Spanish Fly

witches chair 2We are a people who fail to consider consequences just as we fail to consider the linear notes of our history. It seems it is impossible for some of us too reason, for us to see where we have been and acknowledge the whys and wherefores of how we arrived at where we are today. We only see the right this minute and think somehow this is all there is, this bubble of bullshit somehow represents the entirety of our social make-up, there is nothing else, we got to this moment in time without all of the transcendent moments before this too pile upon.

Really? Are we really, as a people this stupid, this blind? Can this truly be possible?

I swore I was not going to discuss the issue of Bill Cosby and his heinous acts against women and I am not. What I am going to talk about is why so many, men and women alike came to his defense. We watched Bill Cosby and Larry King and we laughed right along with them, a nation thought their discussion of drugging women was funny.

Why did so many turn their backs as women came forward to accuse Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) of being a sexual predator? Because we accept his actions, it is simple. Why so many, shrugged their shoulders and thought to themselves even when not thinking it aloud, ‘boys will be boys and those women were probably asking for it’.

I said I wouldn’t discuss Bill Cosby, I won’t. What I will discuss, is why anyone would think to defend him or his sexual molestation and rape of twenty or more women. Why anyone would think it was okay for Bill Cosby to drug young women so he could sexually molest and rape them. I know why, but I wonder if most understand how far back our disdain for women goes.

 If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24

There is of course more, but this is a good place to start with the very framework of those who lay the foundation of a nation in Biblical literalism. Starting with the Pilgrims and moving to the Puritans, not a single one of those who first came to these shores believed women were of equal value to men, in fact most believed they were of far less value.  In all cases, women could not own property, not even their own children unless they were widowed and never remarried. Even within the context of those much vaunted and hallowed documents of Independence and Democracy were women considered, only men are given a voice; not women and just to be clear, only White Men.

Witches and Puritans

Witches and Puritans

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

Exodus 21:7-11

We are without moral ground, it is power and control and it is right there in the very book so many within this nation claim as their guiding light, their shining beacon. How could we not ignore rape, ignore or worse still, blame the victims of rape in favor of the rapist. How could we not look at the victim of rape and ask these horrible questions:

6371058_G“What were you wearing?”

“How many sexual partners have you had?”

“What did you do to entice your rapist?”

“How much did you have to drink?”

“Why were you at that restaurant, bar, party?”

Of course there is any number of other questions the victim is asked, making them party to their own violation. Making them at fault for their rape, not a victim of violence at all, rather a willing participant and someone to be victimized, ostracized and humiliated further by society, the criminal justice system and too often family and friends.

It is estimated there are 400,000 untested rape kits sitting in evidence rooms across the nation. Rape victims, waiting for justice, who have submitted to invasive examinations of their bodies so Untested-Rape-Kits-1000x600police can collect DNA evidence, in most cases they do nothing with. The decision to test those kits, at a cost of $500-$1,500, is usually left to the investigating officer. The officer or the District Attorney, who too often are making the decision the case is ‘too hard to prove’, or worse have decided the rape didn’t happen, who are all too often searching for consent, searching for a reason not to prosecute and thus serving the rapist.

How did we get here? We have always been here, this is what we have always been. This is not new, we have not reached some new sociopathic low. The difference is women have started to speak out, started to say enough and no more. The difference is social media and the ability to connect with other victims, to compare stories and begin to understand the true nature of rape, the damage rape does to us, not just the initial damage to our bodies but the long-term horror the rape victim suffers.

In the past rape was a silent crime, the victim was silent and thus after the fact consented. Perhaps, if they were fortunate they had family or friends who were supportive and loving, this wasn’t always the case though. There was a reason rape victims’ names were masked from the public, it was to protect them from being humiliated and ostracized by the community, to prevent the community from dragging them to the gates and stoning them.

images‘What were you wearing?’

Blue jeans, a tee shirt and tennis shoes; I was eleven years old. I was silent for far more than twenty years because my rape humiliated my mother.

Recent Stories: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/16/untested-rape-kits-evidence-across-usa/29902199/

Private Programs to end the backlog: http://www.endthebacklog.org/backlog/what-backlog

Over the Cliff

OpEdThe world spins and each of us finds our center of gravity based on many different inputs, different sources of information and values gathered throughout our lives. We come to our beliefs, our moral centers through our experiences, our families and our communities. We judge the world around us, what is happening, who is doing what to whom based on our own emotional response to what we see, as well as, what we are fed through the various sources of information we absorb (e.g. media, friends, family). Some of us, because of our experiences fall far away from where we started others of us never take a road less traveled; never stray far from the path our parents, even grandparents before us trudged down before us.

What is the impetus for those who take the branch in the road that takes us away from our roots? Do we see the world differently from those around us? Is our vision different from birth?

I know for me, I was always different from those around me. My beloved stepmother said to me once, I was exotic, not just in my looks but my mind was unfathomable. This combination made me an outsider within my family, as a child and an adult. Keeping in mind I was adopted at birth I wondered sometimes if ‘exotic’ thinking was a product of biology, this was often the subject of my second mother’s rages against me. Needless to say, I am the one who always sought the road less traveled, the path hidden in the brambles and ran toward it, barefoot and with bells on to find the clearing in the woods and all too often the monsters awaiting me. Oddly, even after meeting my first family I find myself at odds with many of them as well; my conclusion is I am simply a product of my own thinking, my own strange mind, a combination of experiences and how I have processed them over the years.

I suspect this might be true of most of us, which takes me to the reason for writing today. First let me say this, I am not a Christian. I do not subscribe to any formal religion. I have nothing against those that do, but have an enormous issue with those who wish to force their religious dogma down my throat or in my face, either through legislation or through bullshit-rewritten history. I am not an Atheist, nor am I Agnostic. I am frankly not anything in particular. I subscribe to the idea there is something greater than me, something wider and broader than me in the universe, not that this something takes an overwhelming interest in me simply that it exists. I do not believe it is a White Man with a long white beard sitting in a cloud. I believe both Jesus and Mohammed existed as real live men of their time, I also believe they were both of Middle Eastern descent (thus Jesus could not be a Blue-eyed, pale skinned White man as depicted). I believe they were both great teachers, as were the other great teachers and founders of the other religions of the world. Finally, I believe religion corrupts and is corrupted by man; it is used to keep societies placid and ignorant.

I have been watching the news as it unfolds this week have you? I am disheartened by all of it; I am dismayed by the way we treat social injustice, police violence, racial inequality and most disheartening sex crimes within Christian cults. What do I mean by all this? Let’s take three specific issues and compare them, three specific media worthy events and compare their outcomes, both real and hypothetical.

Shootout in Waco, Texas: Nine Dead, 18 injured. Criminal conspirators, known motorcycle biker clubs, predominantly White males (infrequently a Hispanic will be allowed to ride with them). Police knew they were there and were on standby. No dead bodies shown on the ground, not once did the media show the after effects of the violence of the day, the blood running in the streets, the bodies strewn in the streets or in the restaurant. Not once did the media show the ambulances carting off the injured. Those flying their colors were not referred to as thugs, their criminal histories were not trotted out immediately to insure sympathy for the officers involved, oh that’s right there was no need there were over 500 guns found in bathrooms, potato chip bags and locked cars, these were not innocent and unarmed civilans being shot down in the street by the police. Those who were involved were milling about, sitting on sidewalks, crossing police lines, texting and talking on their phones. No teargas was deployed against them, no military riot gear on police.

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Compare this to the peaceful protestors of Ferguson, Baltimore, New York. Do you wonder what the difference is? I do not, I do not wonder for a single instant how the police would have responded had those ‘bikers’ been black what the response would have been.

Next up? How about the acquittal of Michael Brelo, he fired 49 times into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams’, reloading twice before he was done. He wasn’t charged with murder only manslaughter, why was he acquitted? Because there was a total of one hundred and thirty-seven (137) shots fired into their car and it couldn’t be proven he fired the killing shots. Before his trial the other officers involved in the deadly shooting of the unarmed black men who did nothing more than drive a car that backfired, they refused to meet with the prosecutor’s office to review testimony. There was no jury trial, Michael Brelo waived his right thus having it heard only by a judge who found him ‘Not Guilty’. See a pattern? I surely do. Since the aquittal of George Zimmerman, the only ‘thug’ on the street that night, I surely do see a pattern.

josh-duggar_1Finally, let’s talk about family values or the distinct lack thereof. Let’s talk about why those who wrap themselves in the mantle of holier than thou Christianity are allowed the most heinous corruptions, while those who have done no wrong are accused of the ugliest of faults. Let’s talk about why it is perfectly acceptable for a serial pedophile to continue to live under the roof with his victims while his mother and father hide his crimes, while those who should be protecting the children turn away. Oh, that’s right they are Christian and he asked God to Forgive him. He went on to become a stand up activist against the rights of others, even going so far as to suggest those ‘others’ would be a danger to children (like he is).

We, those of us with a thinking cell in our brain are being ‘mean’ to suggest his actions are not simply childhood curiosity but something more, something terrible and should have been treated like Josh_Duggar_Mike_Huckabeethe criminal and deviant behavior they were. We, those of us who understand sex crimes, understand molestation and rape, we look at this family and wonder what else and how much worse was it than what we know. What we have instead is Presidential wannabe’s standing up for the poor mistreated deviant and his entire cult like family, because they are Christians. What we have is others from the far right of the flock, speaking out against anyone who questions, anyone who wonders, “what about his victims”; Josh Duggar and his parents are not the victims in this, the victims are the young girls he molested. Let’s get this right, the victims were his sisters and the other young girls he molested. He did not pay a price for his serial molestation of the young girls within his control. Young girls who did not receive counseling, young girls who did not receive justice for what was done to them.

See a problem here? I surely do. Yet there are those who defend this family. Why did Josh Duggar get away with his bad acts? I assure you, had he been a different skin color he would have been locked up and in one of the programs I speak in every month. I see boys as young as 11 years old, they aren’t considered too young, they also are Christian and have often asked for God’s forgiveness. Josh though, he got a pass, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why?

I am disheartened by all of it. The media is training this nation to not ask the hard questions, like sheep we wander to the cliff and fall off.


 

I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the pain,
That the dry death won’t find me
Empty and alone, without having done the sufficient.

I only ask of God
That i won’t be indifferent to the injustice
That they won’t slap my other cheek,
After a claw (or talon) has scratched this destiny (luck) of mine.

I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the battle,
It’s a big monster and it walks hardly on
All the poor innocence of people.

I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to deceit,
If a traitor can do more than a bunch of people,
Then let not those people forget him easily.

I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the future,
Hopeless is he who has to go away
To live a different culture.

I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the battle,
It’s a big monster and it walks hardly on
All the poor innocence of people.

Léon Gieco

Just One

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are days when I cannot get out of bed without wanting to curl into a ball and weep. Days when my entire body feels as if someone has poured kerosene over me and lit a match as they gleefully danced over my burning body, kicking the ashes simply to add insult to injury. There are days I spend the entire day wanting to slap my left side, it feels as if Fire Ants are crawling just under my skin biting me from the inside out. Some days I spend walking, sitting and standing as if I am still in a neck brace, you know those hard flesh toned ones that push your head up and create furrows in your shoulders, I still remember what they feel like and still hold my head exactly so. Some days, when I feel as if my very best option is to curl into a corner and weep in pain and frustration, I can’t do that even because my body will not follow my desire without screaming in protest.

This was one of those weeks, when my body hurt and thus my mind, my spirit followed the path of pain protesting, ‘it isn’t fair’. The funny thing about weeks like this? No one knows, I never tell and no one seems to notice, no one ever asks if I am okay, for more than a decade now it seems no one asks. Maybe they have simply decided I am not allowed my pain or my weakness. There are times this infuriates me. This week was one of those times.

This week I was the sole speaker for two very different Victim Impact groups, the first an adult Parolee the other a juvenile START. In each case, I found myself judged harshly by those who were there to listen, learn and with some luck consider a different direction. Oddly, the judgment was for similar reason, the discussion though took very different directions. I will say this, after the first I was emotionally wrung out, wondering why I subjected myself to these, after the second I remembered why.

Plagal or Amen cadence

Plagal or Amen cadence

The content of Victim Impact is always the same the cadence though each time is different and depends on how I feel, physically, spiritually and  sometimes the vibe of the audience sets a tone. This audience was odd, mixed in their willingness to hear me their hostility at being there. There curiosity to hear the story wars with their feigned boredom, their world weary slump in the seat. I know how to hold them though, as I tell the story of the night I became a ‘Victim’ and then a ‘Survivor’ and ultimately ‘Victorious’, obviously this didn’t happen in a single night but over time and not without work.

I don’t hide some of my history, I tell truths about being a runaway, being a delinquent and ultimately making different life choices. I also talk about my offenders, their choices, their youth and the struggle I have even now with the sentences they received, despite the terrible damage they caused to me, my family and their other victims. I do not shy away from the issue of race, it played a key role in why they chose me and their other victims, thus it has to be part of the conversation.

I have been doing Victim Impact for nearly ten years now. When I first started, I was afraid and still very angry. When I first started, I had no peace in my soul so every single time I spoke there was a small ball of fury caught in my throat. Slowly that ball dissipated, I learned from those I was supposed to be teaching and from others who spoke.

Right ShoulderI was asked recently by someone I love, if I could go back in time and change that one day would I do so and my answer was no. I know in my heart what happened was simply a part of the trajectory of my life, part of what made me who and what I am. I could wish for a different lesson book, a different manner in which I got to this precise moment in time but I cannot wish to be a different person.

On Wednesday the same question was asked, would I change it and the answer was still no. The problem was what came before that question was a discussion of forgiveness and a demand that I forgive my offenders because, wait for it:

“It is the Christian thing to do”

“You will never be free until you do”

“It isn’t right to hold a grudge”

“They deserve to be forgiven”

Forgiveness is always part of the discussion, I suspect because everyone wants to know they can be forgiven. Here is what I said, not once but twice within a 24-hour time span.

I do not owe it. I do not offer it freely. I also do not withhold it. Were any of my offenders to come to me with open heart and hands, offering true and honest remorse for their actions I would likely forgive them, but only for the harm they did directly to me. I cannot offer forgiveness for the harm they did, the pain they caused to others, including my parents, sons, spouse, siblings and friends; that forgiveness isn’t mine to give.

Forgiveness without remorse is a cheap imitation and only makes others feel good. It is a good storyline in books and made for TV movies.

I am not Christian thus am not held captive by any man’s version of religious compromise or its accompanying guilt.

I do not owe forgiveness for my own freedom I am already free.

This was a very difficult philosophical stance for those in the audience to ‘get’. After a 5-minute discussion, I called a stop. It was stunning, usually I have a sense of humor about most things, that night and after that discussion, my humor fled.tears_of_sadness

One person had the audacity to say to me, “Well, would you rather be dead. You have told us all about how hard it was, you haven’t said how grateful you are to be alive.”

I told him I was. Then I told him about living in pain, every single day for the past twenty-two years, I explained the pain meter and how I was never below a four on that meter, never. I told him I was grateful I outlived both my parents that I was glad I could be beside them when they passed. Then I explained this wasn’t what we were there for, that my survival was only testament to my strength and they were all sitting in those hard seats to learn what it meant to be a victim of violence from the point of view of the victim. They didn’t need to know we could survive, they didn’t need hearts and flowers about how grateful we were for our lives after brutality, but that under that survival was pain. To learn empathy and compassion they had to see our pain and our humanity.

Another person wanted to go down the path of victim blaming, that perhaps, somehow and in some way I shared blame in my carjacking and shooting. Well yes, of course that must be true. My aliveness, my drawing breath, my being there in a perfectly safe place, at 7pm on a February evening, yes that makes me share the blame. It truly is a great thing I am the person I am, my temptation was to nail him in the forehead with my high-heel.

As I said, I did two of these this week. One with Adult Parolee’s and the other with Juveniles, the first was with the adults and you have seen a glimpse of that one here. It shredded me, wrung me out. There were a few bright spots but not many. The second though, with the young people though we had similar discussions about forgiveness, empathy and compassion; well, at the end of it my spirit was once again lifted. I was once again reminded why even when it is hard I will continue to do this.

48347979001_67684328001_wake19-173-1266760650819I always say, give me just one heart, just one mind each time I speak; I am pleased and I have done good work.

 

Hope and Apathy

soapboxpilePlease read here for the best synopsis of Fridays mass killing, my friend Jueseppi has done a spectacular job of putting it all together: http://theobamacrat.com/2014/05/25/university-of-california-santa-barbara-isla-vista-shooting-rampage-7-reported-dead-including-22-year-old-shooter-elliot-rodger/


 

I had planned to stay silent over the killings in Isla Vista on Friday, what is one more voice after all. The truth is I planned to stay silent because it is impossible for me to write through my heartache at more young lives lost. As I write this, my heart is cracking, tears periodically leak from my eyes and stream down my cheeks. I cannot help but think of the families of those who lost their lives. I cannot help but think of those who will have the long road ahead of them toward recovery, the fears they will face, the triggers they will have to overcome, the nightmares that will awaken them in the future all because we failed them, because one man with a gun decided to take retribution for his failure with women.

I think this father’s grief says it best:

Twenty-two years ago, I got lucky. I lived when I wasn’t supposed to. Friday night six young people lost their lives. Yes, I am aware the killer also lost his life, frankly I do not care that he is dead. I am sorry for his parents, they lost their child but he took the lives of six others before he died, he attempted to take the lives of seven others. Had he been successful his minimum body count would have been thirteen, had he achieved his true aim it would have been much higher.

Already in much of the mainstream media, this mass murderer is being referred to as a ‘child’ with psychological problems, trying to excuse his behavior, trying to give him an out for his spree. Not only will I not name him, let the Devil do that while he burns in hell, I will not excuse him or anyone else I blame for the lost lives on Friday.

So let’s clear some of the excuses off the table, first this is not a ‘child’ this was a twenty-two year old man, a fully grown man, in college, living in an apartment, with a car (a BMW no less) and an income, albeit likely one he didn’t earn. The next thing we should be clear about is the childhood diagnosis of High-Functioning Asperger Syndrome, while he might not have been as socially adept as his peers due to Asperger Syndrome; his family had the means to provide him the very best treatment and education throughout his life. It is unlikely he was that far behind unless the diagnosis of High-Functioning was incorrect, based on his videos and his ‘manifesto’ he was simply selfish, spoiled and self-centered. I accept the diagnosis of Asperger, it appears he wasn’t a ‘normal’ twenty-two year-old, this does not however, make him mentally deficient, insane or otherwise incapable of knowing right from wrong.

Let’s be really clear, he was a twenty-two year-old man who believed the world and women in particular owed him something, in this case owed him ‘sex’, the fact that he remained a virgin at his age bothered him immensely. That he believed he was a ‘god’ compared to others who he saw with the women he wanted, as seen from a quote from one of his videos:

“I see so many beautiful, blonde haired girls. So many beautiful blonde-haired girls walking around everywhere. In your revealing shorts. Your cascading blonde hair. Your pretty faces. And I want one for a girlfriend… I’m 22 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’m still a virgin. I’ve never had the pleasure of having sex with a girl. Sleeping with a girl. Kissing a girl. I’ve never even held a girl’s hand,”

Or another quote:

“Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men but never to me”

Now, six young people are dead and seven others will have to live with his actions, because this man, believed he was owed and took it in his head to follow through with his threat:

“If I had it in my power. I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood,” adding “You deserve to be annihilated, and I will give that to you,” he said, speaking of what he termed his “day of retribution.”

When it all goes wrong, this is what happens. This is the aftermath, this is what happens to communities.

How many must die before we get right with our children? How many times does this have to happen before we stop the insanity of out of control gun laws that allow massacres on the streets of our nation to happen indiscriminately? When are we going to demand change and why aren’t we asking the relevant questions such as, where did he get a gun?

That last question isn’t as obvious as it might sound, as someone with a ‘disorder’, not insane but not entirely normal either, he would be on a list that would bar him from gun ownership in a sane world. We don’t live in a sane world though, do we?

Three Stooges

Three Stooges

We live in a world where Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Wayne LaPierre have more power to determine whether our children will be safe on the streets and in their schoolrooms than the majority of Americans.

Please note, none of them are elected officials, I can tell you what all of them have in common though:

RACISM, NRA, SYG and a complete lack of intellectual discernment.

Worse yet? Most recent polls show their messaging is getting through to the ignorant and uninformed, their constant flow of misinformation is having an impact and more citizens of this nation are leaping on the bandwagon. More Americans believe gun control laws should be ‘less’ strict rather than more strict, this coming from the most recent Gallup Poll. As gun deaths rise, as mass murder rises, as our children lay bleeding in the streets, the school yards and even in their own homes; Americans look and shrug their shoulders and say to themselves fuck it, open the floodgates.

How many more must die? How many more mothers and fathers must bury their children in the cold earth?

Twenty-two years ago, my father got lucky. Mr. Martinez and the other parents of Friday’s mass killing were not as lucky. I am heartbroken for them, shattered for them. My friend said the following to me, knowing I sign my e-mail ‘helplessly hopeful”:

Well, in “Hopeland”, things are OK. Here in reality where I live, this shit ain’t ovah. There will be many more shooting rampages to come. Get yo popcorn and get ready for the show.”

It was somewhat cruel, I know the monsters are out there, he isn’t wrong though is he; until we, as citizens get up off our apathetic asses and demand change we are lost and the victims will continue to pile up. Hope, it isn’t enough and it will not stem the tears of all the parents who lose their children. We must take our nation back from those who would destroy it. We must stand up and say no more.

What soothes my heart at times like this:


 

http://everytown.org/

http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-topic-overview

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aspergers-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20029249

http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/24/the-nra-s-all-out-assault-on-accurate-information-about-gun-deaths.html

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html

My Anniversary Shots Fired

LVal_2010I looked out at thirty-three faces all staring back at me as I stood at the front of the room. Some young, some old, one woman the rest men. They did not want to be in this stuffy room sitting on those uncomfortable chairs. They didn’t have a choice, each one of them had been ordered into this room on this night for Victim Impact. Each one of them was a Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parolee; if they hadn’t signed in tonight, they could be revoked and returned to prison.

So there they slouched, White, Black, Brown; staring at me mostly I suspect hoping I would talk fast so they could fulfill this requirement and get the hell out of there.

“Tomorrow is my Anniversary.”

“Twenty-one years ago tomorrow, three young men decided for no good reason to try to take my life. Before I tell you the rest of the story we are going to play a game, it is called ‘What do you See’, so just shout it out when you look at me what do you see.”

This is their list; it took them a minute or so to get warmed up.

  • White Lady
  • Working Woman
  • Successful Woman
  • Educated
  • Well-Dressed
  • Rich
  • Articulate
  • Mean
  • Crazy Woman

Interesting isn’t it? I didn’t give them my list until much later. I did tell them my story though. I told them the story of what happened. I told them the story of what it did to my family. I told them how I felt when I found out the ages of the children who did such terrible harm to me, how I felt knowing they were going to prison.

I also told them a little bit about my own childhood, that it hadn’t always been rainbows, puppy dogs or easy. I told them about being declared a juvenile delinquent, being turned over to the state and being a runaway and on the streets at a very young age.

It matters they are not able to blow off the story of survival, compassion or Impact because of what they see when they look at me today.

I am not unkind, but I don’t pull punches about my feelings toward my attackers. I don’t lie about my feelings regarding their release either. Today I found something new, the reason why the youngest did his entire twenty, his complete sentence; his prison record was so bad he could never make parole. The one who was out and had his parole revoked, he was on the street less than a month, 28 days to be precise he is back in now. The last one, his parole was approved in October but he has not been released yet, he has nowhere to go.

Argicles.businessinsider Image

Articles.businessinsider Image

With each of these new pieces of information, I am torn. Torn between my wish they had made different choices. My wish they could find redemption. My true heartfelt wish they would or could be brought to the light and thus to a different manhood. Then there is the me that woke up this morning in pain again, the me that may face another surgery this year if the gym and physical therapy and acupuncture and everything else I am trying fails. There is the me that sometimes simply can’t get through the day without snapping for pain. There is the me that lies about seizures to keep people from worrying. There is the me who sometimes thinks I really will be alone someday because living with this me really isn’t a pleasant walk in the park.

When I look at this, these tears to my heart I have a very difficult time.

Whenever I speak at Victim Impact, I always allow for questions. I am always open and rarely am offended. Today I was offended, perhaps because things are close to the surface. Perhaps because tomorrow is my anniversary; but I think I was offended because it was simply an offensive exchange.

Sitting in the front row was a gentleman, perhaps in his forties who throughout the session had been fidgeting, rolling his eyes and clearly had something on his mind. Finally, he spoke up (this is paraphrased and not exact).

“Are you saying you never get angry, not even when you are in pain or when you have a seizure?”

“I did not say I am never angry, of course I get angry. I am human and have normal human reactions.”

“That is what I thought. So your interaction with the parole board to try to keep them inside is revenge!”

“No, it is not revenge. It is justice. For what they did to me, my family and their other victims they have never shown remorse. That lack of remorse or understanding means they will very likely do it again.”

“You threw them into prison, where it is insane, violent and terrible. You admitted they were children. You let them be turned into animals. Did you ever think about what they would become by keeping them there?”

“Yes, but what they did both before and after was not my choice it was their choice. They made these choices. At some point they have to take responsibility for those choices. They got time, I got life. Some day they will get out, they will choose what they do with the rest of their life. I don’t get to choose, my choices were taken away because of what they did. My life was shortened and changed because of what they did.”

At this point he started to argue but one of the host parole officers stepped in. In every crowd there is one like this. I don’t know why, there just is always one. The problem is there is a piece of me that will always wonder, always question my own heart. What if what he says isn’t at least in small part true, am I truly that terrible person who is only seeking revenge?

Tomorrow is my Anniversary. I am struggling with this.

My list:

  • Daughter
  • Grandmother
  • Mother
  • Wife
  • Sister
  • Aunt
  • Cousin
  • Friend

If you saw any of the above when you looked at me, your first instinct would not be to hurt me. That is why I stand up. That is why I do Victim Impact. Tomorrow it will be Twenty-One years since three young men and three bj-286x300bullets changed my life forever.

Revocation

Dear Valentine (I love how they make it personal)

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parole Division issued a pre-revocation warrant for the arrest of this offender due to violation of supervision.

Offender: ASSHAT THAT WIELDED A GUN TO SHOOT YOU ON A DARK NIGHT NEARLY 21 YEARS AGO

STATE ID: XXX                                    TDCJ ID: YYYY

Date Pre-Revocation Warrant Issued: 1/6/2013

For information contact FORT WORTH DPO 3 or call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

If this offender is returned to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (meaning back to prison to serve the rest of his 35 years), you will be notified of further actions and given the opportunity to provide your input. To find out if the offender is in custody, you may contact Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) service at (XXX) XXXX or at their website.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

41510_prison-gatesThe above is part of the letter I received from Angela McCown, Director of Victim Services in Austin in reference to the status of one of the AssHat offenders who on February 7, 1992 kidnapped me, shot me three times and left me to die on a dark road alone. For his crime against me and another victim in a separate offense, equally heinous he received a sentence of 35 years.

In October, despite my active role in his parole hearing, in all his parole hearings over the past 20 years he was granted parole. He walked out of prison free but for supervision. So fine, not free supervised. Still more free than he had been, free to get a job. Free to see his family. Free to have sex with a woman. Free drive a car. Free dammit, free to breath air not filled with the smells of other men.

I asked time and again, why would you consider parole for a person so obviously not prepared for freedom. Why?

There never was an answer. Perhaps the answer was 20 years was enough. Well, now they have their answer. No, it effing was not enough. Some people simply do not appreciate the gift you give them. Some people are not sorry; some people are not capable of learning from their mistakes. Some people are never going to be ready for the world and the world should never be subjected to them.

This person is perhaps one of them. At seventeen years of age, this person picked up a gun and said I want to kill white people. With that in mind, this person recruited friends and set about on a rampage to do just that. The harm he caused to his victims and their families was life-long, we do not get parole from our injuries. He has never shown any remorse for his actions, not once not ever not in any of his parole hearings has he ever once made a statement that indicated he understood his actions or was remorseful.

They should never have granted his parole, ever. Now, not even six-months of freedom and a warrant is issued.

GOOD!

It is my hope they find him soon. Yes, I already checked. No, he is not in custody yet.

It is my fervent hope they return him to serve the remainder of his sentence. Perhaps in the remaining fifteen years, he will find his soul and discover his heart. Perhaps he will learn remorse and humanity.

In the meantime, it is fervent hope he has not harmed anyone during his taste of freedom.

Sandpaper on Silk

This has been a rough year, I mentioned that in a previous post and I mentioned some of the reasons why. This year I celebrated (I use this word tongue in cheek) my twenty year anniversary, February 7, 1992 was the day myrubyslippers life changed though at the time I wouldn’t know this single event would be life changing. All year I have been exploring my inner world and the events of my life that created that inner world. Some days I feel caught, as if I am Dorothy but the tornado didn’t drop my house in Oz and I do not have Ruby Slippers.

Nearly a year ago I told the story of February 7th, for those who have never read it feel free to jump over to Crime, Punishment and Victims. As part of that story, I provided this simple table, which I have changed to provide release dates:

Charge Sentence Date Release Date First Eligible Release Parole Date Birth Date Actual Release Date
Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 8/12/92 3/13/12 3/31/97 12/14/75 3/12
2 counts Att Cap Murder w/Deadly 4/13/93 3/9/27 7/12/00 6/18/76 10/12
2 counts Att Cap Murder w/Deadly Agg Robbery w/Deadly 3/8/93 3/5/27 3/12/00 3/5/76 11/12

Yes, you read the above right, all of my personal offenders are now free. When I wrote On My Knees in October, only one had received his parole approval. Since that writing, something else happened, in November the final blow to my already shattered spirit, shortly before Thanksgiving the last of the three walked free with his parole. I simply could not write then, I couldn’t put fingers to keyboard, it has taken me weeks till now in truth to say they are all free.

Yesterday morning I was in my doctor’s office, we were discussing the weakness in my arm. Why during the course of the day my right arm will suddenly become weak, I suddenly can’t type, why the escalation in pain over the past several months. I adore my Neurologist, for several reasons but mostly because he is patient with me, patient with my complaints. We both know what is wrong, I suspect we both know I cannot continue to ignore the obvious, but he has not pushed me to surgery earlier than I was ready to accept the inevitable, I am not going to miraculously leap up healed. He is also not a pill pusher, which I appreciate even more than anyone could possibly imagine. We now have a plan, I don’t love the plan; I have been avoiding major surgery for a few years, it is likely I will not be able to avoid any longer.

When the first of the three walked out the prison gates, he had served his sentence. It was a mixed set of emotions I felt, but he had served his entire sentence he was done and free. When I received the first notice of parole in October, I was as the title of my post says on my knees. I couldn’t breathe for days; my fury was so hot I lashed out at everyone around me. Then November came, the third letter came. Honestly, I thought this one would be a notification of denial, surely they wouldn’t grant another parole, would they?

Parole

Really? Parole?

  • I can’t sleep through an entire night, because of pain.
  • I can’t sit for more than two hours without tears of pain.
  • I can’t walk for more than fifteen minutes without my right leg going entirely numb.
  • There are times during the day, I can’t feel my right arm, my hand goes numb, my entire right side goes numb. There are times I am in so much pain I want to scream.

Parole?

What have they done to deserve parole?

I have to have more surgery. I have to risk my life under anesthesia for the possibility of life with less pain.

They get parole seventeen years early.

Parole? I am trying to find my compassion button.

compassionbutton

I am trying to find the place in me that agrees this is fair and just. I am trying hard to say this is not about me but simply part of the system. Victims are truly not part of the equation, though we are notified and we are invited to say our piece to courts and parole boards, it isn’t truly about us. We are not part of the criminal justice system; it is not about us in any real sense. I know this, intellectually I know this; my heart doesn’t follow my mind.

When an offender is arrested and goes to trial it becomes THE STATE vs THE OFFENDER

That is the truth; it isn’t really about the true victim any longer. The victim is simply a witness to the crime. No matter how horrific the crime, no matter the terror, no matter the injury, no matter anything at all the victim is simply a witness for the State, the State is in fact the Victim. I always have to remind myself of that simple and ugly truth.

What I really felt that day was what I felt twenty years ago after they were arrested and I sat in the DA’s office talking about their sentencing, I knew someday this day would come. I didn’t know then I would evolve or change, I only knew I was furious and wanted revenge. I told him I didn’t want them in prison I wanted them on their knees in front of me, on a dark street, I wanted the gun they had used to shoot me and I wanted to shoot them in exactly the same way. If they survived as I had, under the very same circumstances they could remain free, if not Que Sera. I was primitive that day. I was primitive twenty years later, it was as if I hadn’t evolved at all and I was a little bit ashamed.

So, back to this has been a rough year. As I line up those dominoes so I can hopefully knock them down. The second letter of parole, yeah that was one, that one knocked me over. That one hurt. Honestly, I don’t often call myself a Victim, I don’t like the word and I certainly don’t like it applied to me. But that day, when I opened that letter Victim was aptly applied to how I felt.

I am struggling to breathe through all these different issues and find my footing. I refuse to allow this year a stranglehold, yes it has been rough, sandpaper would have been gentler. There is light though and it is not a train, my soul takes flight even through these difficult patches of pain, anger and frustration. One by one, I am going to let them go, the dominoes will fall and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends in my corner who keep shouting at me…….

JUST BREATH

From Megaphotos, as always dance is my idea of breathing

From Megaphotos, as always dance is my idea of breathing

On My Knees

I haven’t forgiven this doesn’t mean I want them dead it just means I don’t forgive their violence. It also means I think sometimes, those days when crawling out of bed are so hard, I want them to hurt like I hurt. Some days, those days when I think I will breakdown and call the doctor begging for something stronger than Ibuprofen 800 for pain management I think Damn them to hell forever, I don’t want to live my life this way and my fury rises up and I weep. I cannot help the way I feel I am not a saint, my halo has not been granted.

For about eight years, I have been an activist in the criminal justice system. I speak in a program called Victim Impact inside of the Prison system of Texas. I speak to offenders in Federal, State and Juvenile lock-up and to the Parole groups ordered into the program. I do not speak out of hate or revenge; I don’t speak to hammer a captive audience with anger. I speak because I hope each time to touch one heart; just one would be enough for me. One heart that will leave the room with a different perspective on the relationship between themselves and their acts, their victims that includes their own families, their children and of course, the person they directly harmed.

I have spent eight years telling my story. There are some days when I walk into the rooms and look out at the faces I am decimated by their youth. I ask how many have children, they all raise their hands and I consider the lives of my three offenders, just children themselves twenty years ago at the time our lives intersected, each with at least one parent behind bars at the time they kidnapped and shot me three times. Their histories are the genesis of my activism, the framework of my thinking about how we each create the ever-expanding ripples through our judgment, acts, remorse and yes-even forgiveness.

Over the years, I have evolved, I thought. I believe each of us has the ability to reform our life, that with few exceptions each of us has the capacity to change our lives. If I didn’t believe this, I could not walk through the gates of prisons, stand before violent offenders, and say I believe they have the capability to make positive change. If I didn’t believe compassion and empathy existed, even in the most hardened of humans, I could not stand before them and say to them…

“You have the ability to change the life of your children. You have the ability to change your own life by tapping into your empathy.”

Now I have to ask myself is all I do and all I say simply a panacea for my ego or perhaps simply a pragmatic intellectual exercise that I haven’t truly absorbed into my heart and spirit. Perhaps, it is something else altogether. Perhaps what I say only applies to everyone else, offenders and victims together but not to me and not to my offenders. I have run into a brick wall, the wall of my intellect fighting my heart. My heart is winning today. My heart won last Wednesday and has won every day since Wednesday since I opened the letter from the Texas State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“This is to inform you Your Offender has been granted Parole”

Charge: 2 Counts Attempted Capital Murder w/Deadly

Sentence: 35 years, 20 years

Sentence Date: April 13, 1993

Release Date: March 9, 2027

Parole Granted: October 4, 2012

When I opened that letter I was sitting at my desk, on the phone with my heart sister Red I think I went silent, the tears started, my heart stopped. I am not a Saint. I am barely human. My heart sister didn’t know, I slipped from my chair to my knees and had I not been on the phone with her my primal scream would have shook the walls. Instead all I could do is ask her to stop, stop talking please give me a minute, please let me read to her what I had just silently read to myself. The tears continued as I sobbed, I had already memorized the words though I didn’t have to read them. My life, dammit My Life.

My letters to the Parole Board obviously did not matter. My discussion with the head of the Parole board at Powledge Unit, none of that mattered. Clearly, I could have simply ignored all of that and the outcome would have been the same. My life, all the days I can’t move without wanting to fall to the floor that is worth twenty years. There is something far worse though, something that is causing me to want to crawl into my closet and stay there, re-examine myself closely.

I am not a saint, not that I have ever proposed I was. But I thought I was better than this. Better than demanding my pound of flesh. Better than demanding revenge. I did not realize I had not reconciled my pragmatic intellectual self, the part that believes remorse, rehabilitation and re-entry is not only possible but the hoped for outcome. I did not know this about myself, did not understand I had not brought my heart and mind together that I meant it, but not about MY OFFENDERS. I did not know this would cause me such fury.

I didn’t know I lacked compassion I think this devastates me more than I can even begin to measure.

I didn’t know I was false a sham. This also devastates me.

I am Mute Today

I have been quiet the past few days, in trying to process the horrible news out of Colorado and my own reactions I have been quiet. No, not entirely quite but more quiet than is my norm. Some people who know me well have asked when I was going to jump into my normal forums with both feet and all ten fingers, others have asked why my Facebook page isn’t full of condemnation (there are a few comments). Instead, I have stayed mostly quiet.

Why you might ask, it is a good question. I am not the quiet type; in fact, I am a bit of a firebrand most days. I admit to being quite outspoken on some issues. There are issues in the public domain that chap my ass, cause me great anger and some sleepless nights. Truthfully, there are many such issues these days.

I don’t want to talk about politics though, not today. I don’t want to talk about the public domain at all. I want to tell you why I have been mostly quiet, not even visiting your blogs for the last few days.

I just couldn’t.

I was paralyzed by my own personal sorrow, fear and memories.

All I could think about is how terrified those victims in Aurora must have been. All I could think about was how terrified their families must have felt while waiting for news, was it their mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or child. All I could think about is my family when I was shot and left for dead by strangers. All I could think about was how I felt laying on the side of a road with three bullets in me, put there by strangers who were not crazy, were not insane and did not have any reason to hate me. 

I was paralyzed and my voice silenced by fear and memories. Each time I tried to write, each time I tried to comment my hands would shake and my eyes would fill with tears the screen would blur, coherency lost to muteness. It has been 7,367 days since I was shot; that is a lot of days. Some days I think it is behind me, some days I don’t even think about it in the sense of bullets flying. Other days I have no choice, the repercussions of that day are with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay down to sleep, sometimes beyond that moment.  

Aurora tied my tongue, made me mute in the face of great tragedy. More than this, I could not watch the news without my tears pooling in my eyes and streaming down my cheeks, their salt leaving a trail of bitterness in their wake. This morning I realized part of my sorrow is rooted in the great tragedy that is our national personality. That we are unable to come together even now and talk to each other without rancor, ideology and the drums of political animosity getting in the way of human decency. I saw this in my few forays on social media since Friday, each side standing their ground firmly refusing to step down from their positions even briefly to mourn the great loss of life. I backed down from the fight rather than continue.

I don’t have the heart for it not this day, not now.

Avoidance, Confusion, Consequence of Choice, Manipulation

I am heartbroken, partly because I was rendered mute. I didn’t know my memories were still so close to the surface. I didn’t know they could so easily shake me. I don’t know why this affected me more than other equally horrific acts of terrible violence. What I do know, we are a people that seem to ignore compassion and empathy as valued trait. I know many people on both sides of the argument who individually are wonderful human beings, who have compassion for those they know as individuals and don’t realize their words fall like hammers or fly like bullets, leaving gaping wounds. This is what demanded my silence, that I not stand my own ground even for what I believed was so desperately true, even for what was so personal.

Yes, we come together during times of tragedy, but then we turn our backs returning to our ideology and our rage with equal fervor, thus making certain the next heartbreak will occur and likely with more frequency and greater loss.

I didn’t have the heart for it today, tomorrow I will because I have to!

History isn’t Mutable, But we are

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 22 January 1973

It is an important date, the reason this is date is important? It was nearly a one year after I lay on that cold table begging a doctor and two nurses not to perform an Instillation Abortion, while my mother waited impatiently in the waiting room. They did not have my agreement or permission, they apparently did not need it, they had what they needed, hers.

Forty years, that is how long it has been, forty years and some months. Until this weekend, I haven’t really thought about the reality that I had an illegal abortion. I guess in the back of my mind I have always known, always had in one of the boxes I kept safe from examination, but until Friday when I first started writing this trilogy in Broken Chains, I hadn’t really put the pieces together. I had always wondered why even when I begged them to stop, they didn’t; I knew the law yet they didn’t stop. I had always wondered why, what amounted to induced labor and then a D&C was performed well past my first trimester, I knew the law even in the early days of Roe v. Wade, this wasn’t the norm. I sometimes wondered how this happened, why my pediatrician the doctor who had cared for me my entire life did this to me with only my mother’s signature and why that little hospital allowed it, never reported it just turned a blind eye.

By the time I returned to and thought to ask, my doctor was dead. His practice had been taken over by two other doctors, two young and enthusiastic doctors and all new nurses who were more than willing to answer my questions. I asked for my files, they weren’t so happy to hand those over, this was 1979 and there was nothing to force their compliance with my requests. I explained my request though, what I was looking for and why I was looking. I just wanted answers; I wanted my mother’s signature and the explanation. I would have done anything, begged, crawled across fire, walked on glass, offered my body as a sex slave for those answers. I was so raw and I believed I deserved to understand why two people who should have cared for me brutalized me so terribly. Finally, one of those young doctors took pity after listening to my story, he told me I could read the file in his office but I couldn’t have copies and I couldn’t take anything with me.

There was nothing there!

Oh, there was a positive pregnancy test and a sad note, because he had known me all my life. The next entry was the night I was admitted to the hospital, February 11, 1972, it said I spontaneously aborted (this means I miscarried) a Male Fetus, there were measurements in the file, I don’t remember them anymore precisely; he was nearly 5 inches and nearly 3 ounces. I never knew, actually I always imagined, but I didn’t know they documented this information or even cared, now I had another nightmare, did he draw one breath?

Next I went to the hospital, I asked for the records. They told me the same thing, they didn’t exist I was never there for an abortion. I was never there. I gave up. I had an illegal abortion but there was no proof, only that I had spontaneously miscarried, that was all it would ever say. Perhaps only I would know the truth. No one else, only me.

Choice is being able to say NO

Over the years I had hardened my heart against the empty place in my homes, my marriages and my life called childlessness. At some point I became a misopedist; putting it out convincingly I did not want children and was not unhappy with the turn of my life. This was not the truth, not my inner truth but it was the only truth I had that would stop people from handing me their children.

I have been told many times, we are never given more than we can bear, never more than we can survive. I suspect this might be true, I even suspect there are reasons why some are forged in much hotter fires. What we do with the wreckage determines who we become and how we will live our lives. It is rare that anyone has an epiphany changes direction and turns their life around entirely. Letting go of every injury, releasing every painful memory and creating a new person to stand in the place of the old one, victim to survivor is much slower and harder.

There are many vigils we sit as we mourn our lost innocence, lost childhoods and then finally kicking in the doors protecting memories. I write these as trilogies to show clear paths not just of terror, pain, suffering or horror; but of growth, recovering and even sometimes joy (I promise). I will get there, I will write them. This was the worst of it, the hardest to write the hardest to remember. This short interval, just over 1 year of my life set my feet on a path towards so many other life choices I all too often look back at this single year and ask;

What if?

The truth of what happened, it created in me some beliefs and truths that to this day I believe, they have never changed they are immutable.

‘Forgiveness isn’t free, I don’t owe it.’

‘Choice isn’t just about Yes, it is also about No.’

‘I will never do to anyone what was done to me, that is a choice that I have.’

‘Survival is not for those without compassion, you can never live entirely inside yourself or for yourself.’

I built strong walls and I was fortunate to have a good mind. I was able to escape behind the persona I built without much challenge. Much of that person was the true me; strong, smart, hardworking, driven even and sometimes funny. Unfortunately, that person was also guarded, stubborn, quick to cut a person out of my life, quick to walk away, unforgiving even. There are many things I grew to like about myself over the years; many things though remained hidden even from my friends, there were also many things I never loved, things I believed did not deserve to be loved. Now, as I explore my history I am learning that just maybe I was wrong in my judgment.

So now I am walking down the hallways of my mind, shaking the locks and rattling the doors. I didn’t get here all alone I know that. It wasn’t all bad, it couldn’t have been. These are just those pivotal moments, those points of darkness that I decided to finally shine light into. With that I leave trilogy II in Broken Chains with this quote which I think is apt:

‘Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradations and despairs which otherwise must engulf us.’

William James (1842 – 1910),  pioneering American psychologist and philosopher

Trilogy II – Broken Chains

Part I – No Bastards No Choice

Part II – Never Again, I will hate you

Broken Chains – Start at Part I

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