I have a story to tell. I am angry. My daughter and I have been persecuted. Our Charter Rights as Canadian citizens were violated and this was never addressed by the Canadian government. We were supposed to disappear. We haven’t. I have been waiting, for ten long years and I am now ready to open my big mouth and holler it. Shall I? If I do, then those within the Newfoundland Justice system and in Ottawa will have a lot of explaining to do. I may appear to be a small fish but I have teeth like a shark.
There is but one god on this earth and human beings made it. It isn’t Jesus, Allah or Buddha. The god on this earth is MONEY and it controls you and everything you see, eat and experience. You worship it endlessly and want more and more of it. You can’t live without it. Your very survival depends on your loyalty to it and love for it. People die for it, kill for it and work themselves into the grave for it. People betray those closest to them for it and sacrifice their innocents at the alter of this god, to appease its need to increase itself. It is a rampaging monster of a deity and it can’t give you anything but the transient spoils of a corrupt and dying planet.
Ten years ago this coming August I lay face down in the dirt, covered in bruises while a maniac sped away in his truck with my five year old daughter. I didn’t see her for three months during which time I went through the shelter system in the US, initially as a battered woman then as a homeless person.
I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on this past episode, although if I wanted to I could choose any horror in my life to discuss, from sexual and physical abuse and poverty as a kid to the suicide of my mentally ill first husband. So why does this one period in my life seem to have a meaning beyond those that came before? Because it didn’t happen to me, it happened to an innocent child; my child.
I’ve always been clear about the people and circumstances around me and this awareness has contributed to my jaded view of what this world is. There is a deterioration in the social structure on this planet that is hardly surprising given the sham compassion on which we’ve built our communities. I suppose you couuld say that at least the human race has progressed to faking respect for the vulnerable.
Right about now you may be thinking that I am full of shit and that is your right but the bare knuckle facts are that I am in a position of authority to speak about things like corruption, ineffective social programs with their anaemic and feeble attempts to do anything but line their pockets with tax free money and create barriers for those who suffer daily and need help. Oh yes, I have the credibility to say how it really is and not the mass delusion that passes for truth on this planet.
I could wax eloquent for you and make the filth palatable and easy to swallow, but then that would defeat the purpose of this post which is to plant a seed or two that may or may not sprout and eventually flower. At least I will have dug the hole and dropped it in, which as it happens is my entire purpose for breathing.
For those you who know this story, feel free to flee to the more subtly pleasing social environs of twitter, facebook or god forbid, the real world. What follows is the timeline that came to the astounding sum total of ten years, an entire decade of persecution, abuse, terror, poverty, homelessness and yes, writing. I could go back to when I first went to the us and regale you with stories of beatings, intimidation, rape and isolation but overkill is not what I’m aiming for here as you will see.
Time line of my previous ten years:
August 1 2002: My child’s father beats me and kidnaps our five year old daughter. I call the state police who then turn the matter over to the tribal police. The tribal cop comes and the first thing he asks me is if I am drunk, NOT if I am okay although he can see my body is black and blue. The fact that I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs seems to be lost on him. My gut sinks as I take my very first step on the path of degradation, humiliation and persecution courtesy of all sorts of agencies.
August 1 2002: I enter a domestic violence shelter. I meet some other women. I am inconsolable. I am now taking the second step on the path, this one is all about nightmares, PTSD and the daily diet of terror and dread I feel for my missing child. The fear for her safety consumes my every breath and yet this seems to be unimportant to those around me who are supposed to be helping sad little fuckers like me. Early on I am beginning to smell a rat in the social service sewer and boy is that bastard pungent!
August 2 2002: I am informed that only tribal police will handle this case as it occurred on the reservation. This is not an revelation to me as I know the full well the score of all things tribal with regard to my child. The evil monster who took her is related to the chief in a neighboring tribe and is a landowner in this reservation. My goose is cooked and I know it. They take photos of my bruises and say all the lies they have memorized by rote: “we’ll keep an eye out for the vehicle. We’ll call you as soon as we locate them.” I look in the cops face and say “Bullshit.” He looks away. I leave.
August 3 – September 7: I live in the domestic violence shelter. Everyday I file new paperwork with the court and I am told I have only one option for legal representation: An attorney who works for the tribe. Legal aid won’t represent anyone in a tribal court, thus my right to fair representation is another lie I must swallow. Having no choice I see this attorney. He is a fool. I recoil, realizing that my child and I are on a downward spiral with no end in sight. What do I do? I say fuck you! That is my child and I WILL find her and you can all kiss my arse. He shakes his head as if I am mentally ill or at the very least seriously deluded and naive. This entire time is spent in on and off the reservation, waking up in terror with nightmares that are more horrifying than anything Stephen King could conjure. Eventually, a bench warrant is issued, but no one is actually looking for my baby, but they sure are filing lots and lots of paperwork! The sheer volume of court orders, statements and warrants would make lead anyone to conclude that much was being done to save my child. On september 4, my child’s birthday and one day after my 40th birthday, they inform me he has been located and ordered to return my child to me and appear in court. I sit in the tribal court, filled with expectation, arms aching to hold my little girl. I sit some more. In fact, I sit there for four hours until I am newly informed that she won’t be coming after all as it is clear he is ignoring the order of the court. No one seems very perturbed by this new development and it becomes clear to me and the social worker with me that this was all a ruse and not real at all. Something happened to me then and there, a resolve built on the foundation of indignation and anger. They were fucking with me from the get go but I was going to rescue my child if it killed me. Little did I know this would nearly happen in two different ways. Finally, this episode ends and I am sent elsewhere to live.
September 7 – September 28: I live in the YWCA shelter for homeless women. My entire time there is spent trying to stay alive, eating from the food bank, (when I eat at all) getting a crash course in jurisprudence and the mountain of corruption I must climb as well as finding a lovely, rather large lump in my breast. This lump is examined at the free clinic. The physician’s assistant tells me after a mammogram and an ultrasound that the lump is not normal and if I wait to have it removed I could die. Ah, a new horror but oddly one that strengthened my resolve felt previously in the tribal kangaroo court. I am now on a mission and I don’t give a shit who tells me no. I have to find my child and take her home to where we were born and get this thing out. If I don’t I will die and she will be left in the care of an abusive monster. When my time runs out at this shelter I am given two options: a Pentecostal shelter for homeless women or the street. I choose the shelter.
September 28 – September 29: I enter the Pentecostal shelter towing my one posession: a suitcase containing every photo of my child, her toys, some of her clothes and my notebook filled with anguished poetry and letters to my now dead first husband. I have one outfit and I am wearing it. I do however have the luxury of two pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks. I am doing well for a homeless person and I damn well know it too! Although I have been living on Starbucks week old donuts that they donate to the shelters from the bottom of their generous corporate hearts, my 5’7” frame is carrying only 98 pounds and I am feeling it. Anaemia is now my bosom buddy and we black out everywhere together just us two. It is in this state of physical weakness I enter the intake office of this shelter to encounter who I have soon began accurately referring to as Nazi Iris. Her finger jabbing in my face while she asserted in her harsh German accent that I needed to accept that I was NOT going to ever find my child was only enhanced by the room filled with concentration like bunks lining the walls. The irony that I carried a copy of Anne Frank’s diary in my suitcase was not lost on me. After being told I could either 1. Take a shower in the morning or 2. Eat breakfast, that we were not permitted to swear, accept help or share transportation with each other, use a cell phone, miss prayer services three times a day or not be in our bunks by 10 pm, I decided to leave the following morning and take my chances on the street. But before I left I place that copy of Anne Frank’s diary under my pillow, proving that I still maintained a bit of my soul despite efforts but others to destroy it.
September 29- October 2: I live on the street. I eat nothing. I have no coat and it is cold. I learn quickly that you have to choose your spots carefully and that cat napping is all you should ever do lest you find yourself raped, robbed (yeah I know I had nothing of value but nothing of value is something to a junkie) or murdered. After a few days of this, the water from the bus station fountain is all that is keeping me alive physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually, my little girl is the power inside me. On my morning trek to the water fountain I meet one of the girls from the YWCA shelter and she informs me she now has an apartment. I begin living there, where we sleep on the floor and eat mouldy bread and rotten food from the local food bank. I am happy though because I can now sit on a toilet without fear I will catch something. This way of living goes on for some time and I bond with this beautiful woman and two others from the shelter who also stay with her. They gave me the love and emotional strength I needed to carry on until I finally found my child.
This is of course the condensed version of events because I am concerned about that attention span business we no longer have thanks to twitter and soundbites. Bear in mind though that the people and experiences I’ve left out were life altering to me. Perhaps if I believe it will matter I will attempt once again to find a publisher but until unicorns dance on rainbows I’ll keep it in my word program and marvel at our surival, the power of love and the immense size of my balls when challenged.
Tomorrow I will post part two. Oh I bet you can’t wait for that! Highlights: wiping shit off walls in a care home, being drug through court and having a lump removed from my breast and so much more!
*I felt it was time to revisit an old blog post from September of last year. Partly because it has been getting a large number of visits but also because the federal election in my country (Canada) is only days away. It’s important for everyone during any election to keep their wits about them and to avoid being taken in by a better haircut and some trendy eye glasses. Vote for character people, NOT image.
Yesterday I was foraging in a Sterilite tub filled with family memorabilia, looking for some photos to attach to the names on my daughter’s family tree school project. As we all know, when you start digging, all sorts of long forgotten doodads pop up, things that give us pause to reflect and practice some good old fashioned introspection. During the course of the hunt, my daughter discovered one of these nifty items, rife with the taint of the past, an old photograph of my sixth grade class, circa 1973. She was quite impressed that I could recall the names of every kid, which wasn’t particularly remarkable, considering I’d spent five years with the same group, day in and day out, excluding summer vacation of course. And you know how it is when you’re a kid, your brain is like a sponge that absorbs and saves a massive amount of information; retaining it for future reference.
Click image to enlarge
When I reached the kid in the third row from the top, fourth from the left, I had a very brittle and vivid memory of a certain day specifically. It was one of those childhood events that cling, due in great part to the intense feelings they inspire in you at the time. It was during seventh grade and I was standing in the hallway outside my class, waiting for my mother to finish her chat with my teacher. This in itself was an anomaly, as my mother had never displayed the least bit of interest in my education or anything else regarding my existence for that matter. I was both elated and horrified. Elated by this new attention she was showing me and that I was starving for, but also horrified that she may say something off colour or brash to my teacher that would take the rest of the year to live down. In those days, the children went with their parents for these little academic visits from hell, and my worst fear was some sort of public humiliation that was sadly realized when my mother reappeared in the hallway, ready to go home. This time though, I was blindsided because for a change, my mother was not the direct source of the ridicule, but rather her appearance was exploited to full effect by the child I mentioned earlier: Mr. third row down fourth face from the left, Mr. Andrew Cash. My mother had worn her very white, very shaggy, very fake fur coat, a garish slash of flame red lipstick, horn rimmed glasses studded with rhinestones in all the rainbow colours and to top off this outlandish outfit that just screamed trash of the highest order, she was carrying one of her ‘suitcase’ purses which was large enough to contain two small newborns and a bear cub.
I immediately noticed the look of disgust on Andrew Cash’s face as Ma brushed past he and five other kids near the stairwell. My neck prickled with anxiety in preparation for the slam coming my way. When my mother was out of earshot he stopped me and asked “Is that your grandmother or your mother?” His “I’m better than you” sneer made me feel as bad as he was hoping. Naturally, I turned scarlet with shame, and as an added bonus he called me the one name every kid living in my welfare housing neighborhood hated, he called me a Willy. Willy was a derogatory name coined by the middle class kids to differentiate us from them and thus put us in our places. It meant everything vile, dirty, bad, and ugly connected to being poor and living in a project.
Suffice to say, Mr. Cash didn’t live in a housing project, as he was middle class and acceptable in every way. He was an altar boy, active in school plays and filled to the brim with the knowledge that he had enough food to eat, clean fashionable clothes to wear and educational opportunities, such as a tuition based Catholic high school, unavailable to those of us not as fortunate. In fact, this wasn’t the first time he’d called me this nor would it be the last. I descended the steps in search of my mother, mortified at the volley of cackles behind me, but secure in the knowledge that I was somehow defective because of where I lived and what I lacked. When I got home I cried. All kids would. Okay, lets flash forward shall we?
Now, you may be asking, what does this pity party of Val’s, taken directly from the annals of her woebegone childhood, possibly have to do with Politicians? Well, actually it has everything to do with politics, as well as a few other pertinent matters. You see, Mr. Andrew Cash grew up to become a rather famous pop star who at one time was signed to Island Records, the original label that signed U2 no less! Not only does he have the distinction of having been in such illustrious artistic and famous company professionally, but due to his connection to Island records he was one of the acts to play in “A Concert for Berlin” three days after the fall of the Berlin wall. Hell, he has even won a Juno for his solo album work. In addition, he has become known as a sort of social commentator in print, as a journalist in both Catholic publications and secular, espousing his big wide open love-the-underdog ideology. In fact, he has uttered so many virtuous sentiments for the poor and downtrodden of society, it is hard to believe I ever knew him at all, he is that unrecognizable. Currently, I have discovered, he has had still another metamorphosis, this time as a political candidate in Toronto. He is campaigning to become an MP for the NDP party, which is the big time babies, the federal government. Yes, that’s right, big time politics and power. His platform is quite eyebrow raising for me, one of the five poor ghetto kids who attended the above mentioned Catholic school with Mr. Cash. How about we let you take a gander for yourselves, it will save us all time and you get to see his mug now that he’s had a complete makeover, most likely courtesy of a public relations spinner.
Note the “Affordable Housing” and the “Urban Workers” on this promotional poster? Why yes my dear scribes, I too was aghast. but what truly irked me and was a serious crust on the pie of decency, was his cavalier tossing around of phrases like this: marginalized, single moms, young families who can’t afford daycare, no employment benefits etc. Yes, it would appear he has had a change of not only heart, but personality too. Hmmm… or has he? Update: Mr. Cash has taken his original campaign poster and altered it, as is shown below. Now it says nothing about marginalized single moms or affordable housing. Apparently diesel trains are more important to him now. It would seem that Mr. Cash doesn’t deem women and children living in poverty a worthy cause to take to Ottawa with him. Nothing like a good internet cleansing and a flip flop on the issues to get a guy elected.
I find it morbidly fascinating that the people we elect, the people to whom we give our dollars and sense, (yes that misspelling was intentional) are nothing more than flimflam men and women who dabble in a number of narcissist friendly professions, before they at last decide to take the fast track to our wallets by selling us fraudulent personas in return for an X on a ballot. We make mythic saviors of human beings who offer us nothing more than doctored reputations and glib tongues (Obama is a perfect case in point). Our obsession with the cult of personality over substance still astonishes and sickens this mother, feminist and advocate for victims of violence and poverty. It should sicken everyone enough to initiate an overhaul of not only our governing bodies on this planet but also the flaw that breeds in the darkness of our collective and willing ignorance. We have a social and economic crisis on this planet such as we’ve never seen before and unless we solve it from the bottom up, one person at a time, we are heading for serious destruction.
This is the point I was getting to all the way back there at the beginning. My discovery of this one class photo, reminded me to remind my daughter that it isn’t what people say that is the dynamic of their soul, it’s what they do and are. I know I still possess the same morals and sensibilities I had at thirteen, just a few more dings, but the same kid who survived project living. I suspect that Mr. Cash is no different either, and I’ll wager he still doesn’t have any friends in the ghetto. Hopefully he never will, at least not politically in the form of a vote. Although I do strongly encourage him to visit the Crips in my old neighborhood, Bay Mills, AKA Da Milz and get familiar with want and pain. However, I won’t hold my ghetto breath, because that place is full of Willies and I painfully recall how Andrew Cash feels about them/us, Politics be damned.