVE teaching. I have learned through the absence of these things. We, as a culture, have already learned from the absence of tolerance, rationality, compassion, and love in action. Now we have to deepen our learning and get really pissed off so we stop thinking voting is enough or posting Facebook memes is being a worker for social justice. If Trump is here to upset the system, then GOOD. Let's use it to our advantage.
I say he is representative of reaping the benefits of the system, and isn't going to truly address the system. But we will see.
Power to the people.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Feeling out Trump

            This is my great-grandmother in Big Rock, Virginia, right where
I spent many, many summers

Today, all day, I have been in grief like much (some?) of the nation. I have been struggling to understand why, in a situation that many say was a choice between the lesser of two evils, why that the Trump brand of evil prevailing would sting so much. Outside of Trump's obvious crimes and hateful remarks against the rights of targeted groups of human beings to be human, outside of the misogyny and his abusive personality, outside of the fact that he has been diagnosed a narcissist, Trump touched a deep, taut thread in me as a woman. In his election, all the moments of scapegoating I've experienced over and over as a woman, as a feminist, as a mother, as a wife, and as a person came flooding back. I was dehumanized in those moments. The ensuing PTSD and trauma issues that have tainted my life and the lives of so many feels insignificant and unimportant now, in the context of our culture. The cries of grief from my sisters who are in this fight to change laws, policies, and society to make it safer for women, children, and minorities are loud and it hurts to hear them.
I thought immediately about the time my own raging father held a gun to my mother's head and screamed, "I'm going to blow your fucking brains out, bitch." I was there, ten years old and not fifteen feet from where he did it. And that was not the first time I'd been part of such violent scenarios, hanging above them out of my body in numb horror. I thought about the times my grandmother told of my grandfather throwing an iron skillet towards her head, and that was nowhere near the worst thing he did. I thought of how men can carry a terrible violence into the room with a tone of voice, or with a scary silence. The gut-punch loose bowels I get when I see a particular man or a particular group. The violence men wield with their sudden rejections and punishing silences, with their gaping absences and deliberate microaggressions.

I grew up on a farm in Virginia around farmers and coal miners. I stained my feet black on floors carpeted too close to the road, where coal trucks frequently heaved and whirred up hollers. I spent my childhood summers on gravel lots, open fields, cows, a pond. I grew up playing near porta-potties full of drunken piss and the biggest hollyhocks you ever saw. I grew up with my women relatives protecting me from tales of men and their dangerous disappointments. I even grew up hearing a woman can be anything, even President, except I never seemed to see any hope of that in Appalachia or from my dysfunctional family. Name a dysfunction-we had it. Education was not something a woman necessarily got in coal mining country. And if she wanted one, she had little say in where it happened, due to economic and role restrictions.
This was the early 70's of my growing-up time, and it was fraught with grief and setbacks and characters and trauma. To this day, that county where my grandparents lived has the distinction of having the highest percentage of people on disability in the country.
Being in Appalachia wasn't bad because you were Appalachian, it was bad because you were exploited. You will find the kindest, warmest, most loving people imaginable in the circles of people in my memory. But their contentment and make-do way of life was colonized out of them...colonized out of them by the coal companies. And a woman's worth was ultimately in winning a man, tendin' garden and birthin' babies. Forget about thinking you'd ever amount to anything more than a skillet target or an object to be owned and abused.
 A judge answered the problem of my dad by giving my mom a gun permit and telling her to move far away. Not once was my dad brought to task, or chastised for his behavior and for terrorizing our family. Why wasn't HE exiled to a far away city instead of my mom and my brother and me? How on earth did the system allow him to get away with his abuse? Why were WE punished for his destruction? This....this is what angers and hurts so badly. I learned very well how the woman is blamed. The woman is an object to be used. The woman is exploited. The woman takes care of man-sized messes. The woman takes the fall. Fall on the sword, choke down what I tell you, bitch, throw yourself under the bus, vomit and repeat. Then get mad and we will call you monster for it, and for not taking our abuses the way we tell you. Be our willing scapegoat or we will make you suffer even more.
But my strong mother...completely rose to the occasion. She had to raise us through an exile, through the abuse-grief of generations, and through traversing the unknown landscape of her own strong heart. It was a monumental task and she set an example of how to become more.  And you couldn't become more with a man like that.

It is the woman who carries what men cannot. Set a woman up for failure, obstruct her, and then deride her, taunt her, rape her, make her pay, lie about her, turn her into the enemy. Silence her...control her. Then let her carry her silent PTSD...the one she can't talk about in this culture of shame. The PTSD of a woman who's been abused is rarely spoken about. She carries the war-wounds of the "home". It's then used as an excuse to call a woman "crazy". We don't look to see that Abuse created the "crazy", and Abuse isn't going to fix it. We have this obsession with the word "victim". We say, you mustn't have a victim mentality. But that is great talk for oppressors. They say: Yes, let's scapegoat, undermine, and victimize someone, then tell them they need to be strong/zen/loving/kind about it.
No. You need to tell the truth over and over and louder and angrier until it gets heard. We all need to tell. Shame on anyone who does not let a victim have their rightful time of sadness and righteous anger over their experience. Shame on anyone who hears what is going on and chooses the twisted truth.

I have three daughters and a beautiful son with a big heart and I am going to make sure he is a supportive kind of man, the kind who has an ability to commit to love and who will take responsibility for himself and his children. My two daughters of voting age, and my mother, and myself, all voted for Hillary. Two of us are blue dots in a red state, the other two are blue dots in a swing state that went for Trump. I cried, because my first thought was that iron skillet flying towards my beloved grandmother's head. And here we were, the women of the family, banding together. It felt like we were doing it for her, to make a world where women don't have to suffer at the hands of men like that, where they don't have to be economically compromised by a man, where they don't have to live in fear of a man and his coercions based on irrational whims.

With this election, my hope flagged.  If an abuser can be given the right to rule this country, then how much more power will be given to the myriad pockets of society that already support and normalize male aggressions towards women? How is any headway ever going to be made in family court where abusers already use the system as an economic bludgeoning tool against women, and where good fathering is conflated with aggression and subjugation of a mother? How are we going to fix the fact that in the light of social abuse, the system answers with more abuse of its own and rewards such behavior?

People say they are afraid that now abuse and misogyny will be normalized. I'm sorry, this has been normal my whole life. If it wasn't normal for you, then you are lucky. The issue is not that abuse will be normalized, but that it will become downright SEXY. Deadbeat is the new sexy. Scapegoating is the new sexy. Sexism/racism/intolerance/condescension/other-ism is the new SEXY.

At least Trump paid child support. He has that going for him.

The unfortunate consequence of a life lived fully in abuse, through generations, is that you don't even know you are being abused. You aren't supposed to question anyway since abusers normalize their own behavior and you just accept that. Until you get tired of your abused self and become someone else.
I am hurting for the message this election gives to women everywhere: the Right to Abuse you is bigger than your Right to Humanity. Abuse can be intellectualized, neatly rationalized, and completely justified, tied up neatly in entitlement narratives. Then when you say "no" to abuse, you are called the abuser. Your having a voice IS abusive to an abuser, because you are taking away his toys and entitlement. Now that sexism is openly sanctioned, let no one tell a girl a lie. Tell her the truth...that the world isn't ready to give up its image of her as punching bag, sex object, and scapegoat. That this country isn't ready to take her seriously. That this country isn't ready for men to stop abusing and it won't help them out of their cage. That this country has more work to do to help men and women leave their roles under the sickness of patriarchy. Instead, we have to create a country that will receive a woman as its president, a country that is not threatened by the voice and power of a woman, a country that venerates mothers and women and grandmothers as fully equal.
My hope flagged, yet the voices inside that ask me if I will ever "get out of the holler", that rage against there always being some agent of patriarchy lurking to push me down and stifle me...these voices say STOP. Keep fighting and going, they say.

 I am going to grieve deeply, feel all the way down all the violations until I'm spent, and then I will. not. tolerate. this. abuse.

Until we all wake up.
Until we force violators to stop.
Until we stop twisting the story.
Until we, the people, take away the privileges of the oppressors.
Until there is no need to weaken women in the name of control.
Until then.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other
By William E. Stafford 
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the
and following the wrong god home we may miss
           our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each
          elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.