Fickle Fury

flood2 OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

In the furor of fury

Frothing rage

At the truth,

Do not let floods

Form furrows

In foundations of sooth.

Let the foam

Ferry falsehoods

Like the filth film

From swamps,

And find footholds

In facts

Against fear flashing

Tromps.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Lust Will Not Last

Park Alonim by Orly fuchs galchen

Photo: Orly Fuchs Galchen

 

Some lust for power, covet shaming another, feed off anger and ire.

Some desire control, step on laws, trample all, heed no call but their gall.

Some relish what’s cruel, find odd joy in the crude, equate strength with the rude.

In their greed to succeed, they maim truth, cripple fact

And attack anyone who attempts to talk back.

But fear not:

Lust turns old

Greed grows cold

Lies don’t hold.

In the end, it’s foretold:

Truth takes root

Hearts bear fruit

Love unfolds

Life’s real gold.

 

 

For The Daily Post

What we see; why we don’t

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Photo Credit: A.M.

“How come they didn’t see it happening?”

“How could they let this happen?”

“How is it possible that it took place and no one knew?”

“How can they say they didn’t see?”

“Can people really be this blind?”

“Don’t they care?”

“Don’t they see?”

 

Maybe they didn’t. The improbable is possible. People can be that blind. Even when they care, they may not see.

It is easy to see what one wants, what’s congruent, what matches assumptions or views or held beliefs. It is easy to recognize what one had learned already, to follow perceptions already accepted, ways familiar … easier to understand words that resonate with what does not burden with new challenges or calls for reassessment or brings up shame.

Shame. People don’t like to see what brings up shame.

The very whiff of it can bring on denial. Projection. Deflection. Blame of others. Avoidance. Cold shoulder. Dismissal. Refusal. Minimization of the pain of others to avoid feeling one has done wrong, seen wrong, is wrong.

Shame tugs along with hate and violence, in words or action or both. Inflicting pain on others might get justified or explained away … A way to keep downtrodden what one thinks should stay unnoticed, un-make-wave-able, quiet, under rugs, buried. Unseen.

It takes time, heart, and bravery to crack and drain shame.

It is easier to blame. To point fingers. To make “an other” to scapegoat or distance from. To claim misfortune due to one’s abilities, affiliation, religion, political leanings, nationality, age, gender, race, vocation, location, possessions or lack thereof.

To yell “false claims”, “exaggeration”, “attention seeking” or the newest term: “fake news.”

Shaming is a weapon of pseudo self-preservation for those who need to ensure the pain of another remains unseen and one’s own comfort can stand unprovoked.

Shame silences:

Unspoken words of wounded children

Pleas of disrespected women

The worlds of the oppressed, belittled, turned against them.

The desperate, the lost … unanswered. Unaccepted. Unacceptable.

Unseen.

 

It does not need to so remain.

To face what was already there but eyes were closed to, is the first step to unmaking shame. To healing pain.

May we find ways to see. May we take heart to act. May we become for others what we need or needed them to see in us, to do for us, to hold with gentleness.

May the unseen become the visible.

May shame be drained.

each other

 

For The Daily Post

The Shame Game

Last year, a preteen I worked with told me about a child in her class who began cutting herself. The classmate showed this child the  scars but swore her to secrecy.

We discussed the kinds of secrets that one should not keep (the ones that feel ‘too big’ to keep, or are about someone being hurt, or feel wrong to keep, or come from shame or guilt), who to tell (a parent, a teacher, a trusted adult, even the school nurse), and how. The girl was relieved to know that she did not have to keep this scary secret (“I get worried that maybe she’ll like, bleed to death or something and then she’ll die and it will be my fault for not telling anyone …”).

In our conversation, the reasons children self-harm also came up: to deal with difficult feelings, to express pain they don’t know how to verbalize, to feel alive, to feel numb, to ‘try and see how it feels’, to be noticed … And what to do if she ever felt the urge to hurt herself (thankfully, she said she never did feel that way, but it never hurts to give some options just in case …).

Relieved though this girl was to know she could share this secret with someone, the preteen was also worried that it will somehow become known to the other children and how it will make things worse. “Kids are already like, making fun of her for everything …” she fretted, “so, if they found out she’s like, cutting … they’d be all like, joking about it and texting and stuff ….”

Apparently the self-harming classmate–not the most attractive by other students’ standards (directly derived from society’s harsh shaming of anyone who does not adhere to a very narrow range of ‘acceptable’) was found to have confessed a crush on a boy in a higher grade … Someone found the note where it had fallen from the girl’s pocket, ‘kindly’ photographed it, and circulated it in among the students, along with some choice words about the girl’s morality (you can insert your own words here, copied from the shaming terminology of grownups toward women and girls: ugly hurtful words that are meant to cut to the core). A cascade of comments and ugliness ensued, along with catcalls, leering, and whispered words.

“Some kids even say that she’s like, you know … the ‘c’ word …”, the girl blushed in embarrassment and indignation. “She didn’t even kiss him or anything …” she said, then added urgently, “not that it would even be okay if she did let him kiss her … or, you know, stuff …”

The “if she did let him” did not escape me … nor did the outright meanness of exposing vulnerability and turning it onto some way to cause harm. The backbone of bullying.

Bullying is a very real issue, and not only in children and teens. The culture of putting down others for real or perceived differences and flaws is disturbing, and for those caught in it, it is often shattering. Bullying thrives on shaming, and shaming reflects a void of compassion and empathy. It is especially apparent on websites, news media, twitter, Facebook, and many online blogs: people behaves in ways that are purposely hurtful, narrow minded, and outright cruel; and it is somehow seen as witty and cool.

It is not cool.

It is not witty.

It is cowardly and it is heartless.

It is, really, a form of terror. Insidious and sneaky, but no less meant to cause helplessness and pain.

The truth is that bullying is not ‘fun’ or ‘funny.’ Cruelty of words is especially cowardly, and cyber-bullying is uniquely hurtful in that it can easily seem like the whole world is (and indeed can be) laughing at one’s misery. Many would cringe at the sight of someone literally cutting another person or kicking them in the groin, yet somehow cyber-bullying has become a culturally accepted means of expressing disdain and showcasing ignorance. Meanness is not frowned upon, but adopted and propagated. It should not be so. It can and must be stopped.

Some of the things people (children, but not only children) write:

“Why don’t you just kill yourself so we can be rid of you?”

“You are so ugly that you shouldn’t have been born.”

“Everyone hates you. Just go jump from a bridge or something.”

How have we let it come to that?

The conversation I had with the preteen was not unique–bullying often occupies children’s conversations. However, I was reminded of the one I had with this particular preteen as I watched Monica Lewinsky break her silence and deliver an outstandingly candid and important speech–her first public talk in 16 years. Lewinsky calls out the shame culture that allowed (and cultivated) the ugliness toward her in the late 90s, and which is all too alive and well today and still takes lives–figuratively or literally.

Monica Lewinsky survived it, but not without immense cost, and she would not have survived it had it not been for the compassion and empathy of family and friends who held her close through the awfulness.

Not everyone has people to hold them through bullying, and not everyone survives it. Even in those who do, the price is often very high.

Watch this video, and pass it along. It is important. It is worth the time.

Because the Shame Game can only be played if we perpetuate and feed it, and it will cease if enough of us practice compassion and empathy. Like the preteen who turned to me, and would not be a silent witness to pain or bullying, let us all become ambassadors for compassion and ending shaming.

Let there be no more casualties of shame, no more shattering of souls. Let us not be instruments of despair–directly or by our silence.

“I just let it go”–Bullying, undoing Taboo?

Photo Credit: A.M

I see children. As an integral part of what I do, I talk to them. They talk to me. We discuss stuff. Words, events, stories, happenings, expressions. Language, communication. School. Life.

Oftentimes it becomes an opportunity for all manner of learning. Sometimes I even teach them something (I think that more often than not, I am the one who learns more!)

A girl came in the other day, a preteen with all the loveliness, precocity, and gangly limbs that time of life implies, complete with early social angst over boys, hierarchies and wanting to fit in. She’s a precious girl. Relatively sheltered, only child and doted on. Popular, I know. Loved by teachers. Not the best learner, but she’s gracious about what others do better and tenacious about trying to improve her own results. She had made amazing leaps in the few months I’ve known her.

She has also opened up some more. About what is not often spoken of. The real problems of childhood that are frequently hidden under layers of “fine”, “okay”, and “nothing much.”

Yesterday, she spoke about something that is both a numbing non-stop conversation and taboo: Bullying.

Non-stop in the almost weekly pedagogic instruction for “awareness” and “Zero Tolerance,” the speakers that the school brought in to talk to the students about the wrongs of bullying, the memos to the parents, the signup sheets for pledges, and the warning for absolute intolerance of it in the school. Taboo because it still happens, mostly underground and sneakily, and because in some ways it’s become even harder to bring it up.

She is not the first one to tell me of that snailing-in of bully-tactics. I’ve been hearing it. A lot. The children tell it like it is.

“No one wants to be the kid who gets another kid suspended or worse, thrown out of school!” the children tell me. “What do I need someone’s parents calling mine to find out why I’m making trouble for their kid?” These are schools parents line up to get a child into, and pay plenty for tuition and name recognition. Nothing can be allowed to blot a child’s resume. If there’s a problem, it is best handled quietly. The children feel the pressure, too. They know.

“We’re supposed to take care of it on our own, anyway” they tell me. “The teachers are like: ‘you have got the skills, use them’ or ‘sign the pledge, don’t bully, don’t become a witness, step away.’ It’s words, not action. They don’t really want to get involved. Anyway, half the time you can’t even prove it is bullying, and then you’re like, the bully.”

The kids tell it like it is. It’s tough. It’s complicated. Still, talking helps. Many of them are sick of bullying and are indeed taking action–from within. Like the girl.

She’s not the one in the cross-hairs of verbal torment (bullying in her school is the subtly demolishing kind–no heads in the toilet or smashed glasses or bruises–but eroding stings and code words of soft spoken wounding. Lethal still. We know). It is another girl. Two, actually, and creatively isolated from each other by the bullying company so that they cannot seek counsel with each other. The bullies? Four girls. All popular, great students, teachers’ pets, parents on committees, philanthropy going back to bedrock.

“They don’t say anything really mean,” she tells me quietly, anguished, “kind of. But they still do. It is hard to explain.”

“You are explaining,” I encourage. “Sometimes it is in the how you say things that the intended meaning comes through.”

She nods. “They KNOW things,” she whispers. “Stuff that’s private, what they don’t want others to know, small things, embarrassing stuff … I don’t know how they even find out, but they do, and then they say it, kind of in a joke but I can see it is not funny. Some kids laugh because they want to be popular and some really don’t see that it meant to be sneaky. They’re not all mean girls, those who laugh … some of them are my friends and all, but they laugh, and it makes it worse.”

I nod. I understand.

“The girls being bullied,” she continues, “they’re not really my friends. Not because they are being bullied … I mean, they weren’t my friends before, either. I don’t know why. I don’t really like them much. Do you think that makes me bad?”

I smile. “The very fact that you are wondering about it, tells me that you are not bad. Let alone that I already know you to have a very caring heart.”

She looks at me searchingly, but she knows I mean what I say. “Okay,” she says. I’m glad she doesn’t blush.

“I was thinking about it, about what to do,” she starts.

“Tell me.”

“My other friend said that we could find out bad things about the mean girls and we can tell them that if they kept on being mean we’ll tell everyone … but,” she pauses, “that’ll kind’a make me be a bully, too. I don’t want to.”

I smile. She knows what my smile means–another proof that she is farthest from bad.

“… so I told my friend, that we’ll just hang out more with B and C and be their friends more. Invite them over. Sit with them at lunch kind of stuff. They are a little weird sometimes, though,” she sighs. “One of them kind of gets annoying, you know, grabs your stuff, holds on to you, sticky. You know?”

She pauses. Ponders.

“But maybe it’s because she’s kind’a lonely. Or maybe she’s lonely because she’s weird. I don’t know. I don’t want to be mad at her. I don’t want to be mad at the bully girls, either. They are kind of my friends, too, sometimes. It gets me feeling stuck.”

I nod. Sometimes there’s nothing I can say that the child is not already saying, nothing that I need to add. Just listen. I hear her. She wants to think it out.

“It’s a little better, though,” she brightens. “I think. Today, at lunch, the mean girls wanted to sit with us and I was sure it was because they wanted to be mean to B and C–they were sitting with my friend and me, you know, like I said–and I got all like, mad inside, but then I decided that I didn’t want to be mad in advance. So … I just let it go. And you know what? …”

“What?” (smile)

“They were not mean. They were alright.”

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Photo Credit: A.M.