Suffering

The other day, I heard a little old lady tell a crowd of sexual assault victims, “You were not put on this earth to suffer.” It reminded me of a line from the book I’ve been reading, Strangers Drowning, about morality.

“Some think that suffering is pointless and wish it could be eliminated; others believe it makes compassion possible and is at the core of the human condition.”

I used to believe the former, used to wish no one had to endure the pain of suffering…I guess I still do, when I see it. But you can’t wish away suffering, it will always be, and if it breeds compassion, it is all worth it.

Jack Gilbert says it best:

A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Denim Day

I haven’t posted on here in a very long time! But I’ve been reading a lot lately and felt compelled to write this today:

Today is “Denim Day,” because on this day in 1998, the Italian Supreme Court overturned a 45-year-old man’s conviction for raping an 18-year-old girl. They overturned it, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them…and by removing the jeans…it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding signs that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”

Today, I went to a rally for Denim Day outside City Hall. Many elected officials and community groups I have previously spoken with for stories of mine were there. Also in attendance: members of the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit.

I scanned their faces, simultaneously hoping Detective Granai would and would not be there. I didn’t want him there because it would bring too many distracting memories and emotions to the surface. I did, I guess, because I had once found him quite comforting, as the figure I had briefly pinned my hope for justice on.

He wasn’t. The SVU Detective from that dinky little building on Grand Street who ultimately closed my case without even telling me was, though. It made me burn.

It made me burn to hear the Commissioner of Collaborative Policing pat herself and her colleagues on their backs for encouraging more and more women to report rapes to the police. “We’ve distributed 32,000 cards instructing people to report sexual abuse to the police in the past year.” So fucking what? I reported my rape to you around this time last year, and you didn’t do a thing. The woman, the “detective,” who didn’t do a thing is standing behind you right now.

“When more people are coming out and reporting domestic violence, we consider it winning,” one Council member said. No, that’s not winning. Winning is conviction, winning is prosecution, winning is justice. A 6.3% increase in reported rapes in NYC over the last year is NOT winning. A 6.3% increase in successful conviction and prosecution of rapists would be.

Women shared their stories today. One woman powered through her story with tears streaming down her face. I don’t cry about it anymore, except on April 3rd.

“We are not invisible” was chanted repeatedly. I knew the woman who closed my case didn’t see me, didn’t recognize or remember me. One woman recounted how, when she was roofied and raped ten years ago, she had been wearing a short denim skirt.

“Maybe your skirt was too short,” the officer had said when she finally summoned the courage to tell the people who are meant to “protect and serve” us. New York’s Finest.

Reporting isn’t winning, denim isn’t an invitation, and we have nothing to celebrate.

Some truths

Some truths:
1) You are not just who you are when you are who you want to be – you are also who you are when you are who you do not want to be.
2) If you are rationalizing something, you’re about to make a bad decision. You don’t need to rationalize a good decision.
3) It is not weak to admit that you can’t handle something. It is weak to fail to learn from your mistakes and pretend that you can and continuously make the wrong decision.
4) Apathy is the biggest killer of man.
5) If we don’t fight for each other we will never all be free.
6) Gentle, appropriate pressure over time yields results.

Some truths from Rumi:
1) Set yourself on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.
2) If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?
3) Be empty of worrying, think of who created thought!
4) Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?

Dulce et Decorum Est

Today is Armistice Day. On November 11th, 1918, the world came together in the realization that war is so horrific it must be ended immediately, and the armistice signed in France signified an end to World War I – the “war to end all wars.”

At the time, the bloodshed of WWI marked a massive departure from the wars that came before. With the rise of machine guns came the horrifying ability to wipe out entire generations of young men in a single attack.  Since then, of course, the killing power of the world’s weaponry has only increased exponentially.

Today is a day of peace. We don’t even know a world without horrible death machines. Is it really progress to continually invent more efficient ways to kill each other?

Please take a minute to read (or listen to a reading of) this brilliant poem by Wilfred Owen, a poet and soldier in the first World War. Makes me cry every time!

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

*Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means “It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.” These are the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace).

When we were little kids, we all wanted to save the world.

(Some thoughts)

You know, when we were little kids, we all wanted to save the world. Almost every little boy or girl envisions themselves in these grand scenarios where they get to save mankind from the villains. Where good triumphs over evil. But then we grow up, and the bad guys don’t look anything like the Joker, and the battles against evil don’t look anything like the epic, building-smashing, super-powered fights that our heroes always won. We grow up, and we grow to understand that the world is nothing like we imagined, but that it is indeed full of evil.

As adults, we become defeated, apathetic. What we don’t see is that nothing has changed. Why should we stop wanting to fight the evils of the world, why should we stop fighting for peace and justice, just because it isn’t as simple or as fun as sucker punching Dr. Octopus right in the face?

I believe in good. I believe in the good of humankind. And I know that apathy is the biggest killer of man. We can make the world a better place.