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The woman who is my country
She was already in tears when she walked into the waiting area. I caught sight of her as I was finishing up paperwork from the case before hers. She was fourth in line and I kept glancing up at her as I worked my way through the people in front of her.
Criers are hard to deal with. Most people who come into the office are upset and on the defensive to begin with; they are either in the process of being evicted or they’re in the process of being sued. Even those who are on the offensive are agitated. No one wants to sue or evict someone. It’s a tiresome, tedious and sometimes heartbreaking process - and they’re usually angry when it comes to that point. When someone is already crying when they enter the lobby, I know I’ve got a tough customer ahead of me. It’s not my job to determine if the tears are real or not; I always go on the assumption they are. There are times when I’m proved later on to be wrong, but I would rather err on the side of being empathetic.
I finished up with the person before her - a mother evicting her drug-dealing son from their house - and called her to the counter. She launched into her story.
She was being evicted. She’d lost her job a few months back when the company she was working for slashed their workforce and she hasn’t been able to find decent work since. She had never been out of work before. She’d had a job since she was 16. Her husband died five years ago. He was self-employed and didn’t leave much. She’s lived check to check for a long time, supporting herself and her young son. She fell behind on the rent. She had applied for assistance, a process that humbled her. Her landlord filed a proceeding against her. She said she was never served with the petition that would tell her of the court date. She was marked as a non-appearance and her landlord was awarded a default judgment and a warrant of possession. She woke up that morning to find a 72 hour notice from the Sheriff on her door.
It’s a story I hear ten, twenty times a day. It’s always the same story. And I always believe them because I am not the Judge. I am not there to decide their cases. I just help them fill out the forms to move their case on, to get a stay of eviction or to vacate a judgment. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt because it’s what I would want if I were in their situation. I know they aren’t all telling the truth. But sometimes I know. Sometimes I can tell.
I was showing her how to fill out the forms when a man stumbled into the office. He was using metal crutches, his left leg sort of dragging behind him as he walked. He was trying retrieve some papers from a plastic bag while keeping his balance and not having an easy time of it.
The woman I was helping stopped what she was doing and walked over to the man. She led him over to a bench, helped him sit down then asked him what he was there to do. He had a thick accent and spoke in half English, half what I assumed was French. She knew his language and they conversed fluently as he showed her papers, explaining what it was he wanted to do.
She came back to me and I looked at the clock. It was nearing 3:00. I told the woman that she needed to finish filling out her order if she had any hopes of a judge reviewing it today.
“It can wait,” she said. “Your own things can always wait when there’s someone in need.”
She asked me for a small claims form for the man. I briefly explained to her the rules for filling out a form, firing off the same questions I ask everyone who is filing a claim “Is he a corporation? Does the defendant live in this county? Is it a car accident? Is it under $5,000?” She fired off the questions to him and there was obviously some issue as they went back and forth. She sat down again, started filling in the form for him as he dictated his information to her.
She was no longer crying. She shared a laugh with the man over something as they worked together to get his claim filled out. She was in her element, I could tell. Helping someone. Being kind and courteous, going out of her way for a stranger. She came back to me, asking what to do if the person he was suing was not a resident of the county, but he worked here. I told her we could try to serve them at the work address. She went back, related the information to the man in his native language and they completed the form together. She helped him walk up to the counter, holding his elbow to steady him. After I processed his form and he paid filing fee, she told him to sit down again.
“Is it ok if he waits here? ‘m going to help him walk to the bus stop when I’m done.”
Of course it was ok.
She finally finished her own form and I explained the rest of the process to her. I told her apologetically it was probably too late to get an answer from a judge today, then thanked her for helping the man.
“No, I should thank him for letting me help him. It’s good to feel useful when you have been feeling like a drain on society.”
I didn’t know what to say. I told her we would give her a call when her order was ready, explained the different possible outcomes and what she could do after each one. I saw the tears well up again. She thanked me and left before she started crying again.
I thought about her as I watched the Republican National Convention. I thought about her being an immigrant, a woman, a welfare recipient, unemployed, possibly homeless. Who in this party would embrace her? What did their vision of American have in store for someone like her? What would their vision of her be?
They would see a person asking for a handout. They would see someone who was indeed a drain on the system. They would call her entitled, someone looking to benefit from socialist ideas.
What they would not see is a human being. A selfless, caring human being who puts the needs of others ahead of her own. They would not, could not know that she has a big heart and helping hands. They would not, could not know the circumstances that led her to be in a place where she is asking for help.
The America I know and love is an America where people help each other. It’s a country where everyone does the heavy lifting together. It’s a place where we don’t forget there are people are less fortunate than us, where those who have lend a hand to those who don’t. You can talk all you want about the community of your town and church, how you grew up with that sense of belonging with the potluck dinners and Little League games, but it means nothing if you don’t want to make that small community broader, to be inclusive and encompassing.
Too often people don’t venture outside their own views of the world. They see what they grew up with, what they are living with and they have no idea how the other two thirds live. Yet they are quick to pass judgment on those who don’t live like them. They ignore whole communities, shun those with less and think it’s so simple and easy to get more. They are the people who would take away rather than give. They are the people who think asking for help is weak and giving help even weaker. The sink or swim mentality.
When you tell the citizens of your country to sink or swim, you run the risk of sinking with them. We are a country. We are a country made up of varied communities and when those communities sink and we do nothing to do offer a hand or a rope, we sink with them. Without helping each other, we doom each other.
That woman I encountered this past Thursday is a symbol of what I want my America to be. Giving of ourselves to help others get by. When we do that, we help everyone. We are a nation of people uplifting each other instead of watching while others fail and flail. We can not be a nation of people who have swooping in to feed off the carcasses of those who don’t. We must be a nation of helping hands in order to become one. When we become one, when we embrace all, when we include all, when we see we are all part of the larger community, that’s when we rise above.
That woman is my America.
Teenage angst that surfaced as a 20-something: The true measure of success does not exist.
For the longest time, I had a hard time understanding the phrase “glass half full.” If you think about it logically, you fill a glass to the top and the remainder of whatever is left leaves the glass half empty. It’s just what makes the most sense to me. It’s especially true when you order a glass of bourbon and the bar tender only pours you half a cup. You don’t look at it and say, “thanks for leaving it half full.” The more appropriate answer would be something like, why did you get skimpy when pouring the booze? It’s already half empty.
Today was the probably the most beneficial day to attend a lecture. It was supposed to be over The Maids, which is a play loosely based off a true event. For whatever reason, the lecture over the reading material never occurred, but instead my professor went off on an hour long tangent about life and what it meant to be successful. He went around the room and asked us all what we wanted to do once we finished college. Some of the students said they wanted to be teachers, writers, someone said they were hoping to become a lawyer. When he got to me, I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t have an answer for multiple reasons. First, what does it matter? Everybody I ever knew who finished with a degree ended up working some random ass job in a field they never expected. Two of my friends who got lucky and landed their supposed dream job hated it and quit after a year or two. So who’s luckier? The second reason I didn’t have an answer to fire back came from my everlasting hatred of formal education. But that’s a longer spiel that I’ll save for another day.
This particular professor has always struck me as odd. A tall, middle-aged eccentric who had a passion for theater. Has two kids in college, a wife, and a goofy sense of humor. Maybe him and I see eye-to-eye, more so than I previously thought. He spoke in circles and gave comparisons about someone who made a fortune and someone who just lived their life however they saw fit. In the end, you die anyway and time continues to stagger on. A guy in my class desperately wants to be an actor and my professor commented on the fact that in a few years, IF he actually became successful, would just be a trivial pursuit question at best. God damn, if he wasn’t so right. It’s disheartening but liberating to know you’re not the only one who contemplates the disadvantages and freedoms in life. Sure, everything comes at a price, but again, does it matter in the end?
What the fuck is success, anyway? It’s just one of those abstracts in life that each person attaches a different meaning to. Ah, the meaninglessness of the meaningful and the inadequacy of words. I guess someone could be successful if they achieved an end goal, but it’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Maybe this is why I’m someone who sees the glass as half empty. Anyway, during his lecture I sort of drifted off and got busy thinking about a friend of mine who ran away and joined the army right out of high school. Ian Mooney was probably the smartest, most articulate guy I’ve ever met. Pure genius with a heart that was made from pages from 1980’s joke book. He used to wear a rough-textured poncho and carried his books in an old Soviet satchel that also housed a few flasks of vodka. A lot of people never ‘got him’ but he was one of my best friends. A few years ago, I picked him up from a Houston airport and hauled him back to my apartment for an overnight visit. On the way home, he said to me how weird it was to realize life goes on whether you’re around or not. He lost contact with good friends, me, and stated that the area’s development was phenomenal. He’s right: life does go on. People forget you exist or never make an effort to reach out because you’re not readily available to share a few tall necks on the side of a hill or watch their kids while they run errands.
I read somewhere once that living is abnormal. The collapse of the reasonable is what life is, only fully realized when you get to the end of the road and ask “this is it?” So success can be a negative and improvements can lead to horrible things. Hear me out on this. If you look at the explosion of technology, population, the over-production of certain things and the easy access to whatever you want (drugs, information, entertainment), what’s going to happen as far as improvement? Can everything be improved, or should we as a society just allow things to remain status quo? What if everything becomes so “improved,” it hinders natural, human instinct and capability? The job market sucks shit because everyone’s becoming over qualified and educated and I’m afraid 20 years down the line, you’ll need a degree to mop vomit off the floor in a high school. Technology too, is a total detriment. The Internet has opened up an entire world of chaos that I think most aren’t ready to handle. I’m not ready to handle it. I’m terrified everything will fall to shit if we rely too much on the idea of improvement. Hell, the Nazi’s improved ways to kill thousands in a single afternoon and Americans hired the smartest, most educated men to carry out the Manhattan Project. Improvements, sure. But they came with terrible consequences. Success to some, failure to others.
This is killing my brain.
I’m gonna start this with a question that is way to big to ever be covered in a single sitting. What makes something important to an individual? I’m going to break that down a bit. Something could be a place, an experience, an object, or even a person. Importance is also something that is not easily described. The way I’m going to describe importance is through priorities and mental awareness. So even though homework is a low priority to some people, they know that it has to be done because of that nagging feeling they get with deadlines. If both of these conditions are met then it is of great importance, if neither are met, its of little importance. So what drives priorities or active thinking? Most people prioritize events on time and how it will affect their future, not just the huge career path choices, but the choice made for lunch. Both change your life, you just don’t think about the sandwich over the business major. Both have importance but one is more important than the other mostly based on awareness instead of priority. Instead of decisions think of people. What makes your best friend more important than a stranger on the street? Silly sounding question, but that person on the street is also a human being, has hopes and dreams, cares, a past, all of those things are what make a person a person so why are people not best friends? Once again, awareness. Strangers are not a priority, you never have to think about them besides passing by them on the street although everyone you pass has a life and a past just like you. All people have a level of experience that cannot be judged by anyone else because they have not lived it. The reason you have a best friend is because you have shared in their experiences, you know the dreams they have and the lives they live. You care about this person and their future, that is what makes them more important than strangers. Now what about love? The people you love should be important in the same way your best friend is important, but probably in a deeper sense. To me, love is the need to be apart of someone else’s life. The need to strive to support them and all they do. It’s how you love family and friends, love is importance in a different sense. I don’t believe in soul mates, but I do believe that two people can care about each other deeply. That two people do not stop thinking about each other and support the other, putting them above all other wants and desires. True love is not when you would die for some one, but you would live for someone and they would live for you. If both parties know that the other has the same level of importance, that is love.
“One day, several black Mercedeses arrived at the cooking school. The first car bore the license plate 2-16, Kim Jong-il's birthday. The second contained five women kidnapped from Thailand to be used as sex slaves. Fujimoto was asked to get into a third car.”—“Dear Leader Dreams of Sushi” by Adam Johnson
Since apparently it was so hard the first time around for people to get and apparently people just can’t search through the ‘whitewashing’ tag for more information or go to any of these blogs (Racebending, Stop Whitewashing, DamnLayoffthebleach, Korraisnottan, Finite-whitewashing, Race in my fandom, etc) or simply use Google. I’m now going to explain it again, nicely for the last time.
What is racism?
I’d like to point you to the real definition (1, 2). The dictionary definition is not accurate since it wasn’t written by people who actually face racism. Those people would be People of Color (everyone that’s non-white). In a short sentence, white people do not face racism, PoC do. Also here is a fine explanation of whiteness. More on understanding racism: The Angry Eye (Part 1, Part 2). White privilege. Colorblind racism [1, 2] Also Colorism [1,2, 3, 4, 5]
Now before we can continue read that again. White people do not face racism, PoC (everyone that’s non-white) do. Okay? Okay. Moving on.
All whitewashing is racist and it’s extremely harmful. Let’s repeat it again. All whitewashing is racist and it’s extremely harmful. Got that? Good. Also there’s no such thing as Blackwashing.
Now what is whitewashing?
Whitewashing is the practice in which a person (director, producer, a fan, etc.) takes a character who is originally of color in canon work, and replaces them with a white actor or draws them white or portrays them white face claim (FC) (role-playing games).
It is also used to describe the entertainment industry’s attempt to make a PoC character look more “white” in order to appeal to the white masses.
Whitewashing is just not making the skintone of a character of color lighter or completely white. It’s also drawing them with more Eurocentric features.
Here’s what Korra is supposed to look like.
The whitewashed image is supposed to be more realistic looking, while the real image is more cartoonish, you can still tell that that fanart looks nothing like Korra.
People have said whitewashing isn’t racist because people do it subconsciously.
WRONG! It’s still racist! But whitewashing does happen subconsciously. Though this reason (in my opinion) can only apply to books, not tv shows or movies. Yes people, white and PoC have whitewashed subconsciously, I have even done it. Why is this so? The media and in society in general, constantly projects that white is the norm and everything that is not white is…well…abnormal. Because of this, People of Color (unless miraculously they grew up in a home where diversity was projected) at a young age have learned this, have absorbed this.
So when continuously being told or shown that white is normal, people have tendencies to read characters as white. An example of this would be what some people did to Blaise Zabini, a character from Harry Potter. He was given no real description until book 6 and was described as “Blaise was a tall black boy with high cheekbones and long, slanting eyes.” So up until book 6, some people saw him as white male or even a white female. After book six when he was given a description, people continued to write him as a white male or white female in their fanfiction stories, draw him white in fanart, and use white actor/actresses for FC claims for him. This still continues today.
Basically at a point subconsciously whitewashing isn’t a good excuse, especially when people call the person out about it. When a person does whitewash subconsciously, when they read a character as white, and a person calls them out about their whitewashing, the simple thing for the whitewasher to do would be to fix the fanart, FC (face claim), etc. Personally they become racist to me, when they refused to fix their mistake and instead spend the entire time making excuses for themselves. And then end up not fixing their mistake.
Also just because someone says they did it “subconsciously” doesn’t mean it’s always true. People also have reading comprehension problems, just look at the Hunger Games fandom. (Edit: Also the Mortal Instruments fandom)
Which brings us to the people who just do it on purpose. Yes, those people are out there. These are the people who refuse to believe a character is of color. Yes! Out right refuse. They are also the people who defend whitewashing and chuck it off as “It’s just a face claim” “It’s my own artistic interpretation!!1” “I just always saw her/him as white” “I just felt like they were white”. Hey, guess what!? Your face claim is racist. Your artistic interpretation is racist. Your reading is awful. And your feelings suck.
Not only is racist, it’s also disrespectful to the novelist, comic writer, comic artist, etc, that you so claim to admire, who made that character a Person of Color. Last time I checked, it’s their work and I’m pretty sure they knew what they were doing when they made that character, of color.
Now a frequently asked question or a joke by people who think whitewashing is not a big deal is.
Does it matter if it’s a shade off? Yes it does.
“I’m not hurting anyone by whitewashing,” says the ignorant person. Yes you are.
“What does it matter if I whitewash a character who cares? It’s not like it has any effect on people,” says the ignorant person. WRONG!
Harmful effects whitewashing and misrepresentation in the media has on PoC, especially children of color.
Sometimes the individual doesn’t do any of these things, sometimes they just harbor hate for themselves and their own race. See internalized racism.
Whitewashing in fandoms
Whitewashing has been happening in fandoms ever since I can remember, from Harry Potter (HP) to Star Trek to Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA). In HP all the characters of color, which includes Dean Thomas, Blaise Zabini, Cho Chang, Padma Patil, Paravati Patil, Kinglsey Shacklebolt, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson and her children Roxanne and Fred II, have been whitewashed by the HP fandom. Whether it’s in fanart or in role-playing.
Angelina Johnson’s children who are mixed (Black/White) are constantly whitewashed or have had other races portray them in role-play (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and so much more.) So is the character Blaise Zabini (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) especially in art
Blaise Zabini by ~luthienelf
Eventhough in the book he was described as ”Tall black boy with high cheekbones and slanting eyes. (Pg. 143 of HBP)”. He is still being whitewashed and Ian Smolderhalder is constantly used as a face claim for Blaise Zabini. Yes it took for book 6 for Blaise to get a real description, many people thought of him as white and even thought he was a girl. However that is no longer an excuse, book 6 has been out for many years. Not to mention a movie were he was casted properly with a Black British actor (Louise Cordice). The whitewashing of Blaise should no longer be happening. As soon as the book properly described him your point of view should have changed immediately. Using the excuse that you were a kid, no longer implies, especially when…well you’re not a kid anymore.
And there’s so many more whitewashed works but if you want to see more you can through Korraisnottan’s and Damnlayoffthebleach’s archive.
Lighting is not an excuse for any of these arts whatsoever. Also I kind of plan (don’t know if I will or not) on writing another post on what to do when your favorite artist(s) has whitewashed or when your favorite actor, actress, etc doesn’t care about whitewashing. But here’s a sneak preview of one of the things to do:
DON’T TELL PEOPLE WHO ARE OFFENDED HOW TO FEEL ABOUT WHITEWASHED ART, JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE THE ARTIST!
DON’T TELL PEOPLE WHO ARE OFFENDED BY THE CRAPPY COMMENTS YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR, ACTRESS, MARTIAL ART, ETC. TO BE QUIET!
As I said before, the characters most whitewashed or improper face claims (using other races to portray them) used are Blaise Zabini and Roxanne and Fred II.
When it comes to Roxanne and Fred II, who are the children of George Weasley (white British man) and Angelina Johnson (dark-skinned Black British woman) they’re always whitewashed.
Mila Kunis, Karen Gillian, and other random white actresses/singers have been used to portray Roxanne. Even Shay Mitchell, a white/Filipino actress is used to portray Roxanne constantly. Hell, Shay Mitchell is used for a face claim for almost all women of color characters by roleplayers. She’s even been used for a face claim for Angelina Johnson.
Roleplayers excuses when called out on the whitewashing or interchanging (using another race) of these characters is:
(Yes this are actual responses from people.)
“Your insane, so what if ppl white wash Blaise its not racist I want to use gifs and I love Ian Somerhalder its an au rp. I thought u were only trolling me, but its to everyone calm the f*ck done u crazy shit.“ -HP roleplayer (Blaise Zabini)
‘I’m sorry…but why dose a face claim for a FICTIONAL CHARACTER even matter. Why does it mean that they’re being racist? Please go away and think how pathetic you’re being!”- Another HP roleplayer
It does matter if a faceclaim is a person of color. Why? Because by using a white face claim or another race to portray that character, you’re erasing the characters heritage and it’s not okay, it’s racist.
A common question is
Brownface, Blackface, Yellowface, etc in Cosplay and in the Media
Basically, don’t do Brownface, Blackface, Yellowface, or Redface.
“You need to educate people”
Every now and then (really all the damn time) whitewashers and whitewashing apologists, will tell me or someone else who has called them out on their whitewashing, that we need to educate people instead of yelling at them. As you can see, there’s a lot of links in this post. Why am I pointing that out? Because I’m showing you what google and searching through the tags on tumblr gets you. It also helps if you follow blogs that talk about whitewashing (I’ve already listed a few) so that you can get more information.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not my job to educate people, especially white people. Last time I checked I wasn’t planning on going into any field of education. It’s also not the job of any other PoC to educate white people or anyone else, if they don’t feel like it.
I’m pretty sure (I know I would) most PoC would rather spend time educating and helping their own people. If a PoC does decide to educate you, you need to listen. If you still don’t understand, ask for articles, essays, books for more information.
You also don’t get to tell us to be nice to you, because we don’t have to do that. One thing I think is completely arrogant and rude, is for people (especially white people) to go in PoC bloggers’s ask boxes and demand answers. Especially when those questions have already been answered many times before. Keep in mind of that the next time you decide to spam someone’s ask box with questions. Also if that PoC has an about me or a F.A.Q or “Read Before Asking” READ IT!
Are you responsible for equal media representation? Is it your duty to defend anti-whitewashing?
YES! Everybody is responsible for ending whitewashing. Actors/Actresses, directors, writers, producers, the person who work with the lights, and YOU! The consumer! Stop going to see these whitewashed movies. Spend your money somewhere else. The only reason these filmmakers continue to whitewash these movies, is because you go out and spend your movie to go see them. Support films with a diverse cast. Support novels and graphic novels with diverse characters. If you’re a upcoming filmmaker, writer (novelist, screenwriter), comic artist, etc. feature some People of Color in your work.
Avoid stereotypes! People of color are not caricatures. We are people. Learn, Learn, Learn, Learn. And then do some more learning. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are tired of seeing this:
Other good videos, posts, etc on whitewashing and art
Feel free to add on more links if you want.
My mother is curled, sleeping, into the corner of my bed. She is beauty and serenity embodied.
I was five, and I was sprawled on the floor, scrapbooks and picture albums fanned around my small frame. I remember pointing to the picture of her and my father on their wedding day. She smiled, stooping down to kneel next to me, holding the faded book in her work worn hands. In the picture, she is scarcely twenty. I do not understand at that age the effects of shoddy camera work and time on a photograph, so I think that the blurred edges and overexposed lighting must simply be love and beauty emanating from her, dressed entirely in white and lace.
My mother is curled, sleeping, into the corner of my bed. She has not fallen asleep in my room in more than ten years.
I was seven, and I was ill with the flu. I remember weeping until she agreed to stay until I fell asleep. She curled into me then, much like she cradles the extra pillow on my bed now. As habit always does seem to have it with small children, she fell asleep long before I did. The waking or sleeping was not what mattered. The safety cradled in arms that had nursed life into so many strangers- arms that had cared for wounds and lifted the fallen- the safety and security a sick seven year old girl felt for the first time in a week, mattered.
My mother is curled, sleeping, into the corner of my bed. She is wrapped tightly in an old Native American wool blanket we bought in Arizona three years ago.
I was fifteen, and I was lovestruck with the story of my ancestry. I remember vacationing to Zion and Bryce, hiking into the wilds of the west. We sought adventure around every turn. She watched me fall in love that trip- with the danger of cliffs and canyons, with the slight dip and rise of a wooden flute, with the rough hands of a people that paralleled my eastern kin. The blanket was my one large purchase. Handmade by some native women, the misted steely blues and desert sunrise reds set my breath aflame. When I fell asleep in front of the fire that last night, she covered me in it gently before going to bed.
My mother is curled, sleeping, into the corner of my bed. She is breathing in rhythm with my heartbeat.
I am eighteen, and I am attempting to accept this reversal of roles. I remember craving her company as a little girl. She now comes to me, as a fully grown woman, calling out for my company. I am breath-taken by her simultaneous vulnerability and unwavering strength. I dread waking her up because she is so peaceful. I have not seen the worry lines smooth from her face in months.
My mother is curled, sleeping, into the corner of my bed. She is everything I hope to be one day.
I was the handmaiden of an Mesopotamian Princess, enveloped by a kingdom of sun and sand, and initiated in all of her mysteries.
I learned how to kohl my eyes the way she liked them, to kiss the hem of her tunic each morning when she awoke to a new day. I wanted for nothing but her well being, and my happiness was found in her servitude.
I wanted for nothing, until the day you rode in on your horse, seeking her hand.
From my vantage point, on my knees in the yard washing her silks, my arms and hair wet with soapy water, you appeared above me - a tall, dark shadow surrounded by the sun’s blinding shimmer.
I could not see your face, but in that moment, your essence was seared into me, and my soul was changed forever.
You married the Princess, and inside I shed an ocean of tears, while on the surface I was the picture of radiant happiness for my mistress. You and I brushed past each other daily, and I would cast my eyes downward at your approach, for it cut my heart one thousand ways to look upon your beauty.
It quickly became apparent that you and the Princess held no love for each other, and I suffered watching the light in your eyes dim in ever so slight degrees in the day-to-day bondage of your contractual agreement.
I will never forget the day I tripped over my feet coming up the stairs carrying a water jug - for I had seen you in the corridor and your handsome visage startled me, as always. I fell, and you rushed to me, collecting me off the floor more tenderly than I had ever been touched, and held me to your chest, your hand stroking my hair.
I was overwhelmed in this moment… my senses so filled with you, my foolish tongue tied in knots, my foolish heart tied in love. The moment passed, as all moments do, yet my devotion endured into my third and final decade of life.
When the Princess died, I watched your respectful appearance of mourning. I watched how it did not reach your eyes. Those beautiful eyes, so beloved by me, your faithful servant to the last.
I was to be buried with her - buried alive, and yet you could not stand to have me suffer so. In the crypt, you bade the guards leave us. You fell to your knees beside me as I wept silently on the stone ground, and you held me to you once more.
“You,” you whispered, “it has always been you.”
I felt no pain, even as your knife neatly severed my throat. I bled into you, and as my life left your hands, you kissed my face and told me not to be afraid. My spirit lingered to comfort you, quietly sobbing as you laid my body tenderly in the tomb beside the wife you never loved.
I was born as a wader bird on the banks of the River Sarno, content in my simple life dependent on its life-giving waters. The food was plentiful, and I adored the freedom my wings afforded me. Happy in my solitude, I never took a mate.
I was unperturbed, unencumbered by love, until the day a new clutch of hatchlings were born.
One of them was different. One of them was you.
In the grip of a night storm, you fell from the nest and your mother abandoned you. I found you wounded, made a bed in the reeds and fed you from my beak. With tiny broken wings, you tried so hard, Beloved. You fought to stay with me, yet once more, it was not fated to be.
I nursed you until you slipped off the world so sweetly, and soon after, when the rains swelled the river to bursting over its banks, I drowned so that I could find you again.
I awoke to a sea of agonising screams.
Our village was burning. This was a time of malevolent unrest. This was the life when I would know both the deepest love and the darkest terror.
They had came for me, just like they came for dozens of other young women rumoured to be possessed of powers of the mystical persuasion. I was simply a healer, but my skills with herb and natural elements were condemned as witchcraft. They came in the dead of night, and they slayed everything in their path to take me from you.
We had found each other this time, chosen of my heart.
You, a shy blacksmith, and I, a farmer’s daughter, had married in the Spring. Our days were happily spent in nature, our nights under our simple thatched roof as we explored the gulfs and hollows of loved flesh, and whispered into each other all the secrets of our souls.
The night of the Great Burning, they tore me from your sleeping arms. Strong and fierce you were, but no match for chainmail, steel and hatred. The last I saw you, you were screaming my name, just as I would scream yours under the numerous bouts of torture that were to come.
It was your name, love, that kept me from giving them what they wanted. I would not lie and claim my soul was filled with darkness, for how could I?
I had loved you, and been loved by you.
The pain of the pyre was as intense as any my immortal spirit had endured, but it was nothing compared with the agony of losing you again.
It was fleeting moment, in the grand scale of a lifetime.
Pushing my long hair from my face as I read in the cafe, something caught my eye.
I was reading a fascinating novel from a young author named Hemmingway. His words were taking my breath away, yet suddenly, all I could concentrate on was the man in the suit who was ordering his croissant in perfect French with just a hint of a clipped British accent.
You sauntered back toward the door as I blushed and looked fiercely downward into the pages, yet when you reached my table, you stopped.
I looked up into the face of the most handsome man I’d ever seen, holding his hat with a graceful grip I could not help but imagine on my own flesh.
You asked me if I was enjoying The Sun Also Rises - you had just finished reading it yourself, you said. We sat in that cafe in Paris for onwards of four hours, talking literature, music and film. I told you of my studies that brought me to Europe, and you outlined the plot of the novel you were working on.
I loved you then, fiercer than I would again feel in this lifetime.
When the cafe came to closing, I couldn’t bear to part from you. We went dancing and drinking, the night culminating as I shyly invited you back to my small rented apartment. I offered you my virtue, and you devoured it sweetly for hours, leaving my body humming to musical strains of the universe previously unknown to me.
My heart broke that morning, when you told me you were to be married in London that summer. The pain on your face spoke worlds as we held each other, torn and bruised by love. My tears spoke in the place of the words I should have used to ask you to stay.
Before the sadness on my cheeks had dried, you were gone.
I met my husband in Italy the following year. He was a kind man with crinkles around his eyes, and I loved him well enough. Our children grew merrily in a household with a passion for literature and food, and blossomed into conscientious, clever adults.
I never stopped writing. As I aged, I began writing more and more different versions of that night… different endings to our story.
At last, I slipped off the world. A cherished, old woman. My last thought was of your lips on my youthful neck, and how you whispered goodbye.
Forgive me, Beloved.
Now do you see? I am frozen still, shaking like a leaf in tempest wind.
I am simply stunned to my core, to recognise you… once more.
How to Close Guantanamo
By Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch
President Barack Obama finally broke his long silence on Tuesday on the need to close Guantanamo. Echoing comments he made four years ago — when, on his second day in office he promised to close the facility within a year — he said ”Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient…. It needs to be closed.”
Welcome words, but it’s unlikely they will brighten the day of the 100 men currently on hunger strike at the facility. Twenty-one are currently being tube-fed, a procedure that entails being put in a restraint chair while a lubricated plastic tube is inserted down a detainee’s nose and into his stomach. (Detainees are then held in the chair for approximately two hours to make sure the liquid supplement fed into the tube is digested.) Obama’s words might carry more resonance with those who have been lobbying for closure of the facility for the better part of a decade, though perhaps more so if he didn’t seem so keen to apportion blame elsewhere.