Wednesday, March 18, 2015

State of the CW

Yeah. So things happened. And I did some things in response to those things that happened, and the results? Are things I'm pretty happy with. You guys are without a doubt the freaking awesomest group of people who ever awesomed. And yes, I know those aren't words. It's my blog. So there.

Which brings us to the topic(s) at hand: the next book. Specifically, Part 2 of Iron Bars, Ivory Scars.

It's still coming. I want one last edit-through and then we're setting some dates. And then there's one more third after that. And then I need to girl up and fix the very outdated Publishing schedule and try to be better about keeping my promises.

One factor--a big one--is that I allow writing too much importance in my life and I have very little balance...which means that when I fail at a goal, I don't have anything else to fall back on. When my writing is good and I fail at everything else? I'm cool. When the writing's bad? Well, you've seen how the last year's gone.

I took a couple major, major hits last year that I have not talked about at all, and it knocked a lot of the wind out of me. I didn't have the reserves I usually had for writing, and that touched off a really, really nasty tailspin that probably is not even done.

The only thing that's fit well, and I hate using it because it's intended for chronic physical illness and not "CW forgets her pills again", is Spoon Theory. I've worked far more demanding jobs than the current one, but the timing and the nature of the workload means I...get nothing done. By the time I get home I don't want to do anything except lay on the couch and fall asleep watching cheesy netflix movies. Some nights its too much trouble to even pick out a movie. I handed the article about Spoon Theory off to my mother so she could use it with her patients...and we both just kind of wound up using it ourselves. The other day she asked me why I didn't switch my bank account from a very inconvenient one to a far more friendly company here in town. What I thought about was changing cards, getting KDP/Amazon to start talking to a new bank, finding all the services I want to keep and telling them about the new debit cards and new banks, and what would I do when I forgot about something...and all I had to say was "No spoons." Making phone calls and filling out forms sometimes feels so herculean and the easiest thing is just to roll over and sleep for five more minutes. Five more. Five more.

And then it's time for work.

You guys have been amazing and supportive, and hopefully I'll pull out of this soon enough and start rewarding you for your loyalty. Have a great day, my lovelies!

Monday, March 16, 2015



Izzy here is such an awesome character, and her part in this story really surprised me. So that means we are ON TRACK people.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Clarifications on RH/BS

I've just had a conversation that was rather disturbing, and made it obvious I need to clarify my involvement in this entire conversation about Benjanuan Sridungkaew. Up until a few hours ago I believed that the following was understood by all parties and went without saying. At least one person believed the opposite was true.

I made my first public statement about Requires Hate/Benjanun on October 20th, 2014. Shortly after that, the first of her apologies appeared and I made a statement about that here on this blog. I had known about her outing for at least a week prior to my first public statement. At no point prior to October 20th was I contacted by ANYONE involved in this debate. I was not informed about the outing of Benjanun when it occured, nor was I contacted by anyone with requests to use my story. I learned about the outing of Benjanun through my referral links on my blog's statistics. At no point prior to October 20th did I recieve ANY requests to use my story as evidence against Benjanun.

If I had received any requests I WOULD NOT have given my consent. I had not been contacted by Benjanun since roughly May of 2013. I had absolutely no interest in attracting her attention or having anything whatsoever to do with her. I was, for all intents and purposes, DONE with Requires Only That You Hate and I wanted to forget about it. Were I convinced to participate, I would have requested that all coverage of and references to my history with Benjanun omit the fact of my rape, and that all links refer to the December conversations, and not the May 6th review. On that review I very graphically described my rape and ended by telling Benjanun to fuck off. It is a very personal document and is HIGHLY inappropriate for inclusion in a debate about anything of substance. After May 6th 2013 I received NO direct referrals from the Requires Hate blog and a quickly diminishing number of links from her twitter feed. In contrast the conversations surrounding my December 2012 posts were vitriolic, demeaning and hurtful. These are the posts and conversations that have relevance to Benjanun's behavior. My sexual history is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to the current conversation and should not have been brought up EVER. I did not consent to having the fact of my rape be tied to anything concerning Benjanun, or to have it be brought up in public AT ALL.

The ONLY write up, post, article or document I EVER consented to is the Mixon Report. This is also the only one I voluntarily contributed to. This includes Aja Romano's Daily Dot article, the Azarias write up, the blog pots by other prominent authors, the mentions on various gaming forums, and all posts on Fandomfail_anon and the Wank Report. Other than Laura J. Mixon, her associates, and Benjanun Sridungkaew and her associates, I have not been approached by anyone involved in this debate.

I began making public statements on October 20th because I was highly disturbed with how I was being represented. I felt that if I were going to be dragged into this debate, I might as well be an active participant, rather than a passive tool.  I did not like that a seven-year-old traumatic event that pre-dates the creation of my blog was worked into the narrative, and I did not like that this story was being used without my knowledge or consent. As it was too late to request that authors, blogs and forums stop involving me in the conversation, I spoke out on this blog and in the forums where I had a pre-existing account. I have not brought this up before now because I did not wish to discuss this any more than I already had. And again, given the option I would rather not have participated at all. 

While I did voluntarily contribute to the Mixon report, I did not fully understand its scope or its purpose at the time. Nor did I have any knowledge of who Laura J. Mixon was. I had stopped following the publishing industry shortly before I began self publishing. On October 20th, I was contacted in a semi-public message by one of her associates who asked if I were willing to share and directed me to an anonymous gmail account. I did not even see the name Mixon until after the Mixon Report was published. I understood that I was contributing to an eventual article or write up about Benjanun and do not feel particularly deceived by Mixon's use of an anonymous account to collect this information, but there was very little clarity about what contributions sent to the gmail address would be used for.  I was and still am very greatful that Mixon sought and recieved my consent, and that she handled my contribution respectfully. She is the ONLY person on that side of the debate to do so. After the Mixon Report was published, Laura J. Mixon contacted me and thanked me for my participation. I have received no other contact from Mixon or her associates.

In terms of how I personally have been treated, the contrast between these groups is enormous and disturbing. In the process of documenting Benjanun's behavior, those opposing her (with the exception of Mixon) made NO attempt to seek my consent, protect my feelings, or even warn me that this was happening. All articles that mention me, again excepting the Mixon Report, refer to me as "the rape victim" with no other clarifying details. No one has contacted me in the aftermath of any article to check on my welfare. I have been made aware of EVERY development on that side of  this debate through referral links to articles that, with very few exceptions, refer to me with objectifying and dehumanizing language. In contrast, Benjanun and her supporters have taken steps to inform me of upcoming statements, verify my consent, and confirm that something is acceptable prior to publication. My past trauma has not been mentioned by her side, something that I greatly appreciate, and on not-infrequent occasions they have even asked if I am handling the stress of these events safely. Regardless of how genuine these gestures are, they were incredibly surprising and are greatly appreciated.

I have not had any direct or indirect benefit from my involvement in this debate. This blog is not monetized, and any attempt to do so will be difficult bordering on impossible. While debate concerning Benjanun Sridungkaew has become my primary source for blog traffic, this has resulted in little, if any, new readers. My book sales had been in decline before Benjanun was outed, and there was no noticeable increase after people began linking to me. I have made no lasting contacts and while I've made a few new friends, it is the result of conversations and mutual interests that have nothing to do with this debate. I have been reminded on a daily basis of an online incident I was greatly ashamed of, and of a trauma that I have yet to even process. In short, I have been involved in a debate without consent, warning or reward and will continue to be involved whether I want it or not for the foreseeable future.

In terms of stress, the 2012/2013 encounter with Benjanun and the current coverage are, for me, identical in nature. Avoiding or "stepping back" from the current debate would require me to abandon my blog and social media for an unforeseen amount of time. It is still pervasive and I have yet to go 12 hours without receiving another visitor from a blog or article about Benjanun. Even if I elected not to talk to or about her, she would STILL be a part of my day-to-day life. I have been tied into the narrative about her without either my voluntary input or consent and it appears that this will continue to be true for the foreseeable future.

I believe the only choice I have is HOW I participate. The fact of my participation has, unfortunately, already been decided for me.

I have no bad feelings towards ANYONE involved in this. Not Benjanun, not the people who are using my story. If requested I am willing to speak out, but only with the awareness of ALL parties in this debate, and only if the welfare of everyone involved is taken into account. But I want to make it very goddamn clear that I was never offered a choice RE: my involvement, and that the only way to avoid this is to abandon my blog and my books until this conversation ends. Not only is that highly unlikely to happen any time soon, it is a step I am not willing to take.

I had the impression that being involved without my consent was par for the course and that I should expect no better. I did not believe I had any foundation to request different treatment, and I still do not know if I do. But on the off chance that someone thinks my involvement in this is something I ever wanted, the answer is a profound and resounding NO.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 28-30

This chapter opens with Kitto.

No, no, all he does is draw a bath. And...uh...

He had begun to anticipate my needs, not as a lover or a friend but as a good servant.

Unobtrusive, quiet, just there when needed. No friend or lover had ever been unobtrusive. Messy, joyous, heartbreaking, wonderful, but never unobtrusive.

Guys, if the best compliment you can give somebody is He makes me feel like he's not even there 1. he'd better be a fucking waiter and 2. you'd better give him a tip larger than your hourly wage because being perfectly unobtrusive is humiliating as hell.

Seriously, you're making the not-a-twelve-year-old character turn into Merry's fucking Lady of the Chamber here? No. No, no sorry, this is not cool.

Merry pets Kitto.

He's only wearing a thong.

This is going downhill fast, isn't it?

Merry finally gets in the tub and wonders why Galen's blood is still clinging to her skin. Probably because you've screwed around for a couple hours since he got shot, and it's clotted and half dry. Because, you know, THAT'S WHAT BLOOD DOES. 

Merry then remembers how it felt to see Galen shot. The word Blood, incidentally, no longer looks like a word.

They discuss fairy politics with about as much pizzaz as the talking heads on Fox News. Merry attempts a half-assed commentary on racism and beauty standards that doesn't really hold water because, you know, the beauty of an octopus-legged fae being unappreciated isn't something people usually deal with. Kitto then explains that the plan for his future was for the goblins to eat him. 

Galen and Kitto snuggle.

I long and pray for brain bleach because, remember, Kitto looks twelve. 

Next chapter: Galen, Merry and Kitto have sex.

While they make out, they discuss how dangerous Merry's next set of lovers (The goblin twins, which would make an awesome band name) will be. Which I can't pay attention to because AGAIN, Kitto looks twelve. 

The ONLY good news is that LKH, via Kitto correcting Merry, acknowledges the concept of female-on-male rape as a thing that happens. I would have Tina Fey high five a million angels here but AGAIN, KITTO LOOKS TWELVE. 

Seriously. Your ability to take the moral high ground ends when you're talking about a twelve-year-old look-alike having relations with an adult look-alike. IT IS SO FUCKING AWFUL FUCKING WRONG WRONG WRONG GOD WHY IS THIS HERE.

Merry informs us all, for the ten thousandth time, that she likes oral sex. Between this, and how Nicca (our OTHER token brown person who has just been kicked out of the harem) is described as "Chocolate colored goodness" and his wings as "spun sugar fantasy" I begin to wonder just how high these oral fixations go. (Author: EAT FIRST THEN WRITE)

LKH then makes sure that we ALL know that Christianity spoiled polyamorous sex for everybody.

Yeah, but the pagans fed us to lions and used us like tiki torches. See, I can play that game too!

(Note: Christians did lots of horrible things, but "ruined poly" needs to go really on low down the list)

The Goddess makes an appearance. So now we have a five way between Merry, Galen, Nicca, Kitto and a fucking deity.

The legal definition of an orgy is five people in a closed room without shoes. I'm not sure how we'd check the Deity's footwear though, so I think they're still good. Also: apparently fertility is directly tied to how many people you are screwing.

Guys, my parents had such severe fertility issues I should not exist. Dismissing baby-making problems as "you're not fucking enough" is just...damn, I already used "Nuke the Site from Orbit," didn't I?

The rest of chapter 30 is a deity driven infomercial for poly.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The New-New Statement RE: The Friend

I spent a week working on this and 24hrs psyching myself up into posting it. I realized that my paranoia/trigger about disappointing people was the major factor preventing me from posting it. So if this hurts anybody...I'm sorry. I have to live with my conscience and my conscience has been screaming that I need to do this since about mid-December.

I don't like bullies.  

This is going to irritate some (if not all) of my regulars, and some (if not all) of the people who have reached out to me over the last few months. I'm sorry if it does. I'm saying this because I feel I need to. I've been looking at it for, like, a week, struggling with what to say. I've also been deeply afraid of what this statement will do to everyone involved. I fully expect to get hammered for saying it. 

I still think it needs to be said.  

Benjanun Sriduankaew (AKA Requires Hate, AKA the Unnamed Friend) and her supporters are providing her side of the events that began last November. Unfortunately the conflict around her happened to involve me. She and I had a conflict several years ago--ironically enough, also in November--and the fact of that conflict--not the subject, just the fact that it happened--became a part of the story against her. (If you're not familiar with this, go here and here)

I'm cool with that. Her statement...thing.

In fact, I'm a little more than cool. See, as much as I don't like bullies? I do like people.  
No. More than that. I love them. Every time I think that I understand what they are capable of, they surprise me with something wonderful. People change. People grow. People are capable of such extremes, and at our worst we are unforgivable. But at our best...oh, God, my dears, at our best we are amazing. Every one of us has the potential to be as good as we are bad. Destroying people accomplishes nothing.
I've been blathering on my blog for the last few months on the concept of agape--the greek word for unconditional love that gets flung around in Christian circles like it's paint in a lidless blender. (I find it to be a very valuable word that's been cheapened by overuse, but I suspect most secular readers aren't familiar with it.)  I don't like bullies because they create divisions that don't have to be there. They destroy relationships before they start. They limit what others can do. They hurt others. They make life more difficult when we humans really don't need the extra garbage. They add conditions to something that shouldn't have them.  
But the thing is? (And here's another trite-yet-valuable saying) Hurt people hurt people. When we have pain, be it acute or chronic, we tend to lash out and get it on others. Active attempts at damaging others is rooted in something deeper, something that can't quite make it to the surface. While this does not justify the pain we cause others, it explains it. Piling more pain onto the bully just drives the hurt deeper, and escalates the bad behavior. Not only will nothing get fixed, everything will get more broken. 

November of 2012 was not a good one for me, something that would be true if Benjanun had not contacted me at all. I had several real life bullies who were much nastier than she was (Trust me, a vitriolic blogger has nothing on an actual homophobic, narcissistic racist, and I was dealing with several). The extra stress of her actions aggravated an already stressful situation. She criticized me in ways I was especially vulnerable to, and reminded me of events I was not and still am not ready to process. She created an atmosphere of paranoia and double-guessing and took away one of the few areas for stress relief I had at the time. I carried some of that resentment around because it hurt. Hurt sticks, regardless of intent.  

Last November, after a short and explosive burst of anger, I found myself able to forgive her. Even suggesting that I could bought me a certain amount of backlash. How could I do that? How could I forgive a person who has hurt me, and hurt so many other people? 

Because she's a person. With feelings. That ought to be respected even if we don't agree with them. 
That's the core issue in the original conflict between me and her. I said something she objected to. Because she disagreed with me, she attacked my words without taking my feelings or well-being into account, and that lead to damage, a few heated words on my part, and a pretty ugly episode splashed across a small corner of the internet. Eventually we left each other alone. We both moved on. 

 Nowhere in this equation does it state that anybody has the right to hurt her back because of what she's said or done.  

I've paid attention to the debate involving her, even after I decided I no longer wanted to be involved in it, and I haven't liked what I've seen. The current harassment of Benjanun Sriduankaew has nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict that I had to do with her two years ago. It can't, because that's not how these things work. Eye-for-an-eye is not a valid judgment call. If it is true for me to say that I am not responsible for her behavior two years ago, and that I did not deserve that treatment, then its true to say the same for her right now. And I feel that it is true. If she deserves anything, it's our respect and sympathy. 

Because she's a person 

I did contribute to the backlash by speaking out very early on in anger and hurt. I wanted the kind of treatment I experienced to stop, and that urgency combined with the left-over emotions pushed me over the edge. It's something I regret. The one thing that is not true about our conflict and has never been true is that she's harassed me because I was raped. That's kind of the implication I see whenever I find myself linked to under the less-than-sensitive title, "The rape victim" (Note: Please stop doing that). The truth is we got into a conflict over words (I called a fictional character a "bitch") and it spiraled out of control. I just happened to be a statistic at the same time. 

The deciding factor for where I'd choose to fall in this debate was how the backlash against her made me feel sick to my stomach very, very quickly. Pain, by its very definition, is undeserved. The parallels between her treatment of me and others current treatment of her is very easy to see, and I do not want to be a part of causing anyone pain. Answering hate with hate is not the answer. It feels good, but it's a sick kind of good. It heals, but it creates an abscess in the process. Because if you can hurt your enemy, you can hurt a neutral stranger. If you can hurt a neutral stranger, then you can hurt your friends. Each time you strike out with the intent to damage, you hurt yourself as much as you do your enemy.  

The answer to bullying is not to bully the bullies. The sheer inanity of that statement should make it self explanatory. 

A lot of people will say her side doesn't matter. That she's hurt so many people, she deserves to be hurt in turn. I disagree. Not because I will necessarily agree with her side, but because the kind of resolution I'd most like to see, one in which everyone is able to come out ahead, means caring for even those we don't agree with.  
That does not mean we need to let her off the hook for her errors in judgment. We do need to take steps to protect ourselves from potentially toxic people, and she needs to do the self-work necessary to state her opinions and present herself to the world without hurting others in the process. I don’t think that process will be perfect. But there's a big difference between "protect ourselves" and "batter somebody else into the ground".  

As a Christian, for me everything always goes back to the Bible. Not because I think it's the be-all-end-all, but because it is the most effective language I know for social constructs like unconditional love and dealing with toxicity. And the thing I remember the most with situations like this is that bit in the Lord's Prayer that goes "Forgive us, as we forgive others. " There are no qualifiers. There's no "If I agree with their behavior" or "If I agree with their lifestyle" or "If their taste in media matches what I call good" or “If they adhere to all the rules of good behavior”. Even if you do not believe in the Christian God, or any higher power, we are still supposed to forgive as we hope to be forgiven. Full stop.  
On a personal note: I've spoken with her (long after I made the decision to forgive her) and we're relatively cool with each other. We've also agreed to respect each other's boundaries, something she has been VERY respectful of. You can make of that what you will. I cannot and will not support her in negative behaviors towards others, but I absolutely will support her in any positive changes and restructuring she chooses to do in her life. The same goes for her opponents. I will absolutely support positive changes in the community to minimize the damage of toxic behavior and attitudes, but I cannot and will not support actions against the people themselves. I hope and pray that she will make positive choices in spite of the backlash she has received, and that the genre community in general can learn how to police itself without abusing violators above and beyond what their behavior calls for. 

As I said, I've been terrified in how this statement with effect others, and what it will do to me in the future. I know it runs the risk--hopefully, the very small risk--of ending friendships. But there's nothing meritorious or especially beneficial to humans in general if the only people we treat with dignity are the ones we agree with. I have long believed that the only way to solve most of humanity's problems is to start treating people like they have inherent value because they do. Nobody's throw-away, regardless of their behavior.

 In the end, the only person I have to live with is me. And the one thing I want to be able say is that no matter who started it, the cycle of damage stops with me.  

I wish her all the best. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Warning on Next Post

Guys, I've had a post sitting in my to-do pile that I've wanted to do for quite a while, but have been too scared to post. It won't effect blogging here or future books (I AM WORKING ON IT GODDAMN IT DEPRESSION SUCKS) but it will likely anger an awful lot of people.

In preparation, please understand that my idea of conflict resolution is to make peace and make friends whenever possible. Everybody is valuable and deserves to be treated fairly. I appreciate the support and I love all of you dearly. That said, I refuse to be anyone's tool for any purpose whatsoever.

If I disappoint anybody, I'm very sorry.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stroke of Midnight chapter 27

We're having sex in the bathroom. Merry complains that the bathroom is too small for group sex, which has a fairly obvious solution involving, you know, not having sex in a bathroom. 

Seriously, you can shower first. It's not going to break the universe if you come to group fairy sex clean.

Rhys tells Merry that the Sithen has started screwing with time again and that the cops (Remember the cops? There were cops, right?) outside only perceived a few minutes between when the crime scene techs entered the mound and when they were escorted back out. This is a Thing, but nobody knows how big a Thing it is. We segue into a discussion on the personhood of the Mound, which is a pretty big deal and should have been addressed several damn books ago.

Then we go back to understanding how bad the Sithen missing time can be. Basically it's "We're possibly fucked." because time can slip in reverse too.

Then Doyle points out that Merry said how they didn't have enough time to play court on the Queen AND investigate the murder of innocent humans, so it's ALL HER FAULT.

What's sad is that the book agrees with Doyle. Merry is All Powerful and STRONG, blog readers, STRONG, so anything that goes wrong is ALL HER FAULT. It's a massively co-dependant form of thought. One of the coping strategies for codependancy is that you accept blame that cannot possibly be yours because it provides you with the illusion of control, and having no control is scarier than being responsible for shit that you cannot POSSIBLY have done. Once again, this is a lovely example of how unhealthy attitudes is written into this book's DNA.

And THEN the boys go on to state that this means ANDAIS ISN'T THE QUEEN CHOSEN BY THE FAIRY MOUND AND MERRY IS. This statement is immediately followed by this ambiguous sentence:

“She was in Europe ,” Doyle said, “but when we arrived in America, the new faerie mound did not.”
The first three times I read that, it meant that the Mound didn't follow the Faerie to the states. I think it means that the Mound in Europe chose Andais, but the Mound they stole from the Cahokia indians didn't pick Andais because fertility (Fuck is Fairyland ablest.)

Doyle and Galen "As you know, Bob" a lot of fairy history to Merry that Merry ought to already know. I thought we were going to have sex in a bathroom, Guys. Anyway, the Sithen is supposed to recognise a rular, Andais promised to step down if hers ever recognized somebody and it didn't, Taranis exiled the dude that the Seelie sithen liked, and that's Aisling who I THINK is one of Merry's guards now?

I just saved you three pages. You're welcome.

Then Merry finally displays some smarts and realizes that if she takes Aisling to the ball Taranis is insisting she attend, he'll balk at admitting her and she can call insult and get out of having to attend.

They talk more about having sex in the bathtub. Apparently she's only going to screw Galen and Nicca in the tub, Galen 'cause he's dirty and Nicca so that he and Biddy can--wait, I thought that the Nicca/Biddy relationship had to be consumated with Merry for it to be valid.

Whatever. Moving on.

Frost points out that he doesn't like that Merry has to use her body as a bargaining chip.

However, Merry decides that Frost is wrong in stating that even a princess should have rights and body autonomy, and she says this:

“Frost,” I said, going to him, “a royal woman’s body has been a bargaining chip for thousands of years. At least I’m not bargaining myself away in marriage. That might be my fate if I were human.”

There is so much wrong in that one statement. I mean...YES, YES royal women have had their sexuality be a bargaining chip in men's power plays for centuries. Queen Elizabeth the first had to choose between being motherfucking Queen and having a personal life, and she chose the former because she knew the latter would turn her life into a living hell (Bonus round: her life was so well documented, right down to the condition of her bedsheets, that there's only a six month window for her to ever have had sex and/or a kid.) But here's the thing: You can change it. So much of the lack of conflict in these novels is that Merry identifies something as wrong but doesn't make steps to change it. Instead, she just goes along with whatever. And while it's worth remembering that LKH doesn't want to make a broad political statement, that this is JUST ABOUT SEX--by having Merry, the re-energizing figure of the Goddess, respond to a rapy situation with "Meh, that's just how it is, and it could be worse" LKH is implicitly endorsing about nine different unhealthy attitudes that NOBODY wants in books anymore.

But at least it can't get any--

“Second, I’m tired of your acting as if your blood and body are too precious to be bargained with. I put my flesh and blood up for grabs a lot for you, all of you. You won’t feed anyone. You won’t even let a single demi-fey watch. Rhys won’t let goblins touch him, or the demi-fey either now.”
Are. You. Shitting. Me.

Merry. Just because you've elected to disrespect your body--which you clearly just fucking did because you just fucking said that not trading your body for politics is an indicator of value (It's not, but you think that way so we're playing this game on your terms)--does not give you the right to make ANYBODY ELSE do shit. What the bad guys are demanding you do is wrong. Your agreeing to it is an uncomfortable compromise that you should not have to make. The fact that you do it does not in any way diminish either your personhood OR the sheer fucking wrong-ness of the demands being placed on you. But you CANNOT demand anyone else objectify themselves so that you don't have to feel so very alone. The high ground here is to not trade your body for political power. It's the road that will be harder, it's the road that will end with some of your people dead, but it's the ONLY road that leads to a life worth living for you and everyone involved with you.

Do not EVER demand that somebody else do something they're not comfortable with. It makes you a terrible person.

Merry is making Galen, who has PTSD because of the demi-fey, sleep with the fucking demi-fey.

Everyone in this book is horrible and there are no redeeming qualities.

 Merry goes over the long list of people she has to sleep with tonight. It really is very long.

Frost kisses her for two pages. She finally gets into the bathtub with Galen.

End of chapter.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

On Homeschooling: I Will Control your Soul

One of my guilty pleasures, a major one, is that I kinda heart Traci Lords. Yeah, she's a campy actress (I think she's even been in a couple of Asylum movies) but...Yeah, there's a real soft space in my cold lil heart for Ms. Lords. And I found this song to be...appropriate.

The group I call the Homeschool Hijackers fall into three major groups: Bill Gothard and ATI, Vision Forum and its support system, and the Pearls. While there are many, many other sub groups--authors, magazines, religious movements--these three groups enter into every single homeschooling story I've ever heard of. Their ideology taints every aspect of homeschooling. Even if your family didn't enroll in ATI, use Doug Phillips' materials, or use the Pearls (terrible. horrible. disgusting.) books, the odds were that people in your homeschooling group did, and it was very likely that the people offering your parents advice were, in effect, offering water from a poisoned well.

Religion has two uses, one positive, one negative. The positive use is the support that it offers the individual. It creates a common ground between individuals. It provides comfort in times of stress. It gives people a common, simplified language for offering complex advice. And, if you believe in the spiritual dimension, as I do, it connects you with something bigger than yourself. In this context the heart of religion isn't about its rules, its regulations and its structure, but rather the individual's relationship first with the divine and second with the general population.

The negative version of religion is a structure of control. The structure works independent of religion, and can be employed in a secular thought system, but works best inside of a pre-existing group with structure already in place. Controlling people requires a great deal of manipulation and momentum; it's easiest to do that by hijacking something that already exists. If you look at the history of abusive cults, the theme that repeats over and over is the Leader coming to a pre-existing group and progressively taking it over.

(As a side note I believe this makes the notion of removing religion to solve the issue of cults pretty meaningless. Religion provides an easy in, but removing the obvious targets simply points the predator at the next level up. Cult-like groups will always exist regardless of religion. The issue is not the groups. It's the predatory thinkers targeting the groups)

The most dangerous thing we do when we discuss manipulative groups is underestimate the intelligence of the manipulated. We imply that if you are well read enough, with enough innate intelligence and mental flexibility, you can recognize an abusive group before you become involved. We say this because we only begin to see these groups once the abuse is so great, it's begun to self-destruct. But there is a long, slow, complicated process manipulative leaders use to attract and then retain their audience, and it very, VERY rarely varies from group to group. It's a pattern utilized by Jim Jones, David Koresh, Scientology and even Nazi Germany. Insulting the intelligence of people involved in abusive groups is not only unfair to them, it is very dangerous for the rest of us. All of us are vulnerable to this kind of thing. If not through a Christian group, then through a group focused on another religion. If not through a religious group, than through a secular one. Manipulative people prey not on human stupidity or gullibility, but on human nature. It is our very best qualities that leave us open to manipulation and damage.

In other words, this is not a problem that you can easily fight.

So if a person, say, a homeschooling parent, is smart enough to see through this shit, why do they fall for it? How does a genuinely good parent fall for the controlling, manipulative and unbelievably toxic materials pushed by mainline homeschoolers? And once they see the sickness for what it is, what keeps them there?

There's a lot of tools, and I'm going to try to address most of them. But the biggest one, the one that runs across the entire thing, is the rules.

The version of Christianity most homeschooling materials promote is very, very strict, with rules including how one may dress, what kind of music one may listen to, what sort of materials one may read, even what kind of food you can eat. Most of these restrictions have absolutely no basis in the Bible. None. Full stop. You will not find "Thou shalt not Dance" or "Stone anyone who listens to Rock Music" anywhere in the Bible. You will find "thou shalt not intermarry with other nations"...buuuuut you'll also find episodes like Paul and the Ethopian and the time Mariam, Moses's sister, poked fun at Moses's dark-skinned wife for her dark skin and got motherfucking cursed with fucking leperosy. (If you're not a Bible-person, OT God has three "pissed" settings: gentle talking to, your kids are dead, and Leprosy. After that you hit fire and brimstone and you don't usually come back from that one) and how absolutely nobody paid attention to that rule. (Seriously. Kings and Chronicles, both halves, spend more time dwelling on the marital habits of Israel and Judah's kings than most tabloids--and IMHO are much nastier about it.)

But the rules. The restrictions.  The things that make life for homeschooled families borderline endurable at best and laughably horrible most of the time. Once you realize that none of it is Bible-based it becomes intensely confusing as to why, for example, girls have to wear floor length skirts when the bible seems more concerned about what the thread composition is (as blends are kinda verboten) than how low it goes. There are no restrictions on music. At all. Ever. (In fact, most of the times music is mentioned in the bible it's less Dances from Terpsichore and more that rave scene from Matrix Reloaded. There's one story where David got so into dancing before God's altar that his wife said "UH, DIGNITY MUCH" and Samuel AKA Voice-of-God for the generation said "Will you please shut up? Oh, and no kids for you.") It's just not there.

(Also: I bring up Dances for a specific reason: It's music written in honor of a classical greek goddess AND it was pushed very strongly by the "Matthews" AKA the high-profile Homeschooling family I worked for back on 05-06. So Rock music is flat out, but music straight up dedicated to a pagan goddess can be recommended AND sold for profit! RIGHT.)

And yet by putting problematic behavior into arbitrary, non-biblical rules, the people behind those rules--all of whom are terrible, by anyone's definition of behavior--manage to cement an attitude and outlook receptive to their version of control. For example, many of the arbitrary rules against music are rooted in a deeply racist perspective, one so repellant that most parents would refuse to comply. Instead of stating that Black People are bad because they're Black, the leaders state that Black culture is bad because it's devil worship and you could go to hell just by association. The emphasis here is not on "black culture is bad" but rather on "hell by association", which means the audience only hears "If I do this, I die." By doing this, the leader has actually prevented the audience from ever questioning his racist attitudes, because this is no longer an issue of race or Other, but of self-preservation. A bonus is if the audience members even start to question the line of thinking--ie why are we saying aspects of Black Culture are devil worship--they either get pitched out of the group or threatened back into compliance. See, by questioning, they're going to hell, which means anyone listening to them may go to hell by association. It's a downward spiral that is very, very ugly.

Dressing up the attitudes you want your group to have under the guise of "right living" nets abusive systems an audience five times larger than they would have had, were they open and honest about their goals. An incredibly good modern example of this is GamerGate--the goal is to hurt people, but by dressing it up in terms most people can agree with (ETHICS! IN JOURNALISM!) they prevent anyone from uncovering what those goals really are. And Homeschooling Culture is a far, far more attractive demographic for this nonsense because it means the leaders can hijack an entire generation of children and indoctrinate them without anyone realizing what the hell is going on.

The thing is? If you look at the Bible, and I mean really look at it, put it in cultural and historical context, not just of the age it was written but of the ages of its translation (something that absolutely no one does, and something that ought to be just as critical a history period, given the MASSIVE number of biases the KJV cemented into stone), you'll see that not only is all this shit completely unbiblical, it's the perfect antithesis to what the religion was intended to be. 

If you ask your average homeschooler/conservative Christian type why they follow these arbitrary and exhausting rules, they'll have a quick, pat answer for you. It's one that gets drilled into your skulls from very early on in your time in the faith: 1st Thessalonians 5:22.

Are you ready for this shattering, human-breaking, awful burden of a bible verse?

You sure?

Here it is:

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil 
Yeah. It's one of the short ones. Which makes it very easy to take out of context. Most verses used like this, you have to cut them into smaller pieces. This one is nice, short, sweet, easy to memorize, and even easier to twist into a pretzel. And as a bonus, it's one of the ones where the immediate context is still obscure enough to make deception possible.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Even there, it's kinda hard to see the context. It looks like a list of rules and instructions for the individual to follow to the letter without any wriggle room. And there's also a couple really problematic things in there (Despise not prophesyings is troubling when you realize that David Koresh styled himself as a prophet and he was about as biblical a leader as I am a bird.)

But that idea of "HERE ARE RULES YOU MUST FOLLOW" just doesn't cut the mustard. This is not an Old Testament book. This is New Testament, which is really light on rules given the whole "Jesus Died so we don't have to" theme. AND it's a Letter. Again, if you're not a Bible person, The New Testament has your History books (The Gospels+Acts) your Letters (everything between Acts and Revelation) and your "What is this I don't even John are you Okay?" book (The Revelation of John) And like most of Paul's letters, the Thessalonian letters were written to a beleaguered and persecuted religious body from a leader who was in prison awaiting trial and execution, and that prison was also Rome's sewer system. Not too long after this, the Roman Emperor started using Christians (Nero=white guy, Christians=Middle eastern brown people) as torches to light up his garden parties. The church at Thessalonica, like most of the churches Paul was writing to, weren't worried about pot lucks and cotillions. They were kind of preoccupied with not dying at the hands of their neighbors. And what does Paul write about while he's waiting to be beheaded and also ankle deep in literal shit?

Faith. Hope. Unconditional Love.

 Believe, have hope, and love one another. Again: He's ankle deep in shit and he's waiting to be executed (and FYI the only reason Paul was alive to write these letters is that he was a Roman citizen and thus privileged enough to rate a trial before he got dragged out and murdered. Yes, standing in shit for months on end was a privilege) and he's talking about how important it is to believe. To hope for things to get better. To take care of one another without condition (agape, remember?) and above all to endure until the end.

That list up there isn't a list of by-the-book formula instructions. They are the closing wishes from one man in the process of dying to a group of people being actively hunted down and murdered by their neighbors.

The mindset one has when one is going through a trial, be it IRL persecution or online harassment, determines how well one can weather the crisis-es one goes through. Maintaining a positive outlook when things are only moderately awful creates the margin you need to make it through the incredibly shitty low points. The whole focus of Thessalonians is "Hold on, it'll be okay." And when he closes it, Paul re-enforces the message with a list of ideas and touchstones the church can hold onto. Anchors so that when they try to climb up the mountain of horror and persecution and anguish they all faced and the world falls out from under them, they'll have something to cling to.

Do these things, because they'll keep you happy. Do these things, because they'll give you hope. Do these things, because they'll keep you sane when the world loses its mind.

Abstain from all appearance of evil, in this context of hold on, is about not burdening yourself with bad behavior. A guilty conscience adds to stress and overwhelm. There's also the aspect of witness, which is one of Christianity's more loaded phrases. It means, basically, that you behave in a way that brings merit to your belief system. And while that interpretation of 1Thess 5:22 is valid, and should be followed, it doesn't fit the letter's message of Hold on, one day it'll be okay. This letter is not about evangelism and witness--the Thessalonians were already doing that. All the early churches were. And they were dying for doing that. They really didn't need to be told "Oh, that thing that's getting so many of you killed? Go do more of that." They needed to be told hold on, one day it'll be okay. This letter is about taking steps to build the endurance of the individual and the group--tell the negative voices to shut up (not the critics, just the gloom and doom types) and the toxic people to stop abusing each other, have the mentally able support the disabled, and to try, whenever they can, to find joy. It's not asking the early Christians to be content with their lot or to be generally happy, but to find joy. It's almost legit to call it an instruction to find joy in spite of the circumstances.

It's a controversial idea, and sometimes difficult to understand (and a thousand times more difficult to do) But Speaking from personal experience...when you are in a situation that you cannot escape from, if you rejoice in your suffering, if you tell God "I'm going through this for your glory, thank you for this", you diminish the power suffering can have over you. "Grave, where is your victory, Death, where is your sting" doesn't negate the fact of death, only the depth of the agony it causes. It's not about making the suffering an obligation, it's about taking the victory away from the people who are hurting you and turning it into your own. You cannot change the suffering. You cannot change the pain. What you can change is how you and others look at it. You can take control of the narrative. But that attitude takes a lot of discipline and a lot of endurance. This letter, and most of the other letters in the New Testament, was correspondence between individuals and groups on the edge of survival, who wanted to tell their tormentors to get fucked without losing the essential spirit that made their system of belief worthwhile. Fighting back with violence would destroy those beliefs, turn the message of Christ into another violent, toxic cult doomed to horrific self destruction, not because Rome would respond with more violence, but because the violence would destroy the believers from the inside out and make them into the very thing they despised. Christ said It's not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles a man. Violent defense was not an option. Their only alternative was to make their endurance a victory in and of itself. To let the events and the hell they were going through pass through them like light through a stained glass window--to color the events and the horror and the pain with the triumph of enduring until the end, no matter how it ended.To make sure that no matter what came into their lives, all that came out was joy, peace, beauty and love. That was how they lived, and that was how they won.

In other words: They weren't worried about following a whole bunch of rules.

It seems rather silly to have spent so much time on one verse, but Abstain from all appearance of evil is the linchpin for all the rules that conservative Christians have to follow. The attitude is literally one of "Yes, we're forgiven and yes it's from God and not something we can earn, and yes it happened so that we could live without the terror of restriction, but we're  gonna do all that old shit anyway because REASONS." This cognitive dissonance between what the Bible actually says and what Christians practice is actually a major reason why many Christians leave the faith--they realize that they put a great deal of energy and guilt and emotional unpleasantness into absolutely nothing. This is an attitude that breaks people, and an interpretation that allows manipulators and abusers to acquire an audience that deserves so very much better. And of the few verses that support this attitude really doesn't support it at all.

This attitude of "RULES! Follow the RULES!" negates everything the early Christians went through. One attraction to the early church was that they didn't have to follow religious systems that had become political tools for oppression and yet could still have the benefits of religion, faith-based community and connection to God. The two major systems in place at the time, the Roman Empire's pantheism and the Jewish traditions of sacrifice and ritual cleanliness, were no longer things that worked for members of the Early Church.

It wasn't the pantheism that a great many of the Gentile Christians disliked, but it was the politics attached. Offering incense to the Roman Emperor--a major point of dispute between Roman authorities and the Early church, and one that got an awful lot of people killed--acknowledged that the Emperor and Rome were better than you. No, you didn't have to lose your gods. You just had to acknowledge that Rome's gods were better than your gods. The Jews got away with cultural monotheism because they had a long history of saying "fuck that shit" and Rome didn't want to deal with a freshly conquered people exploding. Other cultures did not get the same exemption and gaining access to meaningful Jewish practices were so difficult the religion was, to all intents and purposes, closed. Christians, thanks to their Jewish roots, had taken a stand that made monotheism as much a political statement as it was a religious one. Early Christians were telling an oppressive conqueror "We no longer respect your religion. We no longer respect your 'benevolent' oppression. We are taking back our lives."

 Electing to leave the rules of Jewish ritual cleanliness and sacrifice for Christian practice had the same motive; it wasn't the ritual itself that Christ objected to, it was how the rituals and practices had come to be a form of oppression within Hebrew society. The leadership could, and did, use the rules of ritual cleanliness and the cycle of sacrifice to oppress those who were unable to adhere to it. The law of ritual cleanliness was intensely ablest, excluding those who had deformities, defects and illnesses from the right to fully worship God. Christ's attempts to rectify this--to point out how the entire point of the Jewish law was to support the disabled and vulnerable population--were met with scorn by the leadership but with overwhelming support by the community. Choosing not to adhere to these laws, to accept everyone regardless of how "clean" they were, was stating that everyone counted and everyone mattered.

What marked Christ as different was how inclusive his teachings were, and also how subversive. He prioritized the lower classes--the tax collectors, prostitutes, beggers and lepers--over the upper, the ritualistically unclean over the priesthood. He chose a lone woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first evangelist and carry the news of his resurrection to the world when he knew that no one would believe her, because it validated the witness of women. He advocated a form of non-violent resistance that emphasized equality and forced abusers to either acknowledge their victim as equal, or stop being abusive. When you realize that a lot of the early martyrs weren't just making a religious statement, but a political one as well--in essence, Fuck you Rome--you realize why so many people chose to die. Yes, it was for Christianity, but Christianity was the tool they could use to get back their lives. The established system was no longer doing what it was meant to do, and Christ came to fix it. The established system put people down, and Christ built them back up. The established system was the method of oppression, and Jesus threw it out of the temple in his one, sole, singular fit of utter fucking rage.

So why, then, do Christians do this? Why do we choose to redefine a faith that was about holding on and inclusive bodies into a faith that is all about rules and oppression?

Because when you follow Christianity the way it was back in the early church, those who would have power lose control. The only way to regain it is to establish themselves as teachers. With that authority, they can act. They erect rules like fences to keep out the people they can't benefit from, as well as the people they can't control. Christianity from its inception was intended to break the methods of control, and for the first several centuries of its existence proved that its adherents could not be shouted down, pushed into violence, or erased. And since the Powers that Be couldn't make it go away, they moved into the leadership instead and started chipping away at what made the religion inclusive and effective. And now, 2000 years later, the manipulation and control is literally written into the blueprints. Even the words of the bible are suspect, because the approved translations came, not from the oppressed who needed it, but by the kings and leaders and abusers who needed control.

But it says a lot that even with the biases of kings and leaders, even with the obscured history and abuse and control, the message is still there. In a world so focused on merit-based individual value, the fact that love your neighbor as yourself made it through the centuries relatively un-scathed says a great deal for how good the truth is at enduring. The Bible is still a valid source for believers. It even still explains how it can be used--be discerning, and pay attention to what kind of effect your doctrine, teachings and behaviors have on both your life and in the lives of others. AKA "By their fruit shall you know them." 

As an example, one relevant story is Peter's vision about the animals. There were two big divisions in the Early Church--one group, headed by Peter, wanted Christianity to be a Jewish thing, because Jesus was a Jew and so were all his disciples and there was this whole "Chosen people" thing.  Paul headed a group that wanted to evangelize to all people, pointing out that Jesus might have been Jewish, but he wasn't exactly checking credentials of the crowd before he preached (Given that the credential was circumcision, that'd be kinda icky if he had) A guy named Cornelius wanted Peter to explain things to him. Cornelius was not a Jew. Peter did not want to go.

And then this happened:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
And Peter interpreted this as God going "I want these people. I say they're mine. Stop being a moron and go talk to Cornelius, his people are downstairs," and Peter made Cornelius the first Gentile of many.

This, my dear readers, is one of those stories that I NEVER WANT TO EVER READ AGAIN. It gets covered A LOT in bible studies, sermons, pamphlets, pictures, you name it. If you hear this story five times a year you're probably slacking off in your reading and attendance. It gets repeated a lot because we Gentile Christians use it to justify how a message given by a Jew in front of other Jews can apply to the rest of us. But by narrowing our focus to our own justification, we lose the entire fucking point of this passage, which is verse 15:

 The voice spoke to him a second time, Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Not clear enough? 

Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.

And yet that is exactly what we do. Every time we meet something we don't understand, something out of our culture's frame of reference, something that doesn't follow the rules we define as "good", we demonize them, call it evil, and do our best to either exclude the Other, or to erase all the differences that make the Other who they are. The sheer fucking wrongness of all these restrictive rules should become obvious once you factor in that, within the context of these beliefs, this is what Christ died to end. Not just the rules, but the oppressive nature of them. The rules that, through compliance, erase the differences that give humanity its fullness. It's these small statements--wear your skirt this long, your hair like this, wear these colors only, listen to just this music and nothing else--that blot out culture far more effectively than an absolute ban would. You can say with absolute honesty that you're not against, say, African culture--better stated as Masai, Zulu, or one of the many other ethnic groups--while you simultaneously attack every single thing that culture actually has on the basis that it's evil. You can say you support women while you confine them in a cage. You can say you support the weak, and then accuse the mentally ill of housing demons. Because the rules have divorced the religion from your life so effectively, you might as well not follow it at all.

It is a system that is absolutely manufactured and artificial. And while some of it absolutely IS the fault of the individual, a great deal more is the fault of the teacher. The individual's choice is to accept the rule and be a shit to others, or reject the rule and risk hell and damnation. The teacher's choice is to first verify that their information is correct, to pass on what is verified truth, and to correct inaccurate information their students may have. 

The history of ATI, Vision Forum and the Pearls is one of exclusion, repression and misery. By any biblical standard, it is a form of invalid doctrine. By the most basic of human standards, it is the ultimate definition of failure.By anyone's definition, it is not something that should ever be followed.

And just because I'm in the mood for awesome music: