Category Archives: #lookingbeyondtheobvious

Reclaiming the Perverted

Can it be done?

Yesterday, two things happened on my Facebook feed at the same time: one friend put up an image of a Hindu swastika saying it meant welcome and shouldn’t be condemned as a Nazi symbol. Almost immediately afterward, someone else put up a Confederate flag, saying it was a symbol that stands for Southern history and pride, not racism. I felt sucker punched. Both of these people are good folks, working to change the world for the better. How did they not understand?

Both friends received immediate mixed reviews. Some posters agreed, using their intelligence or knowledge of world history to insist the affected race/generations get over their ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to these images. Others, realizing the innocence and good intentions of the image poster, urged their friend to take down the offensive image, for their own sake. The one who posted the Confederate flag image, after being told stories of what that flag had stood for during slavery, the civil war, through jim crow to murder by police, took down the image and replaced it with a sincere and truly heart-felt apology. That was easy to explain, however. The Confederate flag had never stood for anything else except hate.

The responses from people opposed to displaying the swastika, interestingly enough, were drowned out by a number of starry-eyed, mostly young, idealists who have only experienced the evil of that symbol through novels and mini-series, classroom textbooks, or movies, the exact same way they learned about the innocent origins of a Hindu symbol. Three generations or more removed from Hitler’s atrocities, they claim the right to redefine the meaning of the swastika in the name of those who suffered under it, presumably in the name of modernism. They seem to see great positivity in trying to reclaim it as one of warmth and welcome, to shake loose its negative connotations.

Today, my friend put up another post, this time without the symbol but naming it, asking if it had been wrong for him to post it yesterday. Again, the majority of people, supportive friends, gave him plenty of props for being brave enough to put it up. Since the young person in question is actively involved in making the world better for LGBTQI youth, I believe he would rather I offer him a sound argument than blow smoke up his euphemism, so I responded with this.


I really do understand the support offered for your stance on posting something innocent that was twisted into evil. And I do understand the understanding offered by those unaffected by the Nazis, or those who are more than two-generations removed.

But, as many of my Trans friends have pointed out to me lately, it’s not okay to tell people you didn’t hurt them, when you actually did. It wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t what you meant when you posted the image. But to some in their seventies and eighties (those who lived through it) that symbol alone creates a trigger response unlike any you’ve heard about before. The sheer evil that’s come to be associated with that symbol (however perverted) is living, breathing history to some of those around us.

I have dozens of older Facebook friends. Many of them will now see your post, because I chose to answer you. I am grateful you didn’t put the same image back up again on this post, because I really don’t want to subject them to seeing it. That’s why I never answered you yesterday. The pain is as raw today, for some of them who will never get beyond it, as it was when they lived through it so long ago.

In seventy years, you’ll be the generation looking back on whatever horrors are unfolding under our current regime. Perhaps, if we’re not wise enough to learn from the history of the past, we may be doomed to repeat it. If you survive, remembering those who did not, what will seeing an image of the orange imposter do to you? You won’t know until you get there.

Sometimes you cannot reclaim what was perverted. The poor fellow who drew the original Pepe the Frog will never get his creation back under his control, it’s been perverted beyond all reason. The Hindu symbol that is not a Nazi swastika may be well received in the part of the world where it originated and is fully understood, but here (except for certain Native Americans who have used the symbol for centuries) and in Europe it stands for only one thing: White Supremacy

(Name Protected) was right. You’ll never know how many people were hurt by seeing that symbol yesterday, they’ve more than likely already blocked you. If you are open-minded enough to understand why All Lives Matter is insensitive and dismissive of the black civil rights movement by demanding people accept a white version of equality, then you can wrap your head around this. And telling those triggered by any form of the swastika they need to get over it, rise above it, or use their intelligence to accept the truth, is denying the way a wounded psyche works.

I think you should create a new symbol of peace and equality, Original Poster, something we can all rally around to lead us out of this nightmare we’re sharing. The crow’s foot in a circle had its day. Make a symbol easy to wear on a chain or print on a T-shirt that stands for all that is good in humankind. Give us that instead.


Now here’s where I may have gone off the tracks…



And for that person who skims my post instead of reading it and then decides my hour-long thoughtfully written response is an attack on Original Poster (instead of intelligent discourse) and get all offended on his behalf, let me remind you of something very important: you don’t know me. Don’t dump your assumptions all over me in your rush to defend your friend from an attack that never happened. Original Poster is a friend I’ve had conversations with and I respect him enough to answer his question honestly from my perspective. Sheesh. And the fact that I’m so sure I’ll get trash talk from someone in response to this post is sad and the reason I’m thinking of erasing the entire thing before I post it.

Nah… I’ll have my say no matter how unpopular.


I dunno. Should I have kept my big mouth shut (or words unwritten, as it were)? What would you have done? Let me know with a comment if you think I over reacted or not.

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Truth is Crueler than Fiction

 boat-55173_960_720I’m on a small Portuguese island right now visiting family and doing research for the sequel to When Butches Cry. My wife and I have an extraordinary friend here. Poverty stricken and born deaf, a woman in her 40s I will call Joba for this post, is a hell of a fisherwoman, making her living by selling bait she gathers endlessly day after day while feeding her mother, daughter, and grand-daughter with fish she catches herself. She has only four or five teeth left and her face is weather-beaten from salt water and sun. She is tall for a Portuguese woman and whipcord thin from walking many miles to find good fishing.
 
Although nearly everyone on the small island of Terceira knows her, very few use her real name. Everyone refers to her as the Mute. I have watched people cheat her of the few euros she charges for the crabs and biting sea worms she gathers at night to sell for bait, and too often she has to dodge rocks thrown at her by vicious young men. Joba learned to fight dirty, striking low and hard without let up, after being raped as a teen (which resulted in her daughter’s birth). She’s earned a formidable reputation as a fighter, instilling fear if not respect in her enemies.
 
The cruelty of her situation is beyond my ken. She is deaf, but most certainly not mute. Somehow or other, with absolutely no education (she went to public school for a few days as a child but the other kids laughed and tormented her so badly she refused to go back), Joba has watched lips enough to simulate words and with broad gestures and facial expressions is quite good at making herself understood by those who take the time to watch and listen. But besides her immediate family, almost no one does.
 
Traf and I always bring her a present of new jeans, shirts, or jackets when we visit because she spends what little extra money she makes on batteries for the flashlight she uses to work at night, fishing gear, and little pleasantries for her family. While Joba appreciates the gifts, they are a pale second to seeing and recognizing Traf, apparently her only friend in the world who enjoys sitting and hearing her stories. Although I speak almost no Portuguese, she always includes me in her conversations, never leaving me out and pausing as Traf translates the parts I don’t understand. To my utter amazement she seems to understand my English (meaning if not words), supplying extra information to make herself understood. She tries to hide her tears when we leave but through mine, I’ve witnessed hers.
 

Her loneliness is deeper, wider, and more intense than any human being’s should ever be. She lives with her guard always up, expecting to be treated as sub-human, or worse, no better than an abandoned animal. Although clearly gifted with an amazing intellect, no one understands just how smart this young woman is to have self-taught herself to speak, fish, swim, and even rescue foolish fishermen who fall into deep water.

About ten years back, she earned enough money to buy herself a small rowboat. That expanded her ability to catch bigger fish for sale to local restaurants and gave her some mobility. She proudly hand-lettered her own name on the small vessel, but within the year someone(s) destroyed the boat, hacking it to pieces unable to be repaired.

I could never have written this type of cruelty into a book if I hadn’t seen it for myself in Joba’s life. Yes, part of her story will be in my sequel to When Butches Cry, but most readers will assume I’ve invented the very real torment of this woman’s everyday existence.

I only wish I had.