Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood:
Contact = Pain

(In this entry, I assume you are aware of my goal of raising a lot of money to help child soldiers by donating all of my earnings from sales of the hardback of Children No More to Falling Whistles. If you're not, you can go to the Children No More site and learn more there. I'll be here when you return.)

What I experienced in my three years in a militaristic youth group is nothing compared to what true child soldiers undergo. I believe, however, that they and I, as well as many abused children, emerge from our experiences having learned many of the same lessons. To help folks without these backgrounds understand some of the challenges facing these kids--and those who seek to help rehabilitate and reintegrate them--I'm going to talk about some of the lessons I learned--and that I believe they did, too.

Before I do, though, I want to make clear that I know how unhealthy these lessons are, I don't live my life by them, and so on.

They are, though, what such kids learn, and they are what I learned at that age.

Also, beware that there's going to be rough language and generally harsh stuff in all of these lessons. That's the nature of them.

Enough disclaimers. Let's get on with today's lesson:

Contact = Pain

They touch you when they want to hurt you.

Sometimes, it's because you messed up, and that's the punishment. You come to expect those. They even feel fair. After all, you screwed up. So, you take it, and you keep as quiet as you can.

Other times, it's part of the training. You have to know how to fight, or you won't survive. You get them first, or they get you. You also have to know how to take the pain, or so they tell you, but you're way ahead of them on that one; you've already learned this part far better than they realize.

The worst times are when it's out of the blue. Maybe you're standing in a line, waiting to get your food, and someone touches your back. You whip around as fast as you can to ward off the threat, but if you're not fast enough, they smack you in the face or punch you in the stomach. Maybe you're sleeping, but you let yourself go too deep, and the arms hold you down seconds before the fists or feet hit your stomach. Tighten up and take it; that's all you can do.

They don't like it, though, when you stiffen up at the hugs that are supposed to feel good--though you're never sure to whom. The ones who beat you are the same ones who expect you to give a hug and like it; you know it's all just another test. Those who hug you and have never hit you? Merely threats you haven't triggered yet.

You keep the little space around you as precious as your water. If someone enters it, you push them out--hard and fast, before they can do any damage. Hit first, stay save.

Above all, you show as little of your pain as you can. You stay as quiet as you can manage. No tears. No fucking tears. They don't get that satisfaction. Fuck them.

When they do, when your control fails and you scream or cry, that hurts worse later than the bruises and the blood when you pee.

You'll get better with practice, though, of that you are certain, because it never stops, it never ends. There's always a next time.

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