Wednesday, October 29, 2008

bizarre vigil

Are any of us really free of abuse? I can't imagine. I was trying to remember a time when I was free of feeling abused or victimized, as I do now for the most part. It seems like all of my life there have been these incidences where I was in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow. Does that happen to everyone? Am I making too big of a deal out of something that happens to everyone? Certainly, there are those who have had it worse than me.

I've been keeping a bizarre vigil for about six months. I continue to check the news on Google for stories about the women of the FLDS, about Elizabeth Fritzl, and of Brooke Bennett. I'm amazed for one thing about how those sensational stories were published and put in front of people for only about two weeks. That's all the masses have an attention span for horror, I guess. These terrible things happened and now unless you are keeping a bizarre vigil those stories are no longer important. Yet, I feel it's important for someone, me, to continue to witness the stories as they unfold. Should I tell you what's been happening?

The FDLS women are raising money by selling the clothes that they make and wear around their homes. They hope that people are actually taking up those uptight fashions, but my guess is that these will largely be for Halloween costumes, and sales are likely to dry up after Friday. I've discovered a shelter that helps the runaway boys of the FDLS, but it has lost its license to allow the boys to live there, and will soon be closing. There is only one girl who has been taken away from her mother somewhat permanently, and she's been trying to fire her lawyer and get back to her family and "husband" Warren Jeffs, but she's only 14.

Then Joseph Fritzl has been declared sane enough to stand trial for keeping Elizabeth and three of their children prisoner for 24 years. He claims he was "born to rape" and could have been much worse, that he limited the terror he could have let loose on the world, by raping his daughter 3x a week instead. Doesn't that make you feel better? Elizabeth meanwhile has changed her name, kicked her lame mother out of her life, and has had a little bit of romance in her life since her daughter Kirsten woke up from the coma she'd been in. Kirsten has revealed that she was suicidal essentially from never having a life at all.

Brooke Bennett's death as a 12 year old girl in small town Vermont has gotten the state of Vermont to re-look at the way it handles sex offenders. It's been revealed that her Uncle Michael had raped another 13 year old girl, but that it was expunged from his record, making it possible for him to begin raping a 9-year old girl, and eventually to rape, torture, drug and kill his niece, Brooke. The depravity of the whole story is just horrifying to me.

Then there have been other stories to remind me that women can be as horrible as men. There is the mother in Maryland who killed two adopted daughters and stored their bodies in the basement freezer since February, and then tortured her youngest adopted daughter until that girl, at age 7, jumped from a 2nd story window to escape. There's the two mothers in Czech who caged and tortured their 7 and 9 year old sons in obedience to their sect's direction. There are the two women in Los Angeles who starved and tortured one of the women's sons with lit cigarettes and putting his hand on a lit stove burner. There are the two old women who befriended down-on-their-luck homeless men convinced them to buy life insurance policies and then ran them over. Women are as horrible as men are sometimes.

My life has been easy. I don't live in Afghanistan wearing a burka, knowing that if I did live there I'd be stoned to death twenty times over for having lived my life as I have. What I'm really unable to reconcile is how I got to this place, and what I can possibly do to improve the situation of the souls who live here.

I think of telling my story. A spy in the normal house. I think that maybe if I could just show that it is possible to make terrible mistakes and rise out of them, then maybe that would give others in similar trials some hope. Then I think my story is kind of boring compared to the ones that make it into the newspaper. That maybe the appetite for the shocking and horrific is like a fast food addiction, and that the reading public is so saturated with the meaningless that there is no way to bring them back to the fact that there are people behind these stories, and that the people are still making choices around those stories, and that improvement is very incremental and not so much a dramatic and quantum a shift as we would like to believe.

Then I consider making up a fiction that is the combination of all of these stories that has this one theme: terrible things happen in life and we have to still be of service, do our duty and shine the light. I think of how I could simplify it, make it real enough and true enough to stay to my premise. I think of writing the stories for my kids. I think about my kids and how they understand the world now. They already know the world is more complicated than a Disney picture, and yet they still remain largely innocent and dependent on me to interpret right and wrong for them. They still don't know how bad things can get even though to my mind they have to deal with things they shouldn't have to deal with at all.

My sweet man told me that at the same age as my son, he was staying with an uncle in Jamaica and happened to spy on a fight between two men in a sugar cane field. The men argued and fought and eventually macheteed each other to death right before his eyes. His comment was that how can we expect everyone to be able to deal with being "equal" or "alike" in this world when our children have such radically different experiences and have to somehow fold those experiences in to a "normal" existence?

How can a girl who was raped from the time she was 9 relate to my daughter who simply watched her mother being told she was worthless? Did my standing up for myself finally happen to late or too early to make my daughter stronger? Can the raped girl ever recover, or will she be like me, sort of hobbled and dizzied by the facts? Will my daughter have to be abused in order to stand up for herself, or will she be an abuser in order to maintain control over an existence we cannot control? What good comes from any terrible experience except the opportunity to stand up and realize that the conditions and the experiences are not the soul?

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