A Letter to the People Who Worship The Confederacy

Last week a friend, sent me an email he’d received from the “Commander” of a “Brigade” of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  My friend had been studying a genealogy site in hopes of learning more about one of my ancestors, a man who had his name inscribed on a stained glass window which had been removed from an old Church in Tallahassee.    Apparently that website allows messages to be transmitted to its members. Mr _____ I have been digging for some information on the DeMilly Family of Tallahassee, Florida. One project we are working on is providing a headstone for Cadet Sergeant Prospere DeMilly of the West Florida Military Institute. We have obtained the stone which is a replica of Confederate Stones issued by the Veterans administration. A member of the DeMilly family sent us a map of the DeMilly plot in Old City Cemetery. So we know the exact location to place his stone. We have reached out to the Florida State University ROTC program to see if they will attend a Memorial Service for Prospere DeMilly. We are waiting on their response. Another project that has touched on the DeMilly Family; is a book that we are editing and amending on the Kilcrease Artillery, CSA. John F DeMilly was a member of this unit. famnation on Ancestry gave me your contact info. I had asked her for permission to a picture that she had posted. I have communicated with four members of the DeMilly Family in this process. (I argued with the VA for 2 or 3 years. They didn’t like our proof of burial) A couple...

DON’T BE A VICTIM

If you know me, then you’re likely aware that for the first twelve years of my life I was sexually abused by a man more powerful than me (which is to say, my father).   So when I say there’s no excuse for complicity with a President who brags about his nonconsensual sex with women because he’s “a star,” be assured I mean it. His callous immorality goes on every day.  As parades of advisors goose-step their way into the new administration we see that one of them–Stephen Bannon–was once arrested for domestic violence.  He’s an anti-semite who ran Breitbart News, the site known for trafficking in racist imagery and language.  When women are harassed online, his paper blames them, telling them that they should just “log off,” since it was men who built the internet (and for that matter, civilization).  Seriously.  His paper said this. Too many women know intimately too well what the phrase “victim blaming” means.   The women who came forward during Donald’s campaign to say “he did it to me too” predictably found themselves under another attack.  A thirteen year-old girl withdrew her lawsuit against him out of threats and fear. Surrogates under his thrall admonish us with ignominious expedients, resentful and pious.   (Trump’s default invective was of course “loser.”  But his more articulate followers have devised an arsenal of insults, and will no doubt continue as they publish and spout warnings and declarations). Some attacks are aimed deeper into our pyches, innuendos of revenge, or patronizing advice to “accept things” as they are… “nothing you can do about it now.” So this is what I...

Open Letter to BSA

November 1, 2012 Michael Johnson Youth Protection Director Boy Scouts of America   Dear Michael,   As the Boy Scouts of America hosts the National Symposium on Youth Protection, I’d like to bring up a serious issue affecting the lives and hearts of countless boys which thus far, the Scouts have refused to address. I grew up in Tallahassee. In the 60’s, when I was a scout, my dad was president of the Suwanee River Area Council. So I knew the leadership and the scout executives, and the scoutmasters and philanthropists in the community, and I saw how the tradition was passed from father to son. Indeed many of my friends became scoutmasters. I did not follow the tradition. Once I became an adult I had little to do with Scouting. I felt as if I shouldn’t be involved. Despite the facts that I had become the youngest Eagle Scout in my council’s history, that I had earned the God & Country award, that I was an Arrowman, that I loved the outdoors and had skills and talents I could’ve passed on to others, I stayed away. I stayed away because I knew that I had problems I could not tell anyone about. I was gay, but that wasn’t the nightmare I couldn’t talk about. The unspeakable secret was that throughout my childhood my father had molested me, and my friends. He did these things at home, on scouting trips, at our beach cabin, and at sea on fishing trips, in the fallout shelter he’d built to protect our family from nuclear war. But because my father was “important”...

Being a Misfit

What am I doing putting up a photo of Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift? The story begins with the man standing under the ladder. Longago, before I knew him, before this photo was taken, he had moved among several major NY Publishing houses as their editor-in-chief. One of his friends, the playwright Arthur Miller (cowboy hat and glasses, top of pic) wanted to give his wife a valentine’s present, a screenplay titled “The Misfits” which she could star in with Gable and Clift. Miller’s wife of course was Marilyn Monroe. Frank Taylor, the man under the ladder, produced the film. It was only one of two films he would become involved in. Years later, Frank Taylor retired to Key West as a full time resident. When I moved to the island, I had no idea who he was or what he’d done in his life. But as I asked my friends for guidance on writing a book, they said “you should meet Mr. Taylor. He was in the NY publishing business for years.” On the Set of the Misfits: Arthur Miller, Frank Taylor (producer), Eli Wallach, John Huston, Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.) So I called him. We had lunch. I told him I wanted to write a book about boys who had been molested. The editor across from me dug deeper. He asked what had happened to me. By the time lunch was over, he’d said “I want you to publish your own story. And I’ll do everything I can to help you.” I wasn’t sure that I should take his advice. Who was...

Silence = Evil

Almost always, it happens like this: An offender abuses another person. The offender lords over the victim, coercing him into a pact of secrecy. It’s not a difficult task, since the victim is almost always less powerful (and dependent) on the offender. Later, sometimes decades later, the secret emerges as the spoken truth. By that point the offender is no longer in control. The former victim, now moving in his journey into a new identity, is taking control. This is when (unfortunately, too late to help) we can see the twin themes of sexual abuse: Betrayal, and Silence in the Presence of Evil. Tonight on the news, I listened to the story of a very brave Sharon Bialek, who accused Republican Candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment. She had been his former employee. She trusted him. She sought out his help in finding a new job. Assuming her story is accurate, Herman Cain took her to dinner, acted like a gentleman, got her into his car, and then made a categorical, deliberately sexual, unwanted advance. Mrs. Bialek, no doubt shocked, angered, and dismayed, responded appropriately to the “Godfather,” telling him to stop. She was an adult. Even so, her story illuminates the first theme of sexual abuse: Betrayal. Betrayal Richard Gartner Ph.D., author of Betrayed as Boys and Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse, describes a “sexual betrayal” which encompasses a greater range of human experience than the rather mechanical phrases such as “sexual abuse,” “incest,” and “sexual trauma.” Sexual betrayal goes beyond bruising or genetic wreckage. Sexual betrayal is a violation which does...

An Open Letter to Sandusky’s Victims

I heard today’s news that Mr. Sandusky waived his right to the hearing. I know that those of you who were prepared to testify today had no doubt steeled yourself for the event. I suspect that when you heard of Sandusky’s decision, you were both relieved and upset. But from what I understand of the law and of criminal proceedings, it may be best that you only have to testify once. You know as well as I that you are speaking for untold numbers of boys who can’t come forward. The fact that you are willing to testify tells me that you are capable of heroic deeds. You may not feel like a hero, but others will give you this name. I do. I’m proud of you. I support you all the way. What you’re doing is heroic because you’re saving the mental and spiritual lives of other, innocent boys. You’re doing it because child molesters NEVER stop on their own. Someone has to confront them. It’s a shame that no adults had the guts to do it. Yes, some may have told their peers and superiors. But is that what a witness does when he sees a man raping a little girl? No. That witness calls the police. And the police (if they aren’t intimidated by the offender and his crowd) will do something about it. I also want you to know, from my experience and after talking with many others in the field, that you may not feel satisfied after confronting your abuser. I hope you will. But if you don’t, it merely underscores what we already...

A Time of Fear and Hope

The thoughts of a fifteen year-old girl in 1938: “When I was born into the world as an American citizen, I was given freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Because of these rights and others, because America is democratic, because I live in a beautiful wholesome country, because these things were given to me, I owe my deepest respect to America. By being a good Christian, by being honest, by being loyal, and by obeying all laws as a good citizen should, I can repay to America all the wonderful things that she has so freely given me. I owe my strength and my life to God and to my country. At this critical time when attentions are at war, I fear to dream of our country being thrown into these useless and horrible wars. War is senseless. War is murder. There is one predominating prayer in the hearts of American youth, and I honestly believe it is a prayer for peace. It is a prayer that America may not have to go through all the heartbreak, poverty, and murder that inevitably comes with war. So now in my heart there is one thing which I believe America owes me more than anything else. It is a perfect peace. If I give unto America all that I owe, if I cooperate with her, and if I serve her and honor her, then America must “let freedom ring, ” and America must give me –peace. ” The author of this essay was my mother, Sanna Jane...

Suicide

If You Are Thinking of Suicide A personal letter for you:  If you are a teenager (or an adult) and you ‘re thinking about suicide, THE most important thing you should do is make a connection with someone who’ll listen and help you figure things out. Think of your life at the moment as this: You live in a big house. Everything you know and see and do and feel is in that house. Your family, your friends, your enemies, your computer, games, sports, your understanding of yourself, of your God, your entire universe… all of these are in your house. Then one day you open a door you ‘ve never noticed, you never were aware of. What ‘s behind the door? Another world, a larger world, one where you can find friends and not feel isolated or humiliated or worthless. It ‘s not a perfect world but it is one you can live in and actually like. You have made a discovery. You ‘ve found a world where the people who judge you now will either come to love you more, OR you will learn that how THEY feel no longer affects how YOU feel. The idea to commit suicide usually comes after being abused, belittled, humiliated, embarrassed, bullied, isolated, or betrayed. It can come when there seems to be no way out, when you ‘re in a box, when everything seems hopeless. It can come after several of these experiences, or just one, or all. Humans respond to these experiences with two extreme feelings: unendurable pain and rage. People who actually kill themselves do this to get rid...

Work and Meaning

Our lives are specks. Planet Earth is a speck. Our galaxy is a speck. We live in an infinite universe where looking at a star means looking into a past so distant that earth had not yet stirred with life. We don ‘t sense our insignificance until it is brought to our attention: A natural disaster. A moment of awe, while seeing spectacular beauty for the first time. An intellectual epiphany in which we grasp but for a moment the impossible scale of existence. It is at such moments that we can find meaning in our lives. But these moments do not come often. And so, for the great part of our lives, many of us are seeking the “meaning of life. ” Some of us avoid the question by staying busy. Who has time to ponder such questions when there ‘s so much to be done? Sometimes though, even for busy people, the question strikes us. We complete a project. We finish the work week and have no plans for our days off. We win a competition. Our children grow up and leave home to start thier own families. Some people who ‘ve made a great deal of money ask the question in a different way. They stand alone on the deck of their yachts and ask “is this all there is? ” The question is eternal: What did St. George do after he slayed the dragon? I usually think of my memoir as the most important work I ‘ve ever done. Perhaps because of this, I ‘ve found it difficult to write anything else. What is the point of writing something new unless it is as profound or useful to others? I ‘ve no interest in writing for vanity but I ‘ve always wanted to tell...

Reporting An Offender You Love

After I wrote my memoir, I collaborated on a second book entitled “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse. ” The theme is that what causes trauma in a child abused by someone older, is not so much the physical act, but the betrayal of a relationship. No child grows up with an innate understanding of an ideal relationship. At the deepest level, children learn what relationships are by their own relationships. If a boy gets into a relationship with an older man, he will think that the man cares about him. But when it becomes obvious that what the man wants is the boy ‘s body, the boy may feel betrayed. And so as he grows up, he may “know ” that all relationships are fake, or that they aren ‘t what they appear to be, or that they are simply a way of “getting what you want. ” You hustle people for one thing or another. Conversely, you feel that you have no worth other than what your body can be used for. Your idea may work as long as you are young and attractive. But when you grow up, and you realize that the man you thought who cared about you is now grooming a younger boy to replace you, you may well feel an emptiness and anger and ultimately, well after the events have passed, betrayed. If you are a boy who ‘s father is molesting your friends, you may grow up believing that your father cared more about your friends… or your friend ‘s bodies, than you. This is part of the trauma of boyhood sexual abuse. Several...