“Broken Story” by Kim Peter Kovac

Visitants

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therapy dog lying on bride on gurney in hallway /startle / crunch / swirl / roll roll roll / dangling upside down held by the seat belt / car roof now floor / dog visiting other patients once he knows his mom is okay / thinks she’s okay / can’t self-forgive / desperately trying to steer / crunch / guilt / shock / pink cloud / how could the hospital miss the concussion / rolling three times / metal crunching / thankful for the dog-car-harness / broken nose  / banged up / what happened? / separated shoulder / slightly separated self / shoulder ghost in the torn ligaments / broken story / surgery months later / broken car / broken psyche / crunch / ambulance with self and bride on stretchers, therapy dog riding shotgun / sling / PTSD from the concussion / startle reflex / writing around, not into / morphine / no surgery / oxy / sling / responsible / humpty dumpty drove in the car / humpty dumpty can’t find the scar / can’t drive that freeway for a year / PTSD / concussion / startle / she’s hurt way more than me / guilt / crunch / shoulder still galumphs a bit despite the vorpal scalpel going snicker-snack / anxiety is yours, sayeth the lord / which lord? / I thanked Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Zoroaster, and the 33 million Hindu gods / can’t focus / roll / avoidance / crunch / Sertraline 50-100-50-100 / off for three weeks to reboot / can Virgil guide me through the nine circles to the time before the three revolutions?  / antidepressants having to reboot? / WTF? / dog still protecting the bride when he senses her fear / or startles / my pink cloud is back / startle / rolllllllllllll / spiral / crunch / nice morning for a drive to New York //

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences with an emphasis on new play development and networking.  He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, haibun, and microfiction, with work appearing or forthcoming in print in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Frogpond and Mudlark.

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The Price of Peace: A Review of Nguyen Phan Quang Binh’s ‘The Floating Lives’ by Tini Ngatini

Traversing Narrow Margins

Tini Review

I recently came across a Vietnamese film, The Floating Lives (Canh Dong Bat Tan), which was released in 2010 by Nguyen Phan Quang Binh. Although this film is a few years old, the issues that the director addresses still feel fresh and progressive from my perspective as an Indonesian woman who teaches courses on women, gender, sexuality and religion.

The plot follows the life of man referred to as Mr. Vo, a severely broken-hearted man whose wife has left him for reasons the film does not reveal. Fate has left him a single parent and a duck farmer. By the end of the film, Vo’s son is killed and his daughter is raped by a rival group of duck farmers. The events of Vo’s life take place against a rural backdrop of equally tragic social issues: poverty, illiteracy, and violence against women and children. While the frank portrayal of these issues is common in Western films, they may still shock a Vietnamese  audience who are unaccustomed to either seeing such issues depicted onscreen or even hearing them mentioned in open discussion.

What I find intriguing and disturbing, however, are the lines that come at the very end of this film, as they seem to contradict the film’s message up till that point. These pivotal lines are spoken by Vo’s daughter: raped and now pregnant,

Nowadays, Dad and I have stopped wandering, we have quit being duck-farmers and settled down in a small village. Everyday, dad can bring kids to schools by boat and I can see him smile. I will name this child Thuong [her own future baby]. He is fatherless, but surely he will go to school. He will be joyful all his life and be taught by his mother that children must know how to forgive the mistakes that adults make.

The closing statement: “Children must know how to forgive the mistakes that adults make,” seems to negate the film’s earlier advocation of the rights of women and children by asserting that victims of adults’ mistakes (in this case, like in many other real-life cases, the mistakes in question concern those of patriarchal violence) are morally obliged to grant exemption to their oppressors, with little emphasis on the moral obligations that face the perpetrators of such crimes.

This narrative of martyr-like “forgiveness” is problematic because it seems to suggest that victims of such life-altering acts of cruelty are to simply bear their grief and pain with silent dignity, instead of using their experience as a motivation to call for societal change that could prevent similar outrages befalling Nuong’s own progeny Thuong in the future (or perhaps more disturbingly, being enacted by him).

How are we to make sense of this apparent contradiction? Are we to read this line as an adult’s voice projected into the child character Nuong? If this is the case, then the film’s earlier advocacy of liberation from patriarchal violence is overshadowed by its recognition of the insurmountable problems preventing achievement of this goal.

The event of forgiveness in this example – the fictional character Nuong, lead me to think about the conditional forgiveness Jankelevitch discussed in Forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness requires the conditions remorse and/or a request for forgiveness on the part of the wrongdoer, as well as the promise from the wrongdoer that similar events will not happen again. In order for victims to effectively move on from a trauma, it may be necessary for additional forms of compensation such as counseling, healing programs, sanctuary or work training; to be provided by wider society. What the case shows us is the absence of expressions of remorse and follow-up actions on the part of the wrongdoer to mitigate the destructive affects of the past wrongdoing.

In this case, expressions of remorse will serve to acknowledge that what the character Nuong experienced is “normal,” rather than an attempt to expose, humiliate and/or criminalize the wrongdoer. The term “normal” here ; far from being used to play-down the seriousness of the events in question, merely means that these events, whilst horrific, are not rare or bizarre and that Nuong is not the only one to undergo such trauma.  However, such an absence of acknowledgment results in these experiences  remaining confined to the private space, unvoiced. That unvoiced status of such an experience also restricts policy makers within public and social spaces to make necessary steps such as counseling or child protection, either to mitigate the negative effects of the events on the victims or to protect other citizens from experiencing  similar trauma. In extreme cases, the absence of such acknowledgment could lead one to suppress the memory, which  to a certain degree, obstructs them from looking back into the memory itself and addressing the issue. Perhaps consequently,  the horrific experiences will continue to hover over one’s present life, conditioning their idea of relationships in general.

Jankelevitch’s idea of forgiveness could indeed be tricky because either it may remain a political performance with debatable value or, if the wronged party is indeed able to perform genuine forgiveness, an attestation to the political force of the ruling class. If, as this scene in the film indicates, forgiveness is unilateral, it further underlines the under-privileged status of groups such as women and children who are subtly forced to sacrifice their rights, including the right to remember.

Contrary to what most of us might think, inherent in the nature of political forgiveness is what actually protects that right to remember.

In order for society to properly utilize forgiveness in the case of traumatic events, I think the key is to find balance between helping the wronged party to find ways to continue with their life and giving public education to parents about topics such as domestic violence, healthy parenting and sexual abuse. That way peace can be restored without the need to sacrifice the right of the wronged party’s remembrance of their past which is, to a large degree, necessary for future life.

 

References

Jankélévitch, Vladimir. Forgiveness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

 

The Absurdity of False Victimhood by Anwar Uhuru

rumination(s)

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According to the CNN Exit Polls for the 2016 Presidential election 13% of Black men and 4% of Black women voted for Donald Trump.[i]

There’s a Facebook page called: Black people who support Donald Trump.[ii] There’s also an article titled: “Black men who support Trump.” Written by Christian Science Monitor,[iii] it should not have come as a surprise that a Black Man who claims to be for Black people and identifies as a Same Gender Loving man would come to the defense of Melania Trump. Moments before #45 was sworn into office, memes, tweets, and blogs sprung in response to the ill treatment of Melania Trump[iv].

It didn’t matter that she has been the wife of #45 for almost 12 years, that she was a model, a supporter of the birther movement, a plagiarist, and a hyper-capitalist tycoon.

Instead, this post caused other black men to chime in under the comments section that collaboratively authored a narrative of White woman victimhood. Though Black women and Women of color, still face disproportionate amounts of, domestic partner violence, and sexual assault, and increasing threats against their reproductive and immigration rights, instead, these black men didn’t waste any time running to the aid of a woman who A) didn’t ask for B) showed no evidence of and C) doesn’t need the help of an obscure man.

Historically, the outcome of embracing white woman victimhood doesn’t fare well for Black men in the end.

The Rosewood Massacre is a riot that began because of a false rape accusation. You guessed it: A white woman accused a black man of rape.[v]

In an interview conducted by Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham said that she felt dissed by football player Odell Beckham Jr.[vi]

Luckily, Black Twitter mostly Black women on Twitter read it as “how dare this black man ignore me,” and commenced to educating Lena Dunham on how problematic her statements were being read. Dunham had no choice but to address her internalized racism and announce on Instagram that she should apologize.[vii]

Afterwards she appeared on the radio show The Breakfast Club and expressed how she got educated about her racist remark and that her show Girls doesn’t represent women of color.[viii]

These examples show the damaging problems when white women fabricate victimhood at the expense of black bodies. This is not to dissuade or ignore White women who do suffer from misogyny and violence. However, where was the rally cry behind Michelle Obama and her daughters that endured countless racist and sexist attacks? Where were these Black Men who love Black people then? Not a word. Nor a peep. Yet, on January 20, 2017 on media outlets everywhere, they see a blatantly misogynist-homophobe- xenophobe-capitalist narcissist white man walking yards ahead of his wife and thought:

“Oh let me help deh missus cause she’s so gud to meh.”[ix]

Yes, I used imitative slave/segregationist dialect for affect because that was the regressive behavior that created a fictive narrative of Melania Trump’s victimhood. It radiates the ground breaking work of Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Her work alongside genetic research proves both empirically and qualitatively that trauma mutates genetic and neurological coding. It is no wonder that there is a recessive gene that naturally runs to the aid of our oppressor before we run to the oppressed.

Instead of running to the invisible aid of white women that didn’t even ask for it in the first place, men of color especially black men need to run to the aid of the three black women that founded Black Lives Matter instead of accusing them of being racist against whites and inciting violence against law enforcement.[x]

There were three women of color that led the largest Women’s Rights March in history, which was criticized by a Black Trump Supporter at the Women’s March.[xi]

Instead of performing behavior that raises the suspicion that you may be a part of the 13% of black men that voted for him and his wife to succeed the Obama Administration, it is important that Black men need to educate themselves about the toxic history that is white woman victim hood at the expense of black male bodies.

[i]  (http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls).

[ii] https://www.facebook.com/Black-people-who-Support-Donald-Trump-575940462560052/

[iii] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2016/1205/Among-black-men-a-spark-of-support-for-Donald-Trump

[iv] http://mashable.com/2017/01/24/sad-melania-trump-meme/#1_hETUU8vmqu

[v] http://www.blackpast.org/aah/rosewood-massacre-1923

[vi] http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/interviews/a527/the-lenny-interview-amy-schumer/

[vii]  https://www.instagram.com/p/BJ50WGnAZDk/

[viii] http://ew.com/article/2016/10/05/lena-dunham-odell-beckham-jr/

[ix] Melania Looks Sad AF via BET news
http://www.bet.com/news/national/2017/01/24/melania-trump-at-inauguration.html

[x] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/07/11/sheriff-david-clarke-its-time-to-stand-up-to-black-lives-matter.html

[xi] https://www.seekingthetruth.info/black-trump-supporter-shuts-down-liberal-protesters-with-truth-knowledge/