Sunday, July 31, 2011

The General's Daughter

Tonight I watched The General's Daughter. It raises a slew of very interesting questions and moral dilemmas for further research. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

1. The film attempts to portray a victim of gang rape reclaiming her sense of self and self confidence through engaging in the dominant role of BDSM-type relationships. She also becomes very promiscuous. Is this accurate to some responses of rape victims or not? (My assumption without researching is most likely not)

2. The film includes the victim of gang rape choosing to replay her rape, this time hoping for a different response and reaction from her father, who betrayed her. Is this (rape replay) actually therapeutically helpful? If yes, when is it used? If not, why isn't it used?

3. The film attempts to claim that an individual's pain takes precedence over all the consequences that might occur due to a public announcement of that pain. The General is denounced for covering up the gang rape and telling his daughter 'It never happened.' However, in his mind he was preserving the reputation of West Point. He assumed her rapists would never be found (this was before the days of DNA) and that in light of this, 1000 graduates of West Point did not deserve to have their reputations tarnished (as they would be considered potential rapists in the eyes of the world). Also, the presence of women in the military would be set back by decades as women would be afraid to sign up. So: is an individual's pain worth these far-reaching consequences or not?

Given the famous Duke lacrosse team case, where all the members of the team were found guilty in the court of public opinion- while later it was proven that the stripper simply made up the entire scenario- one must wonder about this last.

What I figure is that the matter should have been discreetly investigated and they should have attempted to have found the rapists. They should have tried to keep it quiet so that the media would not find out and hence the consequences they worried over would not have occurred. The general should not have denied that the rape ever happened. At the very least he should have told his daughter that the rape DID happen but that she should consider the potential consequences for the army and West Point as a whole before pressing charges, thus leaving the decision up to her.

I was thinking that to some extent the scenario was similar to allegations of incest or abuse. Sometimes a parent can be the abuser and the other parent can be aware of the abuse but denies it to himself/ herself and to the child, if confronted. So the child is not protected by the parent and their pain is considered non-existent and is denied outright. The film claims that this 'betrayal' is what is worse than rape. But I don't think betrayal is the right word. I would argue 'denial' is.

Denial is a powerful form of demoralizing, degrading and demeaning victims. Denial is saying their pain is not real or valid, the episodes they report never occurred and that they have no excuse for being victims at all. It was not the father's betrayal of his daughter that hurt her. It was his denial that the rape had even occurred at all, and that her subsequent psychological problems were real.

Denial invalidates one's feelings and also casts doubt upon their mental state. If it didn't happen, perhaps you made it up. And if you made it up for no reason, that suggests you are troubled. It's a form of psychological warfare to deny that trauma occurred. It is in fact a more extreme form of gaslighting. What the general's daughter couldn't forgive is that her father told her what she had been through didn't exist, that the pain wasn't real, and that her subsequent behavior was not connected to it. She wanted acknowledgment of the truth and she didn't get it.

The sad thing is, too many victims don't.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Genesis Party

I am now holding a special review copy (that means I got it for free) of Rabbi Ari Kahn's 'Echoes of Eden: Sefer Bereishit!'

I'm super excited to read it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

All the Children

All the souls are precious.
Children are hurt every day. They're molested, abused, possibly even murdered.
So are women. A woman is raped every 2 minutes according to the Department of Justice.
That's the one thing I don't understand: why is everyone so saddened by this tragedy in particular?
Is it because of the gruesome way that the man carved him up?
Or the fact that he was so little and innocent?
All the children are little or innocent.
One should be sad for each one of them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

globes of light may shatter underfoot

Hi God,

It's been a while since the last time we chatted.

I feel sometimes like my life is a dance to the tune of the Moonlight Sonata. The revved up version by Jason Yang, specifically. There's so much beauty and so much misery in it, so many shades and twists, so many times that you throw all the scarves up in the air and have them come down to earth as a sparkling multicolored rubber band ball. My life is a dance performed by reckless trapeze artists, tightrope walkers who jumprope on the wires without nets. I see their bodies as they curve, their necks as they strain and then tighten with anticipation, waiting for the jump. Then they fall, gracefully, climbing through air, extending their limbs and they contort and twirl and make the leap. And there they are, their legs coiled around the wooden bar.

Ballerinas on wooden slats. I find myself caught within it, this curious dance full of melancholy and empathy and a unique, vivid sheen, like that of teardrops just glazing the eye. It disappears in a blink. And then there's the rain, so purifying. I see these women stretch their bodies, their long limber legs; I see them black-in-white in leotards that are elegant in their simplicity. These nameless women perform in the rain and the water mats their hair and slicks it back and glitters on their hands like so many diamonds.

I cried a lot today. I wanted that little boy to live again.
I wished we had an Elijah or Elisha to bring him back to life.
I wished there was a Valley of Dry Bones so the flesh could knit back together, the hands and feet rejoin the torso, the little child rise from the dead.

I wonder sometimes what the Resurrection of the Dead will be like. Perhaps it will be that wondrous, with the bodies coming together, the spirit then resting within once more. And all who see it will be dazed, amazed, shocked by the power that is Yours.

I don't think I'd much like to be resurrected if the choice were to be with You or to be back on earth. Why would a soul want to walk the earth again? There's so much darkness here and there's so much beauty with You. I suppose the only consolation to those of us who do walk the earth is that You have given us the tools to make a difference, that somehow we can do something here that will make our lives worthwhile and even meaningful.

I love life and I love the world you created. I love the green hue of the leaves on the trees, the birds that sing and cluck, the chipmunks that dart through the underbrush, the neon lights and glittering sidewalks of Times Square. I love the pretty things here. But how would any of that compare to the opportunity to be with You? I imagine it's much harder to be on earth than it is to walk in heaven.

I wonder about the little boy's soul. Where is it now? Have you placed him beside You? Why did You choose him to serve as our atonement?

ח וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹהִים יִרְאֶה-לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעֹלָה, בְּנִי; וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, יַחְדָּו. 8 And Abraham said: 'God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together.

Why this child?
What made him Your Chosen?
What quality set him aside?

How lucky he is to be with You now, but how sad Your taking him has made his family and all of us. It's the agent You employed that horrifies us all. When You send the serpent or the animal, we learn to understand. But when it is a man with free will who exercises it to harm another, we are hurt.

I wonder what soul this child had. It must have been a very special one to be accompanied to God in such a way. Thousands upon thousands of people attended the funeral, just as occurs by the most righteous ones. I wonder what kind of conversation he had with You before he was sent to this earth. What did this soul ask of You?

I wonder sometimes: what did my soul ask of You? Why did I ask it? I feel rather often that my life is just like "Paycheck." I talked to You and prepared the envelope that would let me destroy the machine back before I was born, when I was just a soul. But once back on earth, I forgot everything. Now my life consists of following the train of events that occur due to the envelope items, but I don't know why I have them or where they lead. I just know that I have to follow them.

Maid Marion.

Leiby Kletzky

They say in Boro Park that the little boy begged his mother to walk home from camp by himself. She agreed, allowing him to walk six blocks. The problem was, he walked six blocks in the opposite direction. He was lost.

So he approached a man and said, "Help please, I'm lost." And the man said he would buy him ice cream and take him home. So he bought the boy ice cream and the boy sat in the car for seven minutes. Seven minutes during which he could have escaped had he known what that man intended.

Then the man made a stop by his dentist's office and paid his bill. The dentist remembered the boy. It was through this dentist that the police were able to identify the man who took Leiby as Levi Aron. This man had taken Leiby to his home. There, he suffocated the boy (thank God for small mercies) and later dismembered him.

Boro Park as a whole did not know this. Shomrim, the NYPD and the FBI went searching for the child. Thousands of people, including Heshy's family, volunteered to search for the child. There were sirens and huge speakers calling Leiby's name. Everyone searched for the little boy. And those who were not searching prayed and updated their Facebook statuses and emailed his name to the world.

Once the police were at Aron's house, they discovered pieces of the child's body in the freezer/ refrigerator and Aron led them to the other parts of the body in a red suitcase in the dumpster.

I found out today that in fact Leiby is the cousin of a classmate of mine from high school. Already upset, I had not expected that.

The last time I remember us all praying for a different outcome with a tremendous outpouring of love and good will like this was by Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran. But God said no. I remember being devastated by this news. I was touched later on to find that Koby's mother had written a book, The Blessing of a Broken Heart. I remember it comforted me somewhat.

I also remember an excerpt from the book:
    "What do we do with the pain?" my husband asks a rabbi who, years ago, lost his eleven-year-old child in a bus accident. The rabbi answers: "You must use it to grow."

    Another rabbi says that ours is a heartbreaking test, but we need to turn to God, that only God can give us comfort. Outside of the house, my friend Valerie tells me, the rabbis cry like babies.

    Because no matter how much we try to intellectualize or interpret the pain, to will it away, the pain crouches on our heart like a beast who is waiting to crush us, to chew us to bits until we are nothing, dust that the wind can blow away.
I remember being awed by the way that Sherri turned even this tragedy into something deep from which we could learn. I remember also being touched by her column 'Life, Not Ashes.'

Tonight is the funeral. The rabbis will cry. The laypeople will cry. We will all cry. But we will also be part of something bigger, which will be remembering Leiby, learning from him and his life, trying to emulate whatever it was in him that made God desire him and choose him to be with Him.

There was a song I learned in Camp Agudah about death and loss that went as follows:

A rose among the flowers
A treasure for the king
Dodi halach b'gano
Lilkot Shoshanim

The analogy, of course, was that the precious, singular unique roses of the world were the ones God chose for His garden.

I like to imagine that Aviva Miretzky, Koby Mandell, Yosef Ishran, Leiby Kletzky and the other little ones who die or are murdered are part of God's inner court. That their souls were so special and pure that God desired them to come back to Him early, where He could surround Himself with their fragrance and hear their beautiful words. That Leiby sees a world that the rest of us cannot imagine, replete with glittering castles that sparkle and sparkling Hebrew letters that float, and that he is content and even joyful there.

Of course this does not excuse the actions of those who kill. But as God is just and in the end so are all things, I believe that these flowers were plucked by him and form a part of his eternal garden. This idea is expressed in "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet." (Listen here).

Loved ones are passing each day & each hour,
Passing away as the life of a flower.
But every bud and each blossom some day,
Will bloom as a flower in the Master's Bouquet.

Gathering flowers for the Master's Bouquet,
Beautiful flowers that will never decay.
Gathered by angels and carried away,
Forever to bloom in the Master's Bouquet.