Author Archives: Caleb A. Mertz
The Way of a Peaceful Creation
Hearing creation stories always thrill me as what was once a speck of a thought could turn into such a huge impact on the society and culture we find ourselves. These stories span more than the traditional Judaeo-Christian Adam and Eve, or even the Iriquois’ turtle and
mother, but even span into ideologies and such as is read in Invitation to Peace Studies the beginnings of modern “nonviolent action” (122). This is further developed by Henry David Thoreau in his essay on “Civil Disobedience.” Within both of these sources there is an underlying call to action that can’t be ignored. When powers at hand are getting out of control it is up to the people to stand up in nonviolent action against the threat that is either being imposed or quietly setting up ambush.
Treating nonviolent action as a method of war is important to the rationalization and justification of it. Many people unfortunately believe that we can not live without war or violence and that humans are programmed for it, though war and violence are a means to death. Taking the non-combative course is necessary but must still take on some characteristics of war. So much energy and time is devoted to running scenarios and planning for the worst and best scenarios, and nonviolent action requires the same if not a little less of this. If this sort of discourse was spoken more often in real war situations we would certainly see a much more rational means to an end of the war. The act of war isn’t reserved for whole countries violently fighting interstate wars but is also standing up against an institution or program, law, etc. to positively affect our own situations on behalf of humans and their rights.
A population growing restless is a threat to the order and governance of a government that is why peaceable solutions need to happen when these arise. Gene Sharp “described 198 different nonviolent actions used in dozens of nonviolent campaigns across diverse societies and eras” (122) but perhaps some of these nonviolent campaigns came too late. As is later pointed out in the text some of them moved on to actual wars within only a few years time. Then, I have to wonder how many heard the call to start speaking out in a positive light to try and quell the storm rather than waiting. Thoreau explains it just as I’d imagine that “they will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret.” The regret paints the first sign of a brushed off obligation that one holds. The idea of waiting means they already have a goal in mind but have only time between them and that goal. Waiting is sometimes something that’s inevitable but actively waiting spells a totally different story.
The truth that is making the distance between action and inaction lesser is the availability of facts and methods. “Never again will people be…faced with inventing tactics on their own” (122) to combat what ails us as a nation. I have waited long enough to have the guilt to begin weighing on me. If I’m getting discouraged because no one is standing up and saying “Enough!” then maybe it’s time someone like me does. There is enough good intention in this world that could strengthen the pleas and add formula and further planning to such an outcry. There is a lot that goes into organizing and pulling off such a strong feat with building momentum. But as with all creation stories it could be your spark that starts the new beginning.
Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Blackboard. Sdccd.blackboard.com. 1849. web.2 Oct. 2016
Wood, Houston. Invitation to Peace Studies. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2016.
It’s our little Secret; The unspoken fukú
“…What he [Yunior] couldn’t say to Lola was that ʻI too have been molestedʼ” (Moya 4) Junot Díaz reveals referring to a part in his book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, where the two characters are at a partition. Either Yunior can state the truth or he can keep it stifled within and not only lose his one love, but also submit himself to a lifelong sentence of denial and pain. This sort of fate wasn’t reserved just for Yunior as Díaz also admits the DeLeon family had a very specific fukú, “…rape” (Moya 4). Rape can be defined as any unwanted sexual encounter brought on by force or any sort of gross violation or degradation of a person, place or thing (Rape). The psychological toll it has on a victim varies based on the amount of support they receive toward the healing process (Whealin). No matter the origin there are often feelings of violation, anger, oppression, vengeance, and many other possibilities. Rape or sexual abuse is a physical act that affects the victim’s psychology and is often repressed or unspoken. This reality is handsomely presented within the book as it takes a very critical eye to spot the signs of abuse in each of the characters as any sexual focus is projected onto secondary characters rather than those most affected, the DeLeon family.
The first of many rapes was done through the eviction of their freedom and domicile by racism brought on by years of colonialism. Oppression is a direct effect of a colonized world especially where one race is conquered by another. During the history of the Dominican-Republic there have been many race related conflicts including the Haitian occupation which lasted from 1822 to 1844 and was continuously referred to by the militant dictator Trujillo. Using this to instill fear Trujillo effectively turned the nation against anyone darker than the lightest of the Spanish-Dominicans leading to “conditions of misery, inequality, exploitation, marginalization and social injustices” (127) as Psychologist Prilleltensky describes in one of many dissertations on the effects of colonialism. When Beli is driven from her home and sent to the United States she discovers not just racism but a more specific psychological condition of the people around her, Xenophobia. This fear is described as having a hate of foreigners not just of race but of culture as well (Crossroads 21). The American dream, bare and naked on the shores of New Jersey as if being raped once wasn’t enough. The Dominicans call this fukú, but the DeLeon’s had darker steps to venture down, the sexual act of rape, and not a single member was immune.
The following is a case study of the main characters within Díaz’s novel with particular attention to the aspect of rape, beginning with the matriarch, Beli. Psychologists use case studies to evaluate subjects that have undergone specific psychologically traumatic events to understand the individual effects of which the trigger perpetuated within the subject. Beli, mother of three, only two surviving, is eagerly presented as angry, desolate, and callous. Her remarks toward Oscar when he asks if he’s ugly help portray this image as “she sighed. Well, hijo, you certainly don’t take after me” (30). Beli was initially an innocent young lady with many traumas affecting her including losing both parents, being fostered, sold, burned and scarred, then finally returned to family. In a way “safe” she hits puberty to discover a womanly physique only accepted once the power is discovered. She uses this sexual power as a tool to get what she wants, but then makes choices that place her into an even further psychologically damaging situation with the Gangster. The human want for physical things plus sanctuary creep into play here, as the Gangster is a powerful man and has a way of materializing material possessions. This creates a sense of reward within Beli to keep her coming back for continual self-gratification, hinting at her lack of self worth. In this situation while matrimonial obligations of the Gangster weren’t known, after learning of this she maintained seeking the affection of the same man, claiming “love.” This analysis leads to question if the young Beli, perhaps in the care of her foster parents, might have been subject to some sort of sexual abuse. Out of the population of women, 33% were sexually abused as a child (Hall, Hall 1) and in a country where little to no statistical information on abuse cases is available or organized, it’s assumed the number is higher. This particular case also shows some specific identifying characteristics of the long-term effects such as feelings of worthlessness, externalizing the abuse, difficulty establishing interpersonal boundaries, and getting involved in abusive relationships (Hall, Hall 2-3). If this weren’t enough, it is speculated that her beating in the cane field may have included rape as the narrator states, “was there time for a rape or two? I suspect there was, but we shall never know…” (Díaz 147). It’s also learned that this beating broke her, it completely changed her. So even if there was no sexual rape, she most certainly endured not just the rape of losing a child, but of being beaten and grossly degraded to a point of near death.
One effect of trauma is it touches those closest to the victim and Lola was first born after that terrible incident. Beli’s high stress levels after her rapes certainly affected their relationship as Lola is in continuous rebellion toward her mother, but there is more than just that to show. The narrator also ensures to tell us that, “when she [Lola] was in the fourth grade she’d been attacked by an older acquaintance,” (Díaz 25). Some on-line sites have the word attacked as raped, which may have been used in an alternate copy of this work, or may have been deduced by reading on to see that it was known within the family but leaked publicly making it harder to handle. It is common for children to be molested by someone the child knows and often loves and trusts (Hall, Hall 3) which would make this harder to deal with, especially publicly, than if it were just a beating. The book also states that she changed aspects of her appearance including shaving her hair. Often times after an attack the victim will feel dirty or guilty (Hall, Hall 2-3) which accounts for this action as being an attempt at redemption. Lola doesn’t stop here; she also runs away and continues to act out especially against her mother which is yet another sign of sexual abuse (Whealin, Barnett). Even though Díaz does not explicitly state that she was raped, this is one hidden assault that isn’t as concealed as Oscar’s.
Oscar Wao, born into the DeLeon family and only later given the name Wao by antagonistic friends, goes about life with a mysterious set of issues halting him from taking some opportunities presented. As the main character of this book the observational lens is set most closely on him yet a certain grave detail goes without notice as it’s cleverly placed innocently at the beginning of the book. Oscar has changed since he was a young boy and now remains detached from others, but also finds basic attention from a girl as a possibility of a future romance. He is unable to maintain relationships let alone develop any new ones; this fuses with the depression and eventual suicidal thoughts. Each of these main characteristics of Oscar are also the biggest symptoms of child sexual abuse (Gartner; Whealin, Barnett; Hall, Hall 2-4; Dube et al.). Many studies have been done to determine a set of adult characteristics that directly correspond to child sexual abuse and a study published in 2005 found convincing and significant leaps in percentile of suicide attempts, depression, and family problems are at least 40% greater than those who have not been abused (Dube et al.). There could be other factors to attribute some of these behaviors, but Díaz already acted as an informant into this disturbing reality. Here, we look to the narrator for tips and find one. It’s hidden at the beginning of the book as if it’s just common discourse, which is the genius in which this theme was interwoven, as it would be in real life, stifled and suppressed. Yunior, the narrator, tells how Oscar was a very handsome child and all the women noticed him, “even their neighbor, Mari Colón a thirty something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walked like she had a bell for an ass – all purportedly fell for him” (12-13). When he talks about the other women they’re simply “Lola’s friends” or “his mother’s friends” (12), but this one woman has a name with very specific recollections about physical features especially sexually associated parts. It is quite possible for a woman to sexually abuse a child and was recently found that almost 40% of male victims were abused by female perpetrators (Dube et al.). It is necessary to understand that the effects can be very detrimental if not treated, and as is apparent in the book there was no treatment provided. Often victims of sexual abuse close in on themselves but there are times when the opposite is true. Perhaps that is why Yunior and Oscar wound up bonding on a repressed level as that’s where both kept their abuse.
Yunior reveals himself later in the book when he begins telling about his college experience with Oscar. He’s immediately identified as a womanizer and a “macho” man who makes it a point to display his manliness whenever possible. In his moment of weakness when he’s about to lose Lola he, however can not face his own molestation (Moya 4). Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D believes that the first thing to conquering past trauma is acknowledging that it happened. Yunior can’t do that as “acknowledging victimization means admitting they’re weak or ‘not male’” (Gartner). He also shows many of the more aggressive symptoms through the book including acting out in incessant pursuance of women and engaging in frequent promiscuous acts with them all and though desires love, especially with Lola, often finds no sense of love after the act is done (Gartner).
Even through the specific examples of how these characters were affected by the fukú of rape it still took a second read in order to really see the connections. Each story strongly harps on the sexual tension, fallacies, or intention of everyone around with nothing more than behaviors left to be examined to find the truth of the main characters. Looking at the book through a psychological lens with the object of rape being in scope there is a plethora of hints and case study specific effects impressed upon each character. Choosing to look through the book with a psychological lens we can see the lasting effects sexual abuse and rape have on a victim. The negative effects are vast and terribly impeding upon the victim until they take the first steps to becoming a survivor. We see the effects of rape, racism, and colonialism displayed in each of the characters by the end of the book. It is so entirely well played out you have to wonder at the ability of authors to create and flesh out such intricate characters to where one can apply such a psychological lens and still have plenty more to talk about than is limited within a five page paper.
“Crossroads: The Psychology of Immigration in the New Century.”American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Immigration, 21. Apa.org. 2012. Print. Web. 22 Oct. 2015 <http://www.apa.org/topics/immigration/report.aspx>
Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York. Riverhead Books. 2007. Print.
Dube, S.R., Anda, R.F., Whitfield, C.L., Brown, D.W., Felitti, V.J., Doug, M., & Giles, W.H. “Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28, 430-438. 2005. Web. 10 Oct. 2015 <http://www.jimhopper.com/pdfs/dube_%282005%29_childhood_sexual_abuse_by_gender_of_victim.pdf>
Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A. (2012). “Characteristics of crimes against juveniles.” Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center. (CV26R) Web. 22 Oct. 2015. <http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV26_Revised%20Characteristics%20of%20Crimes%20against%20Juveniles_5-2-12.pdf>
Gartner, Richard. “Talking About Sexually Abused Boys, and the Men They Become.” Psychology Today. Psychologytoday.com. 30 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2015
Hall, M., Hall, J.. “The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Counseling Implications.” VISTAS Online. Vistas 11 Article 19. Counselingoutfitters.com. 2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2015
Moya, Paula M.L.. “The Search for Decolonial Love: An Interview with Junot Díaz.” Boston Review. Boston Review. 26 June, 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Prilleltensky, Issac. “The Role of Power in Wellness, Oppression, and Liberation: The Promise of Psychopolitical Validity.” Journal of Community Psychology
“Rape.” The New International Webster’s Student Dictionary of the English Language. 1996 ed. 1996. Print.
Whealin, J., Barnett, E. Child Sexual Abuse. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD: National Center for PTSD, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2015
*please note all links contained within are to supporting documents of statements made*
It is impossible to turn on the news without hearing some absurd happening within communities of these united states. Trivial things turned vicious, ignorance turned deadly, and tolerance turned intolerant. The number of stories have increased tremendously especially over the last 8 months. It seems as if there is something America has forgotten. A phrase, saying, and steadfast pillar of peace and tolerance; practice what you preach, treat others how you want to be treated, turn the cheek, or even bite the bullet. The amount of specific examples where this phrase or collection of phrases could have been used to promote peace is astounding. Following are a few examples.
In 2011 Florida state highway trooper Donna Watts arrested a Miami police officer who while driving a marked police car led her on a high-speed pursuit for over four minutes with speeds topping 120 mph on the highway. After the arraignment and judicial procedures the arrested officer lost his job. Though he broke the law, other law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies searched police archives (privileged information) to find her address and contact information in order to harass her.
If the other police men and women took a second and said, “practice what you preach,” they would have found no need to try and intimidate an officer who was actually doing what they are all sworn in to do. Maturity would have allowed this phrase to enter their minds before they reacted blindly. It also should have stood as a testament to the fact that they are not above the law. Of course there are many other current situations where this applies to the cops as well, so please, officers start asking yourself if you are practicing what you preach.
LGBT community and supporters
We all know the fight for equality has been difficult but has seen some amazing steps forward with the repeal of DOMA and Prop8, along with the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell. The past few years have been great, there is still, however, a very real struggle underway. In some places the fight is going backward. Let’s think Memories Pizza in Indiana. They refused to make pizza for a gay wedding. It is their constitutional and living right to choose who they serve. If they decide they want nothing to do with it, try some other business, or think of some other cuisine. The backlash created for this family run business is sickening. If we allowed the phrase, “treat people the way you want to be treated,” to run through our minds this wouldn’t have happened.
No we don’t want to be looked down upon, or berated for who we are, so why would we do that to someone else. Just because their beliefs don’t align with what the rest of the world is trending toward doesn’t give us, the same people who only recently have made some serious milestones, the right to tear their business to shreds.
Those screaming RACISM!
It will be a very dark page in the history books when the stories of Ferguson, Garner, and many more hit them. It is a time in America when we can say that unfortunately racism still exists. It is with all of my heart that we can get this to go away, but it won’t if the reactions continue to be less than appealing. There is no need to shoot and kill an innocent officer because of the color of his skin. There is no need to attack and refer to all police as killers. If it weren’t for the police force we would be in a world that stinks way worse than it does right now. So even in these rough times, when it seems there is new evidence being turned out about some other wrong doing every single day, we should be asking ourselves, can we “treat others the way we want to be treated?” Racism exists, yes, but we need to be able to come together and live life devoid of the ignorance that creates the terrible idea called racism. You may never know when you meet someone that’s racist, but as long as you hold true to yourself and let your light shine, you may never know who you converted away from it either.
I don’t know your story, nor will I ever, but the color of ones skin doesn’t equal the caliber of human you may perceive them to be. In a clear, unaltered news story that recently came up a few Florida police officers were fired because of the slanderous way they talked about black people. Sure it can be easy to lump individuals together by a common feature, but you are doing yourself one of the worst injustices you can. Don’t be narrow minded and allow yourself to think, “treat others the way I want to be treated.” Who cares what your thoughts are or what you think of people. Do the most human thing and think for a second and treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. It is, after all, ignorance which breeds intolerance.
The Unyielding Religious
It doesn’t matter what religion you are, most religions preach peace and love. Yes there are certain abominations, but it is also up to God, Allah, or whatever god you pray to, to judge those in abomination. So keep that in mind when you want to judge someone for the way they are. Recently a lawyer in California, who claims to be Christian, posed a ballot that encourages homosexuals be punished by a “bullet to the head.” This is an extreme case, but in every day life you will run into someone who’s views or life you don’t agree with. It is already stated in the bible that you aren’t to judge anyone, but leave that for God. So why can’t you say to yourself a phrase taken from your book, the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)
To Those crying No Immigration!
Recently President Obama went out of his way to pass a law that would allow illegal aliens to gain citizenship in the United States. This was a double edged sword. If the people didn’t meet all the criteria chances are they could be deported back to their country. Some of you reading this may be happy about that, but I ask you, where did you descend from? In 2013 only about 2% of Americans were native, which means your family came from somewhere else. We are constantly flooded with reports on how immigrants get a free ride, let me tell you this is false. Understandably there is concern about foreign criminals and such reaching our soil and staying, but the government has many practices in place to limit that from happening. So think about those families who want to come here and are willing to take the jobs you don’t want, along with another, just to make ends meat and support a family away from said criminal and brutal activity. Practice what you preach. If it weren’t for immigrants chances are you wouldn’t be here.
There are many groups that weren’t touched on here but the point of the essay is to increase the internal dialogue of everyone. This is America, home of the free. Of course there will people that don’t agree on one topic, life, religion, or creed. That’s the point. Take that and realize we are merging into a new era, a new generation, and the last thing we need to be guilty of is creating a hostile environment for our young ones, let alone our neighbors and ourselves. We are united with the respect of each living person, glorified in the knowing that we can live harmoniously together.
There will be times when the simple phrase, treat others as you would like to be treated, will go to the way side especially when someone threatens what we all stand for. An enemy of our rights. A true threat to the freedom that we have to be able to argue about such values. But when it comes to person to person, neighbor to neighbor, community to community we must stand united with a respect to each human to have their own thoughts, beliefs, life, and religion. This is America. These are our fundamental truths that we must not let pass.
May God Bless America!
Caleb A. Mertz
How’s life? A bar patron asks the manager at the restaurant I occupy. He smiles and goes off on a tale about the Padres. The guests smile and they begin to talk, I drift with a perfect beginning to my post.
Life is good. With the past few months of laxed writing practices, I am happy to say that I’m back! Not just back, but better than ever. In previous posts, in particular On a very different path, I take you along my road to recovery after a break-up… Welp, here I am, sitting in a restaurant while my boyfriend is in dance class.
My boyfriend, my FOUND inspiration, my new beginning. A life that, since he’s been in, has been utter bliss. I would tell u the story of how I knew one day I’d be speaking spanish, but that’d only bore you. Who cares about the young man feeling envious of the secret code being spoken around him? Desperate to break the barrier and understand what was being said, thus using bi-lingual packets to begin his learning. Who cares?
Now, I sit. I look around the restaurant. Only one other couple occupies the bar, but many have gathered to watch the fight between the Dodgers and the Padres. It is San Diego, after all. My Miller Lite is extremely lite, just as my wallet.
I present the only card that may be able to cover the price of two beers. If I succeed, I’ll have another and pay cash. If not, well, I have enough to cover and a nice tip as well.
I can’t help it! I think back to him. His smile, laugh, everything.
“¿Como estas?” A young couple asks, walking to the bar.
I know that: How are you?
Now the conversation goes a bit further. I understand! Not everything, but all things in steps right!?
It’s now within my scope to translate my best selling book, “With Thoughts of Jason” into Spanish. Why not broaden the scope of people that might be able to enjoy a book taken from my heart and soul?
My boyfriend is Mexican, and with that comes a sleu of, ahem, thoughts…yeah, thoughts. You see, my sister married a man from México, and well, he’s done some damage. So now, even with my boyfriend in the room with me, my mom doesn’t seem to accept that i’m dating a Mexican.
“Mom,” I say, “he’s my boyfriend, not just a friend,” I realize it might take her some time, well untill she’d meet him. At that point i know she’d fall for him as quickly as I have.
Well hey. Just wanted to give u all a heads up. I feel like life is taking a turn for something amazing, if u believe so as well be sure to like or follow my blog! I can’t wait to share more exciting things when it comes to writing, or stupid updates on the life that’s wielding my writing.
Caleb A. Mertz
The cold. Wind rushes through the leaves. My skin retracts, muscles convulse. The exhale of a cigarette escapes my mouth and rushes away from me. Smoke, gathers and writhes, billows, yet dissipates. A thought.
A thought that takes me from such treacherous cold; meaning, place, part of the plethoral consciousness.
The cigarette, I again, unwisely, place to my lips to take a drag. The ashes redden, smoke swirls and dances against the influence of the wind, my lungs fill with toxins. I pause. Nicotine infects my blood cells flowing false euphoria to my brain, and yet I still ponder the thought.
Meaning… What do I mean? There is no measure. I can only measure meaning by self importance, so what does it mean? Does it matter?
The cigarette ashes flick into the brass chalice with ease, yet the wind catches them to take them away. Not willingly, but taken by force. Quickly the cigarette is again raised to my mouth. I hesitate a moment, as I look five feet from me to the dark gray slate roof, with what was once a white gutter. The orange stucco impedes upon my memory as I now take yet another drag, smoke hugging my fingers as I shiver once more.
Place… Where am I? Not in position to my physical whereabouts, but more, my mind. The chill exhilarates me, causing me to stand now in the corner where the bitter claws may not reach me.
Something within stirs. It has been, yet I try not to notice. I notice, but I fear. I fear, but I’m strong. I’m strong, yet I fear the weakness it may present. Weakness, and knowing its whereabouts builds strength. Strength I need to overcome such fear. Fear, I have no affinity with.
Plethoral consciousness – a phrase of my own construction. The combination of all human and non-human thoughts, energies, and will. Where? Or shall I ask, what part do I play? Am I one that will rise above? Or the balance to allow others to succeed?
The cigarette is nearly done, and has been resting in my hand atop the railing along my balcony. The brisk cold scratches my face. The thought. Why would I think it? I guess we all must. We have to, at one time or another, question where we stand. Whether it’s dramatic or simply pondering. For the cigarette, it was time to end. The red-hot ashes explode as I plunge it quickly into the chalice. I smile at the cold, as I open the door to find my warmth, and answer to the moment.