Body Autonomy

“I can do whatever I want to you.”

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article entitled, “7-year-old girl traumatized after White school staff member cuts her hair”, and I was horrified by what I read.

It seems that little Jurnee Hoffmeyer, who is a Biracial girl with beautiful curls, was assaulted two days previously by a fellow student on the school bus. That student cut out a section of her hair. Her father immediately took her to the salon and let her choose her own style. (I like this man.) She came away feeling slightly better, with a beautiful crown of shoulder length curls. The father requested that the cutter in question not be allowed to sit next to Jurnee on the school bus. Case closed.

Or so you’d think.

Two days later, poor Jurnee came home in tears, her hair butchered. She now had less than three inches of hair all over her head. Her dad asked if it was the same kid, but to his shock, he found out that no, this time it was the library teacher, Kelly Mogg.

Insert the sound of my head exploding here.

HOW DARE SHE??? In what universe does a teacher look at a student and decide how he or she can be “sculpted”, like she’s a statue? Especially without talking to the parents first? What’s next? A tattoo on the kid’s wrist of the school mascot with a number underneath? How dare she even TOUCH that child? This is abuse and assault, and I’m stunned that the woman wasn’t ridden out of town on a rail.

Yes, hair grows back, but you don’t understand the trauma that is caused when you teach a child that he or she has no control over their own body. Here are just a few examples from my life.

In junior high school, I had lovely thick wavy hair down to the small of my back. A kid on the bus thought it would be funny to drop a big wad of chewing gum between my hair and the seat back. The only way to get it out was to cut it. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to live with the thought that a big glob of someone else’s spit was clinging to my hair until I got home. It felt like a violation.

And it also triggered me, because when I was around ten my mother chopped off all my hair down to a pixie cut against my will. I was mistaken for a boy for ages after that. I’d walk around hiding under a big floppy hat whenever I could, but they didn’t allow one in school. It took me years to recover from the theft of my autonomy and the theft of my gender. It still sticks with me.

And I’ll never forget the time a boy walked up to me and stuck his finger in my mouth and ran it along my gum line. I have no idea why he did that, but it was disgusting and inappropriate and so not okay that I can still feel the way I felt when it happened if I think about it for very long. Talk about your invasion of space.

I know someone who was in the midst of a horrible custody battle with her ex-husband and his new wife. The child was sent to the father’s house for visitation, and when she came home, it turned out that the stepmother had pierced the child’s ears, a permanent change, without discussing it with the mother. It was a smug little way to send the message that they were in control. Evil. Just evil.

And then, of course, there’s sexual abuse. I won’t go into detail here, but trust me when I say that it changes you forever. You are never the same after that. You never feel completely safe.

All of these things have one thing in common. They are aggressive. They are all about sending the message that you are not in control, little girl. I am. You don’t even get to have agency over your own body. I can come along and do whatever I want to you, and you have to live with it. You have no right to choose. Your saying no does not matter one whit. You are inferior. You are weak. Just lie back and take it. Stop being so sensitive and hysterical.

No wonder Jurnee’s spirit seems damaged now. Especially when you factor in the racial overtones of her assault. “You have bad hair.” “You are different.” “You look funny.” “I know better than you do how you should be.”

The Mount Pleasant Public School system is not viewing this outrage as a big deal. I’m glad lawyers are involved. I think this is the biggest deal of all.

Jurnee, if you ever read this, I want you to know that your hair is beautiful just the way it is. Grow it back out and be loud and proud. Oh, and I love your name, too.

Jurnee before and after.

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.


Lockdown Protests? Seriously?

This virus cares nothing about your moral imperative.

I understand. People are scared. People are suffering from loss of income. More people are on unemployment and are accessing food banks than have in living memory. We are struggling to survive. I get it. I’ve lived it. But that’s the thing. Even this economic nightmare that is raining down upon us right now is better than the alternative, which is death.

I’d be willing to lose everything, sleep in the woods, forage for berries, as long as me and mine are alive. This is a life or death situation that we are in right now. This is real. Nothing else matters.

So, when I see people gathering in groups to protest this lockdown, encouraged by Trump, I’m absolutely horrified. Did you hear me? They’re gathering in groups. That’s the last thing on earth anyone should be doing right now.

If you want to be a fool and risk getting this virus, that’s your prerogative. The world could use fewer fools. But unfortunately, after you go to these protests, you are then coming home to your innocent grandparents and children and spouses, and they in turn will spread it to others, and so on. That’s the whole point. That’s how a virus works.

So your stupidity impacts us all, and will, in fact, increase the length of time that we all have to be locked down. Your protest will have the exact opposite result than you want it to have. Brilliant.

Of course Trump wants you back to work again. He wants you to be a cog in the corporate wheel, always. He wants you to think the world is a shining, happy place before the elections roll around. To hell with you if you die in the process. He could care less about that. How is that not blatantly obvious? He will tweet you into oblivion.

Are you so busy trying to “liberate” Michigan and Virginia, are you so hellbent on contracting and spreading this virus and making this situation so much worse, that you can’t see that you’re expendable to Trump? Don’t you know that this virus cares nothing about your moral imperative? You’re being used as a human, political shield.

For God’s sake, at least wash your freakin’ hands.

Social Isolation protesters

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Mass Killings in Schools

Ripped from the headlines: A man kills his wife, and then goes to a school and kills 43 people, 38 of whom were children between the ages of 7 and 12, and injures 58 more before killing himself. Sandy Hook Elementary School? Nope.

The Bath School Disaster occurred on May 19, 1927 and shocked the nation. It’s still the deadliest mass murder in a school in US History. The reason most of us have never even heard about this tragedy is that three days later, Charles Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight to Paris, and the world’s attention was drawn toward that historic achievement.

The people of Bath, Michigan were understandably devastated. In a town with a population of 300, 48 deaths and 58 injuries leaves a heck of an impact. Andrew Kehoe, a local farmer, had packed the school with explosives. He timed the explosions to go off when the school was filled to capacity, and he meant for there to be more slaughter. There were an additional 500 pounds of dynamite and several sacks of gunpowder under the south wing of the school that didn’t go off. If they had, it may very well have taken out all of downtown.

Why did he do this? Well, the man wasn’t wrapped too tightly to begin with. He was known to shoot dogs and once beat one of his horses to death for being lazy. But then he experienced a series of setbacks which apparently sent him over the edge. His wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and that was an even more devastating diagnosis then than it is today. He also was on the verge of losing his farm, and then the town decided to increase taxes to pay for this modern new school, which was something Kehoe felt was unjust and unnecessary. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, to devastating effect.

To add insult to injury, after the explosions, as first responders gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up in a dynamite and shrapnel-filled car and detonated it, killing himself and killing or injuring several others. This was a man on a mission. He had a plan and he executed it.

So the next time someone tries to blame a school massacre on aspects of modern life, remember the Bath School Disaster. In a time before violent video games, crazy still existed. Perhaps when someone witnesses a man beating his horse to death, he should speak up. There are usually red flags. We just seem to keep ignoring them.


bath school

The north wing of the Bath School after Kehoe was through with it.

[Image credit:]

“Those Towel Heads Can’t Be Trusted.”

Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”

  • Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
  • Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
  • Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
  • Pinochet was a Catholic.
  • Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
  • Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
  • Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
  • James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
  • David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
  • Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
  • Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
  • Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing  150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
  • The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
  • Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
  • Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
  • Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
  • Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
  • Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
  • Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
  • Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
  • Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
  • Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.

And how do you explain the following?

  • The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
  • In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
  • Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
  • 33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
  • Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
  • The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
  • The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
  • Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
  • At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
  • The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
  • It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
  • It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
  • The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
  • When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
  • Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
  • 11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.

Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                             -Ralph Waldo Emerson


(Image credit: