It’s been over five years since the first time I stood at Ground Zero. Back then it was a pit full of cranes and heavy equipment. I stood there at the beginning of September, in the heat and the sweat and watched men work on beams so high that they looked like toys. They still wore masks as they beat metal into submission, trying to reach the sky with the bones of another building. I remember the emotional toll it took on me and how it felt to be there but not much about the area itself because the whole place was still off limits and under construction. I remember standing in front of the fire station, sobbing uncontrollably and clutching the wall. I remember looking over at the church and being angry at the idea that people viewed its unscathed structure as a miracle and proof of their god, when so much around it had been destroyed. I wondered how they could still believe in anything at all. It seemed that no one was paying attention to the space – and I was horribly offended by that idea. How could the world not stop? How did people walk next to the construction zone every day without breaking? How could things just go on?
DISCLAIMER: This is a current affairs post that references the heinous death of a small child. Read with caution.
In honor of Breast Cancer awareness month, my roommate – a fellow writer and all around fabulous person – decided to find a lump in her breast. Early detection is always key and in that she is lucky but she is also pregnant and cannot do radiation therapy. She is looking at a bilateral mastectomy in her mid to late thirties and dealing with all of it within 3 weeks, since this kind of tumor feeds on pregnancy hormones. It will quickly spread if it is not taken care of immediately and could effect the child growing in her belly, which she has wanted desperately.
My friends and I pride ourselves on being able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and thrive, no matter what is thrown at us. We rarely ask for help and we try to take care of our own but this is bigger than we can manage. The Bay Area of California is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country and while we are all circling the wagons and doing what we can, she needs some serious help with this double whammy of a diagnosis.
If you were planning to make a donation to Breast Cancer this month, I humbly ask you to donate here. And if you were planning on sharing a post about Awareness, please consider sharing this fundraiser.
It’s been 3 years since the first time I stood at Ground Zero. I remember the emotional toll it took on me and how it felt to be there but not much about the area itself. I had known I would sob. I knew I would mourn E. there. I was not prepared for my initial outburst of tears to have less to do with him and more to do with the sheer overwhelming feeling of heartbreak for every person who lost their lives there and for those who they left behind.
This year I stood there again and was totally bewildered and offended as tourists posed for pictures at the new site. I moved them back from the fountain rails in the new gardens to find the name I was looking for. I walked through the monstrosity that is the “museum” which sells “Never Forget” trinkets like thieves in the temple. I was angry and upset at the world where these things can happen and horrified that such a beautiful place was one that marked such an awful tragedy. This time, my emotions were hot and angry and I wasn’t sure what would happen when I found his name.
(TRIGGER WARNING – CHILD ABUSE – PEDOPHILIA – RAPE)
This morning was a very disillusioning one full of debate and controversy. It began with the sickening news of one of my literary inspirations being a real life monster. It has transformed into a conversation about whether or not people can separate the person from the art – and whether or not we should. It is an interesting argument and I believe being able to do so indicates a useful yet troubling skill borne of personal detachment, distance, and denial. Many disagree with me and say that the art in the world should stand on its own merit – regardless of the personality of its creator. In many instances I agree but I draw the line at child abuse. That is a hard line for me – and knowing that one of my idols was busy destroying her female child while she created a world of feminist heroines is truly horrifying to me.
Normally, I pay no attention to celebrity news because I too am detached and I don’t know any of those people nor do I really care about what they do. I make no judgements on how they live or how they die, unless they hurt someone along the way. Even then, I tend to be lenient because it doesn’t affect me personally – until it comes to children. I have no kids of my own by choice – but I do love the many I have in my life – and I cannot tolerate cruelty or abuse toward someone who cannot defend themselves. When Michael Jackson died, I think I was the only person on earth who refused to listen to his music or celebrate his life. When Roman Polanski’s victim recommended that the charges on her behalf were dismissed, I applauded her decision simply because it was hers to make but have still never seen one of his movies, nor will I ever watch a Woody Allen film. Bill Cosby, James Brown, Ike Turner, Chris Brown, Rick James – they were predators and abusers of women and family if even half of the alleged charges against them are to be believed and so was Hemingway. Millions of pieces of art, literature, comedy, and music would never be heard or seen if we judged it all by the disturbed people who have created it. Where then is the line drawn? When do we see the art as an extension of the drunken or cruel person who makes it and refuse to support it?
For me, it’s all about the children. I realize that it’s a shade of grey that makes me uncomfortable, in that one type of abuse shouldn’t be worse than another. All of it is deplorable. I just can’t get past the person who would prey on kids. It’s why I don’t read Ginsberg, despite what I hear is amazing poetry. It is why hearing the news of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s horrendous personal life is so upsetting to me. Her books were my first glimpse into feminism and how strong and beautiful the female identity could be. It shaped my personality, my preferred fiction genre, and my own writing. I was looking forward to sharing it with the young girls in my life as soon as they were old enough to understand. I am heartbroken that now I do not feel I can do that – and to have such an emotional reaction to such news is bewildering.
After all, I have already read everything I was going to read by her. The books are already purchased – I cannot undo it. The argument some posit about the fact that no proceeds can go to her anyway, as she is dead, makes some sense…and that not sharing a book that influenced so many women in the world could be considered a waste. I get that. I also feel that knowing what little I do about her alleged abuse has turned my stomach all morning and I can’t in good conscience use that book to help shape little girls’ destinies, not with hearing about what she did to her own little girl. I don’t think I can ever pick it up again, for that matter – though the urge to look for clues to her behavior in her fiction is strong. Hindsight is always 20/20.
The good news is that many of her co-authors or writers who wrote stories based on hers are now donating a large portion of their sales to things like RAINN or child abuse centers. That’s wonderful – and who knows, maybe I’ll read some of those. But the haunting work of her daughter, Moria Greyland, in music and verse is enough to make me weep, particularly her poem “Mother’s Hands”. To support anything that has even a tiny connection to her mother, including sharing her very influential and inspiring book, after reading that piece is something I am not capable of.
Maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe we should separate all the art from the artist and accept the darkness as something that does not effect the consumer. It’d certainly be easier. But how can we support the person financially or creatively while their victims plead for acknowledgement and help? How can we say that a book, movie or song is greater than the suffering that the creator inflicted on another human? How do we put Woody Allen’s genius in front of his daughter? I don’t think we can, without losing a little of ourselves. But, as I said, maybe I’m too sensitive. You decide.
(Scroll through the article to see the poetry)