19 March 2013

#Scintilla13: The Content of my Character

I'm sharing stories (real and fictional) with the Scintilla Project. It's not too late to sign up and join in. Today's post is 100% non-fiction.

A: Describe a time when the content of your character was tested.

I read an article the other day about procrastination having little to do with being lazy. Rather, it's a symptom of something else. That article really resonated with me, and I realized my own procrastination often has to do with avoiding some sort of emotional response. Take this post, for instance. I started this post yesterday, when it was supposed to be completed. I wrote a sentence. Stared at the screen. Checked my phone. Checked Facebook. Stared at the screen. Then I closed the computer because it was late and decided I would write this today instead. Not because I didn't know what I wanted to write about - I knew that the minute I read the prompt in my email early yesterday morning. I was just trying not to "go there" emotionally.

This prompt is timely in a kind of spooky way. Something happened in a nearby town on Sunday that has sparked a strong emotional/psychological response in me, and even though I was not involved in any way, I really feel like right now, my character is being tested. I'm questioning the most fundamental parts of who I am, how I live my life, and what I believe about the world at large.

Trigger warning: rape, misogyny, rape culture, victim blaming, generalized douchebaggery

Depending on where you live or the type of social media and online news you typically consume, you may know about the recent rape of a teen in Steubenville, Ohio. If not, here are the basics: A sixteen-year-old girl became extremely intoxicated at a party. While she was out of it, she was raped by two classmates. This past Sunday, a juvenile court judge found them both guilty. The boys were sentenced to a minimum of one year in juvenile facilities for the rape, with additional time possible.

Immediately, there was backlash. Major news outlets lamented about how devastating the conviction was for the "promising" young men, both football players. People took to social media to express their displeasure with the verdict and blame the victim, not only for her rape, but for "ruining" two young men's lives. One particularly despicable person, who doesn't believe rape exists at all, took the time to outline exactly why the victim was "asking for it." I won't link to any of this stuff in particular. If you really want to see for yourself, I'm sure you can easily find it.

I was livid. Absolutely fuming. Not just because these rape apologists exist and spoke up in this instance - I've known such people are out there for a long time. But the victim-blaming response was so swift, so widespread, and so disgustingly mean, it really caught me off guard.

I wanted to to scream at these people while using especially foul language. I wanted to hunt down every web page, twitter profile, blog, or facebook page where people were saying the victim deserved to be raped, brought it on herself, or were calling her vile names, and I wanted to tell those people that they're pathetic excuses for human beings (among other less eloquently worded things) in a very public expression of "fuck you." I was tempted to leave scathing reviews on an author's books - not just the one where he explains why he doesn't think rape exists - to warn people what an asshole I think he is and to discourage them from purchasing his book. I was raging inside with a capital R.

I don't get angry easily or often. I dislike anger in general because I find it to be a mostly useless emotion. It overwhelms me to the point of tears, and then it shuts me down. So I typically cycle quickly from anger to "over it" pretty quickly. Or in this case, from anger to depression in the same day. I still find myself vacillating between the two.

Last year, I responded to a Scintilla prompt with the post Still, I Have Faith. In it I talked about this seemingly unshakeable faith, optimism, and positivity I have about life. Without that faith in the general goodness of people and the tendency for things to work out satisfactorily, I don't know what the point of anything would be. And yet that faith is paper-thin right now, at best.

How do I reconcile the horrendous truth of so many people's ignorance with my worldview that usually assures me It's okay, it will all work out? How do I keep from going off the deep end of crazy because I don't know what else to do with my anger? How do I not give up completely on the idea that people, for the most part, are decent beings?

When it seems like nothing anyone says or does, ever, could change the minds of these awful people who would blame a girl for her own victimization... what am I supposed to do? Because these attitudes NEED to change. I fear for the future of this country and the world when such backward thinking is entirely too prevalent in this day and age.

Part of me wants to grab everyone I see by the shirt and demand to know what they think of this situation, and heaven forbid they say the wrong thing. Another part of me wants to forget it all, and to go about the rest of my life avoiding all mention of such things, and doing my best to live in blissful ignorance. Ultimately, I know neither of those is possible, but I haven't yet worked out the alternatives. My amazing family and friends have encouraged me to look for the good that's still out there in the world, not to give up, to not let this change me for the worse. That doesn't really sound doable at the moment. I can't even get through writing a post like this without fighting back tears. And I wasn't even involved in this situation. I can't imagine what the young woman who was raped must be feeling.

My heart hurts. That's where I am right now. For the rest, I'll have to wait and see.


  1. Perhaps you should begin to write fiction about such situations? You're a writer, and you wonder what the middle ground between putting your head in the sand and choking everybody might be..perhaps it's exploring both your emotion and the issues involved in things like this by way of a world you can control...the world's you create.

    Maybe one day that fiction will help somebody.

    1. I've never considered writing fiction about such situations. Probably because my preference is to shut down and avoid the all the emotional stuff that's in there... healthy, yeah? :-) Maybe someday, though.


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