Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Abuse of Power

One inch short of war

Howling winds
Rattle doors and windows

Random bursts
Of unseemly fury
Hurled through air
Turn lashing trees
To toppled dreams
Caught off guard
By one lone ranger
Unleashing havoc
One inch short of war

Pointing out the faults of others, especially those of POTUS, is dangerous business. Some say we should cut him a break. After all, doesn’t our own uncontrolled behavior make us as guilty as the next party?

Perhaps it does. Nonetheless, national leaders are held to higher standards because of the number of people who depend daily on their decisions and actions. Especially, but not only in situations of national emergency. A wall on our southern border is not cause to declare a national emergency. Hurricane Maria was. A test of our readiness to do the right thing. Together.

So yes, POTUS is rightly held to higher standards. And yes, my ability to see fault-lines in POTUS likely means I’m all too familiar with this set of behaviors. In myself and in others.

It brings to mind my history with self-confident men and women who believed themselves ordained by God to keep me in line. In my place. Voiceless and without power. One inch short of being used and abused in a subterranean war fueled by abuse of power.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2019
Photo of Hurricane Maria damage in San Juan, Puerto Rico; found at nbcnews.com

white affirmative action

Think of it when you go to sleep at night
Think of it when you walk or drive to the polls
Think of it when you go to church on Sunday
Think of it when you walk freely to the store
Think of it early and often and examine yourself
White gentile woman man or child that you are

By whose decree was this white affirmation
Heaped upon me and those who like me
Had no choice in the color or pedigree of our skin
Yet are heralded welcomed and protected
As the keepers and the color of purity
Angels in the making if not god almighty

Baby steps.
We need baby steps.
We need leaders who don’t look like us
Who don’t mind if our grammar isn’t perfect
Leaders who know the lay of the land
Because they’ve been there and ache
To show and tell the look of life on the other side
The toll exacted by border walls projected willy-nilly
To enhance the purity of so-called whiteness
That never existed in the first place

Humans exist in the first place
And hopefully in the last place
But only if we tend to these tiny shoots
Struggling to breathe and find sustenance
In a stingy, greedy, heads in the sand
Make-believe-we’re-OK land of no return
For this we are called
Out of ourselves and into a great
Mixed company dying to live
Before it’s too late

Thoughts on the eve of our mid-term elections. Can we find our way through this wilderness? It won’t happen overnight or without skilled leaders. Leaders who know about life because they’re already living it from the inside out. Against all odds and upstream.

Here’s how I see it. As a ‘white’ (actually German-Swiss-French) woman who is a citizen of the USA, I benefit every day from affirmative action. I’m on the lookout for skilled women, men and children who already model ways to live in a society at war with itself, without giving up hope and without being naive.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2018

After scanning today’s headlines —

A rude and rootless nation
Sits in the seat of scoffers
Indignant and outraged
Lock her up!
Lock him up!
Lock them up!
And throw away the key!

Chaff tossed on winds
Of overwrought words
Ruthless and homeless
We drift toward destruction
Lost in the wilderness
Of our own undoing

I’ve almost always read Psalm 1 with my life in mind. It’s a Psalm about choosing the way of wisdom, rather than the way of folly. I still think that’s a fair way of reading it.

Nonetheless, it’s also a Psalm directed to a nation of human beings with human leaders who make choices both wise and foolish. Not that everyone agrees to go one way or the other. There’s more than enough folly and wisdom to share on all sides.

It seems our nation is drifting down the path of folly. Often following in the footsteps of leaders who say and do foolish things. Or who respond to one kind of foolishness with another kind. Equally unrestrained and destructive.

Hence this reading of Psalm 1 as a cautionary tale. If we aren’t part of the wise resistance, we’re in danger of finding ourselves headed downhill along the destructive path of fools. Also known as the wicked who are like chaff driven by the wind. Drifting toward our demise. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 October 2018
Photo of winnowing wheat taken in Iran by David Murphy, fineartamerica.com

The morning after the week before

Dancing in aisles around subjects
We wish we could avoid
Drunk with lust for power
Or sidelined as spectators
We are the worst circus in town
At war with ourselves in a script
Written in the heat of battle
Directed from the top down
Delivered on time or die the death
Of a thousand retributions

When did we become what we have become? Or has it always been this way?

In either case, we’ll get nowhere until we commit ourselves to listening and responding appropriately to the voices of survivors and to those who care deeply for their well-being.

As for survivors, we are many. Telling our stories matters. Listening to our stories matters. Working with us instead of against us makes a difference. So does ignoring, belittling or taunting us.

Recently I’ve been reading Intoxicated by My Illness, by Anatole Broyard. It’s about life and death. It’s also about his own approaching death. He’s brutally honest, funny, sad, thought-provoking and more. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re dealing with your own mortality.

Here’s a quote from page 68, revised to fit my gender. I don’t think Anatole Broyard would mind.

The dying woman has to decide how tactful she will be.

Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness, p. 68
Compiled and edited by Alexandra Broyard
Published by Ballantine Books
© 1992 by the Estate of Anatole Broyard

Yes, this is about the way I deal with myself and others. I’m dying a bit each day. It doesn’t matter whether I have a diagnosed terminal illness. I don’t have time to beat around the bush or hide behind polite niceties. Or promise to do things I know I cannot do.

This also has to do with this moment in our nation’s history, and the importance of survivors speaking out against all odds. I still have a few things I’d like to add to the conversation. How about you?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2018

Choosing to embrace the possible

Several weeks ago I finished reading Dr. Edith Eva Eger’s riveting memoir, The Choice. Dr. Eger is in her 90s. She’s a psychotherapist and a survivor of the Holocaust. One of thousands, including her entire family, rounded up by Nazis and sent from Hungary to Auschwitz. This is a 5-star book, well worth reading.

When it appeared the Nazis might not win World War II, Dr. Eger, a young Hungarian Jew teenager, was evacuated from Auschwitz. Eventually she ended up in the Death March of young girls who walked to a prison facility at Gunskirchen in upper Austria. Many didn’t make it.

Dr. Eger begins and ends her memoir by describing her work with several types of clients suffering from PTSD. Each had a different version of PTSD; each had to unravel the tangled knots of past histories; each had to find within him or herself the courage to change.

After recounting her own story, Dr. Eger describes the way these cases challenged her to understand more about her own traumatic experiences as a young Hungarian Jew. Recovery from PTSD isn’t over until it’s over.

The map of Dr. Eger’s journey from Hungary to the USA is convoluted, filled with high personal drama and heartbreaking choices. Some would call it a page-turner. I could only take several pages or short sections at a time.

Here’s what grabbed me: The one thing Dr. Eger did not want to do was, in fact, the most important thing she had to do to be at peace with herself and those she most loved.

This got me thinking. If she still had unfinished work even after she was a well-known, sought-after psychotherapist, what might that mean for me? What have I missed seeing back there in my history?

Short answer: I missed seeing my lost self. Not my family history or my father’s abusive, unyielding treatment of me, but myself! Yet there I was. From the second month of my mother’s pregnancy until I was 10-months old, my father was not a daily presence. He was in a TB sanatorium somewhere, fighting for his life.

Those ten months are a small piece of ground that belong to me. They aren’t marked by his attempts to beat anger out of me and make me into a tame, submissive ‘good girl.’ It’s not too late to take care of that young infant in me. The one I overlooked for so many years.

I highly recommend Dr. Eger’s book, even if you’re only interested in a no-holds-barred, first-hand account of part of World War II. On the other hand, you might also find a bit of your lost self along the way.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 October 2018
Image found at mdmemories.blogspot.com

chilled blood huddles

chilled blood huddles
beneath waves of hot anger
shot from unchecked mouths
with deadly accuracy
the clock ticks down to nothing

I wrote these words on Friday evening, the day after last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. The poem attempts to capture in words the look, sound and feel of time running out.

But for whom is it running out? I don’t think we’ll know that for a while, no matter how this plays out.

In the meantime, I understand this about myself as an adult survivor of violence toward women:

My responsibility is to take care of myself,
not to change the culture of violence toward women

I didn’t think this up by myself. I heard it in a public radio interview with a woman working on behalf of sexually assaulted persons. Her comment rang true, given my sense of despair and hopelessness.

I need to keep the focus on my sanity and health. Take care of myself.

The images and words I saw and heard during the Judiciary Committee hearings took me right back to the meeting with my parents in 1993. When I left that meeting I knew I couldn’t change my father’s attitude toward me, or my mother’s loyalty to him as her husband.

Yet perhaps I might make a difference for other survivors, or even for a few perpetrators. I still think that’s possible.

Most difficult is the high level of commitment I need just to take care of myself. Daily. Especially as I age. And then there are those unpredictable bombshells that keep hitting the news.

So here I am, still committed to telling the truth about myself. Not simply as a survivor, but as a thriving adult woman given an opportunity to make a difference, beginning with herself.

Thanks again for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 October 2018

Memo to White Women in the USA

While the iron is still hot, I have a few things to say.

Yesterday I watched most of Dr. Ford’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Like Dr. Anita Hill years ago, Dr. Christine Ford stepped up to the microphone and told her truth. I couldn’t help thinking about my experience giving my ‘testimony’ before my father and my mother. Then, as now, it didn’t seem to end well.

Nonetheless, as white women, we have work to do with each other and with men and other women of good will. However, we must immediately consider NOT doing at least one or more of the following:

  • covering for white men who abuse us to our faces and behind our backs
  • believing lies about ourselves as incapable, weak, over-emotional or intruders
  • endorsing candidates for political office because it will keep the family ‘peace’
  • playing our childish popularity playground games
  • settling for lives put on hold until it’s too late
  • looking the other way or shading the truth to protect ourselves
  • going along to get along in politically or emotionally charged situations

Instead, we might try one of these instead:

  • Pick up the phone and dial 911 for ourselves, not just for others
  • Begin describing what life is and is not like for us as white women in the USA
  • Consider who really benefits from our white male loyalty
  • Speak for ourselves, especially when we hope someone else will say it first
  • Refuse to go along to get along in politically or emotionally charged situations

I wonder why, in this age of so-called ‘liberation’, many white women in the USA are still in bondage to the need for White Male Approval? What do we fear? Perhaps we’re so hooked on the power and prestige we get standing by our man that we can’t even imagine living without them.

The demographics of our country have changed dramatically, yet we’re still governed at the highest levels by a huge majority of white men, with occasional token ‘others’ that include white women.

I wonder what might happen if more of us step up to the microphone and begin telling the truth about our white female lives? Or, even more miraculous, when more white men in positions of power begin listening to white women, black women, tan women, mixed-race women, Jewish women, Muslim women, refugee women, little girls and big girls, teenage women and elderly women. To name just a few possibilities.

I don’t think most men know what they’re missing. More’s the pity, since women have things that need to be both said AND heard. Not with a dismissive nod or a patronizing pat on the back, but with resolve to become partners in change for the good of this country and those who inherit the messes we’ve made.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 September 2018

And what of those sinned against?

And what of those sinned against –
Bathsheba and Tamar,
The concubine cut up into pieces
By her Levite priest owner,
The two virgin daughters of Lot,
And millions of wounded women and men
Sitting in yet another dock wondering
How long their nightmares will last?

How can we beg God for forgiveness
And enjoy the fruits of mercy
Without even a nod to our victims
Who daily carry within and upon
Their embodied souls a lifetime
Of self-punishment as though they
Could ever atone for their broken selves?

They sit beside us in the pews (or not)
Afraid to tell their unwelcome truths
Terrified of whispers and innuendo
Choking on heaped-up tamped-down shame
And fear that they are indeed to blame
For predatory practices wielded skillfully
By church-going men or even women
Who now worship God freely and
Joyously believing all has been forgiven
When they haven’t begun to make amends
To those they harmed including themselves

I don’t have answers. Just questions this morning.

1. What does it mean to go to church carrying shame in a body meant to be loved and set free?
2. How do we begin to notice and reach out to listen and learn, not to fix what we may quickly decide is the true ‘problem’ when it isn’t?
3. Indeed, how do we come clean about our own unhealed wounds that will surely be exposed when we’re telling our truth?

The poem above comes from multiple experiences of being turned into ‘the problem’ I was not. Too often this was about my femaleness, which supposedly justified problems and attitudes that originated with others, usually men.

To all such people, including members of my family plus some pastors, employers and work or church-related colleagues:

Your problems are not rooted in my body,
my soul, my mind, my emotions,
my mouth, the look on my face,
or what I happened to be wearing that day.

On the other hand, I could learn from you if you’re interested and I’m not scared shitless. Otherwise, we’ll just keep soldiering on in our walled-off worlds, teetering precariously from time to time until it’s too late.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 September 2018

No other gods

Thou shalt have no other gods…

twilight of our small gods
descends over shallow water
teeming with refuse

ill-begotten secrets lurk
beneath ripples of shriveled minds
as once-buoyant hopes sink

ill-conceived saviors morph
into scapegoats scorned with contempt
mirrors of our self-loathing despair

Come unto me all who labor and are heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn of me;
For I am meek and lowly of heart
And you shall find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29

There’s nothing magical about it. No overnight resolutions of pain and anguish. Just a re-orientation to the one who leads and accompanies us to God, who already loves and grieves for each of us.

Thanks to my blogging friend Yassy, for a poem and comment yesterday that got my mind going on this post. Check out her lovely poem.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2018

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