Rage

It was a slow day at work – Veteran’s Day holiday tomorrow, so most people took a day off to get an even longer weekend.

Over coffee, i read a summary report from the Grand Jury, responsible for indicting a retired Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, for the rape of eight children.

Eight.  Children.

As bad as this is, the final words of the report imply that this may be the tip of the iceberg.  “Victim 8’s identity is unknown.”

It is a tough read.  Graphic.  Legally precise language that shines a harsh klieg light on “findings of fact”.

Today?  The media is all over it.  Much outrage over the cover-up orchestrated by university officials.  Much outrage over the riot on campus last night, after students received word that their beloved Coach Joe Paterno had been fired.

But here’s the thing i cannot get my head around this evening…

A man walked into the locker room, and witnessed Sandusky performing anal rape on a 10-year-old boy.  And he walked out and called his father asking “What should I do?”

When one is being raped, one compelling thought is “let this be over!  FOR THE LOVE OF A NON-MERCIFUL GOD, LET THIS END NOW!”

That child may have heard the door open.  That child may have momentarily thought “It’s OVER! I’m safe!”

That child may have heard the door close again, as this man walked out…

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On Tuesday of this week, i listened as someone i love very much told me about being raped as a 12-year -old boy.

About keeping it completely to himself for over 40 years because he was so ashamed.  Felt it was somehow his fault.  Didn’t want anyone to know and thought it would just go away… Despite the decades of nightmares, he wanted it to just have never happened.

As i stared at my computer screen this morning, thinking about the 10-year-old boy in the locker room, i couldn’t help but wonder if someone had been close by when my brother was being raped at 12.  If someone saw something that seemed wrong and just turned away from it…

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There are moments when i am quite certain i could – under the right confluence of circumstance – kill with my bare hands.

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There are times when i would like to renounce my status as an atheist.  There are people who should burn in hell, and i wouldn’t mind being a witness.

The Killing Fields

Eleventh row, window seat, of an Air Tran 737 out of Atlanta last month.  Startled from deep sleep – and the darkest memory – it was about the last place i expected to wake up…

The dream was vivid.  Not really a dream, but a flashback.  Memories of a single morning in Phnom Penh, Cambodia* in October, 2006.  No idea what triggered the recollection.  Maybe lurking work frustrations and exhaustion teamed up to rattle my subconscious and put my petty worries into perspective. 

It worked. 

When The Girl and i saw the itinerary for our day in Phnom Penh, we agreed that it was about the strangest five hour travel session imaginable.  Not exactly “Art Museum, Shopping at Nordstrom, Down time at the Spa”…

0800-0930:  Choeung Ek, The Killing Field

0930-1100:  Genocide Museum (Tuol Sleng)

1100-1300:  Shopping/Lunch at the Russian Market

Students and parents were herded onto a bus, and we left the city.  The congestion, noise and traffic faded away, and soon we were dieseling our way through small villages, rudely splashing pedestrians and bicyclists with mud as they went about their business. 

The landscape changed again.  Green and lush, rolling hills. We arrived at Choeung Ek.  There was sparse signage, cattle grazing nearby and no other visitors at that hour of the morning.

Between 1975 and 1979**, the Khmer Rouge executed an estimated 2.2 – 2.5 million Cambodians – from a starting population of about 7 million.  First rounding up politicians, and opposition leaders, they soon after moved on to the educated classes:  doctors, engineers, teachers.  Families of doctors, engineers, teachers… and soon, simply anyone deemed unsympathetic.

After detention, torture and confession, prisoners were murdered at provincial dumping grounds – the killing fields.  So here we were, a tour bus of privileged students and their parents.  No formal tour, we were told to wander the fields.  Small placards were posted near partially excavated hollows in the ground.  “Mass grave of 166 victims”, “Mass grave of 90 victims”.  And on and on…

As we walked, the sun was rising higher in the sky, making the day inappropriately cheerful.  A gnarled, stately tree stood next to a large pit.  This was “the killing tree”.  Rather than waste bullets on the smallest victims, the babies and small children were held by the feet, their skulls smashed against the sturdy trunk, before they were thrown into the pit.  A faint stain is visible at the base of the tree.   “Mass grave of 450 victims”.  And on and on…

We walked along in stunned silence.  There was nothing to say.  Stopping along the path, turning to take it all in, i felt something under my foot.  i distractedly reached down to pick up the bright white stone, from the dirt path.  Not a stone.  A tooth.  A human molar…

Never in my life have i felt such anguish.  Almost 9,000 humans were brutally exterminated in this pastoral field.  i stepped on the tooth of a murdered man.  i sobbed uncontrollably.  Not really sure how long i was down, but The Girl startled me back to my senses with “I think we have to go now, Mom.  Are you ok?” 

No, i wasn’t.  Far from it… but we made our way back to the bus, and rode off in silence with the rest of the group.  And on to the next stop on the itinerary: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Security Prison S-21)   

As i lurched forward in my seat on the Air Tran jet, it was all there.  As if i’d just been to the killing fields the day before. 

Perspective.  Use it or lose it.

Photo by: Michael Darter

 photo from here:   i am apparently not the only one to have encountered teeth of the dead in the killing field…

* The Girl was spending a Semester at Sea, and i accepted the opportunity to meet up with her in Asia.  Her ship sailed into Saigon, Vietnam and we took a side trip to Cambodia.  One of the strangest sentences i ever read in an e-mail was “Hey, Ma.  Guess I’ll see you in Saigon.”

** Just after the Vietnam War.  And the years i spent in high school…

What bugs me…

When asked what i’m afraid of, the answer is always the same:  outliving my children.  It won’t matter if i’m 90 and they are in their 60’s, it’s simply the worst thing i can think of…

Typically, this statement is met with a “whoa… that’s heavy.” response.  It also has a serious buzzkill effect if some poor bastard happens to ask me that at a party.  But, if the questioner hasn’t run away, i always follow up with “oh, yeah.  that and spiders.”

Sometimes you have to stick around for the punchline…

A good friend shared an e-mail she got from her husband, with the subject line “must be shared…”.  His additional comment was “because no one likes to have nightmares alone.” 

I just liked that turn of a phrase… and liked this link even more!  It’s a shame that science class isn’t taught this way – we’d have fewer dropouts.  

Fortunately, it’s about insects and not spiders.  I can deal with the 6-legged types.  But add two more legs?  I’m on a chair screaming…

warning – there’s some gnarly stuff in the link, especially the videos.  not recommended for the squeamish…