Inciting Incident #114 – Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist Transcript

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bJ4mFi5OvpyxR-zWPCSo84DmFFbJrXfaZG8HP9Bv0ek – Transcript by Melissa Krawczyk

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Marissa Explains it All #43 – Addiction Morality

I’m going to spend an entry today talking about something that in which, admittedly, I have very little personal experience. With opiates being declared a public health crisis once again, I couldn’t help but notice the way in which addiction and drug use are approached in this country.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of COPS, most of the time, the targets of their stops and investigations are related to drug use and possession. The 80s saw the launch of the war on drugs. People, primarily those of color, are arrested and kept in the for-profit, quota-based prison system for drug charges.

Yet, Indiana recently ended a needle-exchange program that reduced the spread of infection by 80-percent, and they used a vague Bible quote to justify its removal. Seattle, a city that lives on the mirage of being progressive so that the giant corporations aren’t disturbed during their gentrification and homeless relocation projects, ends needle-exchange programs. Most of the time, ending existing programs, or refusing to start new ones, are approached from a point of selective morality.

When I say selective morality, what I mean by that is picking and choosing which substances are bad, and painting those who use the bad ones as criminals; not to mention, deciding that persons of color using are criminals and selling, but young white kids are just experimenting and made poor decisions, but that’s another conversation.

My brother-in-law and former roommate once told the story of his uncle being incarcerated for heroin, and when he asked what rehabilitation he would have access to, he was told, “you’re not here to be rehabilitated, you’re here to be punished.” That’s the mentality we’re dealing with when it comes to drugs, and it’s no coincidence that the War on Drugs was a product of the Moral Majority.

When I was in elementary school in the early 90s, we had anti-drug assemblies constantly. We also had anti-smoking and anti-drinking ones, but those were different. The anti-drinking ones were only “underage” drinking-based. The anti-smoking ones were health-based. The anti-drug ones though were about drugs being bad, and (drug users being bad.)

It gets more selective than that. Caffeine is as addictive as any of these drugs, and withdrawal symptoms are very similar. Headache, crankiness, fatigue, cravings… All symptoms anyone who has tried to quit something addictive experiences. When it’s drugs, it’s called detox – the word implied being that the substance you’ve been using and now are not was toxic and needs to be cleansed. In other words, you need to be cleansed because what you were using was dirty and therefore made you dirty. Funny enough though, if the addiction is coffee, put your anger symptoms on a t-shirt and it becomes a witty anecdote. Or having a glass of wine being on your must-haves list is fine, but smoking a joint (although less so nowadays) is stigmatized.

Let’s go back to the idea of not being rehabilitated but being punished though. The way this country frames this narrative is that if you’ve gotten addicted to something that we don’t care for, you’re a criminal and deserve to be punished for it. However, if it’s alcohol, you’re only a bad person if we catch you driving after using it (and therefore can make a lot of money off it.)

When you raise a generation that ostensibly teaches that anyone who uses any kinds of drugs (Except the kind we’ve made legal) is bad, trying to sell it, doesn’t care about you, and is an awful person who needs to be punished, is it any wonder that we treat those who have become addicts and seek help like criminals instead of people who are sick? Even the idea of rehabilitation is stigmatized and mocked, painted in the usual Bullshit Bootstrap narrative of that you couldn’t do it yourself, so you must be weak. The same narrative flows through 12-Step programs that make you accept that you have no control and are weak before your addiction; nevermind the religious overtones that go along with it.

All that being said, I’ve never used most drugs, and I probably never will. But that doesn’t mean that I think my friends who do are bad people. I don’t think that means anyone who does deserves to go to prison for the rest of their lives. I don’t think that means that anything that is designed to help drug users as opposed to punish them needs to go away to teach them a lesson.

Therefore, when the government declares opiates as a public health crisis, it’s not actually about helping any of these people get better. It’s about declaring yourselves the morally righteous. It’s blended with an aspect of fighting crime and punishing users, because the last forty years have been spent stigmatizing and blanketing anyone who uses certain kinds of drugs as criminals who deserve punishment and confinement. It’s an easy publicity move to sell, because as long as our narrative is framed that way, it makes the government money, it selectively punishes minorities and poor people, it feeds the for-profit prison system, and a bunch of smug white people get to feel morally self-righteous for their drug of choice being Merlot.

Marissa Explains it All #42 – My Love… The One I Married, Anyway

This is an essay that will be published in my fifth book, Passing Cars. But due to people wanting to know the story of how Aiden and I got together, on the five-year anniversary of the day we met, I thought I’d share it here as well. Enjoy!

 

I make no secret of the fact that my husband and I are both polyamorous. If you think that’s had some impact on our relationship or passion for each other though, you haven’t been around us at all. As I sit right next to him as I write this, on the day that five years ago, we happened upon meeting each other, it’s hard to believe we’ve come this far in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve written and been very vocal about our relationship, marriage, and how much he means to me, and while I told the story of our wedding itself in The PC Lie, the story of how we met is quite the event itself.

In October of 2012, my sister was getting married. Not my blood sister, but someone I’d called a sister for a good portion of my life. The joke was that we were separated at birth; something her birth mother would later claim she had no memory of, but we were as close as siblings would be, and her family treated me as such. Our group were among the only people traveling to North Carolina for her wedding, and since I wasn’t out yet, that wasn’t nearly as dangerous of an objective as it would be now.

Details about my date that evening aside, we were wandering back to our room to catch part of the Ohio State game when her grandmother pulled me aside. I suppose for clarity’s sake, I should specify that Becky was adopted, but her birth mother went on to have two more kids. Her birth grandmother was the one who recognized me from Facebook, where I’d often be the big sister to Becky and jokingly tell her husband why not to say certain things. In retrospect, there were a lot of behaviors in place that were very indicative of my true self, even if I didn’t connect the dots at the time.

Standing next to her grandmother was this cute, adorable person who I would later come to know as Aiden. It was only in passing, but we connected on Facebook under his deadname, and didn’t really say much until a year later. For my YouTube show at the time, we were filming a game of Cards Against Humanity and were looking to get several different personalities to join us for the event. Our conversation on Facebook began about our mutual love for the Nostalgia Critic, but ended up being an invite to come join us. My partner at the time, the same one who went to the wedding with me, fell asleep and left the game early, and the moment everyone remembers from that night was him picking a random winner over a set of two cards that I had strategically and logically placed for a perfect combination. Stupid pennywhistle solo…

We became closer over the ensuing few months, despite our seven-year age difference. That never came into play, except with his mother worrying about him being out with someone older at times. But we were both partnered at the time and laughed at the worrisome manner in which people treated our friendship. Well, I guess we weren’t really fooling anyone.

We both broke up with our respective partners in April of 2014. Mine involved being broken up with via email after a two-year relationship and a dishonest move from our house, and his involved… realizing I was available, I imagine. I only partially claim a joke in that regard. The first night that we ended up spending together involved Bailey’s and a lot of repressed feelings coming forth. We ended up sleeping until 4PM the next day, with both of us awkwardly trying to make sense of everything.

Being that I’d just had my heart broken (again, but that’s a story for another time), I wasn’t in any hurry to rush into things. He stuck with me regardless of my best attempt to pretend our feelings weren’t as strong and mutual as they were, but the more time we spent together, the more I fell in love with his heart. The age difference was never a factor. He was there for me regardless of my mood or what was going on, and the more he was, the more I wanted him there in the difficult moments.

That summer, before certain events transpired that delayed everything, he saw me as my true self for the first time. We had a weekly theme for our game nights at my place, and he’d picked a drag night. Subtle, I know. I saw this as the opportunity to officially come out to the entire group, and it’s quite obvious in the picture we got together that he was smitten.

I’d built up a protective layer of callous until that point, but I realized when I was out as Marissa, not only was I completely vulnerable, but I felt everything that much stronger; including how I felt about him. I felt alive, motivated, and like I wanted to kick the closet door down and be out as his girlfriend (we called it a lesbian thing at the time because he wasn’t out yet at that point.)

He came out to me about six months later, in the most off-handed and awkward manner possible. Again during a game of Cards Against Humanity, he mentioned to the people we were playing with that he was trans, and my surprise at the moment wasn’t that he was, but that was the way he chose to tell me. Despite not being attracted to men, it took me about a day to adjust my thinking in regard to him because I’d fallen in love with his heart first, and that didn’t change no matter what gender he was. If anything, we were more connected and open with each other this way than we ever had been. He started taking on some of the more “traditional” male roles, but our relationship as equals only changed in what we called each other and the petnames that resulted from that sweetness that gives others the diabeetus.

He also proposed via text message after a long night at a con, so it was only fitting that everything that transpired in our relationship was surprising and awkward. Especially since we both are anyway. I wrote about our wedding in The PC Lie, so I won’t cover that again, but if anything has strengthened as much as my resolve for justice and equality, it’s my love for him.

The pinnacle of this was at the 100th episode of Inciting Incident, which was held in the same place we got married about five weeks short of a year to the day that we got married. We’d gotten married under our dead names, because we weren’t out to some of our family yet, but most of the people there knew. Nonetheless, a wrong needed to be righted. After planning it with the theater rep, who was by no coincidence the same person who ministered our wedding, I had a shotgun wedding renewal in front of our closest friends and contemporaries, hitting everyone right in the feels in between Rissy being so nervous about the show that she drank while forgetting to eat. I think that was the most memorable part of the show for everyone.

The best part of the story is that I grew up calling Becky my sister, almost hyperbolically and the way that close friends feel like siblings in their relationships. However, once I married her younger brother, suffice it to say that she became my legal sister-in-law, so there’s a real sense of irony and foreshadowing retrospectively. Sometimes life has a way of working out in ways you’d never expect, despite the evidence and planted seeds being right in front of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marissa Explains it All #41 – “Why Didn’t You Just…”

TW: Sexual assault

I was sexually assaulted in the summer of 2014. Twice.

Once was by a guy who gave me a roofied drink. Once was by a woman who didn’t listen to me say the word “no” repeatedly.

Since that time, I have read countless stories, talked to countless people, and seen countless events unfold where people have been assaulted, threatened, abused, and worse. There’s one thing that they all seem to have in common, more or less: Someone saying “Why didn’t you just X?”

Maybe X is “Why didn’t you just leave if he was abusing you?” or “Why didn’t you just call the police if you were assaulted?” Regardless of what X is, it’s indicative of a first reaction that a good percentage of people seem to have when listening to someone else’s story. The instinct to find out what they could’ve done differently, or what they did wrong, or what they didn’t do in time, or how they didn’t handle it. “Why didn’t you just X” is the epitome of victim-blaming. At least as much as “we live in such a victim culture” is a kiss-off to those who have suffered assault or abuse.

The shift of blame making it to the person who violated consent or harmed another person is hard to traverse. Whether it’s the school not knowing what to do or a friend not knowing how to help, their actions are almost secondary in the eyes of many. “It couldn’t have been that bad if you stayed” or “maybe you said yes but just regretted it afterward.”

I don’t think it’s a lack of empathy. I think it’s symptomatic of a system that has been put in place to not deal with people getting away with shit. It protects those who are just being young or throwing a ball or not wanting their lives to be ruined forever by removing the consent from another person and taking something that isn’t theirs. Why these systems are in place, I’m not sure, but they’re there.

Any post you encounter on Facebook of someone talking about these things will not only be met with these victim-blaming questions, but will also have comparative questions of their agency. “They don’t live in the Middle East, so it can’t be that bad.” “They survived, so it can’t be that bad.” There’s always an excuse for why it happened. There’s always an excuse for why it could’ve been worse.

Meanwhile, a person is having a panic attack when they see their attacker every single day, and the campus police are too busy asking what they wore. There’s bureaucratic nightmares lying between the victim and justice of any kind. There are untested rape kits, hidden stories, avoiding of bad PR, and Gaslighting Central from abusers who either don’t know they’re abusers or want to keep getting away with it.

So many people want to blame the person who was assaulted. So many people want to blame the person who was abused.

I don’t know what to do about this. No matter how many speak out about their stories, there are shitty people looking to make it the fault of the person who received this treatment, rather than confront a culture that protects and welcomes these behaviors, or at least excuses them with anything from “that’s how it happens in romantic movies” to “boys just being boys.”

I didn’t go to the cops when I was raped for multiple reasons. I’m a trans person, so they’d likely think it was my fault for existing, that me being open and public was an invitation to such behavior, since some people link us being trans with some kind of sexual fetish or perversion. A woman did it, and enough people think that in and of itself is impossible. And, because I spent so much time, even to this day, asking the very questions that so many people throw on the abused and the victimized, still blaming myself on some level.

When people get abused or raped, because of how this society treats those who have been, it’s nearly impossible to not internalize these victim-blaming tendencies. “I could’ve done better.” “I should’ve seen it coming.” “I should’ve gotten out earlier.” “I should’ve trusted my instinct.” Because so many people are set against believing us or finding any way that it couldn’t have possibly been the perpetrator’s fault, at least entirely, we start to believe it ourselves.

When I was the recipient of repeated unwanted touching earlier this year, my first self-criticism wasn’t on how better to protect myself, but on how I didn’t say “no” assertively enough. On how I put myself in a position for that to happen. On how I should’ve known better.

In other words, victim-blaming is so common that I ended up doing it to myself.

If that isn’t indicative that we have a major problem when it comes to helping those who have suffered these situations, I don’t know what is. But I can tell you this: if someone comes to you and tells you that they’ve been abused, attacked, assaulted, or anything else…

Instead of asking what they were doing or how they could’ve stopped it or suggesting what they could’ve done differently, start by telling them that you believe them. Just knowing that someone in the world to whom they’ve trusted enough to admit these events believes you is a step that many people need in order to start coping with what happened in the first place.

One that happens all too seldom in the stories of many. I’ve even seen recently when women quote statistics of how many people are assaulted or have been abused, someone will inevitably respond “that seems a bit high.”

Yeah. It is. And the fact that your first reaction is disbelief does nothing but prove that further. Stop blaming people for what abusers, assaulters, rapists, and violators have done and start supporting those they’ve hurt rather than trying to find out what they could’ve done better to stop it in your eyes. If you’ve ever wondered why more people don’t speak up or step forward, your answer lies in those reactions.

Believe people when they tell you something’s happened to them. Start there, and then move forward with the rest.