“Unfathomable mind: now beacon, now sea.” ~ Samuel Beckett

Iconic Image: Lone Man Faces Column of Tanks Approaching Tiananmen Square
                  

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Wake 

Nobel Peace Prize Winner for 2010: Writer, Poet and Human Rights Activist Liu Xiaobo

I know that I closed yesterday with a note that I would write more about the ongoing saga at my mother’s house, but I found a reference to the following on my Tumblr dashboard and felt compelled to post it along with a few insubstantial remarks.

It’s truly remarkable that this man, who has been imprisoned for so long, is still able to pull up from deep within his most primal instincts such a passionate passage to his wife. After everything that he has been through, everything that he has lost, everything that has been stripped from him, he still retains his humanity, still fervently clings to his dream of freedom for his nation, his countrymen.

For so many, this man has become a symbol of the fight for a basic freedom that too many of us around the world take for granted. And in the midst of one of the dirtiest, most vile, misinformed, hate-mongering political campaigns in recent memory, Liu Xiaobo’s words resound like a clear bell tolling on the water: This is what freedom of speech is supposed to sound like. This is how love and dedication echo. This is the heart of truth.

Would that we were able to hear without hate, to speak without spite, but most of all, to recognize truth when it stands before us in all of its simplicity.

“the spirit-cell you built
without a door without a window
without a thread of a crack
locks you in solitude
to rot” ~ Liu Xiaobo, from “Greed’s Prisoner

I Have No Enemies

From the final statement of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s, issued just two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day, 2009.

The following excerpt is from a statement that was originally published by the Hong Kong-based NGO Human Rights in China, based on a translation by J. Latourelle. The original Chinese text is here.

If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I’ve made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views . . . can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.

In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.

Thank you, everyone.

                   

Daybreak by Liu Xiaobo
for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end
 
daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

                June 30, 1997

Click here to read more about Liu Xiaobo

                   

More later. Peace.

Music by Antony and the Jonsons, “River of Sorrow”

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“Some people accumulate more emotional rust than others.” ~ Andrew Solomon, Noonday Demon

Savage Grace

Movie Poster for Savage Grace

“I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense.” ~ Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

Well, I feel absolutely blah today, sort of enclosed, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 6 a.m., and then I kept having strange visual hallucinations. I woke up with a sore throat and headache.

I started back on a medicine to help me sleep several days ago, but I think that I am not tolerating it well. I have taken this medication before without any problems, but now, I’m having all sorts of strange reactions. I looked up the side effects, and some of them include vivid dreams, increased appetite (no thank yew), feeling hungover the next day (yep, that too), and several other undesirable effects. So last night I did not take the medication, and as a result, I think that I had withdrawal symptoms, and I could not get to sleep.

It just slays me how I have become so sensitive to medications that never bothered me before. So back to the drawing board and back to not sleeping.

“For very sad reasons, human beings, unfortunately, can do really tragic things to each other and these two people went as far out on a limb as you can go.” ~ Tom Kalin, Director of Savage Grace

We watched a movie last night called Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore. The movie, which is based on the book by the same name, is a true story about the life and death of Barbara Daly Baekeland. After I watched the movie, I did some more reading on the Internet about the Baekeland family. The paternal grandfather was Leo Baekeland, the inventor of the first plastic, Bakelite.

Barbara Baekland and son
Barbara Baekeland and Infant Son Antone

His grandson Brooks married Barbara Daly, a tempestuous woman who suffered from mental illness. The two were unfaithful to each other several times, and Barbara tried to commit suicide four times in attempts to keep her husband from leaving her. However, he eventually left for a younger woman. Their son, Antone, also suffered from what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Mother and son had a somewhat obsessive relationship, with Barbara attempting to “cure” her son of his homosexuality by paying females to have sex with Tony and eventually seducing him herself. Tony first tried to kill his mother by dragging her into the street and trying to throw her under a moving car. A psychiatrist told Barbara that he believed Tony would eventually kill her, but she did not believe that Tony would ever really harm her. Shortly afterwards, Tony killed his mother by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. He then proceeded to order Chinese food.

Tony was found to have diminished capacity and sent to Broadmoor. He was released after ten years and returned to the U.S. to live with his grandmother, who he tried to kill less than a week later. Tony was sent to prison and died in 1981 from suffocation. His death may or may not have been suicide as he was found with a plastic bag over his head.

The movie did not show all of this background because, of course, it is impossible to show everything in a two-hour span. I began watching the movie in an attempt to fall asleep as I did not think that it was going to be very good; however, I just couldn’t stop watching. It was the veritable train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone in this family was disturbed, including the father who denied that there was anything wrong with his son and refused to pay for psychiatric treatment.

“The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverance can restrain violence—reverance for human life and the environment.” ~ William Sloan Coffin 

I watched another movie this weekend based on a true story: Dance with a Stranger, starring Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the U.K. in 1955. Ellis herself had a hard life, first having a child out of wedlock in 1944, a time in which such a thing immediately tainted a woman’s reputation. Ellis found out that her lover was actually married with a family in Canada, so she was left to raise her son Andy alone. Then Ruth, neé Nielson, married George Ellis in 1950. George Ellis was a drunk and physically abusive. In 1951, Ellis gave birth to Georgina, but by then the marriage was over.

Ruth Ellis
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK

In 1953, Ruth Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. She met David Blakely, a racecar driver. Their relationship was fraught with violence; when Ruth became pregnant by Blakely, he punched her in the stomach, which resulted in a miscarriage for Ruth.

Ruth was also involved with Desmond Cussen, a former RAF pilot. Cussen took care of Ruth and Andy, but Ruth was never able to severe ties with Blakely. In fact, Cussen helped Ruth to spy on Blakely, who was unfaithful to Ruth several times. On the night of Easter Sunday 1955, Ruth Ellis waited outside a pub for Blakely. When Blakely ignored Ruth’s greeting, she moved around the car that he was attempting to get into and emptied a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson into Blakely.

The shooting occurred just ten days after Ellis had miscarried, and she was heavily medicated. Ellis was questioned and brought before the magistrate without having an attorney present. She was examined by a psychiatrist who claimed that Ellis was not mentally ill. The presiding judge ruled out a defense of provocation for Ellis. During her trial at the Old Baily, Ellis became her worst enemy when she said, “It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.” Ellis was hung three weeks later.

Again, the movie does not delve into all of the facts regarding Ellis, and it ends right after the shooting of Blakely without covering the trial at all. Public reaction to Ellis’s hanging was strongly against, and partially as a result, the United Kingdom abolished the death penalty in 1964.

George Ellis committed suicide three years after Ruth’s death. Her son Andy suffered emotional distress most of his life and killed himself in 1982. Ruth’s daughter Georgina died at 50 from cancer.

What happened to Ruth Ellis is still a matter of contention. The jury was not allowed to find for manslaughter because of Ruth’s confession. However, Ruth was an abused woman who was still very much affected by her miscarriage. Ruth had been provoked by Blakely’s unfaithfulness and his physical abuse, but because of the laws at the time, the jury could not convict her of a lesser sentence, and the death penalty was mandatory.

Ellis’s hanging caused such a stir because she was a beautiful woman, the mother of two small children, and she had never shown any propensity for violence. Once the public face of a criminal condemned to death became so personal, the British public began to openly oppose capital punishment. The Ellis case was referred back to the Court of Appeals in 2003, but her conviction was not overturned or reduced to manslaughter as had been requested.

“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush a person, when we obey because there is fear.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Dance with a Stranger was made in 1985, and Natasha Richardson is radiant, even with platinum blonde hair. Savage Grace was made in 2007, and Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Barbara Baekeland is compelling in its believability.

That I watched both movies this past weekend is purely coincidence as I had never heard of either one, and I found them by accident on cable. However, I am glad that I watched them and then did further research on both of these women.  Both were troubled: Ellis was physically and emotionally abused, and Baekeland was emotionally tormented by her husband. Both women died far too young.

I’m not condoning the actions of either woman. Rather, I offer their stories as reminders of how unkind society was to women, and how few resources used to be available. While there are more avenues for escape and treatment, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse continue to be societal problems that have far-reaching implications, both for those who suffer directly from the abuse and for their children who have no escape from its effects.

Empty SwingsThose in society who say that they simply don’t understand why a woman stays in an abusive relationship have never suffered at the hands of an abuser, have never felt the helplessness nor experienced the complete erosion of self-confidence and self-respect. And the reality is that abuse is cyclic, often being repeated by the abused or the children of the abused.

Unless we learn as a society not to tolerate abuse and violence, the cycle will never end. Until we acknowledge that it is not just with fists but also with tongues that people cause irreparable harm to others, those who suffer will continue to be victims.

If you know of an individual—man, woman, or child—who is being abused, please do not sit by idly, thinking that someone else will intervene. You must be that someone else, lest you allow your humanity to be overshadowed by inaction.

Sorry for the sermon. More later. Peace be with you and yours.

Bird York’s “Have No Fear”