Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

November 23, 2011

What If We Were Thankful?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:03 am

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?   Cooking at home?   Going to friends’ or relatives?   Are you going to watch the Lions play the Packers?  Go to the Thanksgiving Day Parade or watch it on TV?  Get ready for Black Friday shopping?  Pour through the newspaper and all the store advertisements?

Are you going to wear your stretchy pants?   Take that second helping of stuffing?  Save room for the pumpkin pie? 

Are you going to burn those biscuit bottoms again?   How ’bout those potatoes?   Lumpy?   Are you going to nail the turkey this time or is it going to be dry again?  Are you going with the canned cranberry gel or the real cranberries?

What are YOU doing this Thursday?  

Are you going to dread seeing your relatives?  Dread spending time with the parents?  Are you going to wish you were somewhere else or with someone else?   Maybe sit and slouch and pout in the corner and text all day?

Are you going to hate having to cook and clean up for fifteen unappreciative guests who come early and fall asleep on your couch late?  Are you going to pretend to get along with your spouse so that nobody knows you are divorcing?   Are you going to privately resent going to his side of the family or her side of the family because their stuffing is god-awful…

What are YOU doing this Thursday?  What are you choosing to do this Thanksgiving?

Are you going to hate?  Bitch?  Criticize?  Lament?  Dread?  Rage?  Lose your patience?  Fail to appreciate? 

What are YOU going to do this holiday?  How are YOU going to recognize this holiday of Thanksgiving?

I know what some people will be doing this Thanksgiving. 

This Thursday eleven people are going to die from asthma.   Fifteen hundred will die of cancer while another 3400 will be diagnosed.

This Thanksgiving more than five thousand people will suffer a head injury, more than fourteen hundred will suffer a sexual assault and twenty-one thousand sets of parents will lose a child.
On Thursday almost eight hundred people will find out they have Alzheimer’s and
30 people will be diagnosed with MS.    Forty-five  people will be murdered on Thanksgiving and more than three thousand will die in a car crash.
This Thursday more than 10 thousand people will lose their jobs.   Thirty-six thousand people in Detroit alone will be homeless. 
This Thanksgiving 850 million people will go to bed hungry.
What are you going to do this Thanksgiving?   What are WE going to do? 
What if we were thankful?  Genuinely, humbly, simply thankful…

November 12, 2011

The Sounds Of Silence

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:21 pm

Most of you know I am a HUGE Michigan Wolverines’ fan.   I love college football and, for me, there is nothing like Saturday afternoons in Autumn.    Love, love, love them!

Although Michigan isn’t scheduled until 3:30 today, I was up and interested to tune in to the Penn State/Nebraska kickoff at noon.   Most of the world knows what has happened at Penn State in the last week.   When news of a scandal involving a former assistant coach allegedly engaging in sexual acts with young boys broke last Saturday, it took less than a week to topple the career of one of the most beloved and successful coaches in the game, as well as ending the careers of several high-ranking officials deemed culpable in the scandal’s cover up.  The fallout is far-reaching and it promises to continue for months and, more likely, years to come.

I watched last night as ten thousand people from the Penn State community held a candle light vigil for the young victims, now in their early twenties.  I watched today, prior to kickoff, when an entire stadium fell silent as both teams kneeled at midfield in silent prayer.

I wept.

The images were touching, absolutely.   But I couldn’t help thinking to myself….

Stop the silence. 

Stop moments of silence and vigils of silence.  Stop bowing your heads and stop closing your eyes.  

I wish they would have had a moment of screaming.  Of noise.  Of punching their fists in the air and stomping.

I wish the band would have played a hundred different songs at the same time.  I wish the fans would have jumped up and down in the bleachers until it registered on the Richter Scale.

Because silence is what got us to this place to begin with.

It was silence along too many disturbing links up the chain of command that failed to save, not only the child in the shower with the sixty year old man, but every boy molested by that man afterward.

In disturbing and criminal moments of silence all over the world, people choose to turn the other way, to not make waves, to not create awkwardness, to mind their own business, to keep peace in the family, to keep their jobs, to keep things simpler, to pretend it didn’t happen…

And the sounds of silence, of all that screaming silence, has been the graveyard for countless dreams, for future healthy relationships, for wonderful self-esteem and all the other facets of life stolen from young victims everywhere.

I was seven when I was first molested.   Seven.

Seven is for snow pants and construction paper turkeys for Thanksgiving.   Seven is for flag football and dance recitals and patent leather shoes.    For swim lessons and cursive writing and licking the mixer of cake batter.  Seven is for dressing up and dancing around and singing freely and watching cartoons.

I was seven and enduring the sickness of a man, my uncle,  probably forty years my senior.   His words.   His whispers.  His mouth.  His hands.   His body.

It went on for five years.   And, in that time, there were some before me and some after me who suffered as well.    And the sounds of silence saved none of us.  

There were people who knew and people who suspected and none stepped in, stepped up or stepped across that line where doing right means more than anything.  

None barged in and threw him off me.   None grabbed those huge hands from the teeny nipples of a seven year old and beat the shit out of him for me.   No one called the police.   No one did anything.

And I found out about the sounds of silence.    Silence only pierced by the sound of young tears wondering why…..

I am a healthy 46-year-old who has put in the time and done the painstaking work of sexual abuse recovery.    In therapy.  In my heart.  In my body.  In my mind.   In my soul.    I know healthy love and I enjoy healthy love.  I have self-esteem and confidence and pride.   I will look you in the eye and I will shake your hand.   I will stand up for me.   I am not ashamed of what I experienced, nor do I feel complicit in it.  

I am well.  

But I weep for the little girl who knew what a French Kiss was by the second grade.   I weep for the teenager who, when other girls were all giggling about their first kisses and first touches, knew my first kiss was not one to be celebrated.  Knew that it was dark and secretive and there was nothing innocent or sweet about it.

The last thing those young boys from the Penn State sexual abuse scandal need are more moments of silence.   They’ve endured enough silence to last a lifetime.

If anything good comes out of the wreckage that, one week ago, appeared to be one of the finest institutions in America, let it be the determination of the countless who may one day have the chance to really make some noise.  To stop bowing their heads in silence and, instead, to raise up and scream their bloody heads off in order to stop child sexual abuse.

Make the waves.  Suffer the awkwardness.  Stand up to the pressure.  Be strong in the face of what is simply right.    Be determined and resolute in the mission to save our kids.   To keep them precious and innocent for as long as THEY choose. 

Save the sounds of silence for the dead.   Leave the bowed heads and the closed eyes for those whose futures are already lost.  

Let’s do something while we’re living that actually saves the living.  Celebrates, protects and cherishes the living.    Let’s give them the futures they deserve.    Let’s preserve them the innocence they were gifted. 

Make some noise.    They’re counting on us.

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