Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why I Can't Jam to CeeLo Anymore OR: Your Game of Thrones fanship is wrecking my PTSD.

Facebook asked me to comment on the return of Game of Thrones.  Shortly after posting this status update, I received the following question in my inbox.

  • The short answer is: Yes.

    Now I'll define support.

    Do I mean these people themselves go to the bar with rohypnol in their pockets? Probably the majority do not.

    Do I mean these people themselves, when they hear of an MRA rally, get out their posterboard and their markers and go join with misogynistic signs held high? Probably the majority do not.

    But let's look at the study conducted at the University of North Dakota, by two PhDs and one MA, published in 2014 in the journal Violence and Gender and first reported by Newsweek. ONE IN THREE of the men surveyed said they would "use force to obtain intercourse" from a woman if there were no consequences. Now, when the actual word "rape" was used in the question, those numbers dropped to much lower. But is that not the definition of rape?

    And that's where things get tricky. My rapist fucked me without my consent. I woke up, and he was inside me, and I did not want him to be. But he does not believe that what he did was rape. So few rapists do. In fact, marital rape in the USA only began to be outlawed in the 1970s, and was only finally illegal in all 50 states by as recently as 1993/  The definition is still tricky in at least 13 states. Marital rape is still legal in around fifty countries. My rapist, like so many others, believed he had a right to take what he wanted, and saw nothing wrong with that.

    I bring all this up to say, it's highly likely that a good percentage of viewers either do not regard the three horrible scenes that are most often discussed as rape at all - and if they do, it's easy enough for them to brush them away. Drogo's rape of Danerys? Well they were married, it was their wedding night, what did she expect? Ramsey's rape of Sansa? Again, she was his wife. Jamie's rape of Cersei? Well, while not legally married, they'd been in a decades-long committed relationship, right? Even the actor who plays Jamie has defended that scene vocally. I'll never watch another project he's in.

    But Drogo never gets Dany's consent.  He flips her over, goes to town, and the camera zooms in on her teary eyes.
    The actual dialogue between Cersei and Jamie in the “controversial scene” is as follows:
    Jaime: "You're a hateful woman. Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?"
    Cersei "Jaime, not here, please. Please."
    Cersei: "Stop it. Stop it. Stop. No. Stop it. Stop. Stop. Stop. It's not right. It's not right. It's not right."
    Jaime: "I don't care."
    Cersei: "Don't. Jaime, don't.”
    Jaime: "I don't care. I don't care." 
    Cersei tells Jamie not here, please, don't, stop, no, it's not right, and he says "I don't care" and helps himself to her. I stopped watching when I heard about that episode, so I can't comment on the later scene of Ramsey and Sansa, but I hear it focused entirely on THEON'S REACTION TO THE RAPE and not the rape at all. And in none of these cases do we deal with the aftermath of rape. It happens as a plot device and the story moves on, leaving these victims and their healing unaddressed.

    Importantly to me though, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THESE RAPES OCCURS IN THE ORIGINAL TEXT. In fact, the scene between Drogo and Dany becomes a celebration of gaining her trust and her consent. Cersei literally begs Jamie to fuck her, and Sansa isn't even in Winterfell, she's far away to the East.

    Perhaps most importantly, this is being intentionally done and therefore condoned by the writers, directors, actors, and countless others involved in this show, in the face of public outcry against it. After the first violation in the Dany/Drogo story, there was outcry. They heard it. They answered it with more non-canon rape in the Jamie/Cersei story. The outcry was even louder. They heard it. They answered it with more non-canon rape in the altogether invented Ramsey/Sansa story. This time the outcry has been to the extent that some publications, including The Mary Sue, have said they will no longer cover Game of Thrones with any stories on their website. There was further outcry from Salon, Wired, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Hypable, Bustle, Vox, the NY Daily News, and a US Senator.  This is being intentionally and repeatedly done. These people are choosing to continue to depict this abhorrent act.

    So when I say I believe these people are supporting rape, what I mean to say is that they weekly celebrate a show which needlessly and grotesquely depicts the sexual abuse of women by men, disrespecting and retraumatizing me personally along with an untold and uncountable number of other victims of rape. I'm not making a mountain out of a molehill here.  My PTSD symptoms have been through the roof simply because I see people celebrating the show's return.  I've forgotten my phone at home, shown up late for work, and yelled at students who didn't deserve it.  I find myself absent-mindedly planning self-harm, and have to fight myself not to commit it.

    I believe that these depictions lead us to become desensitized to sexual violence and that it is this sort of attitude toward rape and depiction of it that leads to instances of, for example, this woman livestreaming her 17-year-old friend's rape but doing nothing to stop it. I'll be the first to argue that music and video games do not a school shooter make, but frankly I feel we're dealing with apples and oranges when it comes to that.

    I do not deny that the books depict rape, but I feel personally that the books do a better job of dealing with the aftermath - repeatedly discussing how rapers are sent to the wall, Eddard Stark's declaration of Clegane as an outlaw and demanding he be brought to justice (mentioned only in passing in the show), and plenty of other instances.  While the books include rape, they do not graphically depict the details that the show visually places in front of us.

    People who watch this show are supporting the show. This show is indefensible with regards to how it repeatedly and unnecessarily depicts rape. Even before I myself became a rape victim (I do not yet identify with the label "survivor," though I hope I can one day) I would boycott problematic art and artists. I do not get to watch Woody Allen or Roman Polanski films. I don't listen to Cee Lo, or any artist who collaborates with Chris Brown. Cosby, Lennon, Sean Penn... the list goes on.

    Explain it away and enjoy the show if you want to. You have that right. I am incapable of doing so.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Day 5/30: What is here

Here is a queen-
sized mattress floating in a still ocean,
dozens of pillows,
just enough breeze.

Here is the way a ray
of sunlight falls across
a purple orchid growing outdoors
beside the creek
in southern Taiwan.

Here is the sound
of piano coasting down
from some window the next
building over in the late

Here is how I feel:
with my head on his shoulder,
with my lips on his cheek,
with his arms around me,
when I ride, arms flung wide,
drinking in joy on the back
of his motorbike.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 4/30: There are some things we know about the devil:

Not that he is evil, red, or even for that matter
a "he."  Not anger, not torture, no flames.
The Devil is patient, and kind, speaks slowly
and always looks both ways at the crossing.
The Devil rewinds.  Crosses all Ts and dots
every I.  Takes a pie to the new neighbors
and always has a spare cup of sugar to lend.
The Devil will tell you when there's food
in your teeth, will help you put up signs
for your lost pet, is really interested
in your latest art project.  Brings you a plate
after Thanksgiving, keeps your secrets,
always has jumper cables in the truck,
is a wicked fast change of a flat. The Devil
doesn't even need to lie.  One sly smile
and you'll deceive your own self, lie down darlin,
rest your weary head
neath my arm.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 3/30: Eulogy for the Disinherited

Some things must first be cut away.  From behind my knee,
an old Victrola, playing your song.  An antique key pulled
from under my tongue, and like that: I've forgotten
your name.  There are birds that must be shook loose
from my ears before I knock out the sound of the beach
the night we built that fire.  Once the smoke clears,
the entire city of Tucson.  The name of the street
on which we lived, and then the real challenge:
my Hydra heart.  Each time I cut out the parts that loved you
two more hearts grow in their place.  Until I am left,
blossoming vines blooming from my chest, growing over
all the rubble, one thousand new organs that have never
sung your tune.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Day2/30: Three Attempts

Attempt the First: Screw around with proverbs.

When the going gets tough, the tough unravel. Undress.  I'll cut off
my own skin just to show I'll
do it first.  My knife is mightier than my pen.  I stay in a stone house
throwing glasses out windows
just for the sound.  Diamonds are for never. Better never than early.
I invite my birds of a feather to dinner, but go to bed
with my enemies, holding them close and closer.  Make them omelets
for breakfast without breaking any eggs, all my eggs
in one basket, counting chicks, then scrub up:
cleanliness is my key to damnation.  I'll fix anything not broke.
There's no time like the past to do it right, by myself.

Attempt the second: Take the final word from each line in the previous poem, make them the first word of each line in a new poem.

Off with my dread instead.
I'll find you, I'll creep from house to
House, say I won't, peeping in
Windows, mail slots, chimneys, keyholes,
Early in the morning, early enough you're still in
Bed.  Without me, of course.  Cold enough for
Omelets in the morning, scramble the
Eggs like your thoughts, wishing for a proper punch-
Up, get too drunk at the evening, fall off the barstool,
Broke as a whole stand-up act.
Myself, I'll just lean back and laugh.

Attempt the third: Take the final letter from each line in the previous poem, make them the first letters of each line in a new poem.

Sin can I

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trip Home 04

There is a pallet in my father's van.  There is a lake in southwest Arkansas.  What more does anyone need to know?

I've been sharing with some friends: coins I brought and munchie treats, but the real trick comes at my reunion.  I've brought back a bottle of gaoliang to share with my classmates.  If you know what gaoliang is, that's all you need to know.  If not... c'mere, let me show you!  It's so delicious!  Really, you won't cry at all, I promise!  Um, how much enamel do you need for the rest of your life?

I've been eating like a queen.  Today we baked potatoes and took the leftover porterhouse and sliced up inside with blue cheese on top.  Even our leftovers are magical.

I forgot to bring a swimsuit.  What?  Like I haven't been looking forward to Lake Ouachita since I left? Dad's loaning me some swimming shorts and I guess I'll wear a tank or something.  Can't be bothered to spend the money I just brought over from Taiwan and deposited in my account for student loans. Felt really good to deposit that.

I've been sleeping a lot too.  Lost a whole day when I got here.  I wonder how much of it is due to what.  Mental illness? Jet lag which I've never had a problem with before?  The simple fact that I've returned to my childhood home, a place that has always represented healing and nurturing for me?

My perfect sweet baby doggie!  Man his coat had not been touched since I left. First I tried to trim it down but it came out really patchy because it was so thick and even a little matted in some places in the under coat.  As we trimmed him down we could see all the dandruff.  Dad was helping me and I think he saw how much the coat really does need attention every few months.  Brought Loki in and took him in to the bath where I scrubbed away with some gentle Aloe skin shampoo that we still had and he's a completely different dog today.  His haircut is less than beautiful, but I'll touch him up before I go.

Well, it's time to pack and get in the van; I've got a haircut scheduled pretty soon I need to get to with my old hairdresser who understands curly frizzy Western hair!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trip Home 03

The place does not feel foreign. The place feels like home.  The place feels like I never left.

Actions seem foreign.

Why are people wearing shoes inside the house?

What are these big clunky things in my drink?

Why do we just throw trash away?  Shouldn't we be rinsing and separating it all out?

Where's the potty-side trash can? Wait, I just put the paper in the potty and flush?

So far every meal has been a treat.  Tonight I ate four different kinds of cheese on French bread.  What decadence!  One afternoon I ate cold guacamole with a fork.  Marvelous.

Tomorrow I head to Hot Springs, what I consider my home town. I'll see Lake Ouachita and if it isn't too cold I'll climb down in it.  I'll go to my high school 15 year reunion.  I'll get a haircut. I'll hug old friends and sleep in a van.  Then to Little Rock for more friends and chosen family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trip Home 02

I was on my way home, on schedule, ticking off my to-do list, making great time, everything was fine, until I found.....

So that set me back several hours, going to the vet and getting supplies and giving her medicine and a bath and... etcetera.  I made the trip up to Taoyuan to my friend's house, where we had some nibbles and some sips, and then it was two hours until I needed to wake up, so we bedded down and I dozed while her cats went crazy all around us.

In the Taipei airport I bought a few treats at the duty-free to share with people when I got home.  On the first flight I kinda dozed for about an hour on and off.

Free wi-fi was too awesome to sleep through, so no sleep in Tokyo.

Then on the loooong flight across the Atlantic I kinda lost it.  I was trying to figure out how the time changes worked and could only figure it had to be because we were traveling with the day, staying in the sunlight of the day the whole time and I watched a movie about time travel and looked out the window and it was dark and I was going crazy about how time wasn't even real and maybe I could manipulate it and...

I just wanted to nap.

When I landed, my sister met me at baggage by pinching my butt.  I'm not sure why but my butt had been some kind of magnet the whole trip where people were bumping into it and hitting it and I was like WHAT but when I spun around it was her.  When I hugged my daddy for the first time in so long we both cried.  Headed down to Beale Street Blues City Cafe for a bunch of tamales and chili and marinated salad and porterhouse steaks and steak fries and beans and slaw and and and and hugs and my aunt and uncle and my cousins' kids and it was great.

I am prescribed Xanax for my anxiety and I'm to take a half a pill each morning and evening.  That evening I looked at the pill and thought, what if I didn't break this one in half?  I was still in my haze the next morning when my father came to knock on my door and said, your friend Christopher is here.  What?  Christopher.  I'm trying to swim through the medicine to being aware.  Come outside, he says.  As I'm coming around the corner it hits me and I say, "With a K?"  And there he was, my beloved long time friend from Virginia, who'd just finished a conference in Atlanta and had driven west for hugs.

The torta was so amazing.  

We thought we'd take a little food coma nap after our late lunch and we ended up sleeping until 1:30AM, at which point we decided it would be better to sleep on until morning and be on the right schedule than wake up and have fun etc.

I sure missed my baby doggie <3 p="">

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trip Home 01

Tomorrow morning I'm flying home

from home

and after three weeks at home

I'll go back home


I've been living in Taiwan for a year, eight months, and nine days.  This is home now.  This is my normal.  This is my every day.  Signs with Chinese characters in front of every store.  Overhearing Mandarin and Taiwanese everywhere I go. Speaking it with people.  Everyone is Asian around me.  Chinese, Hakka, Aboriginal, some Korean and Japanese, and of course – TAIWANESE.  I can't blend in.  I'm too tall.  People take my photos not-so-candidly.  People force their children to speak broken English to me.

I buy lunch on the street and dinner too.  I pay for things mostly in coins, some paper, never plastic.  I don't drink the tap water.  I don't put my trash in a dumpster, I wait for the truck playing cute music to come by and take it down (or more often than not my roommate does because I'm at work).

I alter my mother tongue.  I slow it down, enunciate more. I don't use my native accent, nor any of my many “isms” or affectations.  I speak Mandarin poorly, but better every day.

I drive a scooter everywhere and am surrounded by scooters.  I pay my bills at the 7-11 which is just down the road from the Family Mart and across from the OK Mart.  I buy drinks at any of the five tea shops per block and hang the bag they come in from my scooter and drive on.

Rice lunch boxes.  Steamed buns.  Cold noodles.  Ramen.  Beef noodles.  Coffee shops on every corner selling too-sweet too-white coffee in tall cups, no walls at the shop, lots of shops with no walls actually and just tables around.

Last month I went to eat at a western restaurant.  UK style, British fare with a Welsh chef. They gave me a knife and fork.  They felt heavy and awkward in my hands.  I dropped them loudly on the floor.  I asked for chopsticks.

What happens when I go “home” now?

I'll be experiencing my native land but it will feel foreign.  It is not my normal anymore.  It is not my every day.

There will be white people everywhere.  There will be black and brown people, too.  They will be much larger than the people I see here.  I will understand every word said around me all the time.  No one will stare at me nor try to force a photo with their kids.  I will not be special or different.  I will get inside a car and be surrounded by other cars and we will all park them in … parking LOTS?  There will be signs that say “parking for xxxxx customers only” and they may even be enforced.

When I read a price, that is not what I will pay.  I will pay a nontrivial percentage of tax.  I will pay an even less trivial percentage of tip.

I won't happen upon a random circle of locals sitting roadside sipping tea and eating fresh local seasonal fruit, chewing betel nut and spitting the thick red juice in streams on the asphalt.  In fact, people won't be outside too much at all.  All inside in their central heat and air fortresses.  Rushing to jobs to pay bills multiple times more expensive than my own.

What else will be different?  What will surprise me, astound me, frighten me, offend me?  What if it's so foreign in fact that it's at the level where I'm going to catch a wee cold or something when I first get there from foreign bacteria?

I'm nervous to go home.  I'm afraid to learn I miss it too much and must return quickly; I'm afraid to learn I miss it none and never want to move back.

The first thing that happens is I go to my father's home.  After a few days of down time there, I'll go to my high school 15 year reunion in a town I consider my hometown.  I'll swim in the second cleanest lake in North America, which also happens to be one of my favorite places on the globe I've been to in my life.  I may go up to the NY/NJ area.  I may also just spend the whole time hugging my dog and talking with my beloved father.

I'm not sure what this trip will bring or even feel like. I know this and feel it in a way I never have before any other trip.

What happens when home becomes foreign?

Let's see.