Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ohhhhh. . . . Canada!

Land of the silver birch
Home of the beaver


Where still the mighty moose
Wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more

Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom.

Down in the forest, deep in the lowlands
My heart cries out for thee, hills of the north

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more
Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom

High on a rocky ledge, I ’ll build my wigwam,
Close to the water’s edge, silent and still

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more
Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom

Land of the silver birch home of the beaver
Where still the mighty moose, wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more
Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom.

I am an apple. An APPLE!

There are certain "issues" - and why anyone calls them that is beyond me, because they're usually much more painful and aggravating than that mild word suggests - that keep popping up again and again in my life.

Though I know I'm not the only one who experiences these things, I often FEEL like the only one.

And do you want to know why?

OK then. . .

I'll just grab a mundane example, though there are thousands of these incidents. I go into the grocery store to buy nuts, pecans specifically, for some kind of baking project. Anyone who has baked knows how much they cost.

I go to the bulk section to try to catch a price break, but they're still over $5.00, highway robbery! Then I get them home and notice something.

They smell bad.

They taste even worse.

The nuts are rancid and should never have been for sale.

So I trundle back to the store and stand in line and finally get to the front and the clerk says, "You'll have to go to the Customer Service Desk."

So I go and stand in another line of people returning ghastly Christmas presents, and wait some more.

When I finally get to the Customer Service Desk and point out that the nuts aren't fresh, the clerk says, "The stock is rotated regularly so that they're always fresh."

"But they're not fresh, they smell rancid."

"They have to be fresh, they came in yesterday to rotate the bins."

"But - "

(And here it comes, the home plate of frustration):

"Nobody has ever complained about this before."

Just what exactly does this little statement mean?

Take it apart. Look at it.

"Nobody has ever complained about this before." This implies that there can't be anything wrong with the product because you're the only one who has ever complained (and note the use of "complain", a sort of whiny, hypochondriac word).

Because nobody else has complained about it, you must be wrong. You must be a chronic nuisance who goes around trying to get refunds for NO REASON.

You have no credibility because there's no one else to back you up.

Your  lone complaint simply doesn't matter to us. So we're dismissing you by trying to make you feel alone and ashamed to have said anything.

It's as if there's a quota or something: 27 people have to "complain" about rancid pecans before anything is done about it. THEN the store management might begin to pay attention.

Nuts to you!

Oh, I run into this all over the place. It's the kind of cockeyed logic that passes for truth/fact in our culture. People begin to fall into the trench of believing it without even questioning it or knowing they're doing it.

But there's a much more sinister application to this thing: have you ever noticed when a major sexual abuse scandal hits the headlines, it always comes out that the abuse went on for decades before anything was done about it?

And you can't tell me "they didn't know". "They" did, and "they" covered it up. Usually the perpetrator is an authority figure like a priest, teacher or coach, or even a Big Brother (with all the awful implications that term implies).

When something is finally done about it, probably because someone in a position of power blew the whistle, there is at first a trickle, then a flood of victims coming forward with their own accusations.

At this point the "alleged" perpetrator is well lawyered-up, and there will be all sorts of claims that these so-called victims are only trying to extort money from the poor innocent client and ruin his good name.

But what's really happening is a particularly awful form of that ingrained dynamic of "nobody has ever complained about this before".

One case will just be dismissed. Maybe two. Or the second one won't come forward at all, because he will have committed suicide.

The rest hide out and cripple along with their lives and are treated, basically, like fuckups for not being able to hold it together. Seeing the example of one victim being dismissed, they keep their mouths shut, perhaps not wanting to be dragged through the court system telling everyone exactly what this man did to them.

Twenty or thirty years later, people are starting to realize that the "nobody has ever complained" law is finally falling apart. Somebody HAS complained, and this time it stuck. The dam has been breached.

There is a quota, however. The more people step forward, the more credible the case becomes. But why shouldn't ONE accusation be credible? Why is it okay for someone to demolish "only" one life?

It isn't. But that's the way things seem to work.

People are herd animals, though few will admit it. They're conventional and prefer to run with the pack, even if the pack is going in an insane direction.  Let's not upset the applecart, especially not that well-nailed-down applecart of patriarchy. In the deep past women and children were property to be bought, sold and traded, and no doubt abused with no thought for the consequences (because there were none).

But what amazes and appalls me is how that dynamic lives on, the rotten core of a society that pretends everything is equal and the vulnerable are always protected.

The reversals that go on make my head spin: suddenly the accuser is the perpetrator, spreading poisonous lies about a man who is obviously above reproach. He was a wonderful priest! He did such good works! His coaching was legendary! How could a man who lived such a benevolent life be anything but a blessing to the young people he worked with?

This is where another bizarre idea comes in: "would never". Such a fine man would never do that to a little boy. Daddy would never touch you like that, so shut the hell up.

I want to say to them: OK, if he really "would never" do such a thing, why all the fuss about it? Why so much energy and so many dollars required to dig him out of the hole he's in? If "would never" is really true, it ought to be easy for him to prove his innocence.

And in some cases (did somebody say Michael Jackson?), this actually happens.

But "would never" is one of the more irrational underpinnings of  nobody has ever complained about this before. What does it mean, anyway? That we can't even entertain the possibility that Daddy has no moral sense at all, that he can dissociate the abuse from the rest of his life and carry on as a pillar of society?

"Would never" has a nasty little sister that I like to call "minimizing", and it seems completely benevolent, even positive. People say, "oh, but the huge majority of priests don't behave that way and have exemplary records." This may well be true, but why do people say it?

They say it because they are uncomfortable with the notion that a crack has formed in that "exemplary" vessel. They say it to whittle down the abuse to something minor and even insignificant. They say it because one little case out of thousands really doesn't mean very much once it's "put in perspective". Throw out that rotten apple, and forget about it.

For every case that finally emerges into the light like some foul cellar jacked open, there must be dozens or hundreds more that never surface at all.  And though someone has to be first, I suspect that it's usually someone who has similarly lawyered-up and built a pretty solid case. See, if you have legal protection behind you, you're not the only one any more.

So someone might actually listen to you, instead of sending you home with a bag of spoiled goods.