For Sharisa, and anyone else facing attempts at erasure.

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I wrote a version of this once for Sharisa Kochmeister, who was dealing with people trying to publicly erase her existence. But when I write it now, it is intended for anyone dealing with such attempts at erasure. I am writing it because it gets right down to the core of the problem, rather than getting lost in details thrown around by those attempting the erasing, the ones they will try to distract a person with. I am writing it because I know several people right now, Sharisa included, who might need to remember this:

Remember that when they attack someone you are not, they are not attacking you. They are just attacking something they think is you, an illusion in their heads.

It can harm you, because it can make people mistake the illusion for you, and they can act badly towards you based on that. And there is real danger, and I don’t want to downplay that.

But at the same time, they are hacking and biting and tearing and clawing away at a person who doesn’t even exist, someone they dreamed up in their minds. In the larger scheme of things, they can’t touch you, because they can’t even perceive you as you are.

Hate can’t understand love. Hate isn’t an action, it’s a state of mind. People in that state of mind are more thoroughly harmed by the hate they envelop themselves in, than the people they try to attack. Hate pulls a person away from reality. You have to be able to love in order to see who someone really is. A person enveloped in hate can’t do that. So all they are doing is ripping at all sorts of illusions they build up to surround you. You will remain standing even if they shred those to pieces, even if in fear you mistake those pieces for you at times.

I know how hard it is. I also know that when you go through things like this you often find out you’re stronger than you thought you were. Because any strength you have comes from something that nobody who hates you (and I tend to think attempted erasure of a person’s existence is the ultimate hate) can touch or even see.

It comes from the fact that you are a real person and nothing anyone does can change that. You don’t even have to try to exist in order to exist, you just do it automatically. Hate on the other hand takes constant effort, to push oneself away from reality, and to fight against what does exist. Hate will wear a person out. Simple existence will not.

I hope for their sake that the people attacking you learn how destructive hatred is to the person stuck in it. It can happen. I have seen people make that change, it is hard but their lives and the lives of those around them are better for it. But even if they don’t, I know that you will be okay, because you will still be there. You are not the imaginary person they are ripping apart, half plaything and half punching bag, and you are not just words on a screen or an example or symbol of something people have imagined up in their heads. And you never will be. You exist, you are a real person, and nothing can change that.

On a similar topic, you might want to read Cyber Bully by Donna Williams, which contains the excellent advice:

I don’t know where they get the time. It must rob their own families of quality time. And how can they escape that head space of militancy and hatred to really be accessible as parents, friends, brothers, sisters. In the end, their lives are suffering and they don’t even know it. They put so much passion into their cause in going after people, that it gets like a drug to them, and they are probably as available to their own families as an addict is when having a primary relationship with drugs. So as much as its really scary to find anyone pathologically fixating on me, in the end, whatever discomfort they cause me, I know there’s must be greater. Addiction is incredibly hard to live with and when these people think their addiction is their selfhood, they are far from any place of hope. Number 1 rule, no matter how personal they make it, don’t take it personally.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

26 responses »

  1. Amanda:

    I’d been wondering what Sharisa was doing…..I’d started reading her blog, but every time I went there nothing new was posted, so I thought she might be otherwise busy, ill, or even what you described in this post. I think what you have written here is VERY important for people in crisis or any kind of rough time to remember. It’s often the first thing forgotten in crisis.

    Funny how that works: the things that are most important to remember, are often the things people can forget the quickest…..at least that happens in our experience….

    Ivan

  2. Erasure..? I’m not entirely sure what erasure like that would be.. But it sounds real sad at least. I guess i never was familiar with what things like that are, but the origins seem really depressing.
    Sometimes i don’t understand how people can have so much hatred in them. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the subject of hate still possesses the features the person hated.. Maybe they just need to pick a victim.
    The world is a sad place sometimes.
    It makes me sad sometimes because, honestly, i hate a person who likes me. I hate him to the point where when he comes into the room i feel like i’m being beaten up. What makes it worse is that he has feelings for me and treats me kindly. But the fact that he lets me step over him is what makes me hate him so bad. I wouldn’t need to hate him if he’d just get out of my sight and wouldn’t annoy me by following me around and being himself in which every part makes my existance hardly bearable.. At the same time it makes me really sad because i don’t want to hate him and snap at him all the time, but i just can’t help it. It does tire me out badly though.
    But this wasn’t even related. Sorry for flooding again.

  3. Thank you Amanda for your support, encouragement and friendship – I have NOT been erased and the person trying to do so has stopped trying. Meanwhile, I sit here thinking about you and how strong you are and how much I admire you for being you. I will always appreciate you and be here for you whenever you need me! Thanks also to Ivan and Evelina – I do most of my blogging on Yahoo now and started a Yahoo group for those who are interested – e-mail me & let me know if you’d like to join or just even chat.

  4. Thank you for this post. It came at a very good time for me. Somebody whom I know through a Yahoo! group has been aggressively advertising chelation and repeating her mantra that adults who live with my conditions (Asperger’s Syndrome and unusually severe dyspraxia) are ‘sadness itself’. She wouldn’t talk to me. She kept saying things like, “You feel bitter because…” even though I don’t feel bitter. And, “If you’re going to talk the talk [I was advocating standard occupational therapy over controversial ‘cures’] you should walk the walk as well.” Even though I do a lot more than just talk about things. She never spoke to me at all – just her perception of me.

    What REALLY bothers me is that she has hijacked the title of the book that I wrote at sixteen, ‘Caged in Chaos: a Dyspraxic Guide to Breaking Free’. I never meant to imply that dyspraxia is the cage. Anybody who reads the book will know that – I positively celebrate learning differences in there. They will also know that I present ‘the cage’ as a set of false beliefs and distorted ideas. But in one e-mail she insisted that I meant something that I didn’t with that choice of title.

    It reminds me of Marx’s dictum: “They cannot represent themselves. They must be represented.”

    I blogged about this woman some time ago:

    http://parnassus.co.uk/?p=56

    She’s been banned from the e-group now. I hope that is enough to keep her quiet.

  5. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien intended Sauron to represent as near as possible an intelligence which is wholly evil, pure hatred. Because it is absorbed in self it lacks the imaginative sympathy to understand a good intelligence. It cannot comprehend love. In the depths of Sauron’s omnipresent Eye there is nothing.

    Although Sauron is the embodiment of evil, no other being in the story can be considered as being wholly evil. On the other hand, no being is wholly good.

    The One Ring captures the mind of its wearers by deceiving them with the illusion that wearing it will enable them to obtain their dearest desires, however harmless or even good they may seem. Gandalf dares not wear it, knowing that the way to his heart is “by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good.” Galadriel dares not accept it because she knows that ultimately it will corrupt her, though she would wear it with the intention of doing good. Bilbo Baggins has not become corrupted by it, but finds it difficult to part with. He alarms Gandalf by insisting, “It is mine I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious.”

    The One Ring erases the will and individuality of those enslaved by it. The Nazgul (Ringwraiths) who have been under its power for thousands of years since the Second Age, are not only its slaves with no will of their own; but also no longer exist in the dimension of the living. They are in a half-world of shadows, not lighted by the sun, but not entirely in darkness and nothingness.

    Gollum/Smeagol does not succumb entirely to the Ring because as a hobbit he lacked the desire to dominate others. When he uses the pronoun ‘I’ in speaking about himself, his better Smeagol self is prevailing. When he uses the pronoun ‘we’, he is submitting to his Gollum self, and allowing his personality to be swallowed up the Ring. Gandalf said that Gollum hated and loved the Ring “as he hated and loved himself.”

    When Frodo declares at the Cracks of Doom, “I do not choose now to do what I came to do […] The Ring is mine!” and puts it on his finger, he becomes its slave. The Ring was destroyed only because Gollum bit off Frodo’s finger with it on, and in his ecstatic dance of possession fell into the Cracks of Doom, and Sauron dissolved into nothingness.

    One interpretation of The Lord of the Rings sees it as an attempt to reconcile two views of evil. The first is the Christian belief that Evil is the absence of Good, and that ultimately it will be elimnated. Opposed to this is the philosophy which regards Evil as not only an absence of Good, but an actual force which can and must be resisted.

  6. The way I see it is, a person can’t be wholly evil, but they can be at a particular moment in time so wrapped up in evil/hate/etc that they can’t understand or act on love. I think Donna’s addiction idea was also interesting, given that Gollum was also in many ways behaving as if addicted to the Ring, and I’ve known many addicts who compared their experiences during addiction to Gollum’s experiences.

  7. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, for posting this, and for posting it now. Having just gotten off the phone with my mother (who seems determined to, if nothing else, erase the real me in favour of a me who only exists in her imagination), I really needed to read this right about now, and I’m very glad it was here for me to do so.

    Thank you. I do not think those words are enough to express what I mean, but I do not know if there are any words that would work, so “Thank you” is the best I can do. Thank you.

  8. I need hate, I have to remember to hate. I forget and forgive too easily, without notes and pictures of the past I would fail to see the clear picture that is exposed when examining the history of events.

  9. Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk, writer, poet and political activist, wrote that “hatred is sterile; it breeds nothing but the image of its own empty fury, its own nothingness. Love cannot come out of emptiness. It is full of reality.”

    Indifference can be a refusal to love. At least outright hatred engages with the hated person in a kind of respect. It has a twisted sort of nobility. Deliberate indifference is a type of hatred which can’t be bothered to engage with the other person.

  10. Mark: hate is very destructive. I think you’re wanting something different….

    Hate also means the other party is able to affect your mindset and being.

    You can forgive without forgetting. And forgiveness does not always mean giving the other party a pass to do whatever the hell they please and walk all over you. Forgiveness can be the most frustrating thing you’ll ever do to the other party. That’s like telling them “you no longer have importance in my life”, because by allowing yourself to let go of your anger, you’re allowing yourself to let go of their influence on you.

    Athena

  11. your capsule of bits from the lord of the rings is well brilliant philip.erasure as we think about it our experience is well evil?are the disabled”” labeled not considered evil .I think that is the basis of the hate involved in trying to erase another soul. the christain idea of evil as you outline “something to be vanquished,destroyed(hey you are talking about me here doc or whoever “hates difference”).we it is we who must have the shields however we define these(our support and conversation for example—to withstand something _evil- the christian idea doesn’t hold water ,adds to our problems,is not productive to sanity and personhood surviving on this planet as the true self faces evil.the themes of the Ring are important ones to me personally for survival as a person.thanks for your thought provoking work here.I have benefited.Literature rocks!
    our own experience..is what speaks it’s own great “literature”.I’m just healing 6wks after a run in with medical doc that involved a lot of hatred towards my person!

  12. I read something a few months ago; it may have been in a comment on this blog, or it may have been in a newspaper column. The writer said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

  13. Thank you bev honold. However much of my analysis of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was taken from ‘The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader’s Guide’ by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, and from ‘Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R.Tolkien’ by Paul H. Kocher.

    Elie Wiesel, philosopher, novelist and Holocaust survivor, said in the lecture “Building a Moral Society” which he gave at DePauw University in Indiana on 21 September 1989, that “[t]he opposite of love is not hate but indifference.” http://storiesforpeakers.blogspotcom/2008/03/elie-wiesel-on-indifference.html.

    A Google search for ‘fear opposite love’ comes up with a whole stack of hits.

  14. Here is the correct link (I hope) to the lecture by Elie Wiesel I referred to in my previous message: http://storiesforspeakers.blogspot.com/2008/03/elie-wiesel-on-indifference.html .

    Self-hate is not seeing yourself as you really are, but through the distorted prism of one’s own self-loathing. But loving a person (or self-love) is also not always seeing that person as they really are. Sometimes it idealises them or ignores or downplays their faults or even crimes. Though love is always more truthful than hate in seeing the reality of the other person.

    Forgiveness is liberating. It is being free of a burden. It is refusing to let the person who has done you wrong in some way to have a hold on your thoughts, on your life. It is not wanting to harm them or wishing them harm. It is loving the divine in them from a position of fundamental equality.

    Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation, the restoration of broken friendship. True forgiveness is given freely, not out of a sense of duty or religious obligation. It is not bestowed out of condescension, or to humiliate the other person. It is not condoning evil or being indifferent to it.

    These reflections on forgiveness are taken from the final chapter of the book ‘Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love’ by Stephanie Dowrick. She describes forgiveness as perhaps the supreme virtue.

    A Christian woman priest who was injured in the terrorist bomb attacks on the London transport system on 7th July 2005, has written about how she is unable to forgive the bombers, in spite of believing that as a Christian, and particularly as a priest, that she should do so.

    Sometimes it is easier to forgive other people than to forgive oneself. A person with low self-esteem may believe that they deserve to be treated badly, but that they are unable to reach the standards they set for themselves.

    I have forgiven the people who have burgled my house, who have stolen money and other possessions from me, who have done me wrong in different ways. I don’t believe that this makes me particularly virtuous. I am aware that it may be because of my temperament, my personality.

  15. I have a question.. I have this struggle to where my son should go to school.
    ‘typical’ school setting 2x a week (3hrs) or to special needs setting 2x a week (3hrs(.
    I have a question to all who are in the spectrum.
    If you didn’t have to deal with bullying, which type of setting would you have chosen to go to?
    thanks

  16. depends………on what his specific needs are and whether or not the typical school would be able to provide what he needed in terms of assistance………para or aide or whatever……..extra help with doing assignments and stuff…….in-class help if he needed it………..also it depends on the environment………and where he’d feel more comfortable……that’s what I can say for the moment

    TI

  17. Hi, I’ve been having alot of problems with bullies, and now at the age of 30 it is becoming a show-stopper for alot of my dreams and ambitions in life. I think I have asperger’s on top of things, I like what was written here on bullying and hatred, and I have come across many people in my professions who have benefitted professionally at my expense. I am learning to make it harder to take advantage of in the future by limiting my involvement into projects to a bare minimum to get by.

  18. “Remember that when they attack someone you are not, they are not attacking you. They are just attacking something they think is you, an illusion in their heads.”

    I’ll remember this quote, or at least it’s sentiment, for the rest of my life.

  19. thankyou. I appreciate your experiential insight that bullying is an erasure because it ignores the real person by focusing on an illusion. It is not only overt bullying behaviour that erases people by focusing on our illusions – this is an accurate definition of any sort of prejudice and discrimination. I reread this entry every few months.

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