Tuesday, August 08, 2006

That "Whoosh-and-Crack" of the Belt

I had an “interesting” experience several years ago. It haunts me so much that it’s still vivid and visceral in my memory.

I had a very dear friend, with whom I had established a deep emotional connection. One day, after work, I went over to her house to visit and talk. Because we had both just gotten off work, we were both in our professional clothes. After we had greeted and talked and visited for a while, she stood up, and was about to make her way to her bedroom to change into cooler and looser clothes. But while we were still talking, and before she moved to her bedroom to change, she unbuckled her belt from her slacks and whipped it off.

You know that sound that a belt makes when you grab the buckle and snap it fast out of its belt loops? It makes a distinctive whoosh and crack! Like a whip cracking. That’s the sound hers made.

I froze. Paralyzed. Chill bumps all over. And a part of my 40-something self became a child again in that split-second before I could get a grip again.

For I had heard that sound before. Too often before. I had heard it all through my childhood, in fact.

I had heard that sound when my father came home, and – either because of some minor infraction I had committed, or because he had a bad day – he led me into our back room, and I would hear that same whoosh and crack! as he whipped his belt out of his belt-loops to give me the beating I seemed to deserve. Then I would be leaned over the bed, and would feel the full force of that whoosh and crack! on my very small body.

I was his oldest, and his favorite. He was delighted when I would receive those belt-whippings without crying. It made him proud of me when I did not cry. Later, he would praise me – and sing my praises to others – for not crying.

Then … forty years later … there I was, visiting with a dear friend who nonchalantly whipped her belt out of her khaki belt loops, and I cringed and broke out into cold sweats. I knew we had a good, caring relationship. But that whoosh and crack! hit me even before I could think about it, much less analyze it for what it was.

Why am I bothering to relate this story here?

Because many, many people have asked me why I reacted so strongly to GC06’s adoption of Resolution B033. The simple answer? It was that same whoosh and crack! Plenty of supportive, liberal Deputies & Bishops have tried to tell me that “manner of life” isn’t a slam. They insist it is not a betrayal. They assure me it is not a weapon.

But if you grew up in this culture, knowing that you were gay, you learn to recognize the insidious sound of the whoosh and crack! You recognize that sound even when it’s not a prelude to a beating. Because the sound still echoes in your psyche. The sound the belt made just before you were beaten still echoes in the deepest parts of your psyche.

Worse yet, there are some in my beloved Church who are expressing gratitude that I endured that whoosh and crack! of B033 without crying. They try to tell me that it shows “character” that I continue to support my Episcopal parish, despite that whoosh and crack! that was B033. Yes, here I remain in The Episcopal Church. Doing my bit in all my roles. Giving my offering. Giving my service. Giving my devotion. But feeling, too, that when another sacrificial offering needs to be made, the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church, my Bishop, and my Deputies won’t very much mind if they have to do the whoosh and crack! routine once more on the backs of the gay and lesbian members of the Body of Christ. They already did it in Columbus. I hear it gets easier with practice.


Blogger Toewalker said...

I got the same chills when I read this, Lisa. I know the whoosh and crack! that you mean, and that's what B033 did to me and my partner too.

Too many previous whoosh's and crack!'s came pouring back out of our respective childhoods.

But they're wrong. It does not get easier with time. It gets harder.

8/08/2006 8:05 PM  
Blogger Toewalker said...

I need to add a footnote to my previous comment.

It does not get easier for us with time, but it most certainly gets easier for the abuser with time. Each successive beating comes easier (and faster) than the last.

How quickly will the beating that is to follow B033 come? And how much harder will the blows be?

And how much more self-satisfied will the abusers be when they find how easily they get away with it?

8/08/2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, ToeWalker, and I'm sorry my conclusion wasn't clearer.

Yes, you've caught my meaning entirely.

The first time the abuser beats the abused, it's probably difficult, even for the abuser. The 2nd time, the abuser finds it a bit less difficult. It gets easier for the abuser each time.

Some of our Bishops and Deputies profess that voting for B033 was painful for them. But they found it acceptable -- nay, needful. That was their first "whoosh-and-crack" on our backs.

I just hope that, in retrospect, enough of them are disgusted by their actions that they will not find it easy to do it again the next time they meet for GC, or their provincial meetings, or Lambeth, ... or wherever. I hope they will see what cost was extracted in their actions in GC06.

8/08/2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

What a courageous piece of writing, Lisa. There's a saying in pastoral care that "pain touches pain." I have found that to be true.

I pray that others who read this will understand that dynamic and stop claiming that some of us are "over reacting" to B033. That simply makes it hurt all the more.

May you be blessed again for the blessing this writing will be to so man.

8/09/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger Flutegirl said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I have been bothered by the squeamish reactions on some blogs to your piece "After Columbus" and had been pondering a response. Better that it came from you. Bravo, both of you.

8/09/2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger Saint Pat said...

Lisa, I only hope this will reach some beaters, both the physical abusers and the spiritual and emotional abusers.

I'm thinking of the little-girl Lisa right now, though. The Lisa who felt so wretched, lost and alone, and maybe even thought she must have done something to deserve this. Something inside her probably died a bit with each beating.

I wrap my arms around this little girl and tell her she will endure, and Christ is there with her, and will remain with her, giving her strength not just to endure, but to triumph over this, and blessing her and endowing her with the ability to expose this evil to the light.

She is given new life daily through Christ, and she continues to heal.

God bless you, Lisa. Thank you for having the courage to share this with us.

8/09/2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger sharecropper said...

Lisa, My trigger is any noise that might wake Daddy. The vote in Columbus was such a noise in my life. Although my partner doesn't know the persecution that can come from being gay, I do. I first came out in 1964 and lost two jobs, many friends, and an apartment. I married twice just to avoid the pain of being gay. Now I'm 60 and I don't much care what people think. But, I do care what my church practices. When will we begin praying, "Thank God that I'm not gay"?

8/09/2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Abuse is abuse is abuse.


Excusing it as "the best we can do at this time" is not the best we can do as a church.


Thank you for your witness!

8/09/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Guidonia said...

Lisa et al.,

I think my partner sees and feels this much the same way you do. I'm ambivalent. At first I felt as you do; now I'm trying, with some success, to see it from the point of view of those that thought it was "the best we could do right now." I've tried to understand where this group comes from because it includes many gay and lesbian people I know, very active lay people and clergy. It includes the priest who led me into TEC more than a decade ago, who performed our blessing cermony, and who has devoted her life to making the church inclusive (some of you probably know her, in fact..). She was an alternate delegate and, I think, would have voted for it. I've tried to understand because I admire her so much.

I know you've heard all the arguments, but the one that speaks to me most how important the Anglican communion is to many folks. Since I've had some time to step back from it, I see their POV more clearly. They thought that not passing B033 would have meant the end of the TEC's Anglican communion "membership," or whatever you call it, and for some, it was too soon for that. They didn't want to give it up without a fight, without futher reflection, and without trying for a little while to work for reconcilation. I think that with all that has happened in the weeks following GC, people have started to realize that they made that sacrifice for an outcome that doesn't look so promising, especially with the ABC's response (which came rather quickly), and that the most strident voices of the "global south" are likely to keep calling the shots. But they wanted to be able to say they gave it a chance to work. Someone characterized the senitment that many felt at the B022 vote as "this is more than we should have to give and we won't do it again."

Still...I do wish that more so-called moderates would acknowledge that price has been very, very high, not just for us GLBT TECers, who felt it as a slap in the face, but for the moral standing of the church. The so-called "pastoral" letter from our bishop here in Colorado did not even acknowledge that.

I'm trying to move on and take a long view, seeing this as a typical step back after the huge steps forward our Church took in 2003. Let's look toward being in a better place in the future.

8/09/2006 11:37 PM  
Blogger Saint Pat said...

I was uncomfortable with it at the time, and I did a lot of reflecting after B033. That and other issues convinced me that staying in the Anglican Communion shouldn't be our paramount concern. I think the Episcopal Church should be there, if possible, to provide our witness. It's not worth devaluing or abusing anyone, being forced to make a confessional oath someone has written for us, or sign our names in blood.

When it comes down to it, maintaining membership in a group -- even the Anglican Communion -- is a preoccupation with earthly things, and we're to be in the world, but not of the world.

Maybe something good will come out of B033 in the long run -- if nothing else, that we won't do that again. I hope so. I would guess Schori thinks so, and she won't let herself be pushed into anything like that in the future.

8/10/2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger Alex Kim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/10/2006 8:55 PM  
Blogger Alex Kim said...

Lisa -

The comment I deleted from your blog can be found at Father Jake's here.

Jake took a piece of your post but didn't make it clear that you were referring to your experiences of abuse - so I assumed that the symbolic connection was to an actual whip.

I should've read your actual post more carefully before making my comments...

Still, I think it's important to point out that "whoosh and crack!" to me is a direct reference to slavery and racism, not child abuse, and so the comparison might be a bit hard to swallow for some - especially for people of color like myself.


8/10/2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

UnSaintly Pat, your comment makes me remember something of my RC education, which still endures.

They say that prayer works outside of time.

Who's to say that your prayers today aren't the ones that made me survive those hard times 4 decades ago?

I'm touched by this. Thank you. More than I can convey.

8/10/2006 11:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

ShareCropper, your note broke my heart! May we all heal together. I think B033 broke somthing loose for many of us -- something that needs healing.

8/10/2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Guidonia, I just dont get all those arguments. And if you didn't get my point here, then please look at this follow-up.

Then tell me what your questions are.

8/10/2006 11:21 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

UnSaintly Pat, I'm responding to your 2nd comment -- about TEC remaining in the AC.

Yes, I hope, and hope desperately, that we will remain in TAC.

But I think B033 was the work of Satan.

There! I've finally said it!

I believe B033 was evil -- plain and simple.

For my other, more recent explanation about my reaction, see my "Codicil & Amplification" at my website.

8/10/2006 11:30 PM  

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