Deep Fried Mars Bars (Pt 3): Battle Scars [#TW/#CN]

This post includes references to flashbacks, and how I experience them. I am finding writing therapeutic again, but reading what I write may not necessarily be so helpful, so please take care.

At least once a week, on or offline, someone will ask me why I ‘claim’ to have PTSD, since I have not served in the armed forces.

To start with, the question bugged me: we live in a society that deems people ‘scroungers’ for the least sign of ‘weakness’. The assumption in the first instance, systemically, is to disbelieve. If you own up to a disability, its because you want a way out of work. In an of itself, that’s a brutalising system under which to live, so on first glance, accusations of lying because you haven’t been on a battlefield, a battleship or war plane, is just another form of disbelief.

What really rankled, however, was the sexism, misogyny and homophobia behind the question.

I am perfectly capable of taking a step back from my anger and seeing the moving parts of the bigotry: sexism, misogyny, homophobia and abelism are all present and correct; but I have also noticed that the men who accost me with the question (and its been exclusively white men so far), have never themselves served in the armed forces either.

Not a one of them.

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In the grand scheme of things, fools who will not stop and think before speaking are merely an annoyance. There are days when all the various forms of bigotry that are encountered when you live in a body that is not so valuable, do sometimes pile up. At times like that it is important to see something as clearly as possible, lest your vision get so narrow that you fail to acknowledge some of the many other burdens to which you are not subject.

This condition to which I am subject – with its various attendant symptoms – is not something I need to justify, in either its cause or effect. I will – in the right context – share about how some of those symptoms manifest and how they impact. Flashbacks, for example, are a full body experience and not simply something in my head: the trauma’s (and that is the right word) did not occur on a literal battlefield, but the impact on the pysche and body was still very real. When your whole self finds itself jerked back in to that trauma, repeatedly, that is not the result of ‘weakness’.

We live in flesh and blood bodies, imperfect ones that are not built to withstand the kind of violence to which we subject each other when groups of people (and so often those people are white), try to assert dominance over another group of people because they do not meet with some ideological dogma about what a body should look like.

When your identity does not match that dogmatic ideal, that identity is suspect and subject to erasure.  Where those who assume I am lying about PTSD do so ‘because I haven’t served in the armed forces’,  it is not ignorance of the impact of violence that drives the question. Were that the case, then they would instantly recognise refugees (so often escaping the actual battlefields they claim to be the only place one can be exposed to something which would cause such a condition) as being traumatised people.

But refugees are often not white, and certainly not Western or Christian enough to be deemed worthy of such humanity.

Hence the question is – at heart – racist to its core: and whilst I am not subject to the racism at the heart of the question (or its colonial context), it is important to challenge it.  The world in which we live has become a much more dangerous place, and to be black, brown, Muslim, LGBTQ, disabled or a woman (or any intersection of those), means the horizon, never that welcoming, looks a lot more intimidating than it did.

Populism, nationalism, White Supremacy, Nazi ideology – all these things suffuse the air we breath and it is all too easy for it to infect those of us who aren’t black, or brown, or Muslim, or transgender, even if you are disabled and queer and a woman. It matters not to lose sight of that, because that’s where the trap is: its how you end up on the side of the Sith Lord, instead of the rebel alliance. Anti-trans feminists, for example, long ago failed to recognise just how easily they have found themselves in bed with Trump supporting bigots who are about to take control of the most powerful country on earth.

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When living in or with a body and/or mind that is considered dysfunctional, how clearly we understand the prejudices that entails we face, matters. And whilst it matters that I take care of myself for my sake and my loved ones, self pity is dangerous.

It is inevitable that someone else will – because of bigotry and ignorance – accuse me of claiming a condition for myself which (they will insist) I have no right to, and it will be important that I see what is behind the question as clearly as possible.

It matters.

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The Suffering Servant… Isaiah 53

I woke up to the news this morning that yet another young black boy has been gunned down. I weep and pray for Antonio Martin’s family, for the agony of their loss. There is no reason to this death; like Renisha McBride and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, children are dying because their skin is black and their humanity discarded and disregarded because of this.

I am drawn back to Isaiah 53 this morning, particularly to verses 1-3

Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.

God made flesh, as a helpless, dependant child – coming in to the world to be despised and rejected. Antonio Martin left dying on the ground, helpless and rejected, despised and exploited.

Black children are dying because they are whom we seek to erase: with guns, with words, with thoughts, with violent, vile deeds.

A black child lies dead, his mother weeps. He has been killed by the racism which people want to pretend no longer exists.

Rest in Peace, Antonio Martin, and Rise in Power.

God forgive us.

God forgive us.

God be with us.

Emmanuel.

Emmanuel.

Emmanuel.

Twisted Aid. #BlackLivesMatter

Band Aid – the lyrics have become increasingly painful to my ears as the years have gone by. Criticism of its lyrics and intent has not been thin on the ground. But now, as black child after black child gets gunned down by American police – it’s words are the hollow, shallow pit where white pop saviours go to drown in their good intentions.

This is my lament, as we approach Advent; and with no apologies at all to Geldof and Ure, here is my interpretation of the lyrics to Band Aid. 

It’s Christmas time

Black kids know to be afraid

It’s Christmas time

Gunfire and

Another grave

But in our world

Of whiteness

We can spread a smile of joy

Throw your arms around the world

At Christmas time.

 

But say a prayer

Prayer for the other ones

At Christmas time

It’s hard, when you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window

And it’s a world of Dread And Fear

Where the water freely flowing

Is the bitter sting of tears

And the only sound you’re hearing

Are the guns that kill them now

Well tonight thank God it’s them

Instead of you

 

And we’ll feed the starving Africans

This Christmas time

‘Cause we’re white, we’ll save their bloody souls

And nothing else will grow, unless we say its so

Charity at Christmas time is white..

 

Here’s to you

Raise a glass to everyone

Here’s to you

Shot dead by the police gun

Thanking God I’m white

Instead of you

 

Feed the world

Who cares kids are shot this Christmas?

Feed the world

Who cares kids are shot this Christmas?

 

Etc

Ad nauseam…

White Christianity Slates ‘Institutional Racism’ And Chooses Power Over Christs Radical Call

This week, a good deal of my twitter time line is going to be devoted to #Marissa418 – it is a radical call by @KilljoyProphets to speak, blog, and tweet out in support of Marissa Alexander who is facing the prospect of 60 years in jail, and to do so as Christians because we are called to it:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free ~ Luke 4:18

Marissa Alexander chose to protect her life from her abusive husband, when – 9 days after giving birth to her daughter prematurely – he attacked her. She took a gun she legally owned and fired one shot into the air.  Despite laws which supposedly allow her to ‘stand her ground’, Marissa Alexander is being prosecuted and faces 60 years in jail, because she is black, and because she is a woman. Supporting Marissa is important for its own sake – she has been oppressed by the violence of the physical abuse to which she was subjected, and she was is oppressed now by the carceral system which would, in the name of ‘justice’, imprison her for the rest of her life.

In Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown was shot dead by a policeman. He was unarmed. He was black.  He was 18. And his killing was not unique, or unusual. He is, at minimum, the fifth unarmed black man to be killed in August in America. Between 2005 and 2012 in the USA, 2 young black men a week were killed by police. 

The Black community, it’s leaders and scholars call out to us that – whilst society is telling us that we are post-racial – the reality is something quite different.  And although it would be easy for those of us in the UK to assume that because we have few guns and better gun control, that black people and people in this country do not have to deal with an institutionally racist carceral system, it would be wrong to do so.

Racial profiling is used by UK police – however unofficially – resulting in the Black and Asian population being up to 7 times more likely to be ‘stopped and searched’.  Whether recent government promises to reduce this will bear any fruit is open to question, given that it is under the guise of Anti-terrorism laws: Jean Charles de Menezes was unarmed when he shot dead by police because they suspected of him of being a terrorist. Mark Duggan was shot dead by police because they thought he was carrying a weapon. He was not. Deaths in police custody happen to those who are black or of colour. The families of Cherry Groce, Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg are still waiting for justice, years after they died.

And there will be those here in the UK who will say – ‘but it happens far less, and our police don’t carry guns like the US police do.’  When every life matters, when the racism that killed them is the same racism, when we now have our own self-defence law that could lead to yet more deaths.. then maybe we shouldn’t be so smug.

Racism has never gone away – it has simply changed how it functions, but it is as firmly rooted in the patriarchal and colonial structures as it ever was. To say so is simply to confront truth. To recognise that race is a factor in how the police operates.

In the midst of this, Christian Post publish an article by Ashley Pratte that demonstrates so perfectly why ‘White Christianity’ is a thing. It is a thing that supports the very power structures which oppress, because it blames the oppressed. It nurtures the racist structures that make prisoners of the black community by calling racism a myth, and keeps blaming the oppressed, pushing a line about ‘personal responsibility’ (because black = “irresponsible”). It wraps the blanket of power around itself and props open its churches doors with the pillars of the very racism it denies – and in doing so it denies the radical calling of Christ and bleats like the goats which the Son of God warned us would come before Him, claiming to serve in His name.

Whether you are of faith, or not – look with your eyes open. Stop sleeping. Stop ignoring. Stop turning away because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Listen. Be still and Listen. In the name of mercy and compassion – listen.