Addicted to Netflix: The State Within

Okay, so we all know (or maybe we don’t) that Netflix will suggest shows, based on your watching profile, and especially if you get bored with life and start going through and starring the movies and shows you’ve seen.

This is how I was turned on to The State Within by an operating system, very Her, in a watered-down way.

I watched it last night until 4am.  Why?  Well, I love thrillers.  And this one strikes the gong on every one of my paranoid fears concerning corporations running the world, and armies of mercenaries run by the likes of Dick Cheney, planning their black ops in the pursuit of greed and more greed and power and more power.  The State Within is a very anti-American show (produced by the BBC because no American network would take this on.  Meaning, by the way, that the series is intensely critical of American policies, politics, corporate interests, etc.  The first few shows depressed me, because I agree too much with the point-of-view.  Plus, it’s so ENTIRELY well-acted.  Flawless.  I tend to like British acting, writing and film-making better than much of what’s done in this country, but in this series, the American actors, lesser known actors, one might add, are excellent and just as good as their British counterparts.  I particularly like Sharon Gless, who is terrifically underrated and showing up now, later in her life, in Burn Notice, etc, and making every scene she’s in better than any scene in which she’s not.

Anyhow, I think we need to watch The State Within because it’s so intensely political, but YOU WILL WANT TO WATCH because the suspense drives every moment, because the stakes are so high (people keep getting killed), and because who needs to breathe while watching a thriller anyhow.

Of course, I’m now thinking, again, of moving to another country, but where in the world is beyond the reach of mercenary armies and black ops?  (Not that I’ve done anything of interest to anyone in power yet, outside of the usual marching on Washington, testifying before judiciary committees and working for political organizations as a volunteer.  But here’s hoping for more impact.  (Or not.  I am a pseudo-Buddhist…which is all about leaving less of a footprint.  It’s confusing.))

The State Within:  Grade A+++++++++.  Flawless.


PS–I own stock in Netflix.  But that’s not why I wrote this.  Really.

What Is the Price of Forgiveness?

I have been thinking about this question for, well, my entire life.

But I just finished my last blog, and I was reminded of the Amnesty Trials in South Africa, presided over by Desmond Tutu (who is my hero, as in HERO).  Anyone who had committed crimes against humanity would be granted amnesty if they confessed publicly.  When the confessions of torture and murder got too much for the listeners to bear, Desmond Tutu stopped the proceedings and had them sing.  One of the songs they sang, loosely translated, is this:  Whatever God has made nothing can destroy.

I always thought that those trials stand out in human history as a miracle and the most brutal of healings.  I have also wondered about the lack of punishment.  They had no choice–if they had punished the white offenders, the whites in South Africa would never have let Mandela’s South Africa come into being.  But I have always wondered–the miracle or the compromise with justice?

Today I have been writing and thinking about Woody Allen and other child abusers, which leads me to the question of human evil.  So, I think about South Africa as I ask myself how do we approach evil in ourselves and each other?  How do we think about it?  Explain it?

  1. In Internal Family Systems, Dick Schwartz proposes that the part of any of us who acts in harmful ways against others, including children, believes it acts for our own protection.  This kind of self-protection is well-intentioned for this part (subself) who works only toward a single goal–keeping us alive and away from dangerous emotions.  We must appreciate the part’s intention, Schwartz says, in order to heal ourselves.
  2. In addiction theory, evil comes from disease.  The entire personality becomes warped in the service of getting the next drink, drug, sexual hit, whatever.  But addicts who get sober are redeemable.  They can heal.  Then they must take responsibility for their actions.
  3. With current theories of mental illness, you just better take your meds.
  4. In religion, you’re going to hell.  Unless you’re Catholic, and confess, and then you’re forgiven.
  5. Or, if Christ died for all our sins, we’re forgiven ahead of time.
  6. Or, in the Old Testament, you might get struck by lightening.  You’re definitely NOT forgiven, and punishment should be meted out equally (eye for an eye).
  7. Then there’s Buddhism.  The way I understand it, meditation leads to the kind of enlightenment in which you can pray as much for the criminal as for the victim, and share your compassion equally between them.  The ability to meet violence with equanimity equals a high level of enlightenment.

Everyone’s struggling to understand evil, and how to deal with it, how to heal it, how to forgive, when to condemn, when to punish…all the age old questions.

I really want to know the price of forgiveness.  Because I can tell you that meditating with difficult emotions as my meditation object is friggin’ brutal.  And trying to say metta for people who have hurt me is just as bad.  So is the price the suffering of letting go?  Of giving up your own righteousness?  Do I have to see myself in the people I don’t ever want to be?

But, on the other side, is the price of forgiveness the continued bad acts of people you’ve chosen to forgive?  I know people who forgive those who show no remorse.  Like the Buddhists who share compassion equally between the victim and the offender.  And man, I am just not that enlightened.  I’m with the victim.  I can understand the offender, but mostly I just want them stopped.  Period.  End of every sentence everywhere.

I want to know what forgiveness costs.  I mean, literally.  I guess that means I need to keep thinking about this one.

As if 50+ years isn’t enough.

But what I really want is to be free of the past–the pain of having been hurt, the pain of having hurt people.  Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.  Not an original statement, but a true one.  And it’s not like it’s a decision.  I once found a card about the astrological sign Pisces.  It said, “A pisces will walk a mile to get her feelings hurt and then remember it for the rest of her life.”

I was like, SOMEONE GETS ME!

Seriously, I think about forgiveness because I don’t really understand it.  I mean, I can forgive my partner, who loves me, and who hates hurting me, and who tries, really tries, to change the things about her that cause me pain.  Not who she is, but habits, faults, etc.  In the many years we’ve been together, I’ve come, slowly, to be capable of giving her get-out-of-jail free cards, sometimes even when I know she’ll do the same f-ing thing again.  I’ll even say, “I’m going to let you off the hook, and say it was just a mistake, even though you’ll probably do the same thing next week.”  She’s always like, “Thanks.”  (Give me a break, she knows me, and she’s just glad I won’t be trying every trick in the book to get her to say she’s sorry 50 million times.)  And then I’m like, “But you better watch it the next time.”  And she’s like, “Don’t ruin it.”  (We’re just like this.)  Or sometimes she’s like, “I know already.”

But how do I forgive people who hurt me on purpose, or who don’t care?

And how do I forgive myself?

I ask people about this, and they’re like, “You just decide to.”

Or they’re like, “You have to grieve it, and acknowledge the hopes betrayed.”

Or they’re like, “Too bad you don’t gamble, drink, smoke, eat sugar or whatever.  Because that would at least help you forget, you friggin’ health freak from hell.”

Or they’re like, “Maybe you need to meditate more.”

Or they’re like, “Just keep asking the questions, Lyralen.”

I worry that the price of forgiveness is justice.  Giving up the hope of it.  And my whole life has been the pursuit of justice and equality, so really, if that’s what forgiveness requires, I don’t think I can do it.

And that worries me.  Because I would like to be enlightened and free.  I would like to be light and at peace.

I guess I’ll meditate more.  And keep asking the question.

Woody Allen OR Who’s in Your Family?

A pedophile is a pedophile is a pedophile.

I truly believe that.  Utterly simple, and completely complicated.

I had dinner with a friend of mine this weekend; he’s a huge Woody Allen fan.  He told me he was looking for ways to make Allen’s sexual abuse of his daughter not true, but then he saw the custody papers on line and felt the air go out of him in one long whoosh.

Of course, Allen married his adopted daughter, so it’s not at all equivocal whether he’s a child abuser.  Incest is incest, adopted or not.  The entire Hollywood community, not to mention old Woody Allen fans, have lived in denial for years.  Dylan Farro’s open letter of accusation is a confirmation of what the public already knows.  It’s difficult to discredit corroboration.

I’ve been an activist to end violence against women and children my whole life; I’m grateful that feminism taught me to believe the victims unless there’s a reason not to.  So my friend and I found a real divide.

A pedophile is a pedophile is a pedophile.

But not for the people who love the abuser.  I am coming to understand this, just as I understand that we see pedophiles as less than human, and our need to deny any similarity to them makes us call them monsters.  So when we find our favorite artist, or our neighbor, or our mentor, has committed crimes against children we either 1) want to deny that it happened or 2) feel betrayed and confused.  Why do we feel betrayed?  Because if we have loved or liked someone capable of hurting children, then are we  monsters too?  Or have we been duped?

My friend said he didn’t want to jump on the “condemnation train” and he was glad he didn’t have to sit on a jury to determine Woody Allen’s guilt.  I have been thinking about these statements, because they disturb me so much.  Feminism tells me that if you’re not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.  I know this to be true, but I paradoxically resist it as too easy an answer.

What does it mean to be on the condemnation train anyhow?  I can ask my friend what he meant, but I wanted to think about it first.  I wanted to think about the fact that child abuse is ubiquitous, and yet we call abusers monsters, but they mostly get away with their crimes, especially if they offend within their own families.  If child abusers are monsters, why do we have statutes of limitation to protect them?

My favorite uncle is one of the pedophile priests.  I found this out a few months ago, though my uncle was caught in 1985 and went public in 2002. I’ve never found it difficult to have an opinion about child abusers.  My opinion is and was that they should go to jail for a very long time.  Period.

Now I have that opinion about my uncle.

What is unique is that my uncle publicly confessed and apologized.  He was past the statute of limitations, so he risked his relationships and remaining community, not jail time.  In his confession, he described his seduction of young boys.  He talked about vowing to never be alone with boys again, about his sex addiction, and about confessing in the hope of redemption–he wanted, he said, for his life to be about something besides shame.

My uncle worked for civil rights in the 60’s, smoked pot in the 70’s, came into our house with his handsome sensitive face, and his laugh, and he brought with him a kind of light.  I disliked all my other uncles–and I had about 14 of them (both sides of the family, mostly my father’s Irish brothers).  They drank, made sexist jokes, or stood in judgment (the religious fanatics).  They were loud and frightening; when they looked at me, their eyes glazed over and traveled by me as if I was of too little importance to notice or acknowledge.  Only my uncle the priest looked at me and saw me, a person, the very one that I was.  I know now that my gender protected me from his darker interest–my uncle liked only boys.  I don’t know if he abused my brothers–they don’t want to talk about anything like that.

A pedophile is a pedophile is a pedophile.

I still love my uncle.  I love him for confessing, and I hold to that, because I want it to redeem him.  If jumping on the condemnation train means hating him, I can’t do it.  But I can say this–I would send him to prison in a heartbeat.  I believe, confession or no confession, he should have been made to go.  Perhaps he truly is capable of redemption–his actions seem to point that way, but for me that means less of a jail sentence, not a get out free card.  But then, I’m a little odd.  I have always had this way of standing apart from my feelings and thoughts, and taking a cool, determined look at things.  I’m attached to my uncle–that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t pay for his crime.  I want to see him as redeemable and in search of redemption–that doesn’t mean I’m right.  I’m not a cold person–I have a heart (way too much of the time, it sometimes seems to me), but I like to look, and see, and I don’t like to let myself or anyone else off the hook.  I believe in justice.

I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to hate.  But I truly believe we all need to look.  A pedophile is a pedophile.  And a human being.  The child abuser is your neighbor, your priest, your favorite filmmaker, your uncle, your mother, your father, your teacher.  The person who helped you may have hurt someone else.

My uncle, who I loved, described how he groomed his victims, how he selected them and then seduced them.  He didn’t talk about how he seduced the rest of us into loving him, into looking past his darkness, into seeing his charm, sensitivity, intelligence.  He didn’t talk about how this kind of addiction warps all of who a person is into the service of getting the next hit, the next victim, into making sure it’s unlikely he will ever be caught.

A pedophile is a pedophile is a pedophile.

When I was 16, I had a joint, and I offered to share it with my uncle and a friend of his.  My uncle didn’t deny he smoked pot, but he said, “You’re my niece.  You’re 16.  I can’t get high with you.”

I could tell he wanted to get high.  On my father’s side of the family, doing what you thought was right instead of serving your immediate gratification was a pretty rare thing.  I believed, in that moment, that my uncle really loved me.

He probably abused another boy that week, that month, within days.  He took their innocence, and gave them back lives of suffering.

I don’t have to hate, but I have to unequivocally say that this is terribly wrong.

So, perhaps I am on the condemnation train.  Perhaps I want to be there.  Because I believe Woody Allen belongs in jail.  And, note, he’s not confessing, or apologizing, or giving any sign he’s interested in redemption.  He doesn’t give any sign he loves his daughter.

Maybe hating isn’t the way to go.  But hate or no hate, justice must have its day.  Not denial of the event, or denial of the humanity of child abusers.  Child abusers are human.

We must know this, and protect our children just as fiercely.

I hope this is what my friend meant when he said he didn’t want to jump on the condemnation train.  But I am afraid that he probably didn’t.