(CN: violence, death, death of children, torture, rape, religious extremism, Islamophobia – all content notes are doubled and trebled if you click the links)
The morning after the attacks in Paris, one of my husband’s long-time customers took the opportunity to complain about “those people” and their terrorism. “We’ve put up with it for too long,” he grumbled. “We should just bomb their entire country and be done with it.”
SpouseMan gave him a puzzled look. “France?”
“No, not France,” the man said, as if this were obvious. “The country they came from!”
The look of puzzlement deepened. “Belgium?”
Because of course, the ringleader of the attacks was a native-born Belgian citizen, and at least four of the attackers were French. But that’s not what the man in the bagel shop meant, was it? We know what he meant. Insofar as he was capable of understanding that the Middle East is in fact made up of several different countries, each of which are, well, different, he meant Syria and Iraq.
Syria and Iraq are, after all, where Daesh* is currently operating out of. Syria and Iraq are where European-born young men like Abdelhamid Abaaoud go to be transformed from disaffected, dissatisfied youth into zealous terrorists. And Syria and Iraq are where Daesh carries out massacres against minority populations, tortures teenage boys, murders innocent civilians (including small children), uses horrific violence to impose their own interpretation of religious law on others, recruits and kidnaps children to brainwash into child soldiers, rapes captive women and girls with impunity…
…huh. Y’know, the more I read about it, the more the people of Iraq and Syria start to look like the victims of this hate group, not evil masterminds who need to be bombed to rubble.
Here’s the thing. When the terrorists attacked in Paris, the city responded in beautiful, humbling ways, ways that remind us what it is to be human and to rely on each other. Parisians came together to help each other – taxi drivers gave rides for free to those stranded, total strangers opened their doors to one another. Most of us would not normally invite strangers to stay in our homes, for fear of theft or violence; in the wake of horrific atrocities, however, human compassion and the need to help the victims (and protect others who might otherwise become victims) prevailed over fear. It was beautiful, and we knew it was beautiful. We celebrated it as beautiful. The messages were clear: love triumphs over fear. We will not give in to bullies or let their victims go undefended.
Now contrast that with how we talk about “those countries.” Contrast that with how we talk about the Syrian refugees.
Let’s talk about how French victims of violence are given open doors, while Syrian victims of even worse and longer-lasting violence are turned away. Let’s talk about how people from “those countries” are automatically viewed with more suspicion than Europeans – even though most of the attackers were from Europe! Let’s talk about how Parisians overcame fear to let total strangers into their home, but we’re too cowardly to help refugee children for fear that there might – might – be wolves in sheep’s clothing among them.
These rejections – US citizens and the governors of US states trying to keep out the victims of Daesh’s violence and tyranny – are happening in the wake of the Paris attacks. Think about that. With one hand we praise Paris’s Open Doors; with the other we slam our own shut. Our governors use excuses; they cite the one attacker in Paris who came to Europe on a passport, likely posing as a migrant. This narrative conveniently ignores, again, that the other attackers were European citizens – will we also be closing our doors to visitors from France and Belgium?
No, of course we won’t. We’re singling out Syria. We’re singling out people from “those countries,” those countries that aren’t like us, those countries where Islam is the primary religion, those countries where everything is strange and foreign. Those countries where everyone is clearly suspect and the victims’ lives and safety don’t “count,” and we should have just bombed them a long time ago. Why on earth should we stick our neck out to help people from those countries? It’s not like they’re real people.
We are playing into the terrorists’ hands. We are supporting their bullying; we are telling their victims “there is no safe space.” Daesh doesn’t want us to take in refugees; it doesn’t want the people it’s currently terrorizing to think that things will be any better for them if they leave. They want their victims to feel helpless; bullies always do. And we are helping it happen.
And here in the West, our callous lack of concern for Syrian children, our stated belief that their lives don’t matter as long as we avoid any possibility of risk, is part and parcel of the very attitudes that drove Europe-born terrorists like Abaaoud to join Daesh in the first place.
*Much like the Friendly Atheist, I’m considering using Daesh exclusively instead of ISIS or other terms, because fuck them that’s why**
**SpouseMan, upon hearing the threat to “cut out the tongues” of those who refer to it as Daesh, immediately began chanting “too many tongues! Too many tongues! There’s too many tongues on the internet!”
There’s more serious stuff I should probably be writing about, but I just started on a new team at work and it’s ridiculously stressful and I would rather focus on calming fun things right now instead. Like cooking! It’s not quite Autumn yet (and here in Florida it doesn’t even remotely feel like it’s even close to Autumn yet) but it’s close enough for wishful thinking, so I made a delicious Autumn-y soup-and-bread meal the other night. If anybody would like deliciousness, the recipes are below the cut.
Maybe there’s some kind of translation problem.
Maybe, when I write things like “if you are from the site in question, you are not welcome here,” it’s being run through some sort of faulty Universal Translator or something, so that the people from SKA are reading something completely different.
Something like “please share your opinion with me, I’m super interested.” Or “yes I would LOVE to have the same argument for the billionth time with people who purposefully misunderstand everything I say!” Or my personal favorite, “I would be THRILLED to educate you on the history of your own website, that totally sounds like a productive and enjoyable use of my time.”
(I actually, no-shit-I-can’t-make-this-up, got a comment from someone using the name “Not A Troll.” Like, wow. That is just SUPER convincing. It is a known fact that trolls must own up to their trollish nature, so if someone claims not to be one, welp, case closed I guess. *all of the eyerolls*)
So let me try again. Maybe if I’m more explicit, we can get around those pesky translator microbes. If you are coming here from SKA? I do not care what you have to say. I really don’t. I’m done with you. I’m done trying to teach you logic or basic human decency. I’m done trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. I don’t care if you think you have a legitimate gripe. I don’t care if you’re really nice deep down inside. I don’t care if you think I’m a big mean meanyhead. I don’t care if you think you’re holding out some tantalizing promise like “oh I’ll totes be on your side, just answer some questions for me!” Answer your questions your own goddamn self, I’m not here for you.
I don’t even really care if you’ve suddenly seen the light and want to apologize. I’m not the one you need to apologize to.
I don’t care. I don’t fucking care. I will not answer your questions, I will not engage your assertions. Your comments will not get through the moderation filter. I am not here for you. I don’t like you, I don’t believe for two seconds that you’re operating in good faith, and I don’t want you on my blog.
Now that I’m actually using this blog again, I’m gonna start off with a small personal update (for the few people who actually know me from real life!) The AC situation has been… alleviated. Somewhat.
If you’re not aware, my AC broke a few days ago, and long story short, for the price of fixing it we might as well get a new one. It’s academic though, as we don’t have the money to do either, so we’ve just been over here melting in the Florida summer heat. (It’s really awful, y’all. We’re sweaty, sticky, stinky, and cranky.) All of our windows are the kind that crank out, too, so a window unit isn’t much of an option.
Today, however, my dad showed up with a couple used standalone units that he got for cheap – they only have a vent that has to go to the window, and the rest of the window can be covered with saran wrap or trash bags or something. They’re ugly, noisy, and they smell kinda weird, but – if they’ll keep the house cool I won’t complain. (Much.)
So that’s good. Hopefully it’ll tide us over for the rest of the summer; with any luck, by next summer I will finally be in my dream job (I should get my certification back TOMORROW, you guys!!!), and we can afford to get the damn thing replaced.
Anyway. On to the main topic. (TW: rape threats, threats of violence, threats to loved ones, stalking, doxxing)
(tw: abuse, of course; victim blaming)
Let me spin you a scenario.
Person A has authority over Person B. In theory, Person A is supposed to take care of and protect Person B, and only use the power zie has over Person B in Person B’s best interest; in practice, Person A abuses hir authority. Zie places unreasonable restrictions on Person B, invades Person B’s privacy far and beyond what hir authority would normally allow, verbally berates Person B and makes Person B feel inferior, and demands immediate, unquestioning obedience and deference from Person B. If Person B gives any pushback at all, asks questions, tries to claim that Person A doesn’t have the right to do these things, or even just doesn’t react quickly enough or in exactly the right way that Person A wants, Person A hurts Person B physically. If Person B does anything wrong, even if it’s a minor wrongdoing that normally would merit a mild punishment followed by forgiveness, Person A flies off the handle, punishes Person B – often physically – in extremely disproportionate ways. Sometimes, if Person A is having a bad day, zie will look for any excuse – or just make one up – to take it out on Person B.
Not always, of course. Sometimes Person A is having a good day, and then Person A treats Person B with basic respect and courtesy. Which is nice, but Person B can’t relax when this happens. Person B knows that this good mood could end at any time, and Person A could lash out again – and knows that there isn’t anything Person B can do to predict or prevent this.
Person B is afraid. Zie feels helpless, like there is no recourse – sometimes Person B tries to go to other authority figures, to show them what Person A is doing, but they always give the same response: what did you do to provoke it? “Why did you talk back? You know zie hates it when you do that. You shouldn’t make hir so angry” – which ignores the fact that people should be allowed to talk to authority figures or question their rules without fearing violent reprisal. “Well, why didn’t you just give hir what zie asked for? Then zie wouldn’t have gotten so angry and hurt you!” Ignoring that Person A demanded something zie had no right to, and that Person B shouldn’t have to give in to bullying demands in order to keep from getting hurt. “Ok, but be honest, you did break a rule.” Even when that’s true, small errors and small wrongdoings merit small punishments. The fact that someone does something wrong doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly okay to do anything you want to them, and Person A’s punishments are undeservedly harsh and often unpredictable, fueled more by uncontrolled rage than any sense of justice or teaching.
Responses like this put the burden on Person B to manage Person A’s cruel and unpredictable moods and reactions. Person A is given no responsibility for hir own actions – instead, zie is treated like a force of nature rather than a human being. Like something that can’t be expected to exercise any self-control, and so everyone around hir must watch their step or else they might provoke hir. Person A, by virtue of hir authority and power, can do whatever zie likes with no accountability nor repercussions, and all Person B can do is try to stay out of hir way, and brace for the inevitable attacks.
And god help Person B if zie ever tries to actually stand up for hirself and to fight back against such treatment. Punishment for such rebellion will be swift and brutal, and zie knows perfectly well that other authority figures who should be stopping this treatment will instead say that zie deserved it for being disrespectful.
Now. Pop quiz. Did I just describe a child living with one parent who is abusive and another parent who’s an enabler… or did I just describe the relationship between black people, the police, and the media/society?
And if we as a society can recognize how toxic and harmful and cruel the first version is, why can’t we see it in regard to the second?
Me: I was really upset last night. Like, in a really bad place. So a friend of mine had me play a video game for catharsis, and… long story short I may have broken his keyboard by throwing it across the room (and traumatized his cat.)
Hypothetical Other Person: Wow, Kristy, that sounds like some really poor anger management. Maybe you ought to seek help for –
Me: The game was Endless Staircase.
HOP: …Oh. Oh. Oh you poor dear. Are you going to be okay?
Andrew described the Endless Staircase game to me and I was all like “oh, I’m a big girl, I can take it, bring it on.” Completely forgetting, of course, that I’m the same “big girl” who shrieked her head off every single time she saw Slenderman in the videos. Every. Time.
On the plus side, by the time it was done, I was so relieved that it was over that I didn’t have any energy left to be upset and stressed any more.
On the minus side, we still haven’t found the volume control button from the keyboard and the cat may never forgive me.
I love my cat.
My cat’s full name is His Imperial Majesty Joseph Norton, Second of that Name, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico. (Named, of course, after the Emperor Norton, of San Francisco.) Day to day, of course, we just call him Norton.
Norton’s getting older now; he’s still huge, still insouciant and stubborn, still far too intelligent for his own good. But he’s mellowed. He’s had to deal with a new kitten invading his home, and then – worse yet – a new baby, and they’ve taught him a measure of patience. Back in the day, though, when I briefly lived with my parents right after college and he was the new kitten invading the home of an older, established cat, well. He was a little shithead. A lovable shithead, but a shithead nevertheless.
There’s a story I love to tell, about his interactions with my mom’s old cat Midnight. See, despite being a hunter and carrying a few honorable battle scars, Midnight was never an aggressive cat. Unless he was out chasing down lizards and snakes, he preferred soft laps and belly pets to picking fights, and was known to be patient to a fault with over-exuberant dogs. So we were all very surprised, unhappily so, to see how he reacted to the new kitten. Time and time again, we’d see the same drama play out – Norton would approach him and make a friendly gesture, usually trying to lick his ears, and Midnight would flip out and try to beat the shit out of Norton. Norton would run to us, meowing piteously, and of course he would get comforted and protected and Midnight would get in trouble.
Until one night I happened to be up later than usual, sitting quietly at the counter reading, and I got to see the whole story.
I watched Norton approach Midnight and begin licking his ears. And licking them. And licking them. Long past the point of being affectionate; long past the point, in fact, where it must have started to chafe. Midnight sat there stoically, ignoring him, occasionally flicking his ears in irritation – which stopped nothing. Eventually he got up with a grumpy growl, and relocated across the room.
Norton followed him. And kept licking. The exact same spot. Working at the existing irritation until Midnight couldn’t stand it anymore and moved again, and again Norton followed him. And kept licking.
Finally, of course, Midnight’s patience wore out, and he turned around and beat the shit out of the kitten, who immediately came crying to me about how mean the big cat was and he was just trying to be friendly, jeez, can’t a guy even lick an ear around here??
And of course I’d seen the whole thing and had no sympathy at that point, and of course it was hilarious, and of course it changed how we addressed cat-drama going forward. We moved to an apartment soon after and it was resolved, but it stuck with me – in part, as a reminder of how evil-villain-scheming my sweet innocent kitty was!
I guess it’s not that unusual. I mean, you see the same dynamic on playgrounds every day – bullies tormenting their victims where the authority figures won’t see, or in ways sure to be misinterpreted, so that the victim has the choice of suffering in silence or lashing out – and getting in trouble from those who saw the reaction but not the provocation.
But what do you do when it happens amongst adults?
The most insidious harassment, to me, is the kind where each individual incident, taken by itself, seems benign. It’s only when you look at the larger picture that something more sinister emerges. Take stalking, for example. There is nothing wrong with taking someone’s picture in a public space. Within certain restrictions, it is both legal and ethical. A photographer or reporter, for instance, capturing a busy city street does not need to feel guilty for taking pictures of strangers on the street, and most people do not consider it a threatening thing to do.
However, what about the person who waits at the same spot at the same time every day, in order to snap a picture of the same woman as she goes in to work? Who follows her – always in public spaces – to see where she goes, who she associates with, and capture all of it on film? What if he continues to do so even though it obviously makes her feel uncomfortable and unsafe, even though she’s confronted him and asked him several times to stop? The laws may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but most reasonable people would consider that person a stalker, and a pretty creepy scary one to boot. And yet, each individual action was just – snapping a picture. Something perfectly fine on its own, something that in fact – depending on the audience and how good of an actor he is – might make the woman look like the scary inappropriate one if she confronts him angrily in public about this. All he has to do is act innocent and aggrieved: “I was just taking a picture of people in the park, and suddenly she just started screaming at me! I think she probably has some psychological issues. Maybe she should seek help.” How on earth do you fight against that?
As you may have guessed, this isn’t an empty exercise.
There is a blog called Drink The Shakesville Kool-Aid – I won’t link to them, because they are trash and I don’t want links to them on my blog. It’s a site devoted to stalking and harassing certain feminist bloggers – they started with Melissa McEwan, of Shakesville (hence the name), and have since moved on to include my personal friend Ana Mardoll, of Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings. Along the way a few others have become the targets of their attention. They claim to be supporting people who have been “harmed” by the way they’ve been treated on these websites (translation: people who violated the comment policy and reacted poorly to being called out for it, because how dare those uppity bitches try to maintain a basic set of rules on their own blogs, amirite?), but in practice they spend a truly astonishing amount of time and energy talking about how awful Melissa and Ana are, combing through their archives for “proof” of it, watching their boards for new posts to mock and complain about and pick apart, speculating about their personal lives (and in some cases not just speculating – they’ve actually dug up information about Melissa’s home and family, and tried to use it to hurt her family offline before), and basically paying a frightening amount of attention to these women. They’ve publicized personal and business information about them and people who support them, under the premise of “well, if it’s on the internet and we can find it, OBVIOUSLY it’s public not private and therefore it’s ok to distribute it.” (I think this is the sister premise of “anything not nailed down is mine; anything I can pry loose is not nailed down.”) They claim we should “just ignore them,” apparently oblivious to the irony in that statement, but when we try to do just that, people from that site come to our blog (I say “we” and “our” because I am a moderator on Ana’s site) and post drive-by trollishness that – when we try to figure out who these trolls are and where they come from – pretty much guarantees that we will see the intense scrutiny they have the site under, and the constant barrage of mockery and hatred they throw at Ana and Melissa.
They’ve been asked to stop. They’ve been begged, tearfully, to stop. They’ve been railed at and raged at, and they’ve been on the receiving end of cool and reasonable requests, and none of it works. They will not stop. At this point there is literally nothing we can do to make them leave us alone, and we have tried.
And of course, their defense – like the playground bullies, like my shithead cat in his misspent youth – is a wide-eyed “What are we doing wrong?” So they criticize a blog post. Is that a crime? So they complain about someone they don’t like. Haven’t we all? So they gave links to people’s personal and business websites (separate from the blog) to people in order to mock them, knowing full well that harassment would (and did) follow – they were just posting a link! It was a public website, after all – what’s wrong with that? Each individual action, taken by itself, can be made to seem innocent – just like one picture in a park seems innocent, and thus they can maintain that they’re not doing anything wrong and we’re the ones overreacting.
Until, again, you stop and take a look at the pattern. And then it looks fucking creepy.
Ana has stepped away from her blog because of all this, possibly permanently (though I hope not.) Even that has to be mocked. They have taken sentences, literally lopped off the entire second half of the sentence, and used the first half out of context to make Ana look bad. They have lied about the things their website and its regular commenters have done, things I have seen with my own eyes. They’ve called Ana manipulative for breaking down into tears. They’ve called me abusive for finally giving voice to the white-hot rage I’ve been feeling on my friend’s behalf. (And don’t even get me started on the concern-trolling and tone-policing.) They have literally driven her away from her own blog and they still won’t stop coming for her, and they’re still maintaining the fiction that they’re completely innocent. (“Ana didn’t choose her words carefully enough that one time in 2012, so clearly we are the wronged parties here.”)
I just… I don’t even know what to do here anymore. I am angry, and I am tired.
I know this post started as a cute anecdote about my kitty. I wish it could have stayed that way. I wish I didn’t have this going on to talk about.
(P.s. – when, not if, the folks from that website get a whiff of this post? Troll at your own risk. I have no patience for you anymore, you will NOT be given the benefit of the doubt, and you will NOT be assumed to be operating in good faith. If you are from the site in question, you are not welcome here, and you will be treated as any trespasser should be.)