Sunday, July 03, 2011

In Which I fail to mourn Tom Ball.

Tom Ball's final stain.
Ok, Since you DID set yourself on fire, I suppose I must read what you had to say. The reason is simple; I'm holding myself to my own standards. You see, I'm kind of on the other side of this story, which, in all fairness, Ball tells well, with all the historical data points as he regards the changes society has been making due to increasing awareness of the impact on children and family of abuse. This reminds me of the punchline of the old joke: "I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid."

As a survivor of abuse, I have a rather different perspective. But at the same time, as a child, any time I felt discomfort, and later on, as a young adult, any time I sought help or spoke of pain that, it turns out, was the result of neglect for chronic, congenital conditions that a responsible parent really should have noticed, instead, my feelings were dismissed.

"You don't really feel that way." 

That was the first, and greatest insult. And the second was like unto it:

"You are just asking for attention."

Well, fuck, duh! I was in agony and couldn't walk, because at the age of 14, my knees were self-destructing. 

But from my father's perspective, I was ... and this was a favorite word of his ... "malingering."

You see, it was all about him. He was the king of the castle, and we were there to serve. If we were unable or unwilling to serve, we were useless, and deserved nothing from him. That is my best guess; I can't read minds and I don't presume to. But when I read Tom Ball's last words - I do indeed hear a great deal of the things my father had to say.

And at the same time, even as I am revolted by his perspective, even as I see the result of ten years of building a whole edifice of self-deception;  at the same time, I also hear the genuine pain, obvious despair, and I realize that he's speaking from a completely genuine place. This is what he really feels and believes; a man who has no reason whatsoever to censor himself.  So, yes, it's important to actually honor that and learn what we can.

Setting yourself on fire just so that someone will read your manifesto is the ultimate in attention-seeking behavior. 

But before I go into this - a word of advice to any feminist allies and/or fellow survivors. There's gonna be some "mansplainin'" goin' on here. Why? Well, because I'm speaking to the men who might find this argument compelling, persuasive and evidence of a lack of justice. (Such as the place I found the transcript.) Feminist reasoning or the language of survivors is simply dismissed as the whining of a subject people. 

As Ball points out, the recognition that the abuse of women and children within the family unit WAS abuse started in the 80's. It's now 2011. Clearly, all those years of feminist and liberal reasoning made no impression on Ball; indeed, he considered them so evil that he was willing to die in a fire rather than admit there was any justice to them.

Well, I respect his choice... even as I regret not having been there with marshmallows. Because, you see, I was raised in that sort of family and I internalized patriarchal values. I tried desperately to understand the reasons for my father's actions, just as I faithfully studied the Christian and military traditions that were cited for it. As an aspy child, I took it all at face value and even tried to make it work.

Well, it doesn't work all that well, it turns out, not without a great deal more support than exists in the typical nuclear family. But nonetheless, most people, most of the time do FAR better than this, even within an patriarchal context. 

You wanna call for a war to uphold the virtues of the patriarchy? First, dear departed soul, perhaps we should know what those are, and how badly you fucked up in THAT light.
Let's start with how this starts, in Ball's own words. 
My story starts with the infamous slapping incident of April 2001. While putting my four year old daughter to bed, she began licking my hand. After giving her three verbal warnings I slapped her. She got a cut lip. My wife asked me to leave to calm things down.
When I returned hours later, my wife said the police were by and said I could not stay there that night. The next day the police came by my work and arrested me, booked me, and then returned me to work. Later on Peter, the parts manager, asked me if I and the old lady would be able to work this out. I told him no. I could not figure out why she had called the police. And bail condition prevented me from asking her. So I no longer trusted her judgment.
After six months of me not lifting a finger to save this marriage, she filed for divorce. Almost two years after the incident, I was talking with her on the phone. She told me that night she had called a mental health provider we had for one of the kids. Wendy, the counselor told my then wife that if she did not call the police on me, then she too would be arrested.
Well, yes, she would have been. She spoke to a mandatory reporter. And at that point, it simply became a question of who would have to pick up the phone. 

But that takes us back to the fact that you, wandering shade, did nothing whatsoever to fix this situation. You "no longer trusted her judgement." You didn't lift a finger to save the marriage, or your relationship with your wife or children. But you see, that's what head of the household is all about, that's the duty and the privilege, and whoever's "fault" it is, the buck stoppeth with you, sirrah. "No Excuse, Sir!"

Anyway, I was deeply inclined to stop reading at that point. 

He slapped a four year old girl. Across the face. Hard enough to cause a cut lip. Why? Because she was being a slightly naughty four year old. Because she didn't submit instantly, by reflex. 

That is hard enough to cause a concussion, hard enough to dislocate a jaw. It will also cause psychological trauma, but I doubt he would see that as a criticism, that's probably the idea. I don't state that as a snotty judgmental assumption - I state it as a matter of probable intent. [1][2

These links are intended to demonstrate the violence and the deliberate reign of fear that underpins patriarchal culture at it's most obvious, in the lights of it's most noted exponents, like the Perles, who are unapologetic about it. 

Most people don't really think about it all that much, and those give you the result of link one in some cases, or as a better outcome, loud whining about "culture war". But whatever the outcome, it's important to remember that MANY people, quite sincere people, do believe that this IS what you must do to "train up a child." It is the core of this culture and no doubt Ball was raised this way himself.

I consider it vile, odious and unproductive, and for that I will be dismissed as a "liberal."  But whether I agree, the goal of parenthood and indeed patriarchy is to produce a functional, sane, productive, law-abiding adult capable of tying their own shoes. Children who experience this sort of trauma tend to be at a disadvantage, so the downstream goals of building a patriarchal extended family are thereby undermined. 

Having said all this, let us remember one obvious fact. Patriarchy has been a dominant paradigm, for all it's self-evident flaws, because it does actually work well enough for most people, most of the time. This is because most people love their children more than they love their own power over them, and most people try to do their best, even when they do fuck up.  

The ideal Patriarch actually understands the point to the exercise, which bluntly speaking is survival of the family over time. As head of the family, that means doing whatever needs to be done and knowing what you need to know to get your family - your "dependents" - out alive. YOUR survival, dear Patriarch, is desirable but quite optional. And that means that your idea of "discipline" does not crush them so that they are incapable of taking your place. 

Sacrificing yourself for your family - that's quite noble. Sacrificing yourself AT your family... not so much. 

Now, onto his next point:
Suddenly, everything made sense. She is the type that believes that people in authority actually know what they are talking about. [And if she was "trained up" as the Perle's would advise, well gee whiz, she would assume that. Anyone with more power over you is more right, because Authority comes from God.] If both she and I were arrested, what would happen to our three children, ages 7,4 and 1? They would end up in State custody. So my wife called the police on her husband to protect the children. [Which is her first parental duty.] And who was she protecting the kids from? Not her husband, the father of these children. She was protecting them from the State of New Hampshire.
I suspect her mileage might vary on that point. Certainly my advice to her would have been get out, get out now and get the police involved, because it is not safe to argue or try to reason with abusers. I do believe this entire manifesto proves that point richly. Ten years, you argue, and then set yourself on fire. I think everyone is relieved it wasn't the more usual "family annihilator" murder suicide or "suicide by cop." 
This country is run by idiots.
No, the country is run by Patriarchs. By other males, and by some women who fit into that role.  Now, yes, feminists have influenced western culture, they have muted some of the worst aspects of it and made men consider the consequences of their blissful assumptions of privilege, but it would be a critical error to think that turned men into supporters of matriarchal values. Rather, it focused males on reconsidering first principles given new insights.

Back in the eighties, it became apparent that physical and sexual abuse - and the consequences of it - were a serious problem. It was clear this spoke to crime, divorce, generational poverty and cycles of abuse. It was a large can of worms, and frankly, it's still being sorted. But it's not just feminists who are outraged nor are the patriarchs all in on the side of denial. 

The events of this case are actually good evidence. What we have here is the result of female input into a functional patriarchy, and, with that insight, males reacting to the situation as a protective male patriarch would do. And there ain't much more stereotypical bull male patriarchal authority than a police sergeant on a domestic violence call.
The police sergeant Freyer screwed this up from the get go. When I got the Court Complaint form the box was checked that said Domestic Violence Related. I could not believe that slapping your child was domestic violence. So I looked up the law. Minor custodial children are exempted. Apparently, 93% of American parents still spank, slap or pinch their children. To this day I still wonder if Freyer would have made this arrest if it had been the mother that had slapped the child.
Not that I believe that statistic, but I know a lot still do spank. But spanking is not the same as face slapping that leaves a child bleeding. You can thump a diaper or swat a hand, or cuff a child at need... but if you injure them, it's assault. So you got a gift, "man to man." 

You were booked on a lesser offence, so the paperwork could proceed, but permitted the dignity of returning to work, with the presumption that you would support your wife and children.

Clearly you were not fit to handle your manhood, so he took your family away until you proved yourself fit. You chose not to. And as an indirect result of that choice, I'm speaking through your ghostly ass to those who might yet understand.

Because that is the definitive patriarchal response. You can't handle your shit, you abuse your power, you fuck up that badly, and the bigger dogs step in. YOU get kicked to the curb. and IF you submit, if you bare your throat, they MIGHT, might just possibly permit you to make amends.  

That is what family court is all about. And if you argue that it's weighted against men and errs in favor of protecting women and children - brace yourself, fucktard. THAT is what MEN are SUPPOSED to do, so OF COURSE it is. What the hell did you expect? 

And if a few men get unjustly screwed over ... well, that's a price other men are willing to pay, in the name of the good of all. 

This isn't the wimminfolk gangin' up on you, bucko. This is a system administered by men by male principles under laws written overwhelmingly by men.  
Labeling someone’s action as domestic violence in American in the 21st century is akin to labeling someone a Jew in Germany in the 1930′s. The entire legal weight of the state is coming down on him. But I consider myself lucky. My family was destroyed. But that poor bastard in Germany had his family literally annihilated.
Oh, now you ARE whining. 

All this flows from you slapping a four year old girl across the face hard enough to leave visible marks and trying to argue that you have every right to do that, and that it's perfectly proper and lawful. Which assault against a person is not. 

Assault is not discipline. It is abuse. 

So you convinced a cop that your first reaction to any opposition is violence - overwhelming, sudden, and potentially deadly violence. Now, this sort of reaction makes police pucker for cause every time they get a domestic violence call. It's possibly the single most dangerous thing you might be called on to do as a cop.

And yes, they do make informed "field judgments" about what approach to take, based on attitude.

Pragmatically speaking, if you separate problem male from apparent target, it won't escalate to a point where a cop gets killed. Oh, and with luck the larger public good is served. 

Nobody wants to put kids in the care of the state, particularly those who have to do that from time to time. So generally, when they do that, it's because some asshole is making a point of principle that makes it clear that foster care will be no worse.
When then a man is arrested for domestic violence, one of two things can happen. If they are only dating and have separate apartments, then he can head home. But if they are living together, then this fellow has a real problem. Bail conditions and then a possible protective or restraining order prevent him from being with her. So he needs to find a new place to live, at least until the charges are resolved. The King of his Castle is no longer allowed into his castle. A feminist name Pence who wrote that was absolutely giddy at that outcome. So he can get his own place if he has enough money. Or he can move in with his mother, his sister or another relative. He might have a girl friend who would let him stay with her. And if none of this is possible, well then I guess he is sleeping in his car down by the river.
Wow. So the "bitch on the side" is the modern analogue of the King's escape tunnel? Having a mistress is just prudent, like a spare tire, or a first aid kit? Because you never know when bitches are gonna get all emotional and kick your ass to the curb for cause. One of which would be... having a mistress. An even bigger one would be saying out loud that you have the right to have a mistress, because YOU are King of the Castle.

One wonders what role this played in the camel shedding it's load and the shit rolling downhill, but I digress.

Let me hammer this point again. Of all the structures of government, the most explicitly patriarchal is the police and justice system. It's steeped in it. It lives in it. It draws it's traditions from Irish Catholic ideas of how families and society should work, in many areas of the English Speaking world. There is no cause more dear to the Family Values Voter than the boys in blue, unless it's the boys in green.. and many of them will wear blue soon enough. 

In both roles, the cause is mostly dealing with men who need attitude adjustments  because they aren't willing to "straighten up and fly right." 

Remember, as a straight white male, you are automatically getting slack most others never would get. So let's add that extra scoop of failure right on top. 

You know, I was going to address the few good points he has... but while the reasoning is good, it's not actually reasoning. It's rationalization after the fact and I'm feeling just a little slimy. 

The point is, he was King of his castle. Rather than accept the duty of care that implies, he slapped his child across the face for... licking his hand! 

He thought that was the right thing to do, or at least, he had every right to do it. I think he'd have thought that a distinction that makes no difference, and I think that's why he was willing to immolate himself rather than admit he fucked up at levels beyond comprehension. He blew up his entire world because he could not cope with a naughty four year old testing her daddy's love and patience.

When you set yourself on fire while calling on others to make Molotov cocktails to burn down the vast majority of the patriarchy because they don't think you have the Right Stuff, it's not an act of protest, it's a temper tantrum, speaking of rebellious four-year-olds. Four year olds don't GET to be King.

But thanks for the insights. And the s'mores. 

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