Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Suddenly, You Care..

I feel selfishly angry today..

In 1997, my band organized and played benefits for RAWA (The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan). I was very proud of my involvement in such a cause, no matter how small the role we played. So many brave women in Afghanistan risked, and often gave their lives to defy the brutal foulness of Theocracy. They are to be admired as heroes and their cause is to be supported, defended and championed.

Back then, when I would describe the reality of Taliban rule, my protests fell on deaf ears. People around here called me some kind of "liberal activist" for caring about the bleak and sterile horrors of theocracy visited upon the women of Afghanistan. Acid thrown in unveiled faces, rape, murder, infanticide.. none of these things seemed to matter to the Americans I knew in 1997. I was reminded, time and time again, about how "it isn't America's job to police the world."

From a purely egotistic standpoint, I bristle today at the nuanced criticisms of both the Obama and Bush administrations regarding their response to the horrors of the Taliban's actions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I guess those people offering criticism only care when our military serves in a region. I heard nothing but appalling silence from my countrymen on this cruel cadre of brutal Theocratic Fascists before 9/11. They didn't give a red hot damn when schools were shot up or children were raped back then. Now, suddenly, they're on a personal crusade..

That being said, I guess, for better or worse, we're awake now. Maybe it's just sour grapes. I just needed to acknowledge my own egoic, angry feelings on the matter.

I've always believed the glacial malice of the Taliban and the barbaric form of Fundamentalist Islam they prescribe, endorse and visit upon those who they deem the unrighteous must be confronted. The Taliban and their ilk represent the most evil force existing on the planet. They take their edicts from the barbaric infancy of our species. This is a group that not only violates human rights, but refuses to recognize their existence. Their list of war crimes and atrocities could fill the Library at Alexandria. During the height of its power in Afghanistan, the Taliban ran the country as a vast concentration camp, absolutely enslaving the female population, annihilating all music and culture, and conducting a campaign of extermination against the Hazara and other minorities. Many, many children were murdered.

Defending such a regime would be to endorse the wholesale rape, murder and extermination of the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and, eventually, everyone else. But pretending that it only happened after 9/11 is almost as horrific..

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Merci Beaucoup, Mr. Baldwin..

"History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, therefore, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history.

But obviously, I am speaking as an historical creation which has had bitterly to contest its history, to wrestle with it, and finally accept it, in order to bring myself out of it. My point of view certainly is formed by my history, and it is probable that only a creature despised by history finds history a questionable matter. On the other hand, people who imagine that history flatters them (as it does indeed, since they wrote it) are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin and become incapable of seeing or changing themselves, or the world.

This is the place in which, it seems to me, most white Americans find themselves. Impaled. They are dimly, or vividly, aware that the history they have fed themselves is mainly a lie, but they do not know how to release themselves from it, and they suffer enormously from the resulting personal incoherence. This incoherence is heard nowhere more plainly than in those stammering, terrified dialogues white Americans sometimes entertain with that black conscience, the black man in America.

The nature of this stammering can be reduced to a plea: Do not blame me. I was not there. I did not do it." - James Baldwin

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

These Things Inside Me, They Repeat Like Broken Records..

Be Not Fearful. There is Beauty in Raw truth. Life is to be sung, danced, loved and affirmed. That's what I keep telling myself. But my fears get stuck in my throat. They have been lodged in my heart, raw and abrasive, since I was a kid. Since the last time I remember sunshine.

Charles "Charlie" Day. That’s his name. He still lives happily in Tucson, Arizona. He was married to my mother for a short while and is, in fact, the biological father of my brother. Charlie brutally sexually assaulted me on several occasions in late 1982/early 1983 in the apartment he and my mother shared. I remember one occasion clearly, having to clean a little bit of blood and feces out of the inside of my underwear. I remember being smacked in the head very hard because I peed during it. I was scared. I wanted somebody to help me. I wanted somebody to stop it. And I remember Charlie marching me down to Little Jim's, where my mother tended bar, to tell her I peed my pants. I've never felt such humiliation. Everyone in the bar laughed at me. I never felt so alone.

A couple years later, Scott Durzo, who was my basketball coach, made me show him my penis. This was behind the side wall near the basketball courts at the bottom of McGaugh Elementary school. He told me I was going to be suspended for pulling out my penis (which he asked me to do). I was confused and scared, not understanding what kind of game had just transpired. He pulled me into the boy's bathroom and put his erect penis in mouth. I tried to fight, but he grabbed me by my neck and told me I'd have to change schools if I kept squirming. He then put it in my hand and made me hold onto it, while he moved back and forth and finished. After, as strange as it sounds, I remember he chose that exact moment to tell me he wasn't sure if I was going to make the all-star team (the season had just ended). I had led the league in rebounding that year and was clearly one of the best players. I cried. I remember that. Not sure if it was due to the shock of what just happened or due to my coach failing to recognize all of the hard work and effort I put into that season. It seemed to disgust him. I grabbed my backpack and ran home. I used to walk with a couple friends, but not that day. I remember throwing up in the bushes on the way home behind the Bay Theatre on Main Street. I also remember this sinking feeling that I was going to get in trouble. That I had done something wrong. I sat by the little red box car across from our apartment and cried and cried and cried. Scott Durzo put me on the team, but I never went to the all-star game. I avoided Coach after that. I eventually told a teacher what had happened. Nothing became of it. I was afraid to tell anyone in my family because I thought Mr. Durzo was going to have me kicked out of school. I didn't need any more humiliation.

Scott is now apparently awaiting trial for doing similar things to another Seal Beach kid some 23 years later.

These things inside me cry out. They sound off like shrieking cicadas, or alarm bells; repeating like broken records. I've felt the fucking sting and shame and humiliation, the ramifications of these brutal acts for the last 32 years. I've never been able to fully forgive. These things, they still often color the way I see the world. They shape fears I have about the world my son is living in.

There was no justice for me. And guess what? There is no justice. It doesn't exist. Not for me and not for most people. There are just the ghosts; memories that linger. The memory of events. The radio station replaying it in your head like a sugary pop song you can't wash out of your skin or your teeth. The alleys of childhood do not release us willingly. And that special kind of shuddering humiliation always accompanies the memories.

Over the years, some people have responded to my story (I've shared it in therapy, in SLAA, etc.) with religious sentiments and assurances. "God is Good," they say. "God loves you," they say. "There is Forgiveness and Mercy in Jesus," they say..

You know what I say? I never give you a hard time about your religious beliefs, but don't you Dare throw prayer or God at me when it comes to the abuse I've suffered. You’ll never know how much I prayed, begged, cried, pleaded with our "Father God" to find the mercy and love in His heart to end what I was I was enduring. The answer from on High: Silence. That silence is what I remember the most.

I don't have yearbooks and scrapbooks and memories and pictures in frames. My childhood resembles a torn-down amusement park. Happy memories wrapped around a bigger tragedy. Big hulking pieces of decaying infrastructure that prove there once was a place where happy pools of memory would accumulate, where laughter used to live, where dreams almost took flight. But you realize when you take a closer look at those old, broken down carnival rides, that the ghosts are still taking tickets. They have dominion. They own this haunted place. You realize this painful truth and you run.

I have no justice, but I have music. I have my songs - raw and vulnerable and tattooed on my heart. I don't have God anymore, not in the traditional religious sense (I'm very spiritual).. but I have something better.. I have Life. I have that moment, staring at my black boots on the dirty floorboards, and taking the rope off my neck. That moment I finally and permanently threw the rope off and, after a few missteps and forays into some rather destructive hobbies, I picked up a guitar. It saved my life.

All we can do, people like me, is try our best to learn to live and love without Fear. Luckily, I find that love, that beauty and that fearlessness I seek, through the music that permeates my life. Songs ring out in my head and heart and I chase the muse, heartinkblood to paper, because it takes six strings to tell my story.

I do it because I want to be courageous and fearless someday. I do it because I want my son to be a million times the man I'll ever become.

And I do it because Fuck Charlie. And Fuck Scott Durzo. I do it because someday soon, the chords of age will drown out this bad dream. I’ll continue to lower my defenses, slowly. I’ll continue to flower and awaken and be more emotionally vulnerable and available. I’ll become less afraid. I’ll become a better Dad, friend, lover, brother.

I’ll continue to find new alleyways, to do my best to take a different way home, avoiding that painful childhood route that stays with you that we like to retrace to further cement our criminally non-existent self-worth. Avoiding those broken down amusement park rides, those hulking, ghostly machines, that cesspool of emotional wreckage and debris.

I will say this, in all sincerity.. It gets better. It truly does. Every day, it gets better. But I had to say something here, today, because it’s still a big part of who I am and I feel like, if you want to truly be friends with me and care about me, then you should know the truth. I owe that much to you.

And I'm still looking for that sunshine..