Stop Diagnosing Donald

Dear Discourse-loving intellectuals,

Please stop trying to diagnose Donald Trump. Now.

I understand the desire to put a name to the way he behaves, I truly do. I understand your frustration as he heaps disrespect on disrespect while maintaining his Teflon veneer. But in your efforts to dismantle his run for the presidency, please do not use a-neurotypicality as your proof that he does not deserve to run.

We saw this phenomenon with Barack Obama. When people ran out of ways to challenge his policies, they went for an easy out – they called him a Muslim. They did this because they knew, on some level, that there was a underlying and pernicious prejudice against Muslims. And while an open and fair examination of the rhetoric would show that there’s nothing at all wrong with being a Muslim, by associating him with an unpopular group, his detractors were able to tap into an existing prejudice and use it. Folks were quick to declare he wasn’t a Muslim. Fewer pointed out that it’s not okay to use Muslim as an insult or as an implication that his character is questionable.

Now we’re seeing the same song coming from the other side of the political spectrum in regards to Donald Trump. This time, without a diagnosis or his own self-inclusion in the community, people are calling Donald Trump mentally ill. Crazy. Mad. He’s been diagnosed by pretend doctors so many times, it’s like watching all of the seasons of House at once. And whether there is any fact to it (something that people are jumping in to debate) the real question is, what is wrong with being mentally ill? Why are we cool with the underlying and pernicious prejudice this shows against a-neurotypical folks?

In the end, much as the people who implied Obama was Muslim, the folks implying Trump is mentally ill are relying on the current climate of disrespect for mentally ill folks to help bolster their argument that he should not be president. And as a mentally ill human, I’m not happy being your insult. I’m hurt by the rush to use the way I am to discredit anyone, even someone whose behaviors I disdain. Call him cruel, call him privileged, call him un-presidential, but don’t call him mentally ill as though that were the end of a conversation and not the very beginning.

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Pause

I want go back
To Rexdale and say
They stopped a parade for you
The noise they made for you
The way they stayed for you
Your life matters

by Heather Emme

I’m still in surgical recovery, so posts continue to be brief and scattered. This is the first time I’ve posted one of my twitter poems to #verseday. I felt this was worth repeating. To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

 

Writing To You from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Fingerprints stamp urgency
Where postmarks can’t be found
A letter this important
Should not be here on the ground

by Heather Emme

Just a mini-verse as I recover from my surgery. To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

Boys on Bikes

(Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault)

There is a habit we, as a culture, have of reframing experiences via the male perspective. When a she-identified human is assaulted by a he-identified human, we are trained to ask about her past and his future. What did she do to deserve it? What will it take from him is he’s convicted? We’ve seen this played out vividly in the case of convicted rapist Brock Turner. I’ve never met the fellow, but thanks to the tone employed by some media coverage, I’m now aware of the scholarships he’s lost, the times of his most successful swims and how very, very hard it will be for him to enjoy his life after he was convicted of the crime he committed. His future is the window through which we were allowed to watch this story.

We have also been given the story of the two men who interrupted the assault and held convicted rapist Brock Turner until police arrived.

Despite the fact that, again, this means I’m seeing the story from the male perspective, I want to dwell on this for a bit.

When I was a child, I was sexually assaulted. For the most part, it was just the two of us in the room. But once.

Once someone walked in.

There was a moment. It was dark, my memory tells me. It was dark and maybe she didn’t see my nightgown up around my armpits. Maybe her brain hiccuped, swallowed the whole memory. Maybe there was shock. Shock can do that, right? Shock can make you delete the things that frighten you. I remember that she backed out of the room. She backed out and he left and it was never mentioned. It was dark. It was dark. Of course she didn’t see. She didn’t feel the fear radiating off me like heat from a fire. She didn’t ask why he was in my room late at night. It was dark.

Doing nothing is, like the male perspective, often our default. Anyone whose been on a bus when someone starts loudly and verbally attacking a stranger knows what I mean. We see heads drop. Earbuds go in. Books raised higher against the call to interfere. It’s a weird instinct, but it’s one our species clearly has.

So two men on bikes stopped and halted a crime in progress. A crime that, statistics tell us, isn’t treated like a crime. We wink it away. We rarely test rape kits. We rarely press charges. We rarely see convictions. It’s barely treated like a crime at all. But they stopped despite the overwhelming casual message that what was happening wasn’t a real crime.

There was a moment. It was in church. The head pastor – a man who had, once, in a sermon on forgiveness, talked about how he could imagine no worse crime than rape – told me that I needed to forgive the youth leader who had sexually harassed me while offering me a ride home from church. It was about forgiveness. He had repented and now it was on me to let it go. He didn’t feel the shame radiating off me like heat from a fire. He didn’t ask me what I wanted. It was about forgiveness.

So, you see, we are a bystander species. Doing nothing is our default. We strive for homeostasis and our norm is to close our eyes to sexual assault. I sometimes try to suss out why. I come up with a thousand explanations and reasons. In the end, I land back at: It happens because we let it. It happens because we back out of rooms, we offer forgiveness instead of justice, we mourn for the lost future of rapists.

Two men on bikes did not back away.

I’ll hold on to that.

On Family

IDevonianfishes_ntm_1905_smit_1929 miss them like a creature misses seas
After shedding gills
Sprouting legs
Pop pop
Scratching belly on sand
Inhaling nitrogen
Exploding like burst buds in my lungs
Pop pop
Alone on the beach
Cursing stars
Longing for cool water on my skin
Waiting for fur to grow
Pop pop
To keep me close
To keep me warm
Until the sun comes up

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

On The Words Of Karen Hill, As Tended By Her Brother

I went to hear a woman speak
And she did

She spoke in stripes on the Parkdale wall
That tossed my brain, that teased a fall
I closed one eye, a half-woke doll
With one open to her

I went to hear a woman speak
And she did

Plotting out a Clarke escape
A coat as super hero cape
With form one shreds
Piled on our heads
Like ashes for the wake

I went to hear a woman speak
And she did

In the way he held the mike too tight
A grip which said that for tonight
He’d speak to us a woman’s word
To make sure she was heard

by Heather Emme

Thanks to Lawrence Hill for sharing her words and his memories with us. You can find her book hereTo read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

Gotta Go

This week I spoke at a housing insecurity panel that was part of OPIRG‘s Poverty Injustice Week. I spoke about my my experiences with housing insecurity and homelessness. In honour of that, I’m sharing this poem, unedited, despite its age. I wrote this when I was that homeless teenager, over 20 years ago.

800px-Finch-Fleischer_House_(Monterey,_CA)Gotta Go

Your shutters, like your doors
Match the chairs on your porch
And the trim on your Lincoln Town Car
Your lawn buzz cut
Because grass too long
Like hair too long

Gotta go

House grinning from ear to ear
And down its nose at me

Gotta go

Somewhere I can breathe
Cause a buck
Or two
Or three
Separates you from me

The holes in my boots
Like the ones in my sleeves
Match the ones in the ass of my jeans

And I grin ear to ear
And whisper you near

Follow me

Somewhere you can see
Cause a block
Or two
Or three

Separates you
From me
From my reality.

by (a much younger) Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.