Thoughts upon a Christmas Eve

Dear Reader,

It has been some time since I have put pen to paper, or at least finger to keyboard. It seems fitting that I should pen something on a night when magic fills the air, and the year draws to a close.

It is December 24th as I sit here looking at my screen. For many it is Christmas, for others it is simply another Monday night. I suspect many small children are driving their parents crazy with questions and theories as they prepare to make an attempt to sleep while NORAD tracks Santa across the skies.

It’s Christmas Eve – a night for magic and for reflection. Tonight the impossible is possible, if only one believes. I believe.

I spent the day in quiet reflection as I occupied myself with menial tasks. Tomorrow is the agreed upon date to celebrate the arrival of Christ. It is a cause for celebration among Christians. It is also a day that families get together (those that are fortunate enough to have families to celebrate with) to celebrate each other and remember those that have departed for the great unknown facing us all eventually.

The past several months has been hard on the Catholic church. Scandal after scandal has surfaced, and the degree to which priests have molested and raped innocent children with the flock continues to grow to incomprehensible numbers. The officials pay lip service to each new revelation. The same tired clichés abound. The media has a burst of interest with the headline of the day, but then what? The whirligig of sensational news spins on.

More and more people are speaking out about the abuse they encountered while in the care of pedophile priests. But what of this? Does anyone care anymore? Are survivors of abuse just becoming white noise amongst the flood of news that floods our media every day? Do people who are not victims of abuse fully understand what it is like for a survivor to carry on in a world that seems to increasingly not care about putting an end to such horrendous crimes?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The town I grew up in refuses to come to terms that the beloved Church that so many of the local sheep blindly flock to has protected pedophiles within the organization for decades. Anyone who speaks out about it is quickly labeled as someone who is obviously an enemy to the Church. I call bullshit.

What gives any organization the right to exert terror and evoke pain to all who come to it? Nothing. A person who is abused by a pedophile (priest or otherwise) deserves to be heard. Even to this day survivors stories are quickly buried. Citizens who should be outraged at the extent of abuse in our society instead try to comfort themselves with the mantra “not in my neighborhood”. I hate to burst your happy little bubble, but sadly there are victims of abuse all around us. There are pedophiles near us. There are powerful organizations that protect pedophile employees from being brought to justice.

The curtain that protects pedophile priests is being slowly pulled back, revealing the disturbing truth the church as wanted to deny for so long.  

It is Christmas Eve. Instead of attending a midnight mass, I will be writing. I will be remembering. I will continue to spread the word of a survivor. What should be more shocking to people is that every day more stories break about abuses by the Catholic church. Of course there are other organizations where abuse is hidden, but it seems not nearly to the extent of that particular church.

It’s time for a Christmas wish.

I wish that the abuse would end. It’s a fantastical wish. However, the only way it will slow down and be taken seriously is if survivors continue to speak out. Remember the saying that every time a “bell rings, an Angel gets its wings”? Well, how about every time a survivor speaks, a pedophile priest loses his dick? I know that is harsh, but think about it. It’s Christmas Eve. Children are going to sleep believing that in the morning Santa will have made it. Santa will have used his magic to make wishes come true. Think about the innocence and the wonder of believing. Now, take that same innocence and place it in the lair of an adult who only wants to defile and exert power over such innocence. The priest plays the conduit between God and human.  The priest is charged with many community duties that bring communities together. They celebrate life and grieve each death in the community. We put our faith in their hands. It’s no longer “only a small handful” that have abused their positions. The scope and extent of the abuse and supressing those who wish to speak out will continue to mount for years as more and more become empowered to speak out. My Christmas wish is for survivors to be heard. Yes, I am a survivor of Catholic sex abuse. There is not a day that goes by without me facing another demon that has manifested itself as a result of the physical and emotional terror I endured. However, I am blessed to have a voice. Each day I am empowered to speak out about the abuse, and I know that other victims hear me. Other victims eventually become survivors. Survivors gain strength in sharing their stories. The curtain that has been hiding the pedophile priests is beginning to fall. It’s time for our communities to embrace survivors. Their strength and resilience is what needs to be commended in every community – not the selfish acts of personal gratification that in a matter of seconds, minutes, or years – has the ability to shatter souls.

I do not mean this as a poor me rant. I want to speak out as I have done before. I will continue to speak out. It is time for survivors to stand together – we have the ability to regain our strength and our dignity. We are not the ones who need to be ashamed. It is the actions of the weak adults who subjected us to our torment. Our suffering and shame was the result of their selfishness. The institutions who allowed this to happen need to be held accountable.

Each year I think about how nice it would be to step inside a church and listen to stories of caring, sharing and community. I think about how beautiful the voices would sound in the ancient walls of the cathedrals as they sing carols and songs of peace, love, and goodwill. I think about this from the outside. I was raped and beaten in a church – a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary – a safe place. I feel safer outside, in the cold. For I am free to run if I need to get away. I am not trapped when I am outside. Nature is my goddess. The North star guides me home. In the dark I close my eyes and breath. I can feel the Force around me. In the trees. Between the rocks. The Force flows through me and all living things. It creates us and it binds us all together. No gods separate us. We are all children of the Force. This is what makes me happy – that we are all connected. We have the ability to be a force for change. We can protect each other and stand up for one another. If I know you, know this – I am here. I will listen. I will feel your pain. I will be with you. For I am a child of the Force.

And I believe.

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The Art of Precious Scars

When the news of the revelation that over 1000 children were abused in Pennsylvania at the hands of 300 Catholic Priests, it was shocking, horrific, but sadly not surprising. This is happening more and more often. People are now starting to give credence to the stories that are coming out. It almost seems that a week doesn’t go by without a new story appearing of yet further abuse at the hands of those who pretend to do God’s work. There is one word that I can come up with for that, and that is “sickening”.

People who are fortunate enough to have not endured abuse are puzzled as to why it takes so long for people to expose the truth about what happened to them decades earlier. It’s simple. It boils down to fear and shame. I can only speak directly to the abuse I endured as a child, but sadly it is similar for other survivors.

I was groomed for the abuse. Many of the priests who abuse children are serial abusers. Their tactics are extended over a period of time. If a pedophile priest was to simply grab a child and rape him or her then they would be caught out most likely. They know that. It begins by finding the most vulnerable in the pack. They are skilled hunters, and know what to look for. They seek out the children not so popular, who crave attention. They look for the mild and the awkward. It’s all part of their sick game. It was several months before I was sexually assaulted at my school. It began with corporal punishment, and the repetition of telling me how I needed to earn God’s love. At five years old this is all rather overwhelming. The next thing they must do to ensure their survival as pedophile predators is to make sure the children they target will keep the dirty secret. For me it was the constant “God will kill you if you tell anyone”, and “You’re a dirty boy, and need to earn God’s love.” Perhaps the worst thing I was told was that if I was to ever tell, God would kill my family.

GOD WILL KILL YOUR FAMILY.

Imagine being a small child and being told that by a man who claims to have a direct line to God. No wonder people are struck into silence through the fear and intimidation of the priests. At least it was in my case.

It wasn’t until grade 4 that I was finally freed. But, as devoted readers to my blog will know, it was because of a beating by my grade 4 teacher that it was so. My Mom discovered the bruises all over my arms and legs – the result of being whipped by the heavy prong of an electric kettle cord. The logic in my head was that I was never told that I couldn’t tell on someone who was not a priest. Immediately upon learning that I had been whipped so violently by a lay teacher, my Mother removed me from my tormentors. It was only when I was in my early thirties that I revealed what had happened to me. Even then, and now, do I hold back details of some of the worst rapes that happened to me in grade 4.

What is the result of being abused and raped as a child? For the longest time I had little self-esteem. I felt (and sometimes still do) as if I was not worthy of success. I felt a need to constantly prove to people that I was a good person. I wanted to be loved and yet shied away from situations when there may be recognition for my good deeds. To this day I prefer the company of my solitude. It’s not that I am a lonely person, it is that I am more comfortable alone or when I am in small groups. This is because I am happiest when I am in control of the situation, rather than letting the situation control me. There are certain smells that instantly evoke tears. The sense memory is very strong for me. Similarly, I cannot tolerate anything being in my mouth for any sustained period of time. This makes my trips to the dentist very upsetting for me. If I brush my teeth for a longer than normal time I begin to gag – I have even thrown up from the feeling of having something in my mouth – this is a direct result of the abuse I endured.

When I came out about the abuse in my community my family was chastised for it. I was made fun of. People joked about me being raped as they had their morning coffee in the local donut shops. My parents lost friends over it. It was a joke to the community. People were more comfortable shunning me than realizing what was happening at the catholic school. I was the first to publicly come out in my community about abuse. I was mocked for it. I even had an Aunt who made fun of me because I was abused and sent me a letter asking me “how it was working out for me”, and that I would “never amount to anything because I was a horrible child and deserved everything that happened.” Needless to say, she was not a kind woman. Over the years people have come to realize the “secluded incident” of my claim was more prevalent. The revelation of systemic abuse by the clergy exploded a few years after my revelation. Now, a thousand more victims are stepping into the light as a result of the recent findings.

How many victims couldn’t cope? How many have ended their own lives to escape the pain that is left behind after the abuse? I am sure the number is high. For many of us continue to neglect ourselves once the abuse stops. We continue to ignore our need for healing. Only through sharing our stories do we enable other victims to step forward – sadly, people abused by priests are not alone. If you are reading this and a victim of pedophile priests, thank you for reading. I am here for you. We are bonded through our baptism of blood and pain. You are my brother or sister. We need to stay together and share our voices if we want this to end.

On the outside I may appear whole. My soul was shattered in the aftermath of the abuse. Over time I have been able to piece together many parts of myself. It’s a long process. The Japanese have a practice called kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery. The idea is that by bonding the broken pieces of pottery back together with gold, the bond is made stronger and the repaired item is more beautiful for having been broken. The lines of repair are visible and not hidden. I feel my soul is a bit like that – it was shattered – over the years I continue to forge it back together – it’s not perfect, but it is beautiful for those who can see it. It is stronger and the scars are ones I am not afraid to show, for my story of abuse is important to share. I need to speak out and up for those who have yet to find their voice.

Star Wars appealed to me as a child because of the Force. An energy field that binds us and surrounds us – it makes life grow, we come from it and return to it when we exit this physical plane. The Force is a powerful ally. It is my ally, for I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. My heart goes out to those in Pennsylvania, and to all who have lost the light – we are one with the Force. We must find the strength to carry on and to never let this happen again. Strengthening my soul, over time is becoming a practice in the art of precious scars, for we are all deserving children of the Force.

 

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Gemma, Olivia, Darren and Lessons of Love….

Returning from a week of magic I feel regenerated. Last week I posted about the event with Gemma Bostik – the young qirl we inducted into the Outer Rim Garrison:

http://www.delta-optimist.com/news/big-ladner-star-wars-fan-gets-special-honour-1.23305735

and then the young woman Oliva whom I also gave a hero medal to when I was visiting the north for a fancon:

IMG_0096mandy and olivia

 

Little did I know I would be presenting another medal that weekend. The third recipient of the “Hero of the Galactic Empire” medal was a young man named Darren. I was asked by the organizer for the 501st up there – Trevor – if I would be ok to do a hospital visit for the kids in the hospital. The 501st members who come up for Fancon make an appearance at the hospital as part of the “Spirit of the North” foundation. I was tired but of course I agreed. The one good thing with doing hospital troops when you’re “friends” with Vader is you have the added protection of wearing a mask. The mask hides the tears that sometimes flow freely with the accumulation of sweat inside the helmet. If you’ve ever done character work you will understand how hot and sweaty the costumes can be. Vader is particularly hot and moist because of the layers of leather, fiberglass and wool that make up the Lord of the Sith. The mask is a barrier between the character and the actor. While the dark lord makes kids laugh (yes, he does that – he’s not all bad) the actor behind the mask has the freedom to let the tears out. No one can see it, nor should they in these situations. I have always been amazed how Princesses can interact with everyone and withhold the tears – characters empower, entertain, enlighten and make magic – there is a time for them to debrief when they are packing the princess away out of sight of the people we entertain.

Forgive me as I am about to reminisce about something I’ve shared with a few people that further illustrate my poor attempt at a point I tried to make in the previous paragraph. Years ago I had a brief stint with making magic in Southern California. I was young, and I ended up dating another character performer I worked with. She was good friends with Princess Aurora. For those of you not familiar with this princess, she is commonly known as “Sleeping Beauty”. Performers are encouraged to create magic personified for each guest they encounter. One day Princess Aurora was visiting guests at a character breakfast. Characters rove from table to table signing autographs and taking pictures with the guests. Aurora approached one table. She greeted the guests with her usual happy demeanour and asked them what they were celebrating. The guests consisted of a couple and their daughter. Their daughter could not speak, was wheelchair bound , but she could express her feelings through her face. This young girl, balding from bouts of radiation and chemotherapy, was all smiles when Aurora approached. The parents explained to Aurora that she was their daughters favourite princess and that they made the trek to visit the park because it was their daughter’s wish. It was, in fact, her last wish. They were there to make her last months of their daughter’s life full of magic and happiness as they eased the transition of her life to the unknown. Aurora did not have the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. Her training provided the tools she needed to withhold the tears that would otherwise stream down her face as she empathized with the family. Instead Aurora wished them the most magical time and took pictures with their daughter.

Aurora was at the end of her visit, and she asked her supervisor if there was something they could do for the family. The response was “no”. It is common policy that all guests should be treated equally, and that no one guest should be treated any differently – even when facing the end of life.

When Cindy had changed, she went to the Emporium and bought a Princess Aurora doll. She was able to find the family near the Plaza Inn and approached them. She introduced herself as Aurora’s friend and told them Aurora had told her how much she enjoyed visiting with them and wanted to give the young girl a gift. Cindy handed over the Aurora doll and wished them all well. Later that day she told me about her morning and what happened. We cried together. She was deeply moved by the experience, as was I hearing her share it with me.

A month later Cindy was asked to see her supervisor. The family had written to the company and mentioned to them that their daughter was a huge fan of Princess Aurora, and how her friend “Cindy” had met them outside the restaurant with a present for her daughter. They wrote how impressed they were with the present from Aurora, and how the doll became their daughter’s favourite toy, taking it everywhere with her. They concluded by writing that their daughter had recently passed away, and that they buried her with the doll.

Cindy’s gift was something she felt she had to do. It was a gesture of kindness. She was not expecting to hear anything back from the family. She wanted to simply do something to show she cared. It was something she did to make magic for the girl and her family. Her gift did that.

I have long thought about the Princesses and how strong they are. Cindy’s act of kindness has become a story I share with students. As a masked character I have the luxury of anonymity. Tears are hidden from view. I have the freedom to cry. I am so glad for that. However, the Princesses are my heroes. They continue to inspire me.

So – back to Fancon.

I had gifted a “Hero of the Galactic Empire” to Olivia the day before. As I shared what I had done with the other members of the 501st up there, Trevor asked me if I had brought another medal up with me. I had. He told me about Darren and hoped that he was still at the hospital. It sounded odd to me to hear that he “hoped” Darren would still be there. I learned that Trevor does the troop at the hospital only once a year, during Fancon. He was hoping Darren would still be there this year. I learned Darren had not left the hospital in years. I finally knew what he meant.

Years.

I brought the medal the next day. We changed in the boardroom at the Spirit of the North office within the hospital. The group consisted of a local Spiderman, a Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Captain Phasma, and Vader. We were brought to the ICU, Emergency, Pediatric and other areas. We were followed by the local news station. Here is their report:

https://ckpgtoday.ca/article/527319/special-visitors-unhbc

They left before we met Darren. We were brought into his room. Unable to move or speak, Darren communicates with his eyes. We visited with him and Trevor presented him the medal. He wanted to wear it right away. The doctors helped Trevor place it on Darren. He asked if we could take a picture with him. He agreed. We did. I am glad we did. Darren, like Olivia and Gemma, is a fighter. I continue to have much to learn from such people.

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We all count. We all deserve love. We all deserve respect. Here is the funny thing. I am not a religious person. In the book Les Misérables, Victor Hugo writes “To love another person is to see the face of God”. This line is echoed in the musical’s finale as well.

Gemma.

Olivia.

Darren.

These people were presented the award in that order. G-O-D.

Love. It is what we all have to offer.

Just.

Love.

The Importance of Being Magically Earnest

It has been some time since I have made a new entry. I do not have a schedule for posting – I simply write when I am feeling the urge. The urge has struck. It is time.

Many things have happened since my last entry. I took a bold step and performed my one-person show, How Star Wars Saved My Life. Audiences were subjected to my story of being abused, and how one science fiction film did save me from destroying myself. I had no idea how it would be received. It was a success. Truly a success. I was humbled by the responses – here is an example:

 

The show had a short run. However, the message of hope was strong, and it appears that there will be a very exciting future for the story. I wish I could go in to more detail, but with NDA’s being signed I will have to wait until I am cleared to share what the future holds for my show.

This post is not about that, however. It is about magic – or more specifically – how magic can be a powerful tool for healing, creating and empowering. You see, I went dark after my show – I needed to take a break. I needed to recharge, reconnect, realign and rest. In doing so I realized I am truly happy when I am helping others. I am most happy when I am creating magic for others. I love magic. Please allow me to explain.

Two years ago I was part of a small group of troopers who went to visit a very special girl. Her name is Gemma Bostik. She is really something. I wrote about my visit with her in an earlier blog. It was titled “Beginnings, Z95.3 and Nick the Guy”. That visit changed the way I approach trooping with the 501st Legion. Here is a bit more on Gemma and her life’s adventure to date:

 

Gemma loved our visit, and this year we were asked to come back and help her celebrate her 8th birthday. It was a bigger event. I attended as a handler (a person who helps others get into costume, look out for them, etc). I was able to watch the characters interact with Gemma and her friends. She was having a blast. The troopers were having a blast. She made them all dance to her favourite song “Uptown Funk”. I watched them dance together: A Stormtrooper, Tusken Raider, Kylo Ren and Boba Fett. She had asked specifically for Kylo Ren to attend her party. She asked us lots of questions. I was not in costume. Instead I was wearing my black BDU Legion shirt with various Star Wars patches. She asked who I was. You see, she believes. She believes in magic – that these characters can visit her, that she is on friendly terms with the Empire. It is something that I believe gives her hope and helps keep that mystery and magic we all love as children. I was slightly taken off guard when she asked me who I was, but I responded that I was their “representative” on Earth. It was a feeble response, but it seemed to work. I realized after that if I was to be a handler for future troops I would need to create something that kept me in the realm of the Star Wars Uniform. An officer costume would be perfect – I could monitor the characters I was handling without being out of place. I now wear the uniform when taking on handler duties. It’s that extra effort that really goes a long way.

Later that night I received an email from Amanda – Gemma’s mom. In her email she wrote that Gemma had a fantastic time and that there was no way she’d be able to top this. Amanda and her husband Charlie go all out for their Gemma because she was not expected to live past one year old. She’s eight as of this year. I pondered over the comment “no way to top this”…..It was time to put magic into action.

I began with my fellow troopers. I asked them if they’d come out to troop a special troop for Gemma again – all replied they would! Great. I thought, we can’t wait for another birthday – it’s too far away. Maybe a few of us could come to their door and give Gemma a “medal of yavin” as a hero medal. Yes, I know you’re thinking “but that’s a rebel medal”. You’re right. It is. But the Empire doesn’t have any medals. I reflected on this. I belong to an international group who dedicate their appearances to raising money for many amazing charities for children. We DON’T have a medal. Giving Gemma a Yavin medal would not be appropriate. After all, they are readily available, easy to get. No. If we were to do this right we would need our own medal. An Imperial Medal. We often gift challenge coins to the children we visit but this has bothered me from time to time. After all, some children are tactile. There is a choking hazard with some coins. Coins can also be easily misplaced or lost. Children, like adults, need touchstones. They need talismans to reassure them things are going to be alright when they go back to the hospital for the umpteenth time. Many of the kids we visit are hospital regulars. Some never leave the hospital. Some don’t come back when they go to the hospital. They need something to let them know it’s all right. Challenge coins can be lost – and if you have ever been with a child when they misplace something they rely upon to calm themselves, to reassure themselves that things are not bad or not scary, then you will know that things can quickly get out of hand. Something that can not be easily lost, that can be nice to look at, that can be held in moments of needing extra reassurance, that is unique and makes them feel special, can be a powerful calming and healing tool. I decided we needed to have our own Imperial medal. Gemma would be the first recipient of the medal. But what would it say. It had to be something that looked like it came from the Empire. I created one that had the phrase “Hero of the galactic empire” forged in the alloy. The ribbon would have to be Imperial colors – so red and black were the obvious choice to me.

Now I had taken care of troopers and a medal. what would be next? I remembered a few years back we inducted a young boy – Wilson – into the garrison. That’s it. I asked our executive and they replied there would be no problem doing that for Gemma. I went over the check list:

Troopers. Check.

Medal. Check.

Honorary member of the Garrison. Check.

Not too bad for a young girl. What else could we do for her? What if she had her own patch and her own coin? Maybe we could create these for raising money for a charity of her choice. Ok, but now this was getting larger and larger. I tried to get a cartoonist to come up with a fun image of Gemma. He didn’t get it and the image was frightening. I posted my dilemma on facebook. Terry, our former Garrison Captain responded with the question “how can I help”. I shared with him how Gemma’s mom asked her if she was ever to have her own patch, what would she want on it. Gemma responded that she wanted to be in a stormtrooper costume, saluting in her wheelchair while Darth Vader stood behind her in front of a symbol of the new order. A bit of a Star Wars hot mess. Within the hour Terry had nailed the design. Things were coming together. I spoke with Matthew Purdy at Toy Traders. His store is huge and amazing and just happens to be Gemma’s favourite place to go when she’s looking for toys. Matthew didn’t even hesitate and offered his space, created a raffle, and advertised. I asked Amanda what Charity she would like to represent – Muscular Dystrophy. I contacted them. Tiffany, the representative attended the day of the ceremony. The troop became an official 501st troop with many troopers signing up. It became larger. I decided I would have to run the event, meeting Gemma at the door when she arrived and announcing her arrival. Stormtroopers filing in behind us as we approached Lord Vader, Boba Fett, a Tusken, Imperial Guards, TIE Pilots and our Commanding Officer. somehow it went off well. We called ourselves “Gemma’s Squad”. I presented Gemma with her medal.

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Gemma had an amazing time. We all did. Her joy and happiness is infectious. That was a few days ago. I then drove up north to Northern FanCon with the 501st. I visited my mom and she told me of another little girl who was a fan of mine (I am not making this up – she loves the Airbud franchise, as well as other Robert Vince movies that I have been somewhat of a regular in). She’s wanted to meet me for years. Just tonight she came by – my niece is one of her caretakers. Her name is Olivia – and like Gemma, she loves Star Wars. I happened to have brought up two other medals, so:

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I presented her with her “Hero” medal. Much like Gemma, Olivia is expressive, full of life and has so much to share and we have so much to learn from heroes such as these two. They inspire me to go beyond to create magic. Some say magic isn’t real. But when I see the joy and the happiness in others, it moves me. Gemma and Olivia have medals that are not common. They have medals that they can wear to their hospital visits and that can make them feel proud to be heroes. They are. Both of them are my heroes. I am so honored that I have had the opportunity to present them both with something that makes them feel special, something that is for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about the medals or the stuff, though. It’s about the things we do or say  and the actions we take that can make this world a more beautiful and magical place.

Gemma told me at her ceremony that she couldn’t walk. I told her, why walk when you can glide? She liked that.

Olivia doesn’t speak. But her movements and expressions say everything. She is full of energy and is a happy and joyful person.

I have learned a lot about love, joy and happiness in the past few days than I ever thought I could have. The magic that I thought I was creating was not what I expected it to be, for it seems in both these cases, these girls were making magic for me. Their magic, like mine, was earnest.

 

 

Hope.

SWSML-final poster

 

In Rogue One Jyn Erso manages to convince a group of rebels to join her in retrieving plans vital to the destruction of the Death Star. She tells the assembly on Yavin IV that “…rebellions are built on hope.” Initially she is only able to muster a small group – calling themselves Rogue One as they liberate an imperial shuttle in an attempt to find the plans that ultimately save the galaxy from the destructive super weapon. Eventually the majority of the Rebel fleet come to her aid.

How does she manage to do this? How can one person be the catalyst for change?

Hope.

The Rebellion reaches out to her because they have hope she can help them with their cause. She, in turn reaches out to them because she has hope they can help her. Her decision to go to Scarif and find the plans is one that ultimately saves many. She stops running and directly faces the challenges before her. When she does make this decision to help for a greater good, she finds support – because “Rebellions are built on hope.”

Hope.

Many years ago I suffered grave injustices to my soul, my childhood, my right to innocence – all at the hands of men who could not keep their hands and genitals to themselves. These “men” were men of power. They abused their power for personal gratification. They perhaps found some sense of strength in silencing and abusing the young and the weak. It did not matter to them what three minutes of personal gratification for them did to the children they defiled. Some once. Some more. Much, much more.

 

I still bear the scar on my chin from Brother ______ who violently pushed me down the stairs one day. I believe to this day he had done so as an attempt to kill me. After all a dead child cannot speak – cannot be a threat to the collar he hid behind. He did not kill me. He did not succeed. Soon after that incident I was pulled out of that school – not for what he had done to me over the years – but for what another teacher did – whipping me with an electrical cord. I would move on. I would carry on. I would always remember. I could never forget. I tried to forget – oh, man did I try. It became a part of me – a part of my story. A story my abusers hoped would die in silence.

Hope.

Over a year ago I was accosted in my office. Blocking the door to prevent me from exiting, the older colleague became accusatory. I was triggered. I was brought back to the place of being trapped as a child. It all came back. Over the next several months something changed in this world. People were making the news for speaking out – for telling their stories. The worst kept secret of the Hollywood-casting couch is being shattered. Many, many people are now speaking up.

Hope.

Silence feeds on the individual. When a person is forced to endure hell, it is easy for the victim to remain silent out of fear – fear of repercussion, fear of not being believed, of being mocked, and even fear of being killed for speaking out. It saddens me to hear perpetrators of violent acts of rape, intimidation, and sexual and physical assault, dismiss the accusations against them as false news. To the people who speak out, it is important to know that to do so is brave. It is also the right thing to do. Rebellions are built on hope.

Hope.

The people who thought they had silenced me long ago were wrong to think so. I remember. Some – if not most of them – may be dead – but that does not stop me from speaking out, for adding my voice to the many more before me who have done so. It is time to be heard. For all victims and survivors to be heard.

I have written a play. It’s a testament of the love of my parents, the evil deeds of cowards who hid behind religion, survival, healing and hope.

The play will have its world premiere in December of this year, 2017. I hope that this is only the beginning of this story. It’s a powerful play that chronicles the evil that men do, the resilience of the human spirit, the power of healing, the Force, the way of the Jedi, and of course…. hope. Initially my story was a research paper for an instructor while working on my PhD. It became a performance-based narrative after being urged to write it by a friend. It grew into a production over time as more people joined my rebellious writing. They agreed with the message. They came to join me. Now what was once a singular voice has grown and it continues to grow. I hope that people will come and see the story. I hope they will learn from it. I want people to laugh and cry with me. This is a story of my experience. It is my rebellion against those who believed I had fallen silent. I didn’t. As Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader – “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Hope.

If you can, if you are anywhere near Vancouver in December, I hope you will see this play. It is for you. It is for everyone who has ever hoped for change, hoped for a better world, and who has hoped for the silence to end.

May the Force be with us.

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Mother of all Jedi

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I miss my Dad. It has been 11 years now since he left this world and became one with the Force. My Mum carries on – alone.

She never had an ‘easy life’. She was the daughter of a railroad agent, and the oldest daughter. When she was just a child – and I hope I am getting her story right – during the second world war, she would help the man who owned the restaurant in her small town. She would write letters for him and help him with his book keeping. Because there was a war on she was paid in rations for her and her family. She has always had an affinity for numbers, and never a stranger to hard work. By the time she was 13 years old she was working in a tomato canning facility. She was moved up a grade early on because of her intelligence. She never went to college but she began working at a bank and became a career banker. She started as a bank teller, and moved up the banking ladder rather quickly. She became a head bank teller and moved on from there to be an executive, spending many years with the RBC.

She has told me many interesting stories about her banking life over the years. As a child I remember her telling me how the police gave the tellers a seminar on how to remember facial features when dealing with customers in the event they were robbed. She had a good time in the seminar and listened attentively. Soon after the course was over she had a pleasant conversation with a customer. When he had left, her manager asked her if she could recall any particulars. She remembered his pleasantness, his brown hair and his smile. However, the manager pointed out to her after her vague description that the customer also had no ears (true story).

She has told me about carrying a gun at her wicket as a young bank teller. It was common practice at the time. She also seemed to attract repeat customers to her wicket, and if she was on lunch it was not uncommon for her customers to wait until she returned to do their banking for them. It may have been because from the pictures I have seen of her, she was tall with dark hair. She made everyone feel at ease when they dealt with her.

What I have observed over the years as her son is that my Mum has always been a people person. She had a way of relating to everyone. It didn’t matter if a person was from a certain social class – my Mum accepted people for who they were.

As a young cub scout I remember my Mum putting on a display of her antiques for the wolf pack. She showed my fellow cubs how cylinder records worked, and was always quick with a funny story. When I am asked about my abilities at storytelling I know I get it from her – though she is way better at telling stories than I will ever be.

My Mum has also been a very private person. She was (and continues to be) a force of her own. I have noticed that her directness is sometimes taken as a harsh attitude. People have said she is tough – and she is. Her living for 11 years on her own is a testament to her strength and resilience. She simply is a woman who does not take sh$t from others. She has had to be tough. However, those that really know her know her beneath that rugged facade. She has the biggest heart out of anyone I have ever met. She often would get in trouble in the bank for helping people out. She would find the best ways to save people money – and if it meant she was out of a commission it didn’t matter as long as it helped the people who often had nothing. She cared for everybody. She was the life of the party. She seemed hard and tough to those who didn’t really know her – but the few who really did knew her for what she is – a caring and loving soul.

Over the years since my Dad passed, my Mum continues to carry on in her house – the only house I knew as a child. Her generosity has been taken advantage of more than once from many in her own family – yet she finds ways to forgive but never ever to forget.

I have written lots of things about my Dad – but I think Mums often get short-changed. I wanted to boast about my incredibly powerful and strong Mum.

I love her as a son – and I adore her as a friend. I often tell her that she is a huge inspiration. I love her more than words can ever do justice.

My blog is about how Star Wars saved my life. Well, my Mum bought me my very first Star Wars Action figure (R2D2) when I was a child. She has a great sense of humour – teasing me about watching Return of the Jedi so many times in the theatre when it came out, referring to it as “Return of the Walleye”. She taught me to have humour during the darker times. She taught me a strong work ethic when I was a child. She led by example and always jumped in to help. She was never afraid of hard work, and yet leads with grace and dignity. The day she found out I had been abused at school, she wasted no time in pulling me out immediately. Looking back I wish I had been able to tell her when the abuse first happened. She would have saved me from a lot of suffering.

It is not Mother’s day. It is not any day in particular. My Mum is my hero. She deserves so much more happiness at this stage in her life than I can ever give her. I hope she truly hears me when I tell her that I love her. If I am a Jedi – then my Mum is a Jedi Master. I am proud to be her son, and she really is the Mother of all Jedi.

Innocence, Ignorance, and the Man at the Blue Bayou….

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It was two years after I was pulled out of the private school that my family went on a road trip to Disneyland. I have written in the past about my Disney experience and how much I savoured my time in that park, feeling so safe and having so much fun with my Dad and my Mom. The recent events in Charlottesville reminded me of that initial trip to Disneyland…. Let me explain.

I was only a child and was growing up in the North, in a small town. Disneyland was an incredible experience unlike anything I have ever experienced before. In fact, it has spoiled my amusement park expectations everywhere. I find myself looking forward to every pilgrimage I can make there. Upon that first visit, I remember visiting Frontierland, and like most park guests, had to look for treasures in the gift shop inside the fort. I picked out a toy musket and a hat. This was no ordinary hat. I had never seen that kind of hat before. I thought it looked really cool. I knew I had to have it. It had crossed swords on the front, with a short black visor. It slouched down in the front and was taller in the back. It had a screen printed fabric sticker on top of a red and white flag in a cross formation – just like the flag on the car in one of my favourite TV series, The Dukes of Hazard. It was grey. I didn’t know anything about the civil war, or the meaning of the confederacy. I was innocent and ignorant to those events at that time.

My parents acquiesced and allowed me to purchase these items. It was no big deal, or so I thought. I sported my grey cap throughout the park. I thought it looked cool. Heck, I thought I looked cool walking around with my musket and my grey kepi. I received compliments from the cast members and had no idea of what kind of message I was broadcasting.

My family had lunch at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland that afternoon. We were sitting and enjoying our meals. My hat drew the attention of a middle-aged man at the table next to us. He kept looking over at me. I thought he must have been admiring my ultra cool look. After a while he leaned over to make pleasant conversation with us. The first thing he asked us was where we were from. We told him we were from Canada. He turned back and said something to the others at his table. He then spoke to me. “That’s a mighty fine hat you are wearing.” I thanked him. “Do you know about the history of that hat?” he asked. I told him that it was a soldier’s hat but that’s as far as my knowledge on the subject went. “Do you know anything about that flag on the top of your hat?” I told him it was the same flag the Dukes of Hazard had on their car. He then said, “You know, that hat would look a lot better with out that flag. They didn’t used to have those flags on them.” I looked at my hat, and thought he may be right. Perhaps my hat would look better without that flag. “Do you like grey?” I told him I thought it was okay. “I prefer blue”, he said. We finished our meals and said goodbye to the people we were sitting next to. They wished us a safe and fun stay. Before leaving he told me that blue would be a really nice color for that kind of hat.

As we roamed around the park that afternoon I began to take notice of the looks I was getting. They were mostly pleasant. But I did notice that the people who were like the man at the restaurant gave me more studied looks. Perhaps the man was right, and the flag on top of my hat did not look as cool as I thought. We sat down later that day for a snack and a break and I took my hat off and looked at it. I started to pick at the sticker. It pulled off rather easily. I discarded it in the trash and believed the hat did look better without it.

It is now decades after that event in my life. Watching the events at Charlottesville this week, like I mentioned earlier, reminded me of that time and that man. Upon reflection of that memory, I can understand his initial hesitation when asking us where we were from and his relief to hear we were from the North. His short conversation with us that day was bold. He planted the seeds for me to look into the deeper meaning of the colors of the hat, and why he had subtly told me a couple times that blue was a good color. It was a few years later that I began to learn about the Civil War and really began to understand what the man at that table, the African American man, was telling me. My grey hat eventually found its way to the trash, and I came to agree that blue was a much better color for me.

I wish I could find that man and thank him for his lesson all those years ago. It was not a lecture, and it was not provoked by anger. I was ignorant to the facts and he offered me an opportunity to educate myself on a matter I had known nothing about. I can’t assume anything about that man’s history, but I can imagine how the image of a confederate flag might feel to some people. I had thought it looked cool. I was ignorantly innocent. I can only imagine how blind acceptance of hate symbols in our society can humiliate and intimidate some of us within our multi-faceted society.

There are some symbols of the past that are best left in history books or on display in museums where they can be put in context. Removing images and symbols from public displays that provide a phenomenological reaction do not erase the history or significance of those objects or their cultural and historical significance. Proper context is required to understand the meaning beyond the “it looks cool” factor. Iconic symbols of history have the effect of being cultural time machines. I don’t remember seeing swastika keychains or souvenir SS hats when I was in Germany. Why are confederate symbols any different? I know I am leaving myself open to many arguments of iconography, semiotics and phenomenological debates, but the essence of what I am attempting to get across is that education is important if we really want to stop the ignorance of “hateography”. If you are going to display it, know what it really means, rather than seeing it through fifty shades of grey.