Saturday, May 30, 2020

Lorena Bobbit, George Floyd, & A Button in a Box


There are lots of opinions and outrage, rightfully so, currently regarding the heart breaking story of George Floyd. Our society is crumbling before our eyes and I see violence, criticism, judgment, and overall lack of empathy compounding the myriad of experiences into separation. We are divided and unfortunately this division compels an endless cycle of violence, criticism, judgement, and lack of empathy.
I’ve dealt with trauma myself. We lost our first child when Dana (my wife) was 5.5 months pregnant. Not only did we lose him, we had to actively make the decision to end the pregnancy due to medical reasons. I could lay out a list of justifications to clarify the complex statement aforementioned, but I won’t because the point of all of this is that we need to seek to understand each other instead of jumping to quick judgments based off limited details of a story. Devastated seems like a fluffy and diminishing word compared to what we really felt when we lost our baby boy, James. I remember vivid details from the anatomy scan up until the day of the termination. I can tell you the size and shape of the pointer on the screen at the high risk specialist office. I can tell you the names of everyone we spoke to at the 4 big hospitals nationwide that we called to get consultations with before we finally made the decision to end the pregnancy to save him from any suffering. I remember finding out he was a boy and the emotional break down I felt after I finally opened the envelope from the anatomy scan. I can remember a lot of details that are burned into my soul like I was branded with a hot iron. This emotional trauma was seared into my mind, soul, and body. I cannot tell you how I got home after the procedure that day. The only detail I recall is cars flying by me on whatever road I was on because I was driving slow and zoned out.
I love Jordan Peele. I think he is amazingly gifted and anything he has touched since Key & Peele (that was a big swing and a miss) has been phenomenal. We recently discovered a docu-series he executive produced on Lorena Bobbit. I remember as a kid seeing and hearing the coverage of the story and just thought it was a crazy lady who cut her husband’s penis off. I had no idea it was the story of a battered woman pushed to a breaking point. A part of her testimony when being questioned on the stand was her heart aching account of the details she remembered. She remembered in great detail the abuse, how he forced himself into her in spite of her pleas to stop. She remembered all the times he pushed her and hit her. Then, it was like the air was sucked from the room and she says she doesn’t remember anything about cutting off her husband’s penis or the events that followed. She doesn’t remember driving or why she threw it out the window. The docu-series interviews a juror from the trial and he is a white male and says she could have just walked away, she didn’t have to do that. I remember this episode and recognizing that black out moment after trauma. I understand how she doesn’t remember that breaking point or what happened afterwards. I know the pain of post traumatic darkness. It’s like you are walking endlessly in the dark without any direction or idea of where you are. I highly recommend this docu-series. It highlights the extreme product trauma produces.
I am currently listening to the Calm app. I’m listening to Sunset Beach. I had to turn off the television. The news breaks my heart. The news also enrages me. George Floyd was murdered by a cop in Minneapolis and the country, rightfully so, is protesting and lashing out. Here are some statements that make me want to either break down and cry or run through a wall. There is no in between, it’s maddening or saddening. The reactions toward this great injustice have been swift and powerful. They are literally burning cities down. Now all the talking heads on the news stations are giving their opinions on the appropriate way to respond to injustice. Instead of judging the reaction like the media did when Lorena Bobbit was pushed to a breaking point, it is more important to try to understand what led to that decision or those decisions. What would make normally law abiding citizens, parents, children, students, and people of all races shut down traffic, burn down police precincts, act out in violence, and risk physical harm to themselves?
The greatest illustration I’ve seen regarding trauma & grief is the ball in a box idea. Trauma and grief is like a button inside of a box. There is a ball in this box as well. In the beginning of grief of trauma the ball is huge and always hits the button as it bounces around. The ball only shrinks, never disappears. As time and circumstances shrink this ball it still bounces around and will occasionally hit that button causing a reaction, sadness, anger, depression, etc.
The African American community is in pain. The nation is in pain. We’ve witnessed injustices and murder for decades. We’ve witnessed unfairness and bigotry crawl from beneath their hiding places because they’ve been empowered and emboldened by a raging narcissist who was elected president. I’ve only witnessed this. I’ve not experienced it. On a daily basis I do not feel unsafe. I walk to my car at night without looking over my shoulder. I walk past police officers without fear. As a general statement I cannot say I feel unsafe as a normal experience. Then I talk to my wife or other women who tell me all their strategies for when they walk to their cars alone at night. I see African American parents prepare their children for how to act so they don’t get murdered by a police officer. I have the privilege of not having to think about these things because I am a white male. That is what white privilege is. It isn’t that white people don’t have tough times, it’s that white men don’t have this underlying fear or lack of safety constantly nipping us at our heels.
When I was younger I was “pro-life” and stood proudly against abortion and judged freely those who supported it. It took me experiencing trauma before I truly understood the complexities of such a terrible decision. It took me experiencing something to truly understand it. I’m now what people would call “pro-choice,” which ironically is “pro-life.” The juror who was a white male on the Lorena docuseries continually said she could have walked away. He has never experienced someone beating him to a pulp and then promising if you leave I’ll hunt you down and rape you and beat you again. He never experienced the cops not believing his story or diminishing his story. He has no idea what he would do if put through the same situation. The white media reporting on this terrible tragedy of George Floyd has never experienced the type of fear and heart ache the black community has felt since they existed in America. If I get pulled over by a cop I’m annoyed and will often times be short with them and show them I’m annoyed by their presence. I see them as a nuisance to my day. Not once have I feared for my life when dealing with a police officer. Neither have these reporters or keyboard warriors on social media. Years of trauma have caused the button to be pushed again and again and like a pressure relief valve on a pressurized tank, the pressure has built and pressure must be relieved or it will explode. Minneapolis and all around the country are experiencing the explosion of injustice. We are witnessing the button being held down in the box as the ball swells to break the boundaries.
Trauma caused me to black out driving home after my wife had a medical procedure called an abortion. Lorena Bobbit was pushed to a breaking point that caused her to cut a man’s penis off. African Americans have been tormented and abused for decades and are tired. Trauma cannot be understood as a witness. Trauma can only be understood through experience. Until you’ve experienced the kind of trauma someone else has, you have no idea what it is like and to comment and make statements to the contrary is foolish.
The only way to even attempt to understand any of these things is to look into the details of what caused the action itself. What caused me to blackout driving home? What caused Lorena Bobbit to arrive where she did? Why does the country and African American community feel protests and outrage currently? We must try to understand one another before arriving at uneducated, insensitive, and downright incorrect opinions. The action is always caused by something else. Can we try to understand the action instead of judging the action please?