“Accidental Killers”

I read this article by Alice Gregory in the September 18 issue of the New Yorker and was blown away. I could relate to every word and I cried a lot. I still tear up when I read the end of the article.

What really amazes me about my reaction is that the article is not about ritual abuse. It is about people who cause a death by accident and who live with guilt and sorrow for the rest of their lives. Like us, they feel isolated and misunderstood and are told, “It wasn’t your fault.” “It was just an accident.” “That’s the past now, isn’t it time you got over it?” None of which is helpful, as we know.

People who killed somebody by accident seldom meet or read about others like them, so they don’t have a chance to learn that their emotions are normal, are shared by others. There is no opportunity to form a community or to help others. It is a heavy and lonely existence.

I came close to killing a child when I was 22 or 23. I was driving slowly up a side street and a boy riding a bike hit the passenger side of my car. He flew up and landed on my hood. Our eyes locked for what seemed like an eternity. I knew how close he had come to being run over: I am not sure he understood the danger he had been in. That long moment ended when his mother started screaming at him from a second story window. He got off the hood, picked up his bike, and slowly went into the house. Shakily, I went on my way.

Three feet, thirty seconds, and this article could be about me.

Alice Gregory has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books. She has a website at http://www.alice-gregory.com/ with many of her articles, both in print and on podcasts. The entire text of “Accidental Killers” is at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-sorrow-and-the-shame-of-the-accidental-killer Browse through her other articles: many are fascinating.

For those of you who are not familiar with the New Yorker, it publishes serious articles, fiction, reviews … and cartoons. My parents subscribed to it, and I have, too, for most of my life. Its website is https://www.newyorker.com/

Below is the conclusion of “Accidental Killers.”

 

In the Book of Numbers, God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that they are to designate six cities of refuge “so that anyone who kills someone inadvertently may flee there.” The accidental murderer will be protected from the wrath of the “blood avenger,” a family member of the deceased. The rules are spelled out in detail: when a person enters one of these cities, a tribunal determines whether he or she is eligible for sanctuary; those who killed with weapons, for example, cannot remain there. According to Talmudic commentary, assembled in the twelfth century, the roads leading to the cities of refuge were to be well marked, free of obstacles, and wider than regular roads, so that those who have killed another unwittingly could proceed there without delay.

When Maryann Gray [who hit a child who ran in front of her car], a secular Jew who grew up celebrating Easter and Christmas and reserving Scarsdale tennis courts on the High Holidays, first learned of the concept of cities of refuge, she was overcome with gratitude. “The Torah was talking about me,” she remembers thinking. Gray was struck by the specificity of its prescriptions, which suggested that lives like hers were once contemplated with sophistication by the highest authorities. She became obsessed with the concept, researching it at the library of Hebrew Union College, a seminary with a campus in Los Angeles, talking about it with rabbis, and reading their works.

There is “no statute of limitations on self-imposed pain,” David Wolpe, the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple, in Los Angeles, told me. Gray spoke to Wolpe at the start of her inquiry into the cities of refuge; he explained that their purpose was to allow individuals to share some of their pain with a community. “Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher, says that in the collective grief the individual’s grief is assuaged,” Wolpe wrote to me in an e-mail. When “people realize that loss is part of the iron law of life, it helps them reconcile themselves to their own situation.” Most of us will not be forced to assimilate a catastrophic accident into the story of our lives, but rituals and refuge seem so obviously necessary that a world without them looks inhumane.

There is no extra-Biblical evidence that cities of refuge ever existed. But Gray does not want to believe that they were merely a figment of an antique but ethically progressive imagination. “If I had been exiled to a city of refuge, I might not have needed exile from myself,” she once wrote. She was moved by the idea that, in such cities, a person like her could participate fully in society without shame. “I love that there was a way of recognizing the true devastation that’s been wrought, the harm that’s been done, without condemning the individual,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for—to live in the world with acceptance and with opportunity, but also with the acknowledgment that in running over this child something terrible happened and it deserves attention.”

 

I’m moving the list of holidays to the end of my posts, because I feel it gets too much emphasis if it is at the beginning. If I received complaints, I’ll reconsider.

Upcoming Holidays
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc
2/13 Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras
2/14 Ash Wednesday/Beginning of Lent
2/15 Partial solar eclipse.
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Walpurgis Day
March

3/1 Full Moon
3/20 Spring Equinox
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan
3/25 Palm Sunday
3/30 Good Friday/Death of Jesus Christ
3/31 Full Moon (Blue Moon)
April
4/1 Easter Sunday
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/10 Full Moon
4/16 – 4/23 Grand Climax/Da Meur/ (Preparation for sacrifice in some Satanic sects}
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
4/20 Hitler’s birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. His alternate birthday is 4/1 this year.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)

 

 

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Isolation

Upcoming Holidays 

November
11/23 Thanksgiving
December
12/3 Full Moon
12/21 St. Thomas’ Day/Fire Festival
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/24  Christmas Eve/Satanic and demon revels/Da Meur/Grand High Climax
12/15  Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
January
1/1  New Year’s Day
1/7  St Winebald’s Day
1/12 Full Moon
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
11/12  Birth of both Rosenburg and Goering, Nazi leaders in WWII
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany

 

Isolation 

As ritual abuse survivors, we have probably suffered alone for most of our lives. Most of the survivors I have met were amnesic for their abuse until adulthood. I did meet one young woman who had learned of her abuse when she was a child, but, although she believed it had happened,  she did not remember any of it.

This means that, as children, we started off feeling – and being – different from others. Since I cannot speak for everybody, I’ll share my experiences with isolation; I do believe, though, that they are pretty typical.

I had few opportunities to be around other children before entering first grade. I did notice that other kids knew more than I did, and it was embarrassing. I remember when I was three or four watching my cousins color. I watched them carefully and copied what they did as I had never seen crayons or coloring books before then.

When I got to school, I thought that the other kids knew the rules of the game of life and I didn’t. I was mortified and hid it the best I could by being shy and aloof. Of course I didn’t have friends. Slowly, I watched and learned how to jump rope, play tag, make Cats’ Cradles. By sixth grade, I had made a friend, and in seventh grade, I made another. Both friends were, like me, outsiders.

Inside the cult, all the children were pretty much in the same boat. It was easy to imagine how they felt and easy to imagine that I would feel comfortable with them, if only we had been allowed to talk to each other or play. The children were kept apart deliberately as a means of controlling them. If any two children were allowed to get attached in any way, it was only to put them in double binds and make them hurt each other.

I didn’t belong in grade school. Or high school. Or college. Not at work, not at home, not as a wife and mother. I felt like I was from Mars, simply because I was the only person I knew, or thought I knew, who grew up in a cult but didn’t know it.

When I remembered, two things happened almost immediately. One was that most of my “friends” disappeared when they heard about it, either from me or second-hand. Looking back, these were not friends, they were people I knew. Luckily my kids and my therapist at the time stuck around. I remember my therapist consoling me by saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You will attract new people.”

The second one was there was an instant connection between me and other ritual abuse survivors. (My therapist was right! And it only took three weeks!)

I felt so at home with ritual abuse survivors. We did not reject each other because of the enormity of the abuse. There was no need to walk away in order to protect ourselves from the knowledge of how deeply cruel people can be: we already knew. There was a kinship that cut across  boundaries of gender, race, age, nationality, and social class. We understood each other and nobody was shocked by my twisted sense of humor.

Of course, survivors are like any other people. Some got on my nerves or hurt my feelings and I hurt people, never on purpose, but from ignorance, misunderstandings, or my own hang-ups. There was the ever-present possibility of triggering somebody or being triggered, sometimes without knowing it. The initial glow wore off and I learned that even if there was a strong connection, being friends with a survivor can be hard work.

I was blessed to be living in a place where it was easy to meet survivors in person through twelve-step meetings, conferences, peer-led groups, task forces, and poetry readings. There was so much out there that it was, at times, hard to choose.  The Internet was always there and I e-met people from many different countries.

For a variety of reasons, it became harder to meet people in person, most notably because of the chilling effect of the False Memory people. We became much more cautious, even fearful, around fellow survivors. But for about twenty years I did not feel isolated. I was not a Martian, an alien, an outcast, but a regular human being who had had a horrific childhood like so many others.

These days I’m starting to feel isolated once again, but in a different way. Part of it has to do with the difficulty in meeting survivors; you have to work at it. Many of my friends have moved away and some have died. Others have broken with me and we are no longer in contact. Luckily it’s much easier over the Internet. I do not know what I would do without my beloved computer.

Another part has to do with aging. Now isolation is pretty common among older people, especially those who can’t get around very well. I’m no exception: I have arthritis and don’t have the stamina, physically, mentally, or emotionally that I did thirty years ago. I sure wish there were an easy way to hang out with other survivors, preferably with parking close by.

I recently spent the day with a survivor I have known for years. We didn’t even talk about abuse or healing. We talking about the present and did everyday things, like have lunch and go to the supermarket. But the connection, the understanding, was there all the time. We didn’t have to worry about saying something too intense and chasing the other one away. Our backgrounds were a given, like the color of our eyes.

It was such a treat to catch up on our lives and struggles, to implicitly honor each other’s strength and perseverance. Such a treat to be reminded that I belong someplace after all.

Problems with Blog Writing

Upcoming Holidays
September
9/20 – 9/21 Midnight Host

9/22 Fall Equinox

9/29 Michaelmas (?)

October
10/5 Full Moon

10/13 Backwards Halloween

10/13 Friday the Thirteenth

10/22 – 10/29 Preparation for All Hallows’ Eve
10/31 Halloween/Samhain/All Hallows Eve

November

11/S Full Moon
11/3 Satanic Revels

11/23 Thanksgiving

Important dates in Nazi groups

9/1 Start of WW II
2
9/17 Hitler’s alternate half-birthday

10/16 Death of Rosenburg

10/19 Death of Goering

10/20 Hitler’s half-birthday
11/9 Kristallnacht
11/11 Veteran’s Day: Armistice, 1918

Problems with Blog Writing

Way back in the olden days, before the Internet had pictures, there were forums that discussed different topics. No moderators, no way to block messages, just free and open speech. Sounds great, but free and open meant that the forums had no way of banning posts that said, “You are the biggest idiot on earth,” or worse. They therefore had a finite life span. Trolls chased out the serious members and then got bored when there was nobody to rage against. But the forums were very helpful in the beginning.

I found a group called “Alt Sexual Abuse Recovery” (ASAR). I read every post and wrote a fair amount. After a while I noticed that people rarely answered my posts with support, information, or questions. Or flames, for that matter. I wondered what the matter was, so I got up my courage and asked.

The answer was totally unexpected. “You write too well. There is nothing left to say after reading one of your posts.” I was shocked and baffled. I really didn’t think I wrote well at all. Inside, I wondered whether what I was talking about was off-the-wall odd or else common knowledge and therefore boring.  I ached for support and didn’t get much.

For a while I tried to write badly. It reminded me of a failed effort to get friends in grade school. I decided that the reason the other kids didn’t like me was because I was too smart, so I tried to do badly on tests. I got poor marks, but no friends. I still had a big invisible sign on me, “Stay away. No friends wanted.”

I was hoping that the comment section would become a little community, with people writing each other, sharing resources and supporting each other. Compared to what I had hoped for, there are few comments. But I am very grateful to those that do comment and try to answer each one.

The problem must be that somehow my writing communicates, “No comments needed or wanted.” Too well written? I can see that the posts are tidy – everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. My fourth grade teacher would be pleased.

Maybe I should practice leaving off the end — it’s the hardest part to write, anyway. Maybe people wouldn’t like my writing as much and would comment and tell me so. Maybe it’s something else entirely, something I can’t see. Maybe it is all in my head.