Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood: Are people really not willing to hear what happened?


Let me elaborate.

A lot of folks who've read my Lessons from a militarized childhood posts have asked me why I seem so angry at people not being willing to listen to the stories of those who've suffered abuse. Surely that doesn't happen, they say. Surely people are willing to hear about what happened to these poor folks.

Yes, it does happen. It happens all the time.

No, most people don't want to hear.

I hate that. It pisses me off.

I know women who've suffered abuse, physical and sexual, from family members, people whose sacred duty was to care for them, and they can't talk to their spouses. I know men who were beaten, and they can't talk to their spouses. I could go on, but I'm not going to enable anyone who knows me or my friends to play a guessing game; these folks get to choose if they want to talk.

What I wish is that the rest of the world would be willing to listen, to hear their stories, to not ask stupid questions, questions like, "What did you do to make it happen?" or "Why didn't you stop it?"

The answers, by the way, are the same as those for rape victims: nothing, and because they couldn't.

I don't enjoy talking about these parts of my past. Like all abused kids, I still at some level feel guilty and weak for somehow making it happen and for not stopping it--even though intellectually I know the right answers. The reason I am talking about it is that I want to demonstrate to these people that they are not alone.

That they have ever right to talk about what happened.

That those questions are stupid.

That people who care about them should listen and understand and comfort them and never never never blame them.

That it was not their fault.

Because it wasn't.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood: The day I decided to live

Quite a few people, upon learning of the rough parts of my childhood, have asked me if I ever considered suicide.

Three years in the paramilitary group, starting at age ten. Four years of almost daily physical abuse--beatings--starting at about the same time.

What do you think?

Of course I did. I'm not stupid. I contemplated every option available to me, from fighting back (tried it and failed), to running away (couldn't let my sister and brother face the abuse without me to protect them at least a little), to killing myself. I thought a great deal about all of the choices.

In fact, I pondered them so much and was in so much pain that I realized I needed to decide to live every bit as much as I would need to make a decision to end my life. I realized that living was a choice, too, albeit the default one.

The day I decided to live was a few months past my eleventh birthday. I don't remember the date, because that didn't matter to me. The abuse had been going on for over a year, as had my time in the paramilitary group. I was hurting and saw no way out.

Until I considered the future. I was right that the eleven-year-old me had no way out. From all the data available to me, however, I had every reason to believe that if I waited long enough, I would get big enough to stop the woman who was beating me. I would also age out of the youth group eventually. By doing those things, I would finally beat the people who were hurting me. I would win.

I liked the sound of that.

The way out was simple: take the pain, and wait for years. I didn't know how many, but I figured it would be at least three, maybe more.

I could do that time. I already knew the formula: Get up in the morning. Get angry; that was easy. Stay angry; also easy. Never let them see you cry. Go to sleep at night. Repeat.

Killing myself would have been losing, surrendering to them. No fucking way would I do that.

I decided to win, so I decided to live.

I won.

A lot of people who've endured great trauma have written me and talked to me about these entries. All of you, every battered kid, every sexually abused child, every veteran, every trauma worker, every cop--every single one of you had those moments, I know you did, when you, too, considered suicide. But you didn't do it. You didn't bow to the pain. You chose to live.

Stand tall. Be proud, even if you can't tell your closest friends why--and fuck those people who won't let you tell them your stories, who don't really want to know you. That's their loss.

You didn't lose. You're still here. You chose to live. You won.

You won.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jackass 3-D

Yes, I went to see it. Actually, Scott and I did, one Saturday afternoon a bit ago.

Yes, I know that, as Kyle said, I should be embarrassed at having done so. To a degree, I am. It was stupid and vulgar and, of course, entirely pointless. The 3-D effects made it even more so.

The thing is, though, that each and every person in the theater--about a dozen men and half a dozen women--was laughing so hard so often that we all forgot to be embarrassed. The movie was indeed all of those bad things, but it was also incredibly funny. I laughed so hard that my sides hurt.

Multiple women have told me that it's clearly a guy thing, and I've tended to agree, but the women watching with us laughed as hard and as loudly as we did, and on the way out they were praising the movie at least as much as the guys. (I notice these things, because I almost always stay to see the credits.)

I can't really recommend the film, but I can say that if you're in its audience, you will laugh loud and long and be glad you went.

And you'll also be a little embarrassed that you did.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I know this film came out quite a few weeks ago, but I've been meaning to talk about it for a while and just haven't gotten to it. So sue me.

First, the bottom line: I loved every completely silly minute of RED. It never dragged, nor did it ever stray remotely close to realism, and I'm completely fine with that. I didn't want it to be real. I wanted it to be what it was: a velocity exercise, a hey-let's-get-the-gang-together-again homage, a gasp of hope for older folks who still dream of being tough and hot.

All the stars delivered exactly the goods. Bruce Willis returned to his glory days and provided most of the action. Morgan Freeman was wise and smart and captivating. John Malkovich turned in one of his full-on crazy performances, and he does them so very well. Karl Urban, as the young agent chasing them, started out cardboard and then became more.

And, of course, there was Helen Mirren. While showing every bit of her age, she was graceful, hot, deadly, and funny; that woman can act.

If you haven't seen this movie and it's still playing anywhere near you, catch it on the big screen while you can.

To tide you over until you can see it, here's a little ironic musical commentary on aspects of the film: two songs from two great Jersey groups I love.

First, the newer one.

Then, the classic.

A little Shady Esperanto

courtesy of Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Yes, I feel strongly enough about the topic to use both all capital letters and bold font. I really do.

Today is an election day. Exercise your constitutional right to vote. Head to your polling place, and vote for the candidates you prefer. If you feel that you don't know enough to vote yet, study up; you can find useful data and digest it in a short time. The polls will be open for at least several more hours.

More often than not in my years of voting, I have opted for candidates who lost. It doesn't matter. I tried. I gave them my vote, not enough other people did, and they lost. So it goes. What matters is that we all try to put in place the leaders we think will do the best jobs (or the least damage, which is sometimes the same thing).

Many Americans before us have shed blood, lost loved ones, given up everything they had, and in many cases died to secure for us the right to vote. Use that right, and vote today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Columbus, day 6

I hate travel days. They almost always start rough for me, because I don't sleep well when I know I have to get up early. So it was today, as I woke up about ninety minutes--a full sleep cycle--before I had to get up and could not fall fully asleep again despite being very tired.

Once I got out of bed, however, the day proceeded well, if in a haze of fatigue. The drive was long but uneventful, which is a good thing.

As we were cruising through West Virginia, we saw a sign I couldn't resist: Tudor's Biscuit World. Onto the exit and into the wilderness we drove, until in the town of Ripley we came to the small shop. Most of the business consisted of construction workers in trucks using the drive-through window, and the place was closing in less than half an hour, but we went inside; I wanted the full experience.

Not my best plan. The bathrooms had flooded, so the smell was on the funky side. The young woman behind the counter was surly and nearly unintelligible. The biscuits were better than cardboard but not by a huge margin, and their contents inspired such unfortunate discussion moments as the following:

"That could be a real egg."

"No way. That egg-like thing came from a bottle."

"But is sorta has white and yellow areas."
I can't speak to all the world's Tudors, but if you're in the Ripley area and considering this one, drive on by.

The resulting stomach aches, by the way, gave us all the excuse we needed to stop in Tamarck again, where the rest room is clean and they don't mind you sitting there for a spell. Once we were better, we had to sample the Katie's Korner ice cream, which from its Web site looked pretty good. Our samples sadly proved to be merely okay, with hints of oddness in their flavors. While I'll continue to order Jeni's whenever I can get it, I don't feel the need to try Katie's again.

I'm in my home office now and working like mad to catch up, so I'll return to that. It is good to be home.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Columbus, day 5

I've eaten a fair number of rubber-chicken meals in my time, but this afternoon's World Fantasy Con awards banquet has to rank as one of the very worst.

Some of the bad aspects of the meal were predictable and fairly common: the overwrought salad dressing, the bread fresh from the packages in which the hotel bought it on sale last week, the meat cooked so dry it was only a few hours from turning to jerky, the mashed potatoes well on their way to setting solidly enough that the hotel could use them to repair the holes in my room's ceiling when Hyatt finally gets around to the way overdue renovations.

Other features, though, were unusual and added to the meal's very special standing. The desserts, for example, ranged from chewy to nearly impenetrable; Jürgen Snoeren, a Dutch publisher at our table, had to push hard on his fork to get it to penetrate his hockey puck of a chocolate cake. The servers were also a treat, each one surlier than the one before, all annoyed at everything we did, some reaching in to move our water glasses or forks or knives simply because we hadn't put those items where they felt we should.

Up to now, I'd thought this Hyatt was merely the worst example of its type I'd ever stayed in, but the banquet has shown me that there is always room to do worse.

After some work and rest in the afternoon, a large group of us walked to the Hyde Park steak house, where we enjoyed a good meal and a lot of conversation. For dessert, though, we left the restaurant and walked to--yes, you guessed it--the Jeni's up the street. I have greatly enjoyed all this ice cream, but I am very, very glad that it's not available anywhere near my home.

On a completely unrelated topic, several folks here have stopped to chat with me about the Children No More charity program and child soldiers. As you may have noted in the news, the U.S. government recently decided to issue a waiver of the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act and continue to provide aid to four countries that are still using child soldiers. I don't agree with this decision, though I must assume the people involved did not make it lightly and are considering many different issues. If you are also thinking about this recent action, or if you're just interested in the topic, I thought you might find these photos, which Kyle brought to my attention, both moving and disturbing.


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