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all violence is domestic violence

stencil graffiti showing a spray-painted fist with leaves, flowers, and roots going out of it, surrounded by the words (There’s language of domestic and racially-motivated violence in this post. Just be easy with you, ok?)

Good morning, good morning. What’s the sky like where you are today? Here it’s still grey with night fog. The sun’s coming though, I think. The sun’s coming.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness month, and just this week another man killed a lot of people out of what looks like domestic-vioence-related rage. That’s got me thinking about the larger systems at work in our country right now.  I’m trying to work something out in this post today, something that feels complicated, that has to do with what’s happening in our country to support the escalation in extreme violence that we’re seeing. Here goes:

Whenever an abuser thinks they’re beginning to lose control, they will often escalate their violence in an effort to keep their victim or victims in line. I don’t say last-ditch effort, because the abuser never believes it’s last-ditch — they don’t think the victim will ever get away from them, will ever leave. They believe they have the victim or victims so far under their control, so terrified, so manipulated, so brainwashed, so gaslit, so unable to think clearly or make decisions, and so isolated — and on top of that, so afraid of the physical manifestations of the abuse, the physical and sexual violences enacted on themselves and/or those they love — that the victim will never be able to go. The abuser will sometimes call this love or dependence. They could never leave — they need me too much. They love me too much. They’re mine. I own them. I control them. They’re mine.

And when the victim begins to show signs of slipping this grasp in spite of all the forms of violence marshaled around them, the noose will often tighten — by which I mean, to avoid using the passive voice, the abuser will often tighten the noose. Make scarier threats. Assault more violently, more brutally. Threaten to kill or actually kill. Most folks know (right?) that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they leave the relationship — move out, or otherwise escape. This is the time when most victims who are murdered by abusers are killed.

The abuser feels well within his (and sometimes her, and sometimes their) rights to do whatever he wants with what he believes is his to control, his property. He feels entitled. 

So I’ve been seeing this in our country for a while now when it comes to male supremacy and white supremacy: systems that experience themselves as losing control, and escalating their tactics in order to rein in those they would subjugate. When a perpetrator believes he is about to lose control of his victim, he will nearly always escalate; so what does male supremacy do when it feels its losing control of its victims, losing its rank at the top of the heap, losing access to what it was promised in the form of bodies and control? It escalates: it makes, let’s say, weapons of mass destruction of various forms available to those who would use them to kill, whether indiscriminately or targetedly.

There is nothing coincidental about the way our lawmakers, lobbyists, manufacturers, and citizenry are working together to desperately keep a hold on this male supremacist system. (I’m not speaking only of gun manufacturers; I’m also speaking of tech/online-systems developers, among others).

The system has been under attack for decades — women are working outside the home, women have more control over their reproductive systems than ever before in history, there are laws against most forms of rape (even if those laws don’t deter most rapists and would-be rapists, given the systems still in place to produce, encourage, protect, and replace them); women have access to some positions of power in this country, more women than men are receiving college educations, women are controlling some percentage of wealth and resources; there are powerful female leaders of governments and countries…

And so, at least in the US, what do we see? A steady increase in mass shootings; a nostalgia for the “good old days”; the development of online systems in which women are consistently harassed  or perceive the threat of harassment; among other escalations of violences toward women.

Many, many people who benefit from and support the ideas of white supremacy, whether intentionally or subconsciously, are doing the same thing. White folks feel that their control is slipping. And so what happens? How does white supremacy reassert its power and control, in a desperate attempt to keep its subjects under control? It fosters racial animus around the country, taps into the same old bullshit fear-mongering it’s used (and used effectively) since Reconstruction (or before) to whip up fear and hatred among white folks. Legislators work with manufacturers work with lobbyists to make their weapons of mass disruption and destruction available to a citizenry that will wield them in such a way as to terrorize and harass and threaten and even kill. To say that the escalation of murders of Black folks by the American police force isn’t a manifestation of white supremacy trying desperately to hold on to power is to be naive and willfully ignorant of the systems of control we live (and struggle) within. 

So where am I going with all of this? Folks called and continue to call Trump an abuser. And he is, of course, But he is also, further, a tool wielded by the larger structures of power and control, a form of violence thrust upon us, a threat made good — you think you’re going to get free? Just wait and see what I do to you next.

Male supremacy and white supremacy, in a frenzied and desperate attempt to hold on to control, play their constituencies like marionettes, creating frenzy, fomenting violence and assaults, increasing the violence among those meant to protect and serve, currying fear, depression, and hopelessness, fostering the conditions in which an obvious abuser like DT could be installed as president. DT is not the ultimate abuser; those who wield him are.

***

When you are working as a advocate with victims of domestic violence, you are trained to help folks develop safety plans, particularly when they are getting ready to leave, to escape their relationships. Do they know where their keys are, can they keep a bag of clothes in their car, make sure their car is tuned up and that the tank is always full, talk with a trusted friend to ask if you can come to their house to stay for a while, keep some of your kids’ things in the car, too, hidden, ready; have money there, your kids’ birth certificates, whatever documents you need, listen to your gut, because your gut will tell you when it’s time to go. 

So this morning I am wondering how we safety plan when living inside a country, a society, that is abusive and controlling? The vast majority of us aren’t planning to escape to another country. We plan to stay. (There are those in other countries who will look at us with astonishment — why are they staying? Don’t they know the danger they’re in? What’s wrong with them? How can they say they love that country? don’t they know that’s not what love is supposed to look like? Love is not supposed to be fearful or extracted with threats of violence…but remember that to shame the victim for staying is only to drive her further into the arms of the abuse, and there are many many victims who are simply unable to leave for financial reasons, or because they would lose access to family and other loved ones, or because they fear harm coming to those they’d leave, or because they don’t believe they deserve anything better–they have been brainwashed to believe that what they’re living in and through is the best possible option (no one will ever love you as much as I do, the country says) —  or they truly believe that things can change.

All violence is domestic violence. At a time when so many of us are triggered constantly by the news, are reminded of our own experiences of physical or sexual assault, harassment, the times we feared for our safety or the safety of those we loved at the hands of those who held some position of power or control over us — we remember that the seeds of violence are planted at home. Home is the place in which each citizen is trained into the systems we live within,  where we are trained into silence or self-protection. Home is where many of us are trained to understand that there is no safety if we do not follow the rules, and that those who harm and cause pain are lauded by others, and not expected to account for the harm they cause.

And we who stay resist in the ways we feel safe resisting. We mount small and large insurgencies, we speak up, we show that the emperor has no clothes, we hope that others are looking. We seek out large and small ways to protect ourselves and those we love. We cultivate strength and trust in our intuition, in our creativity, and we encourage those we love to do the same. We tell our true stories and listen to the true stories of others. We learn to hear what is painful to hear. We learn to hold and support one another on a battlefield, in the midst of a war that is not likely to end in our lifetimes — but we act anyway, to stand up for those who live now, and to plant new seeds, to create the possibility for new conditions for the next generation, or the next. We teach our children history, teach them how to navigate the maze of hostilities and violences out in the world, we teach our children how to stay safe and we teach our children how to resist. We create art, we write, we spray paint walls, we feed the hungry, we seek nourishment of our own hungers, physical and emotional and spiritual. We seek restorative justice, well-being for all, a fundamental change in the systems we live within and in which we participate. 

Be easy with yourselves today. Thank you for the safe space you help to hold for others; thanks for allowing others to help hold open safe space for you. Thank you for your stories today, your creative genius — thank you for your words.

 

 

FH-hummingbird-slider

trying to save ourselves. trying to save each other.

Lisboa graffiti: silhouette of birds sitting on a wire beneath a row of windows1. This is the morning. Let’s see if I can remember how to type. It’s been a month since I wrote in this blog – and during this month, my life changed and didn’t change. During this vacation, I taught my body about rest, separation from the daily work, from the sort of scheduled struggle we in the Bay Area have turned our normal into. I visited other places and touched other ways of being and walked on new streets and listened to new voices and touched new possibility.

2. Today is the eclipse that the papers can’t stop talking about. Tomorrow we will see if the world has survived this particular form of darkness, another disappearance in the eyes of the sun. We will stand at attention today and watch as celestial bodies battle it out for our attention, for light. Isn’t that what we do every day, with our attention to celebrity culture? But these are real stars, you say. Yes. Real stars.

3. I want to say something about Charlottesville, but of course, it’s not about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is emblematic of our country’s entire history. White supremacist racists have been killing people, mostly folks who aren’t white, for the entirety of the American “experiment.” Yes, we should rage that a woman was killed, a person was killed, when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people who were standing up for anti-racist values. who were standing up against white supremacy, standing up for a fundamental change in America. One that says, all people are created equal, and means it, and believes it, and enacts policy and government with the idea that it’s actually true. Racists killing people is nothing new. White supremacists killing people isn’t new, not in our American past, and not in our current day.

We white folks should rage as loudly, in such large numbers, when white supremacy kills folks of color, too, of course.

3. I wanted to tell you about the things I saw and learned during these days away, these weeks away from the everyday, but I have returned to a place that is so vicious and hate-filled and violent and crazy-making that it seems almost an additional violence to discuss peace instead of war. So many of us do not have the luxury of peace right now. We don’t have the luxury of vacation, because of the economy or our national obsession with work or because it is not safe to leave what we know of as home.

4. It is easy to be triggered all the time. It is easy to feel only despair. It is easy to feel lost and frightened and even nihilist — it is easy to want to lose yourself with just about anything— drugs or alcohol, food, television, video games, social media, all of the many ways we addict ourselves out of reality. It is easy to understand why we would want to disappear from this place if we are not part of the majestic elite that is rising like cream in this country.

We are not the only country with a vast canyon yawning between the haves and the rest of us, but this is the one I live in, and it feels like being at the back end of violence when I have it shoved down my throat. Today I will return to downtown San Francisco, push back into the disparity of this my once-beautiful city, in this the place I thought would save me as it had saved so many others, in this place I thought was my mecca. I will see the tech nouveau-riche and the very very poor, the homeless folks who live on the same streets with these tech giants. I will walk again amid the violence of the American experiment, the truth of the American dream.

5. I read a lot of science fiction while I was away, a lot of speculative fiction, a lot of weird fairy tales, taking the old tropes and pulling them inside out until their teeth and veins show. I read books in translation, wanting to touch other ways of imagining the world.

6. Outside I can hear the BART train. I can hear the whoosh of traffic like a constant tide. Two days ago I awoke to cardinals and the sound of the ocean. Why am I back here again, except for a mother who loves her boy and a dog who I missed like skin?

7. I would like the news media to quit publishing photos of the supremacists’ flags and regalia. Seeing those things continues to harm the folks these symbols were brandished against, and gives the images a wider audience, which the supremacists want.

I would also like the media to stop publishing photos of the troll-in-chief, especially on the cover of their papers or magazines – it’s all he wants: publicity. Let’s stop giving it to him.

8. We are trying to save ourselves. We are trying to save each other.

9. I am glad that many, many people are turning against the troll-in-chief and his wayward patch of hopeless advisors. It should not have taken this long, but at least there are people who are beginning to stand up. There should not have been as many people as there were and still are who dismiss him as a newbie who’s still getting his footing. Don’t you recall that the exact same language was thrown against Obama as a hostile criticism: that he was an amateur, that he had no business in the White House?

10. I am afraid for this country. I am afraid for our human species. Tech is not saving us. Tech is driving us apart from one another.

11. This is a scattered post of loss and wanting.

12. What’s new, we say, about Charlottesville, about this moment in racist American history, is that white supremacists feel free to show themselves, to march armed through the middle of a major town in the United States. But it’s not new for white folks to show their faces at a massacre or a murder in the name of white power — it’s actually on been a short time in our American history that the white supremacists felt that they needed to hide.

13. In spite of all the current awfulness in our country, and around the world – or maybe alongside it – I want to feel hopeful. There is so much to terrify us, so much to rage against, so much to be furious about, to grieve, to despair of. But there are glimmers of hope for me as well. Maybe it’s the antidepressants. I can’t say. But if nothing else, if they’re working right, antidepressants can lift us enough out of the muck that we want to keep going, that we believe there’s worth in staying alive another day. For me, it’s remembering that what got me through the worst of the violence of my adolescence and young adulthood was the idea of tomorrow — tomorrow might bring something new. Tomorrow something might change. Tomorrow could bring a new development. Often tomorrow did bring a new development, and it was bad. But the day came when tomorrow brought me courage and strength. The day came when tomorrow brought me a no so loud I couldn’t see my way clear to living the way I’d been living for so many years. The day come when tomorrow was my today and my today had a big yes stamped on it and that was the day that everything changed.

Looking forward to tomorrow has a kind of hope in it, or at least, can elastic into something like hope.

14. Keep standing up. Keep fighting against the brainwashing of white supremacy. Struggle in your heart and in the streets, if that’s right for you. Thank you for your struggle today. Thank you for the ways you hold the truth of others’ stories, the way you allow others to hold yours. Thank you for your creative resistance today. Thank you for your words.