bookmark_borderAll lives matter, including mine

In our society, there are categories of people universally acknowledged as having suffered. There are certain experiences universally recognized as difficult.

Whenever a person falls into one of these categories, or goes through one of these experiences, everyone expresses empathy. Everyone rallies around them. People offer condolences, say how sorry they are, say that they can’t imagine how difficult it is to go through that experience. Everyone falls all over themselves in their eagerness to help, to support, to stand in solidarity.

My life, from the time I was a little kid, was difficult and painful. I’ve suffered enormously and experienced tremendous pain. But I don’t fall under any of the aforementioned categories of people. The things I’ve experienced are not recognized as difficult by our society.

Instead of rallying around me, instead of saying how sorry they are, people tell me that what I am going through is no big deal. They tell me to stop being so sensitive, to stop complaining. They tell me that it is for my own good, that everyone has to do things they don’t like, that I should have acted differently. They tell me that I am a jerk for being upset, or that I caused the situation and therefore have no one to blame but myself.

Other people’s suffering and pain are acknowledged. Mine are not.

In the eyes of society, I am a well-off, able-bodied person who ought to help, support, and sacrifice for the benefit of those who are struggling. For the benefit of those who are “less fortunate.” But in reality, I am the one who is struggling. I am the one who is less fortunate. And others should be helping, supporting, and rallying around me.

In the eyes of society, because I don’t fall into a category that is considered “oppressed” or “marginalized,” because my experiences don’t match up with society’s idea of hardship, I am considered “privileged.” But in reality, having one’s suffering and difficulties acknowledged is the most significant form of privilege that exists.

That’s why the things that have happened in our society since spring 2020 have been so devastating, infuriating, and enraging.

During that horrifying spring and summer, society collectively exploded with eagerness to acknowledge black and indigenous people’s suffering, even though these are categories of people whose suffering has always been acknowledged. In other words, society doubled down on the practice of acknowledging other people’s suffering while ignoring mine. This would be bad enough in itself. But this time, society decided to do something even more unfair and unjust than merely ignoring my suffering. This time, society’s acknowledgement of other people’s suffering took the form of actively destroying something that is very important to me – statues.

What has happened in our society since 2020 represents not only the failure to acknowledge my pain, but the active infliction of additional pain on me.

That is why the events of the past four years have been so horrible.

Whenever a statue is removed, a holiday canceled, a street or building renamed, society is saying that other people’s suffering matters and mine does not. And over the course of four years, this reprehensible message has spread to contaminate more and more of the world. What used to be parks, cities, squares, historic sites, cemeteries, have been transformed into monuments to the idea that other people’s pain should be acknowledged and mine should not. Society’s rejection of me is now inescapable. Countless places, things, events, institutions have been turned into sickening reminders, that before were innocuous. The grim results of the traumatic events are everywhere.

Perhaps if I had experienced a life that was more or less easy, in which my needs were generally met, I would support the BLM movement. Perhaps I would agree with the idea that I am “privileged.” Perhaps I would willingly check my privilege, educate myself, be a better ally, work to become actively anti-racist, and center and amplify the voices of those who are less fortunate than me. Perhaps I would post mindless platitudes on social media, and then go back to cooking perfect meals in my perfect house on a tree-lined street with my adorable kids and dog, like the people who unfriended me when I had the audacity to speak out against the statue genocide.

But I didn’t experience such a life. I experienced a life of difficulty and pain. And society’s failure to acknowledge the difficulty and pain was the most difficult and painful thing of all.

So I will fight vociferously against any movement or ideology that considers me “privileged.” I will not silence myself in order to elevate other voices. I will not advocate for others, when others do not advocate for me. I am not interested in educating myself about the horrors of slavery or racism or “settler colonialism” (whatever the heck that means) when others demonstrate no interest in learning about the horrors that I’ve experienced. And I will not sacrifice my needs and wants for the benefit of the less fortunate, because the people considered less fortunate than me in the eyes of society are, in reality, anything but.

This is why I support All Lives Matter. Because it’s not only black lives that matter. My life matters, too.

You might consider me an asshole. You might say that I have no empathy for others. You might even call me a psychopath.

If I am an asshole and a psychopath, then so be it. Why should I have empathy for others, when others do not have empathy for me? Only when society acknowledges my suffering and my pain, will I consider doing the same for others.

As our public spaces are transformed one after another into sickening monuments to the idea that other people’s pain should be acknowledged and mine should not… I have erected my own monuments. They are only 4 feet tall and are not located on publicly visible land. But they are everything to me. I love them more than anything else in the world. They are monuments to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Nathan Bedford Forrest. But they are also monuments to myself. They are monuments to the idea that my feelings matter, my thoughts matter, my perspective matters, and my pain deserves to be acknowledged. Through these statues, I take care of my favorite historical figures, celebrate them, honor them, fight for them. And in turn, they fight for me. They are my little army, standing guard outside my castle, my little world in which I matter.


bookmark_borderThe statue family expands…

On Tuesday, April 2, at about 9:30 p.m. a large black truck pulled into my driveway. Inside it were two new statues, coming to live with me. 

That’s right, two.

One of these statues was Robert E. Lee. This statue, I had been anticipating for a while. About a year ago, I paid the deposit for him, and over the course of the year I received pictures documenting the process of creating him, from sketch to clay model to molds to finished product. Watching my statue come into the world was such a cool experience. Once the finishing touches were complete, I put the delivery date on my calendar, and I was eagerly anticipating seeing my new statue in person.

Four days before Lee’s arrival, the company that makes the statues asked me if, by any chance, I might want a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well. This statue had been made at the same time as Lee, for a different person, but the original buyer had backed out. I thought it over for about 24 hours and, being me, said yes. 

So, wrapped in blankets inside the truck on that cold and drizzly night were two new statues: one that was made for me and one that I adopted. Forrest was closest to the door, and a little ways further inside the truck was Lee. The statues were lifted out of the truck and placed in their new home. 

Here is what they look like in daylight. In my opinion, they are the most beautiful sight imaginable. 

From left to right: 

General Robert E. Lee. He’s 4 ft tall, weighs 130 lbs, and is based on the statue that used to be in the state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia, as well as the one that used to be in Washington, D.C. He is one of a batch of 10 Lee statues that were made.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He is 4 ft tall, weighs 90 lbs, and is one of a batch of 5. Because he was a cavalry general, most statues depict him on horseback, and this is the first time a standing statue of Forrest has ever existed.

And of course… General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who has been with me for one and a half years now. He is happy to have some friends!

I am having some landscaping work done in the yard, which is why Stonewall is not in his usual spot. For now, the statues are hanging out in this gravelly area off to the side. The weather has been rainy and yucky for the statues’ first week in their new home. Hopefully they don’t mind it too much! Once the weather improves, I will get them set up in a prettier, more permanent way.

I love the statues and am so happy to have them here. They mean so much to me.  

bookmark_borderRobert E. Lee memorial at Antietam Battlefield

Beautiful post from Dixie Forever about the Robert E. Lee statue at Antietam Battlefield:

You can also view the post here on Facebook.

This post really brings home for me the gravity of the horrible things that have happened, and continue to happen, in our country. The images of this statue are so beautiful, but are also a punch in the gut for me. Sadly, as the post states, this is currently one of the most threatened monuments in America. It’s despicable and sickening that this is the case. How anyone could think that the battlefield would be made better by removing this beautiful statue (beautiful both aesthetically and in terms of what it represents) is incomprehensible. If the bullies, whose goal is to inflict the maximum amount of pain possible on people who are different from them, get their way then I hope at least the statue will be returned to private land as it was before 2005, when the National Park Service took ownership of it. 

bookmark_borderDavid Trone believes that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to exist

Horrific, agonizing pain. My limbs feel like lead, my stomach feels sick, my lungs feel like they’re filled with rocks. I am crushed beneath an avalanche of grief, sadness, and anger. The agony is like a knife that stabs me in the heart. The entire world is dark, horrifying, disgusting. It feels as if my soul is being eviscerated, as if I will never experience happiness again. 

This is something I’ve experienced hundreds of times over the past four years. 

In this most recent instance, this pain was directly caused by Rep. David Trone, who despicably sponsored a bill * – known as HR 7474, the Robert E. Lee Monument Removal Act – which would turn the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Battlefield into yet another thing whose entire purpose is to send the message that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Yet another place in which I am not welcome, yet another area of society in which I cannot participate, yet another part of our physical world that would be altered in order to ensure that I cannot feel represented or included. 

Despicably, Trone said of his act of vicious cruelty and aggression: “I thank my colleagues for joining me in this effort to ensure Antietam honors our nation’s victory over the Confederacy rather than memorializes historical figures who fought to break up the Union and restrict fundamental human rights.”

As if forcing people to remain part of the same country against their will somehow doesn’t restrict fundamental human rights. As if inflicting on another human the type of pain that I described in the first paragraph of this blog post somehow doesn’t restrict fundamental human rights. As if decreeing that only one side in a war deserves to be honored, only one perspective acknowledged, only one story told, only one viewpoint reflected, somehow doesn’t restrict fundamental human rights. 

To “ensure Antietam honors our nation’s victory over the Confederacy” completely defeats the purpose of even preserving the battlefield as a historical site, both because the entire concept of a battle requires that there be two opposing sides, and also because there is no benefit in something existing when the very attribute that made it beautiful, distinctive, and remarkable has been destroyed. 

David Trone would like Antietam to be transformed from a historical site honoring a battle and the soldiers who fought there, into yet another monument to authoritarianism, compliance, and mindless conformity, into yet another piece of propaganda designed to send the message that any person who differs from the mainstream, from the norm, from the majority in any way, has no right to exist. 

As if sending this message somehow doesn’t restrict fundamental human rights.

David Trone’s decision to introduce this bill is an attack on me as a human being. It is an attack on me because I am different, because I do not fit in, because I see the world differently from most people, because I have different interests and passions and values and ways of thinking than the majority. Because I am different, the Robert E. Lee Monument represents me. It makes me feel included. It makes me feel that people like me are allowed to exist. By attempting to remove it, David Trone is attempting to turn the Antietam Battlefield into yet another instrument in society’s war against people like me. Yet another thing that used to make me feel represented and included, now turned into a cudgel to beat me with. Yet another tool for society to use to hammer home the brutal and intolerant message that I do not deserve to exist because I am different. 

Tell me again, why does America need another monument to authoritarianism, compliance, and mindless conformity? Why does America need yet another memorial honoring the same bland, mundane, and meaningless values that people are already bombarded with every day, in every facet of life? 

Tell me again, what is the point of the Antietam battlefield even existing, if its existence does nothing other than to stab my heart, punch me in the gut, stomp on my face, and inflict horrific and agonizing pain?

Pardon my French, but fuck David Trone. He doesn’t care a whit about fundamental human rights. If he did, he would campaign passionately against vaccine mandates, gun control, the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, and the use of full-body scanners at airports, to give just a few examples. Each of these policies restrict fundamental human rights vastly more severely than anyone from the Confederacy ever did.

How dare David Trone pontificate about fundamental human rights while simultaneously going out of his way to violate them?

How dare he go about his life as if nothing is wrong, while his actions inflict horrific and agonizing pain on other people?

It is mentally exhausting and demoralizing that acts of vicious cruelty and aggression, such as this one perpetrated by David Trone and his 6 co-sponsors, continue to happen. I am tired, I am angry, and I am exhausted. I don’t deserve for this pain to be inflicted on me, and David Trone has no right to inflict it. Despicably, he pontificates about “fundamental human rights” while actively violating mine. 

I learned from a quick Google search that David Trone has a wife and several children. How would he like it if his wife and children were beaten, strangled, dismembered, burned, and had their limbs sawed off and their bodies cut to pieces as he was forced to watch? That might sound sadistic, outlandish, excessive, ridiculous… but it has been my reality for the past four years. Perhaps if this happened, David Trone would experience a tiny fraction of the pain that I’ve experienced. Maybe then he’d have a shred of empathy for the people he’s harmed. Maybe then he’d work towards enacting policies that would compensate me for the pain I’ve suffered, rather than actively inflicting even more of it.

* as well as 6 other members of Congress who co-sponsored this bill

bookmark_borderNo, Tolstoy was not saying that making statues is wrong

Take a look at this great post, with a very true and meaningful quote, and then the obnoxious comment below it:

Um, what? He was talking about you? Really?

First of all, we are not the majority. People like those at Monuments Across Dixie and myself are the minority, as evidenced by the fact that our statues and monuments have been subjected to an almost entirely unopposed and unchallenged campaign of brutal and violent destruction across the entire country.

Second of all, Tolstoy was talking about people who design and commission statues? Really? Tolstoy was saying that making statues is wrong, even though the majority shares in it? Somehow, I doubt that very much.

What an infuriating and idiotic comment. Continuing to see people expressing sentiments such as these is exasperating and mentally exhausting.

Good for Monuments Across Dixie for posting this Tolstoy quote. Contrary to what Richard Binns claims, this quote is much more applicable to the brave minority fighting to defend what makes life worth living (Confederate statues), than it is to the cowardly majority who are cruelly destroying it.

bookmark_borderThe statues weren’t hurting anyone, and neither was I

Everyone else wore jeans and t-shirts. I wore jumpers, plaid skirts, cardigans, Mary Janes.

Everyone else got their hair highlighted and wore makeup. I wore hair ribbons and pigtails.

Everyone else spoke in the latest slang in order to sound “cool.” I used big words and spoke formally.

Everyone else IM’d with their friends after school. I went online to read about historical figures. I made drawings and paper dolls of them.

Everyone played the same computer games, listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows and movies. Everyone except for me.

I collected dolls, toy soldiers, Beanie Babies, and model horses. Everyone called me babyish and weird.

I picked my nose, and the other kids whispered to each other about how gross I was. I picked at my face and scalp instead, but the other kids still whispered to each other about me, and how weird I was. So instead I went through my hair and took out the strands that had become detached, tidying and cleaning up my hair, but the other kids commented on how gross and weird that was as well. So I forced myself to sit, uncomfortable and bored out of my mind, with nothing to occupy my hands.

I was not hurting anyone. I was not hurting anyone by dressing the way that looked good to me, moving and organizing my body in the way that felt good to me, spending my time and energy pursuing the things that I was interested in. I was not hurting anyone by existing in the world as my authentic self, in a way that was different from other people.

The statues are the same as me. They dressed differently from people today, looked differently, spoke differently, thought differently.

Therefore, the statues weren’t hurting anyone either.

The statues symbolized people like me, people who are different. The statues symbolized the idea that people like me have a right to be included in society. When people tore down the statues, that is what they attacked.

Seeing those statues standing, in public parks and city squares, told me that I had the right to exist, even though I am different from others. Because those statues were different from other people, and they had the right to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they took that away from me.

When mayors and city councils ordered the statues removed, they were literally redesigning public spaces in order to communicate that people like me do not have the right to exist there, in order to ensure that people like me would feel excluded.

This is not being inclusive, or ensuring that everyone feels welcome. It is the exact opposite.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe that a person who dresses differently, looks differently, moves differently, speaks differently, and thinks differently should not be allowed to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe, through some perverse logic that is incomprehensible to me, that their right to be surrounded entirely and exclusively by people who dress like them, look like them, move like them, speak like them, and think like them, outweighs my right to exist.

This is not diversity. It is the exact opposite.

This is why Confederate statues and Christopher Columbus statues are so important.

This is why the issue of statues is personal to me.

This is why I will never forget what people did to the statues, why I will never move on, why I will never stop writing and posting about the statues, why I will never focus on other, more important issues.

Because there are no issues more important than this.

I wasn’t hurting anyone by existing, and neither were the statues.

bookmark_borderPhotos and videos from Lee-Jackson Day

This past weekend was Lee-Jackson Day, the holiday honoring Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson!

One day, I would love to go to the celebrations in Lexington, Virginia honoring these two amazing heroes. But because I live too far away for that to be practical, I enjoyed looking at the photos and videos on social media. The celebration of Lee-Jackson Day confirms to me that there are still some people who believe in honoring heroes and doing what is right.

I also thought this would be a good time to introduce my new project: The Historical Heroes Blog.

There, you can check out photos and videos from the ceremony at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, parade, and flag ceremony at Lee-Jackson Park, to give just a few examples.

This new blog will be dedicated to sharing content that I find around the internet about my favorite historical figures – art, quotes, statues, birthdays, holidays, events, news, and more. Unlike the content on this blog, the content on the new blog will focus solely on the positive. Given the horrific events of the past few years, positivity is a concept that often seems elusive. For the first two years of the statue genocide, it was almost entirely absent. But gradually, I have become able, through various avenues, to find small glimmers of hope that make me smile. Not by moving on from the historical figures whom I love, but by celebrating them and honoring them and incorporating them into my life as much as I can. (I wrote more about this concept in my post about Christmas and New Year’s). It is the desire to collect these glimmers of hope, of beauty, of goodness, that gave rise to the creation of the new blog. In the darkest days of the statue genocide, the idea of creating such a blog didn’t occur to me, because I assumed it would be impossible to find suitable content for one. Everything relating to historical figures was dark, sickening, horrifying, and negative. But the idea for the new blog began to take shape in my mind last year, and shortly after the new year I finally launched it. I am hopeful that the new blog will be a place for hope, beauty, and goodness, and a place to celebrate and honor historical figures, for years to come.

I will continue this blog as well, as a place to share my opinions, thoughts, and experiences about the things going on in the world. Over the years, this blog has undergone many transformations. At first, I pretty much stuck to sharing my opinions about current events, with a little bit of sports stuff and a little bit of history stuff thrown in. When I became interested in watching high-profile trials, my first-hand reports from the trials that I attended became the primary focus of the blog. Then the blog went relatively dormant for a while, when I lacked the time, energy, and inspiration to update it. Over the past few years, the horrible things happening to historical figures affected me so deeply that my writings became centered around this subject and the personal impact that it had on me. Recently, I’ve spent more time thinking about my identity as a person on the autism spectrum and how this is intertwined with the statues. I feel that my autism, my imaginary world, and my love of historical figures are strongly connected. Given that the majority of autistic voices seem to express political beliefs that are the opposite of mine, I feel that I have a perspective that is unique and different and therefore important to share. In the future, I plan to write more about my personal experiences with autism and mental health, as well as statues, historical figures, individual rights, and anything else that I have a strong opinion on.

As always, thank you for reading.

bookmark_borderRemoving statues is the opposite of being welcoming and inclusive

I was sitting and drinking coffee when I learned something that made my brain explode. Just a second earlier, I had been talking with my parents about a mini snowman that someone had made on top of a mailbox, which I had spotted during my walk and found really cute and funny. But now their innocuous questions – Do you know who made it? Did you post the picture on Instagram? – made my brain physically hurt. Filled to capacity by the horrific news, it simply could not accept any more input.

I covered my ears. I could not process, let alone answer, the simple questions. The sounds of silverware and plates clattering at nearby tables were like bombs exploding in my cranium. A group of people walked behind me; to my tortured brain their chatter sounded like shrill screaming.

What was this horrible news?” you might be wondering.

Good question.

The answer: the fact that the National Park Service reportedly planned to remove a statue of William Penn from Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, the historic site dedicated to the Declaration of Independence. The obliteration of Penn as a historical figure was planned in order, in the NPS’s words, to make the park more “welcoming” and “inclusive” (source here).

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I like historical figures. I like historical figures because I have been bullied and excluded all my life. I have never fit in with the people around me, and I have never been able to relate to them. I only relate to historical figures. By removing historical figures from public spaces, our society is ensuring that I cannot feel welcome or included in those spaces. This makes those spaces less, not more, welcoming and inclusive.

All of the people who wear the latest fashions, speak using the latest slang, listen to the latest music, watch the latest shows, and spend their time texting and face timing with their friends… they don’t need to feel more welcomed or included. They’ve felt welcome and included their entire lives, because they are the majority. It’s people like me, who wore plaid dresses and skirts, did their hair in pigtails, collected dolls and toy soldiers, listened to show tunes and Disney music, and spent their time making paper dolls and reading about historical figures… it’s people like me who have faced a lifetime of exclusion because of how we dress, how we talk, what we like, and how we spend our time. It’s people like me who need, and deserve, to feel more welcomed and included.

But instead, our society has decided to make people like me feel less welcomed and included. Removing statues, removing the names of historical figures from buildings and streets, replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day… these actions create a less, not more, welcoming and inclusive world. After spending a lifetime feeling excluded at school, in extracurricular activities, online, and in social groups, I have now, for the past three and a half years, been forced to witness the public spaces of our country being reconfigured using cranes and work crews to ensure that I feel excluded there, too.

Historical figures are me. Historical figures are the only people I can relate to. By eliminating them from public spaces, our society has also eliminated any possibility for me to exist in those spaces without being filled with grief, anger, and pain. Society has actively transformed public space to ensure that people like me do not feel welcomed or included there.

So, no. Removing a statue of William Penn does not make a park more welcoming or inclusive. It does the opposite.

And then there is the obvious fact that removing something is, by its very nature, the opposite of being inclusive. Think about it: removing something from a space necessarily means that fewer things are now being included in that space. Removing a statue necessarily means that fewer historical figures are now being depicted, fewer stories being told, fewer perspectives being represented. That’s the antithesis of being inclusive.

As a commenter on the post linked above astutely wrote, “Not inclusive of white people… If they want ‘inclusive’ history why not just add it?”

Exactly.

I began this blog post by describing my experience in the coffee shop in order to demonstrate that the National Park Service, by coming up with the plan to remove the William Penn statue, actively inflicted harm on me as an autistic person. The NPS’s actions directly caused me emotional distress and directly caused my brain to explode in agonizing pain. Yet another way in which the NPS’s decision is the opposite of being welcoming and inclusive.

There is, however, a nugget of good news in this story. According to more recent reports (see comments section of source linked above) the NPS has changed their mind and now does not intend to do anything to the statue of William Penn. Fingers crossed that this is correct.