Guilt, Shame: Parents

If I had to pick the event that set my life into motion, I’d go with the divorce of my parents. It happened when I was close the the age of 5 or 6, and I don’t recall the specifics of it. The parts I remember about life at the time overall are fleeting. I remember Voltron and Gumby on an old school cube shaped CRT TV. I remember the mumps, chicken pox and stepping on a sticky glue mouse trap. I remember crying the first time I saw Michael Jackson transform into a Werecreature in Thriller and I remember my intrigue when a video tape dub of a movie turned out to be a porno. My mother was young, my father was old. I remember an uncle and remember living in one of the outer boroughs of New York City. 

One day everything changed though I’m confident it took much longer than that. Where once I had two parents, suddenly I only had my mother. Where we once lived in a stable home, I now moved from place to place with her, apartment to apartment, and for a long time, couch to couch. I remember a boyfriend in the Bronx and being awake for hours watching Sunday TV as my mom and her boyfriend slept the night off. I remember being in a dump in Brooklyn living with god knows how many people. I recall us living with cousins in there apartment for a few years and then moving downstairs to live with my grandmother for several more before we finally got our own place in the projects. 

The Bronx boyfriend was not very fond of me. Another boyfriend was in jail for most of my childhood. My brother’s father was an abusive alcoholic who abused my mother before my eyes, holding her at gun point in front of me when she decided to leave him. My youngest brother’s father was married with children when he got my mother pregnant. My own father settled in Manhattan and provided anything I asked him for until material things no longer fit the bill. He made lots of promises he never ended up keeping and I saw him once a week until we left New York. 

My mother was no angel. She was admittedly way too young to have me, yet she did anyway just shy of 18 years old. As a person who at the end of her life had gotten her GED, her sobriety coin, lost a mother and a son, had no real father, suffered through undiagnosed depression, disability and alcoholism, she did the best she could with the cards we were dealt. When I was 18, I left her and my brothers behind to serve in the Army. She died several weeks before the start of the new millennium. My father died in 2010. 

So, where is the shame in all this? Where does my guilt lie? 

  • I could not keep my parents together. 
  • I did not have the strength to protect my mother from abuse. 
  • I left my mother behind to start my own life. 
  • I severed contact with my father after my mother’s death, never speaking to him again. 

Pondering on the first bullet is pretty straightforward when I read the words: just how does a 5 year old child keep his or her parents from divorcing? Does a kid have that power? I know I didn’t, just as my own children did not have the ability to keep their mother and I together. 

The second point is harder to address. Saying I didn’t have the strength is accurate. I was 10, short and scrawny. He was in his mid to late 30’s, an army veteran and endowed with drunktard strength. I didn’t have a chance if it ever came down to physicalities. He could have easily snuffed me out. These first two points truly come down to things outside of my control. Perhaps it makes them easily to address and overcome. 

The last two points are not so easily dismissed in neither my heart nor mind. Leaving home was a personal decision. So was cutting my father out of my life. Still in hindsight, there are differences between the two decisions. 

Leaving to the military was a strategic decision. There was no college scholarship or inheritance coming to me. There was family business to take me under it’s wing. I would have graduated, went out into the world to try and make a name for myself like everyone else while trying to help my mother raise my brothers. Yet as I theorize on what I would have done and how things may have been, the flip side of that coin is that if I’d stayed, it is very possible that my mother would not have returned to New York, where my brother would later die the same year, and her the year after. It can be said that her choice to move back was hers and hers alone. It can also be said that she may not have left if I had stayed with her. These are what if’s, woulda-coulda’s that were still out of my control to a point. 

Locking my father out of my life however, was all me and that’s hard to swallow because there was no good reason to do so. He did nothing wrong. I simply threw a temper tantrum. In the wake of losing my mother, I lashed out at my father and exiled myself until his death. The last words I ever said to him were out of anger and we never spoke again. There’s no one or nothing to blame my actions on. I had ten years to come around and reach out to him and I never did. I let him die thinking his only son didn’t love him. 

My behavior towards my father was inexcusable and something I have to live with for the rest of my life. It’s a despicable act I’m not proud of doing that I have to come to terms with. Some might say my reaction to losing my mother was natural. The ten years as an absent son was anything but. In this, there is real, true shame that I cannot explain away. 

Thoughts?

Guilt, Shame: Parents

Guilt, Shame: Prelude

I’m going to go pretty deep and personal on this one. This is about guilt and shame, something I have been feeling since I was a child, and something I try not to think about. I think many of us try not to think about the things which make us feel guilt and shame. I know I don’t because I end up not only feeling wrong about the choices I’ve made in my past but also flawed somehow fundamentally. 

It started with deep feelings. I feel something, along the lines of sadness, inadequacy, regret and remorse. When I boil these ideas down, they are guilt and shame. For clarity, a quick google search of the definitions read: 

Guilt – The fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.

Shame – a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

So the question becomes, what do I feel ashamed about? What do I feel guilty of? Why should I or should I even care? The last question of course is moot: I do care or I wouldn’t be writing about it, would I? Someone suggested I should start from the very beginning, address the earliest feelings of guilt and shame and more on from there. 

One day everything changed. Where once I had two parents, suddenly I only had my mother. Where I once had a stable home, I now moved from place to place with her, apartment to apartment, borough to borough for the rest of my childhood.  

I can go on and on and never touch upon the opening event which shook my life, the divorce of my mother and father after 5 or so years of marriage. What was it about this event that shaped me to who I am today? More importantly along the lines of the topic, why does a five year old boy feel guilt and shame about the divorce of his parents? I mean, did I pit one parent against the other and drive a wedge between them intentionally or not? No. Is it rational or logical then to feel like there’s something I could have done to keep them together? I know I didn’t cause the split between my mother and my father, so what’s it going to take for that knowledge to sink into my head and heart? 

There have been other matters I’ve discussed with people, only to be told there was nothing I could have done better or differently. They’ve told me that it’s not my fault. I’m certain anyone who has felt guilt and shame has heard similar answers. Did it make the sense of shame or guilt go away? For me it didn’t. 

People in this world tell us we’re to blame or tell us we shouldn’t feel the way that we do. For thousands of years, women were told they were meant to be at home in the kitchen. People have been told only love between a man and a woman is real for about the same amount of time. We’ve warred over skin colors, beliefs, sex and all sorts of ideas and probably for all of human history, one group has exercised control over another using shame and guilt. 

Just what the hell should we be ashamed of really? Really ponder this idea of feeling bad about something you did or didn’t do, or felt inside. What should we really feel shame and guilt about? Off the top of my head: Starving children, abusing other life forms and shaming others. Shame for feeling and ideas I can’t really buy into any more. 

By sharing, I hope someone out there feeling the way I feel, sees that they are not alone out there. Perhaps reading my own words here in front of me. Transcribing my thoughts and feelings about my shame and guilt mean dissecting the events of my life where I have those emotions. The idea is if I lay it all out on the table, I will start to see that everything is not on me, not everything is my fault. The endstate is that I can accept responsibility for what’s mine, understand what’s not and let go of guilt and shame that is not genuinely mine. 

Guilt, Shame: Prelude

The Refugee Ban of 2017

​On January 27th, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order instructing a travel ban into the United States from seven countries with Muslim majority populations. Specifically, there is a 120 day freeze on all refugees inbound, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90 day hold on citizen traveling regardless of purpose from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Following the issuance of the order were detainments, interrogations and in many cases, the turnaround of immigrants and refugees already properly vetted to come into the country.

Once upon a time, no one could tell anyone they could come or go: people simply landed and there they were. It’s how the first immigrants did it when they came from Europe and that’s how it was done for years. People arrived, set up shop on tracts of pristine lands full of life, and they saw that it was good. When the first immigrants landed, they quickly realized they were not alone. Yet the first Americans, Native Americans did not ask for identification or proof of a vetting process. There were no ports of entry and no ID checkpoints. These people lived off the land and showed great respect for it. They maintained balance between their needs and the needs of the world around them. They cared for each other in living color and accepted one another regardless of their differences inside and out. And they most certainly did not institute a ban on people coming into the New World.

Much later in our history, other campaigns of prejudice and segregation have been waged against groups of people for varying reasons. African Americans brought here as slaves were freed yet systematically denied basic rights for over a hundred years. The Chinese were denied entry to the United States after the California Gold Rush. People throughout the history of the United States have been denied the right to vote, the right to marry, and the chance to begin anew here in America. In the worst of times, millions have killed and died in horrible ways in war. Humans have shot, stabbed, burned, poisoned, gassed and exploded each other in the name of God and country because people thought it right to do so. In the name of fear and under the guise of security, people have been marshalled and corralled into pens and reservations. The one group tramples on the rights of another. In other occasions, people have fled their nations for lack of food, opportunities and security. The United States once took in these cold and hungry quite willingly. We’ve allowed others to visit temporarily for leisurely travel and others for schooling. My father was included in the latter group.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the United States has been in a state of heightened ignorance and security unmatched since the days of Japanese-American internment during World War II and the Red Scare. Digital and warrantless surveillance of the citizen is an idea more and more people accept as a form of lesser evil. Unfortunately because of ethnicities and religions of the 9/11 hijackers, terrorism has been largely associated Islam. Thus our president has banned citizens from seven nations where Muslims are the majority, never mind there have been no terrorist attacks carried out by citizens of these countries in the last thirty years. The 9/11 hijackers were from Saud Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Eygpt and Lebanon and none of those were refugees. They were visa holders, vetted and allowed to come into the country for one reason or another. The New York Times reports that of the Jihadist style attacks since 9/11, none of the perpetrators were from the seven countries, and none were refugees. More than half were born in the US and the half of those who weren’t were naturalized US Citizens. Conversely, we don’t consider the majority of mass shooting events which have occurred across the country to be acts of terrorism. Few of those shooting involved immigrants of any sort. The trafficking of drugs and human beings for use as sex slaves is also apparently less important than stopping the flow of migrants.

The persons now denied entry into the United Stated have good reasons for trying to escape their countries. Some seek the freedom to practice the religion or sexual preference of their choice. To remain in Iran as a LGBTQ is a potential death sentence. Somalian refugees hope to escape the rampant war and extreme poverty ravaging their country. Libya’s refugees are fleeing war and insurgency. Iraq refugees are fleeing war, insurgency and persecution. Sudanese refugees are fleeing the war in their country. Refugees from Yemen and Syria are also fleeing violence from their respective civil wars. It can be said that the refugees of Iraq are directly the fault of United States interference. While good was done by deposing Saddam Hussein, there was no plan to implement “the peaceful transition of power” we so treasure here over there. We’ve spent at least billions of dollars rebuilding a country we spent billions of dollars destroying. This doesn’t begin to touch on the cost in human lives, both American and Iraqi, military and civilian. It’s taken many blood soaked years to get the Iraq Forces up to fighting condition through training and cooperation. Syrian refugees can also be seen as our fault via proxy war against Russia played out through the Assad Government versus Syrian rebels. Because of US and Russian interference, neighborhoods have been held under siege, hospitals have been bombed, and people have died not only in the crossfire, but from starvation and dehydration. Refugees are desperate people merely looking to live and contribute. They could do so here in the United States before this executive order. Now we have officially turned a blind eye to their suffering, we have deprived them access, we’ve deprived them their fighting chance. We’ve deprived them hope of survival.

Morally, we have a responsibility to ease the suffering of others when and where we can. When we are responsible for said suffering, we are obligated to help if we can. Put simply, this means the refugee program and the scores of people in need should not suffer for the wanton acts of a very small few. This does not mean refugees should enter the United States without some indication of no ill intent. Vetting is a tool, neither perfect nor foolproof, and it doesn’t work at all if the perpetrator is outside of its scope, i.e. born in the USA. Rather the system that allows people to enter the United States by visa, obtain green cards and citizenship needs revision with the knowledge that even then, we will not catch everyone who means us harm. The best way to really discover terrorism is through knowledge. When we know a thing or a person, we know better when something is amiss. To know it, we need to understand it and gain perspective. If we manage possible exposure to terrorism like a disease, namely total quarantine from refugees entering the country, we’re not actually addressing terrorism with an effective response. It’s like applying a bandage to the wrong wound. We need to stop witch hunting targets of opportunity. We need to stop looking solely at people from Countries x through z, or at only Muslims, or people wearing head scarves, or skin color, or haircuts. Everyone entering the United States should be vetted by specifics beginning with who, what, when, where, why and how. This needs to be done with priority going to those suffering from circumstances which infringe on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those requesting Visas can wait. 

Refugees cannot.

The Refugee Ban of 2017

I Am Back.

I am back, though I cannot honestly tell you for how long I am back for, nor will I take this opportunity to tell you why I was gone in the first place. That story is perhaps for another time. What I will say is that I am back for one reason and one reason alone:

election-2016

As of this writing, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump while Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, at the behest of their campaign advisors have stooped to tag teaming against him at a debate. Trump, Rubio and Cruz are the GOP frontrunners, Dr. Ben Carson and someone someone Kasich are woefully in the dust and on the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vie for their party’s nomination. To date, this is a race which has defied all expectations and all speculation from experts. This is a White House race which has the political establishment reeling, staggering haphazardly to regain footing while trying to understand why people are rallying behind nontraditional candidates. I think I have the answer.

People have speculated that Americans are sick to death of the political status quo. While I can’t speak for America, I can speak for me: I’ve been sick of politics for years. Posturing, promises, the right phrases and statements meant to sway coming from people who are and have been “public servants” for years. I look at the chaos in the Congress, most recently displayed by the controversy surrounding an unwillingness to entertain nomination hearings to replace Supreme Court Justice Scalia, and I can only think that these public servant candidates are only more of the same thing we’ve endured year after year.

1104toon_tolesThe political campaigns are also a subject of ire for me. Despite the money they’ve gathered, if you go any of the websites of the campaigner, you too can contribute with the click of a nifty donate button. I have the fortune of living in a state the candidates don’t need, so we are spared the constant barrage of political commercials that campaign money pays for. As this very moment, my state is cutting the budget to our school districts and university system while the campaigns continue to amass tons and tons of money in order to fly to and from and cram the message down the throat of the people. That doesn’t sit right with me and again, I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.

There are two people who have resonated with me and if you look at the state of the campaign trail today, my two have really come down to one choice.

First, when Dr. Ben Carson came on the scene as a possible political candidate a couple of years ago, I thought it a fantastic idea. He spoke out against Obamacare in a time when no one really knew for sure what the law would do, but more importantly, he was a doctor in the field with some actual knowledge about getting medical care in America. A doctor speaking out against the status quo of medical insurance spoke volumes to me. I hoped he would have done better during the campaign but alas, he’s all but dead in my opinion.

And then, there is Donald Trump. He’s a businessman, an entrepreneur and a television personality. He’s hit American politics like a hurricane. He’s left analysts and opponents both stammering in his wake.

He’s rich.
He’s loud.
He’s brash.
He’s unapologetic.

What can I say about him that hasn’t been said already?

How about this: he’s not a politician. The man is not a career politician, nor is Dr. Carson. They’ve not been seated in the chambers of the House of Representatives or guests of the Senate. They’re not cozy with the judiciary or with anyone in the Executive branch. Trump is definitely not a Democrat and the Republican Party establishment hates him. To the establishment, Donald Trump is an insurgent, an outsider, a usurper. He reminds me of me.

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While he and I do not share much in common (white, rich and old I am not), he is something I’ve not seen yet in my adult life. Donald Trump is the last candidate to resemble a real person than anyone else running for office. The politician candidates aka the rest of the contenders don’t make mistakes or misspeak: they make gaffes or faux pas. They have their prompts and catch phrases. They have their campaigns telling them what they should say or do next. They speak in “politically correct” fashion, a term and behavior which has trickled down so pervasively down into our lives, you can’t read a book or take a class without the chance of encountering a trigger warning. Trump is a walking, talking trigger warning, he’s not politically correct and I like that. Detractors will tell you he’s not always been successful, but to me, that only adds to his appeal. He’s had bankruptcies and failures, has been divorced and has been sued. Sort of like the rest of us outside of the political class. He says what’s on his mind and it’s raw. Unscripted. He makes mistakes, just like the rest of us. Ben Carson is just as real to me. It’s a pity he’s been practically done in by his own campaign.

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Who am I? I’m a father, a student, a husband and a veteran. I’m a not a democrat, or republican, I’m not a donor, or a lobbyist, or a Wall Streeter. I could care less about the Oscars, the Grammys, the Hugo, the Super Bowl or all the other nonsense American Media tells me I should care about. I don’t line the streets holding campaign signs for anyone: I don’t have the time nor the inclination. I work to put food on the table, gas in the tank and a roof over our heads: my wife works for the same goal as well. I’m a nobody, an outsider, an insurgent to American politics. Much like Donald Trump.

 

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This political race has woken me out of an 8 year slumber because it is decidedly not status quo. It’s been perplexing and confounding everyone who has versed themselves in the machinations of a broken political system. It’s been taken over from within and without, and I like that very much.

Something tells me I’m not the only one.

 

I Am Back.

Father’s Day

My father was not around for me after my parents divorced, living at times in a different borough in New York City. To be fair, that’s not his fault since we were the ones moving from place to place before settling down at my grandmother’s apartment for several years. He held solid employment: my mother did not. He held firm roots in a downtown apartment in the city: we moved many times in six years before leaving NYC altogether. And yet, it was my father I only got to see once a week every Sunday.

The father figures in my life to include my father weren’t so great. Dad was probably obsessive-compulsive, constantly slaving away on sports numbers and statistics for gambling. My half brother’s father was an alcoholic, a mean drunk, mentally unsound, had been violent towards my mother my presence at least twice that I can remember and held her at gunpoint when she threatened to leave him, also in my presence. The men in between were trash, in it only for sex.

When we moved to Alaska with my brother’s father, the trend in men continued down the slope. He cheated on my mother and she on him with my youngest brother’s father who in turn cheated on his own wife and family to sleep around with my mother. That promptly stopped when she found out she was pregnant. In the meantime, my father in New York called less and less until the time where I heard from him sporadically. The times we spoke were full of promises unfulfilled. Before long, I’d resigned to not hearing from him, making the erratic contact easier to manage.

I thought I was leaving all of this behind when I left to the Army, but looking back, my childhood and the lack of good men in it permeated the rest of my life. I wept in front of my drill sergeant because I believed myself unworthy of him. I was combat arms and for years worked only with men. There, I latched on to my closest leaders: I know now I was looking for a father. The death of my youngest brother and later my mother threw everything I thought about life out the window (literally in the first case.) As with all the other inadequacies I felt about myself (my height, physique, ability as a soldier) I dealt, stuffing the things I couldn’t deal with into my duffel bag and soldiering on.

My father comes back into the picture when my mother died. He was the one who notified me she had passed and I could remember being so angry at him. My anger persisted as we worked to find her a place to rest: I told him we should get beers, to which he protested and I blew up. I felt as though he were treating me as a child. I never spoke to him again. Years later, December 2010: an apartment manager contacted me to tell me he was gone. He died without family and without a word from his only son in over ten years. When my mother died, I expulsed my father and choose to have no parents at all.

I think about myself now and know I get in trouble when I drink. For years I felt that last night my father was treating me as the 12 year old boy he last saw instead of an adult. For this, I cast him out of my life after years of broken promises and missed calls. I wonder now if he didn’t have some insight into me and alcohol through his own experiences. I believe he was much too conservative to ever share those experiences as that was not the type of man he was, though I will never know now because of my own stubbornness.

My father was shorter than me in height, was meticulous with statistics and was obsessive about the things which interested him. He had relative sucess with women, though I suspect like me, he was clueless of when a woman was pining for his affections. When he was engaged with me, he was a good father. When he wasn’t, when he couldn’t see me, he was simply not there. I didn’t understand it until I went through my own divorce: in the face of not having my children I almost disappeared completely.

I get my father more now than I ever have. I can only hope that he can find it in his heart to forgive the bad behavior of his only son so many years too late.

Father’s Day

The Inquisition Chapter Eight

Diane continues to recall how she got into her current situation, reminiscing meeting her team partner in crime, Sam. Hope you enjoy, and I am definitely looking for comments on the chapter please.

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http://www.wattpad.com/136081162-the-inquisition-chapter-eight-sam?utm_source=web&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share_info&ref_id=54763880

The Inquisition Chapter Eight