I am wearing all black today. I am in mourning. I am not going to make a joke about my goth days in high school. I am not going to compare the title of this post to that awful made-for-TV movie from the nineties starring Tori Spelling, “Mother May I Sleep with Danger.” This is no joke. This is not a nightmare we will wake up from tomorrow, a bipolar fugue we will not remember when it ends and we find ourselves far from home. It may be the 1930s.
I do not use the word evil lightly. A lot of people have referred to Hillary Clinton as evil in this election cycle. I am as big a critic of Bill Clinton’s policy and Hillary’s record on free trade, her foreign policy, and her “super predator” comments as anyone. But she’s hardly evil.
For four months, I slept in the bed of a man who can rightly be called evil. A man who loved raping and torturing little girls above all else, who admired Hitler, who raped me again and again and again and threatened to kill my children. A man who disturbed even the seasoned federal judge and the FBI agent who were involved in his case. He was a medical student on his way to becoming a doctor. Nobody suspected. None of us even knew such evil existed as it all came out, certainly not that our fellow medical student possessed the evil.
Trauma changes you. It changes your relationship with yourself, with your family and friends, with God, with the world itself and every person you encounter day by day. They say the fundamental experience of trauma is the feeling you have been abandoned. By the people you love, by the ones who were supposed to protect you, and by God himself.
My Ordeal changed me in so many ways but one of the worst was the knowledge of just what evil exists in our world. Evil I did not know existed. And I had not lived a sheltered life to that point. I was not naïve. And yet I was. My fear now is that we as a country are being naïve. Despite our very violent history.
We cannot underestimate the possibilities of this new world. We cannot afford to be naïve. I do not know what will happen but I know it could be very, very bad.
A few years ago we were at a festival at a place called City Island in Harrisburg. Our three sons went off on their own while my husband and Princess (still a baby) and I stayed and chatted with some friends. Eventually two of our sons came back, but not the third. Our legally blind, autistic son was not with them. They told us they’d had some kind of fight with him and decided to leave him. They were too young to know not to do this. Too naive.
My husband and I split up to cover the island looking for him. And as I looked in booths and the dense woods that framed the island, pushing Princess in the stroller, terror went through my body. My mind went to Jeremy. To the people he talked to on the internet who also loved raping and torturing children. Who sent him images of their horrific acts, recorded in stills and movies. The ones presented at trial that took any remaining innocence from anyone in that courtroom. I cried as I looked. I pictured what might happen to him. Things that are worse and more common than we allow ourselves to believe. I didn’t want to scare Princess, but I could not hold back the tears. My husband found him and I ran up to him, shaking and crying and finding it hard to bring the oxygen into my lungs.
I do not know how so many people at Penn State stood by while little boys were raped and did little or nothing. I will never comprehend that. The coaches, the janitor, Mike McQuery whatever the hell he was. I could have been killed. My children could have been killed. I laid down my body. I laid down my mind. I lost seven years of my life to PTSD. So did my children and husband, lost seven years of me being truly present in our lives. I have no regrets and never have. Not for a second. But I know the men of Penn State are much more common than people like me. And this election confirms it.
Evil can flourish, slowly, insidiously. I see friends who loved Bernie so much now so glad they voted Trump. I can see the mainstream Republicans now falling in line or being eliminated (we’re assured by Trump’s people the are making “a list” of “his enemies”). I can see the inevitable persecution of journalists and violent crackdown on peaceful protests. Hate crimes and sexual assault rates rising (if you don’t believe me, look at what happened in the aftermath of Brexit). Muslims forced to wear badges identifying them (yes, Trump said this).
You think I exaggerate. You think this couldn’t be the 1930s. And I hope you’re right. But I know in my bones you probably aren’t.
God bless and protect the Union.