Put it in the deep freeze.

A deep freeze, my shrink explains to me.

She says I’ve been putting it in the deep freeze, like all good PTSDers do.

But it’s time to un-do. Our goal: EMDR, once it thaws a little more.

I enjoy this analogy, this deep freeze. I’ve Saran wrapped the tasty trauma to save for later: I put it in the deep freeze. Count on Saran™ for freshness that’s easy. Whatever it takes to appease me, to relieve me. Deep freeze: a condition of being held in temporary suspension or inactivity. Like a refrigerator, hard ice, a storage space to keep things for a long period of time. Store it in the back of the deep freeze and forget about it. It will keep there, hidden away, buried with ease. It will keep in the deep freeze. It will keep. If and when you take it out and let it thaw, like really thaw, be cautious and make certain it’s safe ‘cause when you take it out of the deep freeze it’s as good as fresh like oozing like no time has passed at all. Like you just stored it yesterday.

I enjoy this analogy. But letting it thaw makes me angry no matter how tasty the freeze promises it will be.

Anger can be healthy, says my psych.

Yeah well FUCK HIM, I reply.

Ten years go by.

Ten years go by.

Couldn’t even try to say hi. Keep it in the freeze.

I’m traumatized too goddammit, does he think he’s the only one?

Ten years go by and I’m finally done.

I can’t keep it in the deep freeze anymore, as good as fresh blood dripping knees to floor, fresh like thrift store fine china crashing against the back door.

He’s not the only one.

Dear god let me be done.

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what happens when i go crazy

going crazy – what does it mean – to me – to you – different things, different madness, different minds different bodies different pain wrenching pain pain pain pain.

what happens when i go crazy

well

i throw things, like heavy staplers, phones, candles, books.

i break things like ceramic, like glass, like dishes, like clothes ripping off my body cuz well i’m going crazy aren’t i. performing madness like my life is a stage and my body dissociates at every turn into every scene, goodbye reality.

i clean my kitchen like my life depends on it. scrubbing hard, every last dish every last crumb every last coffee stain wine stain like amoebas crusted on the counter tops must douse with Windex wiped down til it squeaks.

what happens when i go crazy

i bruise my body, i cut my body – with my fists, with razors, pick off old scabs see new blood blood blood.

i can’t stop.

?

what happens when i go crazy

i cry

i cry so hard

in the bathtub, running steaming hot too hot scalding hot water over my body crying into the burning water. i cry, i scream, wailing like i have no other way to convey this pain but to caterwaul into the echos of my little bathtub.

i cry in the rain when i’m breaking dishes on my front porch but it was san francisco so no one really hears anything and thank god for that.

i deface my dresser with words scribbling words writing stream of consciousness negative self-talk beautiful penciled words scrawled across my $35 ikea mini wooden dresser. i cut and i bleed and i blend blood with pencil on wood and ah it’s so wonderful.

what happens when i go crazy

i curl into myself, folding in, cradle.

i pull my hair i pull hard pull and pull and pull pull pull pull.

i go crazy until the craziness has no where else to go and i’m depleted i’m wretched and i can finally sleep.

Well-wishes may be for bullshitters.

“The gift of happiness is imagined here in terms of civility.  Human happiness is increased through the courts (law/justice), knowledge (reason), and manners (culture, habits).  Civilization is imagined first as what is brought to ‘their doors’ and second as an irresistible moral pressure.”

“Colonial knowledges constitute the other as not only an object of knowledge, a truth to be discovered, but as being unhappy, as lacking the qualities or attributes required for a happier state of existence.”

-Sara Ahmed

She texts him, I hope your day is steady.

Steady.

Not good, not bad.  Steady.

Because well-wishes for the day are bullshit when you’re depressed.  She knows this.

She knows this but it’s a struggle.  It’s so much easier to say, I hope you have a good day, and leave it there, hanging in the air, empty and pretending.

It’s so much easier to say, I hope you have a better day today babe.

But getting better comes at a cost greater than the struggle.  Struggle, steadily.  Well-wishes may be for bullshitters, but what other vocabulary do we got?  There will be no justice within imperialist utilitarianism.

Have a steady day.

Some Notes on Eugenics

Osagie Obasogie, Professor at the University of California Hastings Law School, says it well in this sweet new 4-min video by the Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) in Berkeley:

“When I speak with colleges, grad students and professional schools, and I ask them about the eugenics movement, oftentimes they’re not aware how much that movement originated in the United States. Having this deeper context to understand this long history of science being used or misused and abused to justify the oppression of other groups is important to understand how what many people consider to be good intentions can often have bad outcomes for certain populations and certain groups.”



In “Race Under the Microscope,” Emily Beitiks with Biopolitical Times asks us:

“How and why do long-discredited biological explanations of socially-defined race maintain a presence within scientific and medical research? How do misguided research practices and policies lay foundations for technologies, discourses and public understandings that foster biological assumptions about race?”

Why I am glad you asked, Emily. Significantly, what is at stake in a given project like eugenics depends upon the conditions of its arrival. So let’s start with the basics: Sir Francis Galton is known as one of the “founding fathers” of eugenics, he’s also Charles Darwin’s cousin–you know, Darwin, (thinking back to high school biology…) evolutionary theorist, known for his work on what he calls “natural selection.”

Galton claims: “Eugenics is the study of all agencies under social control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations.”

What were some founding goals of U.S. Eugenics at the turn of the twentieth century?

  • Create a superior Nordic race.
  • Sterilize 14 million in the U.S. and millions worldwide.
  • Eradicate the “lowest tenth” until only Nordics left.

U.S. Organizations and Funders
Organizations:

  • American Breeders Association, 1903.
  • J. H. Kellogg’s Race Betterment Foundation, 1906.
  • Eugenics Record Office, 1910.

Eugenic record office

  • Galton Society, 1918.
  • American Eugenics Society, 1921.

Gilded Age Funding:

  • Harriman family (railroad).
  • Rockefeller (Standard Oil), also funded Nazi program.
  • Carnegies (steel) funded Cold Spring Harbor, NY eugenics laboratory.

Eugenic Leaders

  • Charles Davenport: zoologist and biologist, wrote the book Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911) where he surmises that “all men are created bound by their protoplasmic makeup and unequal in their powers and responsibilities.”
  • Harry Laughlin: publicist, known for his unrelenting advocacy for U.S. eugenic policies of compulsory sterilization legislation. He bethinks, “In the long run, military conquest by a superior people would be highly preferable to a conquest by immigration by peoples with inferior stock endowments.”

Racial Classifications
“Dysgenic”

  • Immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe (enacted strictest immigration laws ever).
  • People of color in the U.S. (segregation and miscegenation laws – sterilization).
  • “Feeble-minded,” poor, uneducated, people with disabilities, blind, deaf, “promiscuous” (segregation and sterilization).

Slight detour: linking the past to the present. Disability, deviance, and “feeble-mindedness.”

  • As a historically contingent and contradictory process, the threat of deviance is stereotyped and pathologized as the cause of criminal and immoral behavior, thus in need of discipline and control so that one’s “deviance” may be protected from society and moreover so society be protected from non-normal bodies and minds. For instance, eugenic ideology renders neurological variations as pathological cognitive impairment, or what is currently known as developmental disability, which presumes an inherent inferiority in mindedness.
  • In her essay “Docile Bodies, Docile Minds,” Licia Carlson investigates the ways in which institutions and asylums at the turn of the twentieth century depended upon and perpetuated the contingent nature of contradictions within the category of mental retardation itself. She writes, “The institutions, as protective and productive sites of disciplinary power, perpetuated the view of feeblemindedness as both a helplessly static fate and an improvable, dynamic condition.” Historically it is believed that, as pathology, such non-normalcy is a hereditary “helplessly static fate” and thus reproducible; hence the hyper-regulation and disciplining of non-normal bodies working through sexuality and reproductive capacity (like Harry Laughlin’s proposed legislations around compulsory sterilization). Pervasive reproductive surveillance of cognitively disabled people continues today, portraying people with neurological variation as infantile sub-humans who remain “unfit” to be proper parents.

“Eugenic”

  • Eugenicists believed in an extremely narrow definition of “fitness.” A eugenic family was (according to THEIR definitions!) intelligent, healthy, Nordic (or at least Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon), and prolific breeders.

Social context: Immigration
Massive immigration: fears of disease, many Americans feared labor competition from cheaper immigrant labor, rise of socialism, labor unrest (hmm… sound familiar? U.S./Mexico border, anyone?).

Immigration Laws
1920, Eugenicist Harry Laughlin testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Immigration and Naturalization.

  • “Immigrant women are more prolific than our American women.”
  • Immigrant “blood” threatened to “weaken the stock” of Americans.

Immigration Restriction Act of 1924

  • Halt the immigration of supposedly “dysgenic” Italians and eastern European Jews.
  • Number of immigrants from each country in proportion to their % of the U.S. population 1890 census (northern and western Europeans).
  • Quota of southern and eastern Europeans reduced from 45% to 15%.
  • Repealed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

Eugenics Popularization: Church, EDUCATION, Fairs, Films, Conferences, Books.

Prestigious U.S. universities like Stanford, Yale, Harvard, The University of Chicago, and Princeton were pioneers in eugenic “scientific” knowledge production, and many eugenic practices continue today in genetic testing.

Eugenics and disciplinary knowledge production

Fitter Families Contests, from eugenicsarchive.org:

  • When one considers the strong contribution of agricultural breeding to the eugenics movement, it is not difficult to see why eugenicists used state fairs as a venue for popular education. A majority of Americans were still living in rural areas during the first several decades of the 20th century, and fairs were major cultural events. Farmers brought their products of selective breeding — fat pigs, speedy horses, and large pumpkins — to the fair to be judged. Why not judge “human stock” to select the most eugenically fit family?
  • This was exactly the concept behind Fitter Families for Future Firesides — known simply as Fitter Families Contests. The contests were founded by Mary T. Watts and Florence Brown Sherbon — two pioneers of the Baby Health Examination movement, which sprang from a “Better Baby” contest at the 1911 Iowa State Fair and spread to 40 states before World War I. The first Fitter Family Contest was held at the Kansas State Free Fair in 1920. With support from the American Eugenics Society’s Committee on Popular Education, the contests were held at numerous fairs throughout the United States during the 1920s.

Texas State Fair, large family winner of the Fitter Families Contest, 1925

  • At most contests, competitors submitted an “Abridged Record of Family Traits,” and a team of medical doctors performed psychological and physical exams on family members. Each family member was given an overall letter grade of eugenic health, and the family with the highest grade average was awarded a silver trophy. Trophies were typically awarded in three family categories: small (1 child), medium (2-4 children), and large (5 or more children).
  • All contestants with a B+ or better received bronze medals bearing the inscription, “Yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Childless couples were eligible for prizes in contests held in some states. As expected, the Fitter Families Contest mirrored the eugenics movement itself; winners were invariably White with western and northern European heritage.

Let’s conclude with some Edwin Black:

Hitler and his henchmen victimized an entire continent and exterminated millions in his quest for a co-called “Master Race.”
But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn’t originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little known, role in the American eugenics movement’s campaign for ethnic cleansing.

Ode to Professor Geary and Feminist Theory

“I came to theory because I was hurting—the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living.  I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend—to grasp what was happening around and within me.  Most importantly, I wanted to make the hurt go away.  I saw in theory then a location for healing.” –bell hooks

I hear all the time

about this so-called divide

that we find

between theory and “real life.”

But some of us need theory to live.

There is no divide.

Professor Geary, there you are in feminist theories.  How awesome and lyrically convenient for me that your name rhymes with theory.  (Oh Dr. Geary, neoliberal capitalist theory is so dreary it makes me weary and a little teary!)  One day you said to the class with such sincerity when we were all frustrated with this “concept” of “neoliberalism,” frustrated with corporatization, with the insurmountable odds stacked high against us in hundred dollar bills for cheap thrills causing dire ills—we just couldn’t grasp it, we felt trapped with no way out—all this theory bullshit, all this greed and exploitation; the class was against you ready to throw our hands up and say, Fuck you academe! Fuck you theory! you reassured us: Some people…some people need theory, to live.  And there you are: dry-erase marker in hand, the white board behind you, and all our ten sets of eyes concentrated intently on you.  Some people…some people need theory, to live.  We all breathe in heavily, chests heaving together, exhaling, some of us breaking for a cigarette.

Some people need theory to live.  To resist.  To feel, to understand, to be, to learn, to interact, to thrive, survive, to love, to listen.  Some people need theory to live.

coffee against my lips

it’s cold by now but I still drink it

and the mug tips,

a little bit

slips

out the side of my mouth as I sip,

eyes looking past the mug onto my feminist lit—

coffee tear drops drip

and stain the polemic.

How do I understand this world I live in     we are all connected now     somehow     there’s the internet     there’s airplanes     there’s tourism     there’s the t.v.     there’s movies and there’s dvds and blank cds ripping copies for free     information as a commodity     there’s Google translate     there’s Google     there’s Facebook     we are all connected now     How do I understand it all     this New World Order     where does my milk come from     where do my bananas come from     let’s all preach equality and fair trade     we got Chiquita banana all dressed in a blue oval sticker all the way from an exotic, tropical, faraway republic     How Do I Understand This World I Live In     of contradiction     some people     need   theory     to     live     we are all connected now     somehow     in this era of globalization     turn of the millennium     post-nine-eleven     connected twenty-four/seven     with our bourgeois blackberries and iPhones     feeling all alone but surrounded     how do I understand this world I live in     where can I find the words I need     help me theory     help me explain explicate iterate and reiterate contemplate commiserate     identity     performativity     materiality     this life     that I am living co-existing imagining and producing, my privilege depending on that of another human’s suffering     amidst all this stigmatization of differentiation     perpetuating extremes of love and hate and the rich and the poor and the traumatic and the joyous     help me remake meaning     help me understand this world I live in     help me theory     help me transform and be transformative, imagine an alternative     we are all connected now

The Pod

By Brittany Willock

click click click
prick. ouch. sigh.
hopeful success for three days.

beep beep beep
check your blood sugar.
click, prick. blood.
good mood, bad mood.
sleepy, loopy.
what will it be?
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, result.

beeeeeeeeeeep.
stop it. please stop.
defective again.
start over. stop what you’re doing.
this can’t wait.

activate pod now?
yes, because that is my only choice.
fill the syringe.
no air bubbles please.
flick flick flick.

click click click
prick. ouch. sigh.
hopeful success for three days.

Hot wax drip over me

I blow out the tri-wick lemon-cream-colored candle,

cupped in the palms of my hands,

to say goodnight to myself.

My cheeks puff and my lips purse:

the flames flicker, they dissipate,

the slender smoke fills my face.

And the hot liquid wax

ripples like toes skimming an Arizona swimming pool,

smells like sweet perfume like champaca bloom like fresh fern like my grandma’s beach bungalow in San Clemente.

I hear smashing ocean waves, I see ripples in an Arizona swimming pool.

I can taste the salty Pacific air,

I can see the Sonoran sunset like water colors

streaking through the sky.

Where am I?

I almost dip my fingers into the hot liquid-soon-to-be-solid substance:

hot wax

bring me back

to reality.

Hot wax drip over me.

Hot wax

take me back

to Arizona swimming pools in the summertime

to Sonoran sunsets like water colors in the sky.

Where am I?

Hot wax,

bring me back.

Sonoran Desert Sunset, photo by Brittany Willock