what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin

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Domestic Violence and the Law

“Every Fucking Day of My Life” is an HBO documentary about an extremely disturbing case of domestic violence that ended in the homicide of the abuser by his two of his victims, his wife and his son. Wendy Moldonado and her seventeen year old son Randy made a hasty decision to end the life of their tormentor after a night of abuse by Aaron Moldanado. This was a common and familiar occurrence in their home and that night, the two made an impulsive decision to stop Aaron forever. They perpetrated the crime together and Wendy immediately called 911, admitting to the homicide on the phone with the dispatcher. When the dispatcher asks “Did he try to hurt you”  she replies “Every fucking day of my life”.

Sadly, Wendy was sentenced to ten years in prison and Randy was sentenced to seventy-five months, or just over six years. The scope of the horror that the family endured at the hands of it’s patriarch were so extreme and horrifying it is difficult to accept justice in this case in regards to sentencing. The truth is, under justifiable homicide laws in Oregon, this case did not qualify. To meet the standards of justifiable homicide a person must feel that their death is imminent and the only way to prevent this and any greater harm that could occur at the hands of another individual is to kill them. When a case involves domestic violence that has occurred over the course of years and the threat of death is gradual instead of immediate, it does not meet the standard set by the law.

Should a person be able to commit homicide in the case of extreme domestic abuse? Why were other alternatives where the abuser lives not used? The truth is that domestic violence is a complex web of psychological terror designed to keep victims in their place. Other alternatives Wendy had may have included divorce, although both parties must consent and it is unlikely Aaron would have, or simply fleeing, but she may have had to leave her children behind which is not necessarily a wise decision in the best interest of her children. Abusers like Aaron also threaten to inflict harm to the victim’s family if they leave the abusive situation. In Wendy’s case, Aaron threatened to kill her entire family if she left. This is a logical deterrent from leaving because Aaron very well may have carried out his threat. Wendy says she knew she was “screwed” when Aaron told her that he fantasized about being a serial killer who would keep his victims captive for days and then rape everyone, including any men because “I’m not a fag but I’d fuck a man to prove” his point, as Wendy relays in the film.

This man sounds like an absolutely terrifying individual and from all accounts he was. It is not unreasonable to think that a person who says that they want to be a serial killer would terrorize his own family to the point of death. It is feasible that Wendy Moldanado’s death was likely, although perhaps not at the moment of her crime, eventually he could have killed her. He even wrote a song about her with the lyrics “I love you/I killed you always/see your bloody body/lying on the floor/looking toward a new life/a life of torture/have I sealed our fate dear/self murdered bitch I killed”. He literally fantasizes about murdering her as if it were a form of an acceptable love affair. That there is no way for her case to meet the standard of justifiable homicide is absurd. The threat was gradual, there was a level of endurance to the violence. When violence escalates, it is reasonable to assume fatal bodily harm could happen to an individual. An escalation of violence seems to have been the norm at the Moldanado’s. The threat of death omnipresent. When weighing the reality of Wendy’s situation, it is hard to come up with an alternative to her actions because of the atmosphere Aaron created.

The law has often been lagging in relation to the reality of domestic violence. At one time, it was legal for a man to beat his wife with a switch no larger than his thumb, hence the term “rule of thumb”. Post-feminist movement America is a different world however it is far from perfect from addressing the reality of those who suffer in domestically violent situations. When the police would arrive, the Moldanado family could not complain about Aaron because he had surveillance set up outside of the house so he could monitor what everyone did and said. This is an enormous level of control that took away any ability Wendy had to make healthy decisions concerning her life. She would have to send the police away while being beaten upon return was still a threat. Neighbors complained to the police but it fell on deaf ears, ears that were not tuned to the sophistication a predator like Aaron can conjure up. The children were so traumatized that after his death they kept “looking over our shoulders” as Randy describes their paranoia of expecting Aaron to return from the dead.

The lack of documentation on the violent state of their marriage may have contributed to Wendy’s long sentence. However, the reality is that domestic violence victims may not be able to make reports because of the controlling nature of their abuser, like in Wendy’s case. For these victims there is little recourse in directing their futures. Wendy could not direct her future and had to accept time in prison in order to free herself from her chains. Her actions were not premeditated, she says that it was two minutes before she killed him that she made the decision to do so. Justifiable homicide laws simply do not address extreme cases of domestic abuse in a realistic manner that protects the victim. If the criminal justice system were justly dealing with domestic violence, Wendy would have gotten a lighter sentence or not even one at all. It is time for the legal system to catch up with this disturbing reality.

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On “Authenticity”

I live a colorful lifestyle. Instead of corporate riches, I have chosen the wealth of freedom, bohemianism, liberty of knowledge, and learning hardcore street smarts. In the span of things, I am a bohemian at this point in my life, fleeting and flowing around without many things bogging me down, trying to find my place in the world. One thing that I have learned for absolute certainty, is that when there is a lack of resources, there is a wealth of what could be deemed “authenticity”.

Many years ago, for a university class called “Feminism Gone Wild”, I wrote a paper evaluating the concepts of authenticity, credibility and respectability with regards to African-American cultural values. I chose to evaluate Lil’ Kim (authentic and credible as a female rapper derived from both her hardcore lifestyle growing up in Brooklyn and inherited from Notorious B.I.G.), Oprah (respectable for being an American powerhouse, authentic for having lived through true hardships of the American South, and credible for representing female Black power in America) and Kobe Bryant (his reputation called into question due to rape allegations, but his ultimate solidification as a figure representing authenticity, credibility, and respectability within the African-American cultural dynamic allowed these allegations to have little negative affect against him) which resulted in a very entertaining college paper. Hopefully, I will find it again some day. Writing this paper expanded my alertness concerning reputation, behavior, and the values of a certain group one is operating within.

Over the course of the last month, in a post I hope to follow up on, I have gone through some intense personal experience, trials and tribulations of the very definition of a person and what it means to be human. As a bohemian, as to be expected, I am not a part of the elite class, but a part of what could be referred to as the underclass, the outlaw caste, and/or the fringe. Some of the people I have been friends with could be identified as “hardcores”, in the sense that when they fuckin’ do something they fuckin’ do it and they don’t fuck around about it even (and especially) if they are fuckin’ around. I am quite certain there are those who would refer to me as hardcore as well due to my high tolerance for chaos, fringe culture, strange experiences, and ability to carry on through extremely bizarre circumstances. To a degree, I always knew I had this in me I just did not know how it would manifest while I was growing up.

One thing I know for sure as a result of finding all these beautifully unconventional people is that, identity cannot be bought. No matter how much money you may or may not have, you cannot don another outfit and become another person. You cannot escape the wounds of moments past and turbulent emotions to flee into another version of one’s self. An orange is an orange, it is citrus, a bursting flavor of cleanliness, and it is vibrant in it’s color, so much so in the English language it is simply identified as an “orange”.

There are three types of people in the world: unmovable objects, unstoppable forces, and essences. It should be fairly obvious to one’s self what one is, and if one is strong in one’s identity, others should have no problem identifying it.

There is a fantastic documentary called “Paris Is Burning” about the Vogue Scene lived among the Black gay community in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s. Madonna took voguing from these people, a certain style of attitude, dress, and ultimately dance that she turned commercial and benefited astronomically financially while the founders were living in varying stages of decrepit urban hardcore living. These people were not elite, not rich, but wealthy in life and in struggles. Many were banished from their families and became their own families as a result. This is an extremely common experience for those of us among the fringe, an extended family beyond the bounds of blood, something forged must deeper of the mind. People who have not been a part of fringe movements may understand this in theory, but to actually feel like one is coming home to a family that was not created out of blood but mutual identity is a contrary familial experience to blood bonds. Neither one is richer or more rewarding in and of itself, but both have features that are both advantageous and disadvantageous. The documentary is a rich and insightful glimpse into how these people made it work, something of a catchphrase among American gays. Many of the people featured in “Paris is Burning” probably also suffered death from the AIDS epidemic, the name of which President Reagan refused to uttered until millions of Americans had died, because who cares about queers and junkies right?

The thing is, there are those of us who care about the people on the fringe. We care because they make the world infinitely more interesting. The people who live on the outside, who live in mystery and shadows, the people whose faces you look at and you see a vast novel behind the visage, the pages in the mind’s eye hidden in the pupils, those are the gems in the dust.

What is a house?

Does a house end when the wind whips your breath from your nose? Does a house end at it’s roof? Are the people within the house part of the house? The warm smells in the house, is that part of the house? Is the laughing, the crying, the sorrow, the seizing excitement, the shouts, the stealthy silence, part of the house? Where does the house end? Do you carry the house in your heart when you step into the world?

This corporate society can sometimes get me down. I don’t like measuring peoples worth based on their monetary value. I don’t like to see people as worth more than others simply because there is a financial system that has been rigged to keep few extremely rich with money and many extremely careful about money. The solve for this problem is beyond me, minds far wiser and of more education and intelligence have tried and failed, debated and philosophized about this matter. Simply, those of us who have infinite worth but are money poor must be proud. We must be proud for the beauty of our poverty, how objects take on new worth, how the sentimental value of something is beyond what the financial measure. We must also pity the extremely wealthy, those who have poverty of knowledge in the beauty of objects, who have become so jaded to the things that come with financial wealth, those who are tied like a chain to the monetary system and those who fear it’s collapse because “What if I’m poor?!?!”. The worst has already happened to us, we are poor, but we are fierce and we are more brave than those with a thousand rooms in their homes.

We find home with each other. We can go home wherever we are.

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Violence in Prisoners (2013)

As I have stated before, this blog has become something of a study in violence. Which is interesting, because apparently studying themes of violence is a theme in my very family.

I am proud to say that I am the cousin of brilliant (obviously I am biased) Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski. Aaron wrote Prisoners before he wrote the first film that was produced and distributed by a major Hollywood company, which was Contraband (2012). Both films are violent, and both films are studies in fatherhood, masculinity, family ties and obligation, illegal activity, drugs, and the distortion of humanity.

Where does my family get this fascination with the darker side of human reality?

Our great grandfather was an eccentric man. An intellectual, an enigma, something of a patriarchal myth and legend. The story goes, when acquired enough wealth, he bought property and constructed not only a house but also a man-made lake, and within this lake was a mound of Earth, and on top of this mound of Earth was a bathtub.

See, he was eccentric. He was not violent, as far as I know, but he was somewhat detached. Sometimes he communicated in short, simple sentences like the person he was speaking to had walked in on the conversation in his head. At least this is what I gather him to be like, I do not know for sure because I was there. A legend.

Aaron’s movie Prisoners has narratives that are eccentric, like the all the mazes and the pig’s head in the sink. But what really struck me while re-watching this movie, is that the anti-cathartic ending has a resonance within my perception of the world as well, possibly through my systematic study of human engineered violence, which is a theme explored in the film. When Aaron first achieved success, it coincided with my study of Leni Riefenstahl and her influential Nazi propaganda films, so as an experience for me, looking to cinema as an art form was an important thing to do if I was going to understand how societies worked.

One of the plot lines in the movie is about torture. Dover, the aggressive and out of control father of one of the abducted girls, himself abducts a one time police suspect and subjects him to similar treatment found in the CIA torture report, like the use of extremely cold water on the body, deprivation, beatings, and general psychological terror. Clearly, the characters in the film are not as sophisticated as the American government, but as I observed previously, there are only so many ways to torture a human being. In a similar frame of mind, Dover is a survivalist who believes that there is a constant threat to his safety, as seen in the beginning of the film when he tells his son that he has to depend on himself because at any moment the grocery stores could stop carrying food. When there is a threat to his family, he takes things into his own hands. This is a similar narrative as to why so many Americans are currently accepting torture as a status quo. If there is a threat to us, then we throw the rule book out.

In the film, Dover’s actions circle back to him. He becomes a prisoner himself, reaped of his own violence sown out of a heart filled with sorrow and pain and actions taken out of aggression and dominance. Dover’s own use of violence makes him a victim, literally of Holly, the psychotic character responsible for this whole mess, and causes his family’s own victim hood to continue even further with his disappearance. They are still traumatized, and the violence did not cause a catharsis.

Violence also interferes with the necessary understanding of nuance. While drawing the map, which appeared to be a maze, Bob Taylor, the only living and functional victim of Holly, appears to be fucking with Detective Loki. Loki doesn’t have time for this shit, and smashes Taylor’s face into the table. That’s it. Taylor decides, fuck it, I can’t talk normally, I can’t explain after all these years of being silent about the torture and the mazes and the abuse and I’m fucked up over it, I’m just going to grab this police officer’s weapon and commit suicide (Hollywood drama, sure, but it’s a great scene and shocking the first time). Some people just do not communicate like the rest of us. Taylor was indeed drawing a map, it was of a maze, and no one would take a moment to understand. Everyone just got violent instead.

My cousin’s work is fiction, but the narrative of violence is based within the truth about violence. The circular path just continues to show up until the cycle is broken.

How to break it without more violence? I think that’s the question we can’t answer, and possibly won’t.