Tag: violence

The Thing That Is Most True To Me

colorful grave lichen

I’m going to tell you the thing that is most true to me in the entire world:

It does not matter to me what color your skin is, how much money or opportunity you’ve grown up with, how fancy your language is, what faiths and weird beliefs you cherish because they nourish you and make you strive to be your best, whether you like vaginas or penises or both or neither or all of the above, how many kids you have or don’t have, what genitals you were born with or ended up with, what style of clothes you wear, or what nation you come from or fled to.

What matters to me is who you ARE. What matters to me even more than who you are is how you treat other people. Me, the people around us, the people who are different than you. What matters to me is how you treat animals and the earth that feeds you. What matters to me is action.

I may only get to know you for a few minutes and if in that few minutes you are cruel then that is how I will know you. That is what you will be to me.

None of us are perfect beings. I’m far from perfect. I’m the first to see this, to acknowledge it and embrace the fact that perfection isn’t a human condition. You aren’t perfect. I know this and this is why I believe in forgiveness and embrasure.

The thing that is most true to me is that how you act, how you treat others, the earth, animals – this tells me who you really are more than anything else. More than your badges and family names and affiliations and political tribe. Your actions are all I need to know who you are. What and who you stand up for.

What’s most true is that I believe in peace, in inclusion, in education, in love, in science, in nature, in empathy, in sharing, in exploring, in creativity, in authenticity.

I was called antisemitic last night in an ugly online discourse because I questioned how the Israeli government is treating the Palestinians. Because I do not approve of the oppression of any people by any other people. Don’t care what your global history is, don’t care what your race is, don’t care about your goddamn religion. It is never okay with me for one people to enslave or oppress in any way another people.


Full Stop.

It was wrong for my country to invade Iraq and then occupy it and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Believing it was wrong for us to do that doesn’t mean I hate my countrymen/women or that I hate the individual soldiers who enlisted. I hate the military and political complex that decided to take wrongful and offensive action against another people.

It doesn’t make me anti-American. It makes me anti-violence. It makes me anti-war. It makes me anti-bigoted.

When I was called antisemitic I explained that I’m far from that. That I love many many Jewish people personally ending by saying that I have many Jewish relatives.

The person who was attacking me ridiculed this saying “that’s worse than saying you have ‘one black friend'” This felt like such a deeply personal blow. It felt like this person was suggesting I was making up “relatives” in order to sound like I have a legitimate opinion. I got angry while I was hurt. Because my (step)dad, the man who raised me from the time I was five, is Jewish. I have grown up with a strong appreciation and love for Judaism and a feeling of familial connection giving me ownership of belonging with and among a Jewish community of people.

He ridiculed me and said more hateful things.

As though loving my own dad, a man who has stood by me most of my life, more than my own fucking biological father did, is nothing. I am some white person with no right to an opinion or a point of view even though this shouldn’t even be a racial fucking issue. He wiped me out with his comments.

Then another person joined in. A white (I guess Jewish?) girl. And they ganged up on me assuming I have read nothing, assuming I haven’t been to Israel myself, suggesting that if I question what Israel is doing that I hate all Jews. Assuming, even, that I am not aware that not all Israelis are Jewish.

I kept trying to rally for some reason even as I felt gut punched.

I can’t explain the feeling in precise terms, only approximations.

It felt like I’d been drained of personhood.

How black people must feel when white people wipe them out as though they aren’t quite human and not qualified to have an opinion based on their own experiences and studies. As though they are incapable of making educated decisions because of the color of their skin.

How I felt when that asswipe chauvinist tenant of ours wouldn’t talk to me because I wasn’t the “man of the house”.

How Jewish people must have felt when the Nazis started sweeping them out of the way because they don’t matter and aren’t quite human or worthy of note, but before the mass slaughtering.

How Palestinians felt when the Jews kicked them out of their homes in Palestine and renamed it Israel.

How gay people feel when someone hurls hatred and bile on them because of how they love and play sexually and it hits them in the solar plexis of personal pain because it gets them in their personhood and then dismisses it as trash.

I will not hate black men or white women because of these two hateful people slinging shit on me at 2am on a sleepless night. I will not hate Jews because of this either.

I was up because I was already having trouble sleeping. I choked back a lot of tears, the kind I couldn’t let loose and still haven’t truly – though they keep threatening to- because once that kind start they get ugly and ragged and I hate crying even for grief.

I blocked them both. I tried to delete all trace of the conversation it was in my power to delete. To clean my heart.

I got in bed at 3am. I kept having to choke back that vile horrible feeling of someone having tried to rip away your right to think, to express, to speak, to BE. I wanted to wake Philip up to tell him but he was already having a restless night and I also knew if I woke him up my dam would break and I would hate myself later for giving in to it. I couldn’t get the hateful words out of my head. They kept washing over me reaffirming that I’m a piece of shit human being, if I’m even human.

But mostly I just felt so awful because I care about Palestinians as much as I care about Jews as much as I care about Christians and Buddhists and Atheists and Mormons and YES EVEN FUCKING SCIENTOLOGISTS* – and to be told you can’t care about one person without hating another goes against my absolute truth as a human being.

Then I got palpitations so bad that if I didn’t know what they were I would have thought I was having a heart attack. Even knowing it was just anxiety – it still scared me.

So today I’ve just been heart sick.

Fucking stupid-ass self – even writing this is making me feel it all again.

Friends have held me up today. My family is awesome. I am surrounded by a lot of love from people of different faiths, races, backgrounds, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and musical tastes.

Especially people of different musical tastes.

That’s where all my love goes. To people who are interested in honest discourse, acceptance that strives for total human INCLUSION.

I will never pledge my allegiance to a country or tribe of any kind where that allegiance is expected to overlook actions and ethics. I love my country but I will never be blind to the actions of our leaders or our military or our citizens.

Actions speak louder than anything else.

That is the thing that is most true.

It is for all of us to become better than our worst experiences and our worst enemies.

I’m heart sick but stapling and taping my paper-thin hope back together again as I always do every single time it’s ripped apart.

You are your actions and you are the actions you support more than anything else that defines you.

You can’t love peace while clamoring for violent action.

Act accordingly.

I leave you with this short film that sums up the conflict in Israel beautifully and succinctly, please click the link and watch it:


 *I mean, c’mon, it was made up by a science fiction writer – not sure it’s officially left cult status – but I care about the people who follow this weird religion just as much as I do everyone else.

Blaming Gun Violence on Video Games is Like Blaming Rape on Short Skirts

Mau hat

I’m sick of people blaming video games for the world’s problems.  Specifically blaming video games for gun violence.  Blaming video games for all the evils of modern youth.

It’s like blaming rape on short skirts.

It’s like blaming teen pregnancy on rock and roll.

It’s like blaming promiscuity on condoms.

It assumes that the responsibility for our behaviors as humans is always reliant on outside stimuli, that when exposed to certain stimuli we are instantly rendered incapable of retaining our understanding of right and wrong.  This allows people to not take responsibility for their actions – there is always some factor out of their control.

Is that what you’re teaching your kids?  Because that is NOT what I’m teaching mine.

My kid is passionate about playing video games.  It’s his thing.  Though I was angry early on that Philip exposed him to them – close proximity to them has taught me to appreciate that video games are a legitimate form of entertainment and the result of a lot of talented artists and animators and programmers making amazing things happen.

I would rather have my kid be a passionate “gamer” (as he calls himself) than ever have him join the armed forces.  I asked him the other day if he thinks he might want to join the army some day because he loves weapons and war games.

“No.  Why would I join the military and kill real people when I can play video games and shoot at AI people and not hurt anyone?”  He’s a warrior kid, he had weapons in his hands before I ever let toy weapons into his life.  I’ve mentioned this here many times before – that I could see who he was before he could talk.  For an anti-military, anti-violence, and anti-weapons person it’s uncomfortable to have a son who is the quintessential warrior.  To squash that personality, to try to mold him into someone he’s not would be to disrespect him and teach him that his nature is bad and when you do that to a person you force their natures into dark passages.

My greatest fear is that Max will one day join the military.  I am anti-military to the core.  When you join the military you are relentlessly trained to kill human beings.  Our country likes to glorify soldiers, make them out to be heroes, people with extraordinary bravery and weirdly people often assume that all soldiers are imbued with a strong moral fiber and honor.  The truth is – the military takes people and turns them into killing machines.  They are trained to intimidate, to be tough, and are trained to see the enemy not for what they are, human beings, but targets.  The history of armed forces is not actually an honorable one at all.  The rape of enemy women is common to all the world’s armed forces.  It’s what happens when you dehumanize the enemy.  Your own gently reared soldier will never tell you this.  They will not come home and tell you the things they’ve done, the blood on their hands, the suicides they’ve witnessed, the bullying of the enemy, the torture they’ve been party to.  If every soldier who went to war came home and told you everything they’d done and seen – we would not be able to keep seeing them as heroes.

If my son ever joins the military I will do my best to support his choice, just as any loving mother would, but I will not see him as a hero.  I will know that he will either come home a broken person or he will come home a desensitized echo of the person he used to be who’s done things I can never be at peace with.

That’s the reality of military training.  And yet – how much fanfare do we give returning soldiers knowing they’ve done horrible things to other human beings?

Video games are not reality.  Anyone who confuses video games with reality has issues that go beyond their choice in entertainment.  My kid has a very strong grip on the difference between reality and video games.  We talk about it all the time.  We discuss how conflict resolution in real life is much different than in games.  He has shown no more tendency towards violent behavior in his real life than any other growing boy.*

What he likes about video games is that he can explode things and shoot weapons and be a hooligan without hurting people.  How is that problematic?  Video games are an outlet for his interest in war that allow him to explore that side of his personality without doing harm to others.  The military can’t offer that.  Video games can’t break someone who isn’t already broken.  His air-soft guns give him the same thing – an outlet for his love of weapons that can’t hurt animals or people.  This is an acceptable and healthy way for my son to explore a natural aspect of his personality without having to feel shame or pay unbearable consequences.

If my son ever commits a violent crime it will not be because he played video games or collected air-soft guns, it will be because he has chosen to abandon his good judgment.  It will be because he chose a bad course for himself.  It will be on him, not on his choice of entertainment.

*He has had a couple of incidences of hitting other boys but since most men I know have a couple of these incidents in their youth as well (his father included) who didn’t play video games and who weren’t warrior types – I consider his behavior as pretty natural.

In Which I Castigate an Entire Group of People Based on Their Genitalia

I am a staunch believer in gender equality but I have never subscribed to the blind belief that men and women are the same.  In my life I have had plenty of evidence to show that men as a group share qualities and natures and tendencies with each other that are not generally shared by women.

Is it wrong to notice that different categories of people share commonalities with each other generally not shared by other groups of people?  Apparently it is wrong to some people.

Yesterday I read about the  brutal gang rape and murder of the young Indian girl by six men and a lead pipe.  And then I had a strong emotional reaction to it as I did when I heard about the 10 year old girl who was gang raped by a bunch of men in Texas.  I put my reaction on facebook.

“It is getting harder and harder to see men as mostly good. The incidence of rape around the world committed by men is testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender. Partnered with the widespread misogyny it is getting harder and harder to believe that the good men I know represent the majority. Just read about the recent brutal rape and murder of the Indian girl whose name I don’t know. Why are so many men so fucking hateful?”

And here is the conversation that followed:

Rydell Downward:  I know lots of men, and only a few of them are rapists.

Richard Von Busack: Only a few of those rapists are Indians, for that matter.

Me: I feel that you and the men you know must not be representative. Rape is typically under-reported (though this is improving at least in the US) and the numbers are still horribly high. I know quite a few men and as far as I know none of them are rapists either. But men are raping. Millions and millions of men are raping women and there are billions who fantasize about it who haven’t done it. WHY DO THEY HATE WOMEN SO MUCH?!

Rydell: It’s all about power. Hunger for it, fear of losing it, feeling of not having it.  (I don’t mean to make light of it. I just deal with things through humor.)

Me: There is so much rape across the world. It is not a race thing or related to how developed your country is or what religion is most prevalent. Rape rates in Portland Oregon are really high. This is a gender thing. I wonder if women were generally as physically able to overpower men would they be as prone to raping men? Or other women? There ARE women who rape – but it is so uncommon.  Rydell – your humor is always welcome here! I am not laughing because I’m still in shock from reading about the Indian girl who just died from her rape injuries.

Richard: It’s a hideous thing that happened 10,000 miles away. They can’t tell you about the millions of men who did something to honor their wives and mothers today. They can tell you about this freakish, hideous abomination, and then leave you with it to deal with that story anyway way you can. (Like at the liquor store, say.) There’s a type of mentality that longs to dominate, and while there’s plenty of men who have it, there’s a few women entranced by it as well.

Rydell: I’m not really qualified to explain it. It’s nothing new, though. It’s just that through the magic of the intertubes, we get to hear about everything everywhere.

Me:  I have a really hard time hearing about rapes. It never stops feeling like an assault against all women when it happens to just one. Though I get sad about murders I have to say it never hits me as hard as sexual assault which is probably why my first (and still unfinished) book is about a brutal rape. It holds a special place in my closet of night terrors.  I see men and women on an equal plane as far as worth and potential goodness are concerned and the reason this has been possible in spite of hearing such awful stories as this and knowing how many of my girlfriends have been raped is that I have been very fortunate to have so many particularly good men friends in my life (such as you two) and that I have such a good man for a spouse.

Toby Pearson:  I only liked your last comment because I agree. Not because I like anything to do with rape in any way shape or form… And gang rape too with a pipe… Horrifying

Me:  Right – what a concentration of hateful and conscienceless men in one place? What were the chances of that? Also – what the fuck was the male friend of hers up to? What happened with him? (God, I hope he wasn’t killed too? Though we would have heard about that I suppose) I understood why you liked that comment.

Elan Schmutzie Morgan:  I’m not a fan of “…testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender”. Castigating a group based on their genitalia is offensive. I know that there is a lot of rape done by men, but they’re not the only ones, believe it or not.

Me:  I did acknowledge that women rape too but it’s much more rare – a statement not based on speculation. And the fact that it is so much more common in men does point to gender as a big factor. Men have a lot more testosterone than women, a biological fact, and one that is known to be linked to more aggression. That is scientific fact. I don’t think I’ve said anything that is not born out by evidence. When is the last time you heard about a gang rape committed by a band of females? If you can produce a reason why men more often commit violent crimes than women do that isn’t based on their gender – I welcome your input.

I would love to see evidence that women are committing just as much rape and killing just as many people as men.

Jessica King:  I couldn’t even read the whole article about that it disgusted me so much. And the fact that it happens so often around the world. I didn’t read everything above me but that’s my 2 cents worth.

Elan’s comment really bothered me.  So much so that I was still trying to shake it an hour later and drown out this horrible news story with old episodes of Saturday Night Live on Netflix while drinking too many beers when I should have gone to bed.  I couldn’t go to bed.  Not just because of Elan being offended at my castigation of a group of people based on their genitalia but because I couldn’t get the grime of fear and pain and torture of the Indian girl out of my head.  And the millions of other girls world wide who have experienced similar brutality.  To be cast in a villainous role of narrow minded asshole myself was an irritation I couldn’t let go.

So I had to ask Philip if he thinks I am wrong to say that men are generally more prone to aggression and violence than women.  He said it’s not a question of being wrong – facts support this as a truth.  He did feel a little offended by my original comment because he said that he feels that I have just lumped all men together and he isn’t a rapist.  I pointed out that he just agreed with my statement.

In fact, he had just said “I think the reason men have historically always been the ones to go to war is because you can’t get women to do that shit.”  (slightly paraphrased – I wasn’t taking notes at 1:30am).

“The incidence of rape around the world committed by men is testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender.”  Right after agreeing that that statement is true he admits to being a little offended.  So it’s true but offensive to notice that it’s true?

I think what is offensive in what I said isn’t the factual part.  I think it’s the part where I say it’s getting harder and harder for me to see men as mostly good.  It suggests I’m just giving up on all of them because there is higher proportion of their gender that commits heinous violent crimes than mine does.

So about that… that was a raw emotional reaction to hearing about an especially horrible gang rape of a young girl.  I don’t think men are mostly bad and I’m never going to truly give in to that kind of thinking.  But I do want to know why there are so many men who rape women and I want to know how to stop that fucking godawful evil SHIT.

I apologize for having lashed out unattractively against men as a whole.

But I’m angry about Elan’s response.  I am angry when people become so myopic in their efforts to only see people as individuals that it becomes offensive to notice sameness in groups of people (whether those groups are based on gender, or race, or nationality, or socioeconomic factors).  In order to look at anything intelligently and to understand anything fully you have to be able to simultaneously see the details as well as the big picture.  Generalities are very important in understanding individuality.  It is just as narrow minded to believe that no one fits into greater categories of humanity than it is to only allow that people are no more complex than the larger groups they can be fit into.

Is it a coincidence that studies of other animals have revealed that the males of many animal species are more prone to violence than the females?  Does that offend you?  Do you think you are qualified to discredit this widely observed behavior of gender difference between the males and females of other animals?  Please explain to me how it is NOT a gender quality that makes bucks fight each other frequently and the does almost never fight.

My statement that started this conversation was definitely expressing a narrowing viewpoint at an emotional moment that if I really gave in to would do many men a disservice and be offensive.  But I ask that you all consider that one comment does not make up a whole person’s viewpoint and consider how rarely I have ever said negative things about men as a group.  How rarely have I played that gender war in my conversations.  How often have I been willing to see my own shortcomings, my own narrow mindedness, my own issues?  I ask that you consider how consistent I am in not letting generalities that I observe become judgements against individuals – I have never once met a person and judged them on anything other than what they present of themselves to me as an individual no matter what larger groups they can easily be lumped in.  When I meet YOU I assess you based on our personal interactions and all my judgements originate from what you give me.  The more I get to know you the more accurate a picture I have of who you ARE.

I have never met a man and assumed he is a rapist or a misogynist or conversely a gentle soul or wants to screw everything in sight or likes guns or likes arranging flowers – I assume nothing except that the chances are REALLY HIGH THAT HE HAS A PENIS.

And I expect the same of others.

But there’s no getting around the fact that if I see a man in a mostly deserted parking lot at night coming towards me I am immediately on my guard.  And it’s a fact that if I see a woman coming towards me in a mostly deserted parking lot at night I am not nearly so worried for my safety and her intent.  That is sexual profiling at its most useful and if I had a daughter I would absolutely teach her to be more wary of men in such situations as this.  Maybe world wisdom is that she shouldn’t have to be – but reality remains that a woman is exponentially more likely to be assaulted by a man than by a woman and therefore – it would put her at greater physical risk to pretend that there is no difference between a man approaching her in a dark alley and a woman approaching her in a dark alley.

I ask you: does your own sense of gender equality mean that you would teach your daughter to treat men and women exactly the same in a dark alley?*

And there’s no getting around the fact that while I have never been sexually assaulted, I have been abused by a man and I have also seen men abusing people I love and have been helpless to intervene and this continues to live darkly and meanly in my spirit though I try to brush it out with sage brooms and light – and last night those feelings of fear rose up and choked me while trying to talk to Philip about why this girl’s rape felt like a personal assault on ME, on all women – but especially why it felt like I had been raped right along with her.  I felt that fear of men as though I was just a kid again and I cried because it still fucking hurts even though I’m almost 43 years old.

I feel a fear of men because 50% of my friends have been molested or raped by men.  An even higher percentage of them have been abused by men.  I feel a fear of men because I was mugged by a man.  I feel a fear of men because women all over the world are being assaulted by men and not reporting it because they are afraid of retaliation by men.

It is a fact that men are more prone to aggression and violence than women.  History proves this is true.  The numbers of men who rape has always been exponentially higher than the number of women who rape.  The number of men in prison for violent crimes is exponentially higher than the number of women in prison for violent crimes.  These are indisputable facts.

At the end of the night it no longer mattered whether Elan thinks I’m a gender profiling asshole – it hurts only because she’s a person I respect and like – but her opinion of me is not important.  What’s important is that I continue to recognize, for the sake of the good men in my life including my son, that men are just as capable of loving, of nurturing those around them, and of channeling their qualities in positive directions.

I don’t know how to fix the fear that lives in my spirit.  I don’t know how to heal the violated women in the world but I think the place to start is with our sons.



*Yes – we are assuming you’ve already told your kid not to walk into dark alleyways and your kid has ignored you and is now in a dark alleyway.  Perhaps you could argue that it doesn’t matter at this point who else comes into that dark alleyway – that all people in dark alleyways are equally dangerous.  Except that I have been that stupid-ass teen in dark alleyways a whole lot of times and I can tell you absolutely that the prostitute (male or female) is almost no threat to you but the John who just got a blow job is someone you need to be worried about.  And you know what else?  Maybe some women pay for sex in dirty alleyways but I have never seen any female Johns on the streets where I have hung out and witnessed so many alleyway blow jobs in progress.  When women pay for sex they do it very very differently.

Vacation, Business Cards, and Raising the Next Tarantino

I leave tomorrow morning for Southern California.  I have not gotten my business cards yet.  I really need them.  The package requires a signature.  This is one of those times when I really wish I had a doorbell.  And maybe that I didn’t have a ghetto gate instead of a proper and easy way to get to the front door.  Which we actually don’t use.  Everyone uses the kitchen door.  In order to encourage the mail-person to come knock on the “front” door I must be sure the dogs are locked inside.  Especially Chick who will hurtle herself over ten feet walls to get at anyone daring to enter our yard.  Only twice in three years has any mailman been brave enough to enter the ghetto gate to actually knock on the door.

So I hope it’s fairly clear why I’m feeling a little anxious this morning.  I’m writing a note to the mail-person right now explaining that I will die of shame if I go to the Blogher conference yet again without business cards.  It is the height of ridiculous to go to a networking event without cards.  If the mailperson doesn’t get a signature he’ll take them back to the post office after he’s done with his route and it won’t really be available to me until tomorrow for pick up.  But I’ll already be on a flight out of town.

The biggest blessing is that it’s not supposed to be hot while I’m in Southern CA.   It’s almost as if the universe heard my pleas and decided to give me a break.  Now that I’ve said that I’m sure a surprise inferno will streak across San Diego and Santa Monica.

In other news, we met up with my friend Taj and her partner Joey at the Kennedy School while they were in town last weekend and we had a great time!  Max and Philip came with us and Max made them a little comic.  It’s very violent, of course.  Joey posted it on Reddit and it’s gotten a ton of comments.  Both good and bad.  Lots of it is amusing.  If you want to see it you can check it out:

Max Asserts That Ice Cream is Superior to Cheese

Here are some things people are saying about it.

I’m really surprised by some of the comments about how kids can get arrested for drawing pictures like this.  It’s my opinion that the more you repress the expression of violence the more you encourage actual violence.  Being able to express it, apply humor to it, and understand its place in our world, the less likely you are to need to exert actual violence.  I really don’t think that most of the world’s most violent criminals and monsters drew violent comics prior to committing heinous crimes.  I don’t believe it’s an indication of maladjustment.  It’s surreal that all those people are talking about MY SON.  I may need to become a member of Reddit just so I can take part in the conversation.

So what do you think?  Is he the next Tarantino or the next Columbine kid?

OR the next Jim Henson?

Wilkins Coffee Commercial

Seriously, get a load of that violent puppet persuasion.  (“If you don’t drink this coffee you will be blown up…” yowza!  And notice how parents across the states feel damn warm and fuzzy about him? )

Well, I have some sewing to do so I’m off.