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Posts from December 2011

Rape: The Scourge of Our Time

I was all fired up the other day to write about the heinous way women are treated in Afghanistan; the brutal absurdity of imprisoning women for being raped and of forcing them to marry the men who raped them; and how unhealthy it is for a society to give men absolute power over women. I was going to write about how conflicted I am about our leaving Afghanistan: Is it good to leave them to themselves, or is it bad since, obviously, the women aren’t much better off after our ten-year offensive. I even intended to bring in World War II and how we didn’t leave Europe, another scene of debilitatingly horrific acts of violence, until we had defeated Hitler and the evil of his regime.

Then my partner said that I should think about how many women in the military are raped. “Google ‘rape military.’” Then he mentioned a female soldier who accused a man (working for a contractor) of raping her, and how he got off with barely a slap on the wrist. And her, he said, she was jailed.

He’s right: All the wrongs committed against women cannot be dropped on the laps of Afghani men. We can’t just pooh-pooh the men of Afghanistan who conceal women behind burkas and walls, and who torch their schools, and rape them with bestial impunity, because the rest of the world doesn’t exactly present a shining example of gentlemanly behavior.

Women in the Congo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda have been raped as a course of war, as they have been during other conflicts, and throughout history. Reports of Libyan soldiers raping citizens have surfaced, as have sexual assaults by Egyptian police against demonstrators.

I googled “us military rape statistics,” and 2,230,000 results came up. That’s a lot of stories about men in the military who rape, and women (in the military and civilians) who have been raped by our representatives.

And here in the US, where we attempt to look down on their mistreatment of their women, well, we actually have a term for when a man doesn’t get that “no means no.” Date rape is not quite akin to opening a door for a woman. And the acceptance of the twisted logic of “she asked for it” by wearing a dress that was too tight or too revealing, or by being out too late, or by drinking too much is a psychic rape of all women. Women do not ask to be violated. No, Americans are not beacons in any one’s night.

People say that in Afghanistan it is an expression of their culture. Yeah, sure. Men take every right from a woman except the right to inhale and exhale and we let “culture” cover for that constant humiliation and exercise of power. Then what is it here? Can someone state as truth that rape is a reflection of our culture because we so degrade women by objectifying and sexualizing them? Have we let the deviants define us?

Is the genesis of these rapes by Afghani men, African rebels, European fighters, and American soldiers the same? Is the problem a universal acceptance of “boys will be boys”? Have we conceded the stage to the bullies?

Googling “rape” brings up 206,000,000 results. No, we cannot breathe a sigh of relief that at least we don’t live there—because we do. Women can be strong, but not as strong as a 200 lb. man with societal support (for what else is indifference?) on his side.

Is rape the scourge of our time? We have defeated illnesses, now we must defeat a sickness.

A person who rapes is sick in the crudest sense of the word. And it is unhealthy to ignore a sickness in our midst. Why is it that we arrest prostitutes and not Johns? Why are we always protecting the men? Why are we protecting those who need no protection?

Maybe we women are being forced back to being the weaker sex because society is unable or unwilling to protecting us. What does that say about American culture?

“I Like Your Necklace”

The other day the “compliment clothing instinct” peeked out its pretty head. In the morning, as I walked by her, I blurted out to a student that I liked her ring. I couldn’t help it—it was so big, so obvious, so worthy of compliment; teacher-student relationship be damned—the girl has taste. It was a three-inch silver disc with intricate designs on it: quite the finger shield. A ring to be noticed—and complimented.

Then later when I was walking around the supermarket, a woman who almost walked into me (or did I almost walk into her?) complimented me on my necklace. As I said “thank you,” I reached for my neck to feel which necklace I was wearing. It was the necklace that I bought after my year of wearing no jewelry after father passed away.

And the next day I complimented a colleague on how lovely she looked. And she did the thank you blush and took the back straight-chest out stance.

Even when I tell my daughter, who doesn’t much like my voice or the words that come out of my mouth, how pretty she looks, I get a shy thank you and a tinge of blush to her beautiful cheeks.

Oh, how lovely it is to give and receive. Forget the lists. Forget the stores. Forget the gift cards. Give the gift of a compliment.

Thinking about Sleeping

At night I  go to sleep. In the morning I wake up. Between those two, there are innumerable mini-wake-ups. I go to the bathroom. I come back to bed. Sleep doesn’t overtake me, or perhaps I don’t have the patience to just lay there waiting, as if for a gift. And so I turn on the radio. I listen to news and interview shows from the BBC, which is what the public radio station here plays from midnight to five am (which is a half-hour before my it-really-is-time-to-wake-up time). You would think that I would use my time constructively—clean, knit, read, eat—but I don’t. I lay listening, waiting, hoping for sleep to take me away from learning more about the drama that encompasses so many people’s lives.

There is no night’s sleep for me; it is a series of naps within the night. I wonder what impact this has on me? It’s exhausting thinking that there is always something I could be doing with my time and it’s exhausting always learning new things. And it’s exhausting not getting a stop-to-start sleep because I have always needed a full night’s sleep. I have always been envious of those “I just need a few hours of sleep” people.

It’s not even that I have concerns and stresses and anxieties that are keeping me turning from side to side to side to back to side looking for the magic position in the night. Sure, I had plenty of drama a few years ago, and that may be what has permanently disabled my sleepscape, but I don’t now. Now I have a life that flows as a backyard stream, it’s touched and touching, and keeps on going, inevitably, around rocks and down little rapids, and even calms in the pools that develop behind fallen branches before the rush—onward, forward. 

So why can’t I sleep? Maybe I’m never tired enough? Maybe I should succumb to the quiet of my mind rather than seek company in the night. Am I getting too many words in my life? Since I teach, I’m talking all day long. And when I’m not talking, I’m reading and writing lessons, and grading. And when I’m not so involved, I’m listening to radio, listening to talk radio or music where my focus is always on the lyrics. And when I finally have enough, I watch TV, but my partner and I always discuss and debate the drama of the cooking or house hunting show we are watching. So there are always words percolating; there are always thoughts developing and responses formulating. Is the problem, not the lack of bladder control, but the lack of thought control? Does my mind really need to be still, or as still as I can make it, to find the atmosphere I need in order to sleep from ten to five-thirty? Maybe I should practice some form of meditation in bed—force my mind into the off position.

Yes, I think I will try that. I will give myself “me time” in bed. (And no, I don’t mean that kind of me time.) Is the problem that I don’t give myself time for me? Or is it that those words are always directed outward or are from beyond the self.  They come in invited, surely, but has it become too much of an invasion rather than an interaction, or maybe the notion of continual interaction is too much for me. Where am I, my core, if I am always focused on beyond the cells of self? Have I given myself up to constantly joining and creating a flow of ideas and thoughts rather than occasionally casting myself onto a smooth, sun-dried rock from where I can be still and meaningful because I simply am?

Bask, I need to bask in bed. Bask to the beauty of being, whatever that means intuitively because I will not seek to analyze those moments. In the still small moments of night, I will be as dark matter, there and not there.