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Monday, October 25, 2010

Horizontal Violence

This is Exit Wound.

After a walk with a friend in the rain yesterday I got to thinking about the impact of trauma. In particular my paranoia, mistrust and fixation on betrayal. There is something about betrayal (real or imagined) that really fucks me over. Years ago in elementary school, a bunch of kids (most of whom I thought of as friends at the time) passed around a petition to get me kicked off the basketball team. Seems they considered me the coach's "pet" and thus a no-talent, a pretender to the game as it were. The bright spot was the older student who took me aside and told me and the unknown parent who put a stop to it. This older student was and continues to be my revelation; my proverbial beacon of hope. I didn't know she knew I existed, so pale a ghost I was. However for the rest - you left your mark. You dug a big hole and shoved me into it and I'm still trying to get out of it, days where I am out of it but still far too close.

The first betrayal I can remember (the real first happened when I was far too small, less than a toddler spotty memories, immense pain). It was a scorcher. Searing me so all my juices stayed inside. I was already a shy little thing (thank you military for curing me of that, at least enough to allow me to operate in the real world), already vulnerable, too sensitive (apparently), so small in my sense of being and these little kids, oblivious to the damage they would cause, likely oblivious too they targeted me (the weakest in the herd?). I have been advised that they were too little to know what they were really doing, that's difficult to swallow. Sadly we have the capacity for cruelty even while we are so small. I hope they did not know what it would do to me, then that means I went to public school with a several dozen sociopaths.

I don't think they know. But my little world fell apart. And even now I feel like such a wimp for even writing about it, so harsh is the auto-judge there are far worse things in the world a person can go through. But it's my truth, or at least part of the story. It is to this "incident" that I ascribe my incapacity for trust, for love, my pervasive fear of everything (I can now proceed despite it, in most cases, thank you). See, now I expect betrayal, anticipate it, see it when it really isn't there but it seems I cannot judge nor separate the real from the imagined - it all feels the same. It's another heightened sense, part of the hyper arousal spectrum I suppose.

Any injustice leveled towards me or not, it is the biggest trigger (is there another word for trigger - I'm getting sick of it, another depleted meaning). Spark? Kindling? Nope. I'll work on that, maybe make up a word.

Injustice abounds in the world. And when I was a social worker, it permeated my caseload. Too many soldiers deemed disposable. So much heartbreak, heartache (too much?), so much agony when encountering the great lie of war. The torment when you realize you have been selected not for this honor but as an instrument of capital gain. So the hunger to live an honorable life is satiated in the battlefield, the brotherhood of war, the sisterhood of war. The war against women (in case you missed it, there is one - and strides against the enemy are often won through guerilla action) the oldest ongoing "action" in history.

We few, we happy few, my ass. "As commanding officer, my job is to delude my men into defending my bosses' property (or more often to steal someone else's)". That wasn't in my officer handbook. May as well have been. Stripped of tools, helpless to intervene or the repercussions of intervention when intervention is clearly called for. A convenient target of hate, a distractor from the true villains. Paolo Freire understood this, he called it horizontal violence. What happens when the marginalized have no one to turn against, in self defense, so they turn on each other. I see women do it all the time. I guess at the root is survival, but such cost.

A several millennia-old lie that still works because the vulnerable targets of this lie still seek something to believe in.


  1. Given time, people will always let us down. Funny, then, how it's somehow a surprise when it happens. Sorry about that basketball-shit. Kids are the most obnoxious people on earth. Truly. They haven't learned to hide their intentions.
    But you, in the army - I was always surprised that you joined. I never understood the attraction for you. Seemed such a wrong combination.
    At work, I'm putting together a section for Remembrance Day. There's a two page spread with nothing but the pictures of the 52 Ontario soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. Heartwrenching to see their young faces all lined up like that.
    ON the weekend I told my boys, "Don't you ever join the army. Ever." It screws with you. It kills you. I wasn't only thinking of the soldiers who had died. I was thinking of you, too.

  2. Thanks Cathy, yes, please don't let them.

    As for me, the military seemed like a reasonable destination for a lost little soul. I had no clue what to do, no money, no job. There are many things for which I am grateful to the military, the education, formal and otherwise, the people, seeing so much of Canada and a little of the world.

    I would love to see your Remembrance Day piece.Wonderful Cathy. It's nothing short of outrageous to send our young ones to die.

    Take care
    Love Kel

  3. Hi Kelly - just a quick note... I've been inspired by The Bully Project, started by a former classmate who was indeed bullied, ostracized, etc. He is getting the best revenge by being an esteemed filmmaker and going back into the fray to work with bullied kids of today. You might like to check it out
    As usual your writing is amazing, and I hadn't before thought about the connections between childhood bullying and adult PTSD, and adult aggressions (by those same bullies? or their victims?). Your connection to the military, to this bigger global tragedy, and your insights about it are provocative and illuminating.

  4. Being a success and going on to help others is I think what karma is all about. Thank you for your kindness. You do sound very excited - your friend shows the kind of courage that you do. Thanks for the link, I will definitely check it out.

    Take care