Posts tagged ‘Facebook’
In the 90s a book came out that was later made into a movie. This book was the first book published from the pen of John Grisham, the lawyer turned author. In my opinion, it’s his best book. In some ways, it’s a modern day retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird. In Grisham’s A Time to Kill two ne’er do well good ol’ boys pick up an underage black girl named Tonia Haley and beat and rape her so severely that the damage from the rape makes her infertile.
Her father, Carl Lee Haley, realizes that in his mostly white Mississippi town two white boys will never be convicted of harming a black girl and that they will most likely go free. Carl Lee confers with a local counselor, the struggling defense attorney, Jake Briggance, and asks Jake if he’ll defend him should he need it. Jake, himself the father of a young girl close to Tonia’s age, agrees to defend Carl Lee should he need his services. Following that conversation, Carl Lee takes a shotgun to the courthouse on the day of the rapists’ arraignment and shoots the two men down in cold blood, accidentally shooting a peace officer as well, in the process.
The rest of the movie is about the fight to keep Carl Lee out of prison and away from the gas chamber. A Time to Kill is a story about a hate crime, specifically focused on race relations. In the end Jake gets Carl Lee acquitted by asking jury members to close their eyes while he describes the rape of a 9-year-old girl in gruesome detail. When he’s finished presenting the picture of a little girl tied up, raped, beaten, urinated on, and left to die he says, simply, “Now imagine she’s white.”
I want to tell you a story. Don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read the story, but you can see what I want you to see in your mind’s eye. This is the story of a little boy. This boy lives in a small Texas town that’s fraught with racial strife. The boy is Hispanic, and he’s 11 years old. He’s also a straight A student. His mother has been hospitalized recently with some health problems, and his father is an unemployed construction worker.
The boy has spent a lot of time hanging out with older kids in a bad neighborhood lately. People in this neighborhood have spotted him there on numerous occasions. They wonder what he’s doing there and why his parents don’t keep closer tabs on him. The boy is also on Facebook. On his profile, he says he’s 13 so that he’ll look older and tougher than he really is and so that maybe, just maybe he’ll attract older girls. He’s made posts involving drinking and sex.
One day the boy is out walking after school when three older boys offer to give him a ride. He accepts. He knows these boys, and he’s hung out with them before. They’re all African American, and they’re all much older than he is. They’re high school age. The boys all drive to a small blue house in the bad neighborhood, one that belongs to the aunt of one of the older boys.
The house is empty except for the four boys. There are no adults present. They go to one of the bedrooms of the house. They’re hanging out. Maybe they watch TV. Maybe they drink a beer or smoke a little pot. Suddenly, one of the older boys says, “I want you to suck my cock.”
The young boy is stunned. This request seems to come from left field. He tries to laugh it off.
A second older boy stands up and says, “You’re going to suck all our cocks.”
The little boy says, “And what if I don’t.”
The first older boy chimes in again. “First, we’ll beat you. Then you can walk home.”
The little boy looks at the older boys, and he realizes that they are serious. Any one of the three of them could pulverize him. The little boy doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds. These are big guys. They lift weights. They play high school athletics. One of them is double his size. His chance of taking on all three or of escaping is nothing.
The boy submits to the rape. The older boys take pictures and videos on their cell phones. The sexual activity takes place in a bedroom and in a bathroom. While the boy is cleaning up in the bathroom he hears the older boys talking on their cell phones and inviting some of their friends to also come over. The aunt who owns the house has come home, and one of the older boys takes him out of the bathroom and sneaks him out the back of the house and into the car.
The little boy has gone silent. Perhaps he is in shock. They made him do things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him. He is bleeding. The older boys drive him to an abandoned mobile home in a trailer park on the edge of the bad neighborhood. He’s been here before. The yard is strewn with trash, and there are household items that probably belonged to the last, evicted tenants, lying on the curb.
More older boys and even some men show up, and they all use him sexually, too. Sometimes he is made to service more than one man at a time. He is afraid to say anything because there are now several men in the trailer, perhaps as many as 20 or more, and he is afraid that if he protests or fights they will beat him. They continue to take photos and video as they cheer him on. The little boy is tired, sore, and hurt. He wants to go home, but they won’t take him home until they are done. The attack takes several hours.
Finally, they do take him home, and in his humiliation he says nothing. He showers and goes to bed and resolves never to speak of it. He doesn’t want to shame his father or hurt his mother, especially with her health issues.
One day soon afterward he is called into the principal’s office because one of the perpetrators of the attack has emailed or texted pictures and video of the boy’s rape to several of his classmates. He is afraid and alone, but he tells the truth.
That’s a sad story, isn’t it? You feel sorry for that boy. You never question where his parents were during the attack. You never question why he accepted a ride with three older boys. You don’t think, like I once heard another blogger say about a rape victim, that the police were sent in to do a father’s job, as if only single mothers parent rape victims. You know, or at least you assume, that since the boy is posting about experience with drinking and sex that implies he’s no longer a virgin. You know that he’s working hard to appear older than he really is, with his Facebook profile, his clothes and appearance, and the friends he hangs around.
But you never thought he deserved what happened to him, did you? You never thought it was a racial conspiracy to get a whole generation of black men, did you? I hope you never blamed the boy for not protesting or trying to run away. I don’t think you probably thought that the boy had brought this on by his behavior or his appearance, although if his rapists were homosexuals it seems conceivable that they just couldn’t help themselves, or maybe not. What do you think? Do you think the actions of any 11 year old boy could cause a man to somehow have to rape him? You think this is a horrible crime, don’t you? And you think the boy’s not at fault for what happened to him at all. Now imagine the boy’s a girl.
At work we have to complete a code of conduct, a test that basically goes over ethics violations at the workplace. Most any American who works for a mid-size to large company has to nowadays. It goes over things like intellectual property ownership and access to sensitive information and the propriety of accepting gifts from vendors.
We all have a personal code of conduct. Some people’s is more laissez faire while others are more regimented in their beliefs. It’s frequently been noted that members of organized crime families and gangs have their own code of conduct. Mafia movies like The Godfather series are so popular, not solely because of their propensity for sex and violence but also because the mafia leaders have their own set of ethics, which, skewed as they may seem to the rest of us, they do adhere to.
Ethics seems like a pretty black and white proposition, and yet the older one gets the more one finds grey areas until much of the subject of ethics just seems like varying shades of gray with a little black and white thrown in, like the color on the picture of a black and white television screen.
When I was younger the world was very black and white to me. Every violation of what I saw to be the good and right thing to do seemed like a stab in the heart that made my view of the world darken with the black stain of my own dark heart. I was quick to be wounded and sometimes quick to believe the worst about people. How is self-righteousness any more attractive than any other sin?
I was looking at The Post In Which I Eat Crow and the two posts that led to that epiphany as a metaphor for my whole life in more ways than one. First off, it’s only one in a series of “relationships” I had with men that were categorized by my first picking out someone that I had a strong attraction for who was fundamentally unsuitable on some level.
I then obsessed over the guy when he was smart enough not to ask me out or eventually rejected me, for whatever reason. In the end, I would feel hurt because I’d been rejected by someone who was sending me mixed messages. I used to call it partial reinforcement, like it was a behavioral psychology term coined by B.F. Skinner, and for all I know, it could be. It reminds me of that management book, Who Moved My Cheese? It never once occurred to me that maybe, just maybe they were sending mixed messages because they were actually returning my own ambivalent feelings.
You know, one thing I always wondered back in the day is why Vern broke up with his girlfriend and then never asked me out, even though he’d shown every sign of being interested. I only found out about the chasing tail thing later.
Vern and Ernest are like the dueling banjos of character assassins. First, Ernest tells me that Vern spent the months when he was broken up with his girlfriend pursuing a series of shallow sexual couplings, and, of course, there’s that stuff about The Bet. Eighteen years later, Vern tells me Ernest was living with him as a roommate back then because his girlfriend got tired of him beating the shit out of her and kicked him out.
Well, since I dodged both those bullets, I kind of find the dueling character assassins analogy funny. Eighteen years between stanzas.
Anyway, it occurred to me that there were two very good reasons why Vern might not have wanted to ask me out, besides my own ambivalence. The breakup lasted precisely five months. That’s not very long. Jumping right into another relationship, because I was a relationship type of girl, would have been sort of like me going and immediately getting another puppy after the death of my beloved pet two months ago. It’s too soon for me to make that kind of investment, and it would feel like a kind of betrayal. But I still like dogs, and I like to pet other people’s pets when I get the chance.
So, for a certain kind of man, a lot of men, that’s part of their code of conduct. They have their own sense of honor, and some girls are seen as relationship material while others are not. Why he decided to violate his own standard of ethics at the last minute is a mystery for which I’ll never know the answer.
But one thing that I do know is that if Vern had ever actually asked me out, the whole thing would have played itself out with me eventually moving on, bored with him or convinced that he was unsuitable in some other way, and that would have been the end of it. I wouldn’t have been happy living in a small town in Oklahoma with a guy who studied business, spent his spare time watching football, worked at the Wal-Mart, and made constant racial epithets. Of course, he wouldn’t have been any happier living in the city with a self-righteous, politically liberal, poetry writing feminist who liked to spend her spare time with her nose buried in a book. The reason why I remembered it so clearly after so many years is because it seemed like he wasn’t interested, and ultimately, I wondered why he wasn’t falling all over himself to be with me.
Perhaps I’d do well to take a magnifying glass to my own code of conduct as well.
When I was in elementary school we spent some of my formative years living in the world’s smallest town – not really; it just felt like it. It was a town of less than 2,000 people. In this town, there was a boy in my class named Mark Mattson. Mark Mattson was a really mean kid, and he was particularly mean to me. He was a downright little jerk.
Now, looking at this from the attitude of an adult, I can see that the kid had a lot to be a jerk about. Since we lived in a small town everyone knew everyone else’s business. Mark was the youngest of three brothers born to an alcoholic lawyer father who had since sobered up, and an alcoholic mother who had not. His father left his mother for a younger woman, and Mark was the only kid young enough to still have to live at home with a bitter drunk. This might have been enough to make any otherwise nice kid mean. When you’re a kid, though, you just think that other kid is mean, mostly because the kid was MEAN.
When I was in the third or fourth grade, poor Mark Mattson got cancer. He had lymphoma to be exact, although I don’t remember any details about it beyond that, and I’d be shocked if we knew them. Mark went away for an extended stay at a children’s hospital that specialized in treating pediatric cancers. During this time everyone in our class at school had to write a get well card to Mark Mattson.
Mine read like this:
You know that I don’t like you very much. I cannot tell a lie. You’ve been mean to me.
Even though I don’t like you, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, and I hope you get well soon and don’t die.
Yep. I was like George Washington with axe, ahem, I mean pen in hand. Mark Mattson recovered from his bout with cancer and returned to Tinytown. In fact, you’ll be happy to hear that I can find him on Facebook, which means that he survived to live to nearly forty years of age so far, a kind of remarkable feat for anyone with childhood cancer.
When Mark came back to school, there was much fanfare and hoopla and cake and a party. Mark got up and spoke to everyone and thanked us for our letters and well wishes. He gave a special shout out to me. He read my letter outloud to the class and teachers and parents who were present and then collapsed in hysterical laughter and thanked me personally.
Who knows? Maybe laughter really can cure cancer.
To my credit, I was at least embarrassed by this scene. And all kidding aside about the healing power of laughter, maybe I learned a lesson that there is such a thing as too much honesty. Maybe some things should just remain forever unsaid.
Tuesday morning at approximately five o’clock in the morning I was rudely awakened first by barking dogs and then by two police officers in my courtyard looking for a fugitive who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had apparently parked his car on my front lawn in the midst of a hot pursuit. If the cops had shared that tidbit of information with me at the time I could have told them where the fugitive ran. He scaled the fence that separates my property from some other duplexes on another cul-de-sac that is, unless you use the “shortcut” that we have to keep boarding up and screwing No Trespassing signs to, several blocks’ walk away. But they didn’t ask me that.
What they did ask me was this:
Did you see a man run through here? No.
Can we search your backyard? Sure.
Is there a man hiding in there with you? Oh, good Lord, no.
Do you live alone in there, a two-bedroom duplex? No man, no kids? Yes.
What kind of dog is that? A weiner dog.
All of this was asked through my bedroom window, which was open. No lectures please. It’s not visible from the street. During the whole conversation I am worried that the policemen can view the vibrator on my nightstand with their flashlights, like this should be my biggest worry when they are obviously wondering if I might have been harboring a fugitive. I should have been waving it in their faces. Look! See? That man who parked his car in my front lawn is not my boyfriend. I haven’t gotten any since May. I promise. And what are you doing later? I like a man in a uniform.
I am used to people thinking of me as some sort of social anomaly. I am a thirty-eight year old single white woman who has never been married and has no kids and lives alone with a weiner dog in a two bedroom duplex in northeast Austin. My Mexican neighbors shake their heads in a mixture of sympathy and perplexity at my apparent unwillingness or inability to procreate. I think I’ve answered the question in previous posts about why I am childless. I have never fully answered the question of why I am still single. The short and politically correct answer, I guess, is that I never found “the one.” But why not?
Why not? It’s a good question. Other people fall in love and couple up. Why not me? (They’re writing songs of love, but not for me.) Well, the great thing about the internets and Facebook is that you can really examine this stuff at great length, complete with pictures of the men you used to date (or even just wanted to date) and pictures of their wives and kids and girlfriends and fiancées. You can congratulate yourself or beat yourself up, rehash what has already been overanalyzed like a horse that was beaten to death and then sent to the glue factory. Wake up and smell the Elmer’s.
One of my favorite exes is a guy that I dated very briefly in college. He has a real name, but we always called him by the name of a very famous cartoon animal from the funny papers. I’ll call him Marmaduke. I was no older than twenty at the time and still living with my parents, as in I had never moved out. He was older. Twenty-five or twenty-seven. I forget now. God, was I nuts about Marmaduke! Everyone was. He was just the most charismatic sort of guy. He waited tables at an oyster bar then. I think maybe he was in school to be a paramedic. Now he’s a firefighter. All my friends were crazy about him, too. All my guy friends thought he might be the coolest guy who ever lived. All my girlfriends were envious when he asked me out. I felt like I won the dating lottery. Why me, God? I have done nothing to deserve that the dating gods would smile on me so.
After about six or eight weeks of bliss, one evening I went over to Marmaduke’s and his roommate’s. We had a double date going on. His roommate was dating someone I was friendly with, and we had dinner over there and watched a movie. It was like any other evening I had spent with him in tone, and I never saw it coming. We went to his room. I think we made out a little. I remember he had the largest hands. I used to like to hold my hands against them, palms together and be amazed at how they would dwarf mine. Later I would write a poem about this, as if it were some sort of profound revelation and I was the first woman to ever do that sort of thing.
He said he had something to talk about, which should have been my first clue. Then Marmaduke said that I was a really great girl and that he liked me very much but that he had no intention of getting serious. I could feel the blood rush to my face, start to pool in my head. The whole pallor of the world changed, and I had the feeling that this was not real. That I would wake up the next day and realize that it had never happened, and it was all a bad dream. Then I would call up Marmaduke and we could go out for coffee with all our friends.
Serious? Who said anything about being serious? Not me. I was all for having fun. There had been no serious discussions, no pressure to commit. I was committed to getting that piece of paper that guaranteed that I had jumped through enough liberal arts hoops. And then he said that he had felt pressured by my friends, that they all seemed to be steering him toward our inevitable supercouple status. It made him uncomfortable. It made him feel like a heel. And for a split second I hated my friends, every last one of them. He could not be dissuaded. He could not be talked, begged or reassured out of it. Not that I would have begged, anyway. And that was that. We stopped seeing each other. C’est la vie.
That weekend was Superbowl weekend. We were both at a Superbowl party the very next night. I observed the pressure he had previously experienced myself. How are you and Marmaduke? You two look so great together. Why aren’t you sitting together? How’s that going? I dodged the questions. I left the party early and went to get some coffee with a girlfriend that I spilled the beans to. Screw it. Let Marmaduke explain to them what happened. He dumped me. That should be his responsibility. And eventually, the grapevine did inform everyone. I never had to answer any questions.
A mere week or so later I was playing pool with Marmaduke’s roommate and some of his friends. I was able to gather from the conversation that he was now living with some woman. Huh? And that’s when I found out that Marmaduke’s roommate was not really his roommate. I learned that he’d actually been living with a girlfriend at the time that I met him, a fact that I was absolutely certain had been purposely withheld. They were having problems. She had kicked him out of the house. How long ago? Exactly one day before he finally asked me out after months of flirting. And now she had crooked her little finger and he had come running to sleep on her couch.
My rage and righteous indignation were something that only the very young should be capable of experiencing. After all, there is worse villainy in the world. I think every last one of my male friends had known about the live in girlfriend and also known that I didn’t know. I was learning that men stand up for their own kind, regardless of their alliances with women.
“What? Do I have Spalding stamped on my forehead?” I bellowed at the top of my lungs.
They looked at me like I had sprouted a second head. They didn’t know what I was so angry about. He had needed someone to make him feel good about himself, someone with whom to have fun. And I was nothing if not fun. I am the original good time girl. How had this hurt me? I got several free dinners out of it, after all.
That’s pretty much the story of Marmaduke. He never did really reconcile with the girlfriend. He tried. She wouldn’t take him back. With enough time we became friends again and once we even made a botched attempt at being physically intimate with each other. I was in the habit of being way more physical with exes than I had been when I was actually dating them, as if I could not handle the simultaneous risk of both my heart and my body. One at a time, please.
We ran into each other again several years after I graduated when he was living with the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his children. We were at church, and when I showed up with some friends they purposely let me stand beside Marmaduke, on the other side of the girlfriend, who introduced herself later as “practically married” to him. Funny. I don’t see a ring. He was genuinely ecstatic to see me, surprised, gushing over how great I looked. And that really was the end of it.
Why did I tell this story to explain why I never got married? Is it because I think of Marmaduke as the one that got away? No. I have no regret about that. I tell the story only because it is typical of my dating relationships prior to the Rat Bastard except that I usually did the dumping. I may have been overly picky. I once refused to keep seeing a really cute guy that I had a terrific time with on a date, largely because he couldn’t tell the difference between Sinatra and Bobby Darrin on a recording of, “Mack the Knife.” That was really the final straw for me. A gay friend of mine said I should have given the guy another chance since the orchestral arrangement on both recordings is exactly the same.
I sometimes secretly think that men are good for nothing. But then I realize that that’s completely unfair. They are, after all, good for disappointment. They are really great at managing to make you feel like shit about yourself from about the time you start to grow hips and breasts until, I presume, the time that you get your first hot flash. Maybe longer. And it is this attitude that probably, more than anything, is why I am still single.
I have this innocent habit of looking up people in my past that I haven’t seen in a long time, via googling. Some of my friends who are harsh critics like to call this cyberstalking. Not so. And I know that I’m not the only person who enjoys this activity. I just do it out of idle curiosity. No one gets hurt. Usually, no one even gets contacted. It’s just fun to see where people end up and what they do with their lives. All the examples listed below are men, but I look up women friends, too.
As a for instance, I recently googled The Rat Bastard to find that, if you can believe his own website (which I don’t), he now owns his own fabulously successful information technology consulting and services firm. Sure, now he’s rolling in the dough!
Facebook is a great place to do this, too. I’ve found lots of people I haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes I actually befriend them. Sometimes they find me. For instance, a guy that I once briefly dated in college is now my friend on Facebook. He’s a total asshole, but I have no backbone about this sort of thing. If someone asks to be my friend on Facebook I’ll probably befriend them anyway. He’s still an asshole. He at least admits to being married on Facebook, but there are no pictures of his wife and kids on his Facebook. It’s mostly pictures of him with famous liberal politicians that he’s met and pictures from his childhood.
I’ve cyberstalked my main heckler from my junior high school for years now. No kidding, this boy made my life nothing short of a living hell with his constant ridicule from the time I was twelve to the time I was fourteen when I finally moved in the middle of my freshman year. Yet I love to look him up on the internet from time to time. I think I’m secretly hoping that his life is miserable.
The fact is that said young man grew up and graduated with honors with a bachelors degree in English from a state university, then went on to get a masters and even a Ph.D. from a private university in California. Some of those years were spent studying abroad in France. He headed some institute thingy in Austria and then came back to the U.S. to work for a huge, fancy and very famous non-profit foundation in Chicago. Then back to the university where he earned his Ph.D. to work for another non profit. And most recently off to London to work for another type of non-profit, again headed by someone very famous and wealthy who’s concerned with improving conditions for all people in the heavily populated areas of the Muslim world, regardless of their religion, national origin or sex.
When I knew this same young man who is now so concerned with saving the world’s poor and downtrodden, just buying your clothes at Wal-Mart and living in a trailer park were enough to make you the scum of the earth. Being poor was something he believed you should have the good sense to be ashamed of. If you didn’t realize it, then he would do the shaming for you. And I wasn’t poor like the poverty stricken of the third world. I just only owned two pairs of jeans and ate a lot of macaroni and cheese. It wasn’t truly a great hardship. He hit me on the head with a fly swatter once to demonstrate his contempt. I’m imagining just what kind of punishment would befall a poor Muslim woman from the ghettos of Calcutta in his care. Would she get hit with a cane?
Eh. People change. I should probably be glad that he actually seems to have evolved into a decent human being. But I’m happier that he’s going bald, and he’s probably still short.