The Good Guy

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He’s going to be the greatest guy…until he isn’t.

Your friends will love the way he makes you laugh…until he won’t allow you to be their friend anymore.

They’ll think it’s just you being in love. So, they don’t think much of it.

Your family will adore the way he holds you close…until they see the look on your face.

They’ll believe the lie you tell them… again. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I’m really happy. So, they don’t think much of it.

Your neighbors will think he’s the greatest guy, always working on things around the house… until they hear the shouts and cries late one night.

They’ll believe it was just a lover’s quarrel, and no one really wants to get involved anyway. So, they don’t think much of it.

On first glance, no one would believe the guy who carries the conversation like him, always offers a helping hand, talks about protecting you, and generally looks like a normal, clean cut guy would be who he is.

But when the shadows fall and you’re all alone,

You’ll believe the words he says when he tells you if you could just be trusted he’d give your debit card.

You’ll just know he’s right when he says it’s your fault he can’t trust you.

You’ll absolutely believe he just gets so angry because he loves you.

As you dry your tears, he’ll comfort you with a quiet

I’m sorry I had to yell like that

You just make me crazy when other men look at you

I love you too much to not make sure you love me too.

I wish you’d remember when I tell you not to say certain things.

I wish you’d just put dinner on when it’s time.

I wish you’d not hide things from me.

Then, while you’re driving to work careful not to make an extra turn, in your mind you hope,

Today is finally the time he’ll believe you

Today is the last time you have to send him pictures of where you are, show him receipts, and let him check your phone

Today will be the last time he writes down the mileage on your car.

And it could be

Because today could be the day he finally snaps.

Today could be the day his “love” makes him tighten the grip around your neck a little too much, a little too long.

Today could be the day he finally pulls the trigger.

But you don’t leave because no one will ever believe a guy like him in the daylight, a guy who wears a suit and washes his car twice a week, could be the monster he becomes in the dark when no one is looking.

Who would you tell anyway?

Emotional abuse isn’t a crime

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, there is help. Please call -1-800-799-7233. Please know computers and cell phones can be easily monitored and never wiped completely clean. Call the number. Get help now. If you witness abuse, don’t dismiss it. Victims will often make excuses for their abusers, especially when confronted in front of them. EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE, TOO! Just because there are no bruises or police reports doesn’t mean there is no abuse. Get Help Before It’s Too Late. Over 10 million people are the victims of domestic violence each year in the US alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

A Quick Religious Comparison: We’re Not So Different

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Remember when we were all kids who fought over whose mom made the best cookies, whose uncle belched the loudest, or whose dad was actually a super man? As we grew, we learned those petty points of contention were never going to be solved; everyone’s own mom, dad, or uncle were the best, at least by their own perception. It’s also likely they were probably all quite similar, just as many of the things we fight about as adults. Unfortunately, we no longer work out our angst with do-overs on the ballfield to prove who’s the best. Instead, we wage literal war against one another not only with words, but also real military weapons, fighting over whose god is best, or who is the most righteous.

While these deadly battles play out in villages and towns torn to shreds while children look on, the looming question is: what does any of this matter? Just like everyone’s dad was a superhero in his own right, each religion has their own important figure who is probably wonderful. Moreover, just like all the dads were similar in that they held similar positions: worker, father, provider, protector, each religion is strikingly similar.

Admittedly, this comparison leaves out a great many religions. It will not cover eastern or pagan religions. It completely excludes atheists and agnostics. The focus here is on the big three: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Why? The answer is pretty simple. We don’t see many wars fought over Buddha, nor do many Wiccans commit terrorists attacks in the name of a sacred crystal. That statement is only recognizing fact. It’s not meant to say any religion is superior.

Having an attitude of moral and spiritual superiority is what causes us to fight in the first place, so let’s put that aside to investigate how three religions are similar rather than constantly pointing out why one is right or wrong.

I’ve included a nifty Venn diagram I found on the net to help compare some of the bigger components. It’s not my own, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I also think we can add to it.

religion

As we can see, great parts of the beliefs are the same. Only a very few are different. There are some other similarities we can add:

Head coverings—
All three religions include some component of females covering their heads. Catholic nuns wear the habit, which includes a white coif. Married Orthodox Jewish women wear the tichel, or mitpachat. Lastly, Muslim women wear hijabs.
We tend to micro-focus on Islamic religions requiring head coverings for women, but as we can see, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, none of them feel oppressed when they wear them. It’s simply a part of their religious tradition.
We should also recognize it is not only women who cover their heads. Although the traditions vary and may not necessarily be religiously required, Muslim men may wear a prayer cap called the taqiyahs. Jewish men wear the kippah. Although men in Christian religions do not normally cover their heads, Roman Catholic cardinals regularly wear head coverings called the zucchetto and the biretta.

Beards—
Another common denominator betwixt the three is beards. No matter Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, beards can be required. Because of the media, we are more familiar with the Muslim beard, but the Old Order Amish also require beards, as do Orthodox Jews.

Modest Dress For Women-
While it seems Muslim women are the focus of many discussion concerning their modest form of dress, all three religions may require women to be covered and dressed in a modest fashion. This may include sleeves to cover elbows and dresses long enough to cover knees in the Orthodox Jewish and many Christian religions. It could also be a complete covering from shoulders to ankles in the Muslim and other religions. Regardless, the Islamic religion is not the only one to require women to cover themselves, especially if they are married.

• Raising Devout Children
Although we often hear words like “brainwashing” used to describe the way children are raised in the Muslim community, all three religions begin teaching children from birth, specifically when they are old enough to attend school, in the ways of their respective churches. The Catholic Church, in fact, provided all the education and educational materials for most of Europe until secularism gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. While secular teaching was used as early as the late 17th century and was the subject of many philosophers like Locke and Voltaire, church-led education was still the standard until well past the Enlightenment. Yet today, if one so chooses, they might send their child to a Christian or Hebrew school. Muslims do not own the market on educating children in religion.

• Conflict—
There has been no shortage of conflict between the three religions. From the earliest crusades to now, the three have had obstacles between them. The Jewish and Christian communities do not have the long-lasting war we see between the Muslim and Jewish communities, but we cannot overlook the fact Hitler used religion against the Jewish community during the genocide he and others committed in WWII.

To say we have all been peaceful in our religious practice would be what we might now call an “alternative fact.” However, I’ve only listed a short amount of similarities here, omitting the similarities between these and other religions not listed. Why we continue this battle between whose religion is best astounds me. We’re all great in our own ways. We all have downsides. Most importantly, we’re all humans trying to attain the same thing.

It shouldn’t matter what word we assign for “God”. It shouldn’t matter on what day we worship. It shouldn’t matter what book we read the message from. All that should matter is if we would all stop killing each other, we might actually be living the way all three texts expect us to. If we all quit fearing one another, maybe we can see we’re more alike than we ever imagined.

( Since this is not meant as a scholarly paper for publication, I did not cite the information in this piece. All the data and facts are easily searchable, and most is basic common knowledge, anyway. The source of the diagram is watermarked inside the graphic.Thank you for reading. I’ll include a couple links in case you’d like to fact check me.
The history of secular education: http://science.jrank.org/pages/11240/Secularization-Secularism-History-Nature-Secularization-Secularism-1914.html
Islamic Male headcovering:https://www.reference.com/world-view/muslim-men-wear-heads-1cdc44449fd15f2f
Traditional clothing for Orthodox Jewish women:http://www.orthodox-jews.com/jewish-clothing-for-women.html#axzz4XS3f9gRB
)

A Direct Response to Those who Say Women Had No Right to March:

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Social media has been abuzz with opinions in the past few days, mostly involving the women around the world who chose to march in response to, what many assume, is the election and inauguration of Trump. While I would never deny many of us are left feeling disenfranchised by the surreal reality of what’s transpired, let’s get one thing clear, he is not important enough alone to warrant these marches. He’s just gasoline on a pile of smoldering discrimination many experience every day.

For those, including women, who say women are not discriminated against in the US, there is apparently a disconnect between realities. It’s undoubtedly some level of privilege that allows some to say “I’ve never seen this or that”—a privilege many would love to live. However, to be clear, one person’s reality does not mean it is the realty for all. We cannot know what every woman in this nation experiences by glancing through our own windows. To be understood fully, we have to look through all the windows from every level—a task only possible by listening to the qualitative data—the voices—so many like to deny, or worse, squelch. Maybe some have never been mistreated or disrespected as females in the US, but some have. To say we American women have it made as a whole is a damaging misconception at best, a despicable lie at worst.

Here’s the truth many would like to shove off the playing field we call protest:

If you have never been humiliated, belittled, or damaged by the process of reporting a rape within the US, you do not get to say women & women’s rights are important here.

If you have never been slut shamed for wearing the clothes you choose, or worse, been blamed for your own sexual assault because of them, you do not get to say women are held in high regard.

If you have never been denied a medically necessary abortion because a group’s religious beliefs interfere with the process of medical care, you do not get to say women always have the right to choose.

If you have never tried to attain a promotion or raise in a male-dominated field without being told to “get in the kitchen, “ being forced to flirt, or being forced to perform sexual favors, you do not get to say women are treated equally.

If you have never had to fight your insurance company to cover preventative tests, like pap smears or cancer screenings, while insurance is regularly covering Viagra for impotence, you do not get to tell women their lives matter.

If you have never been forced to either abstain from sex or get pregnant, even in the context of a marriage, because you can’t afford the birth control your insurance won’t cover, you do not get to say women have the same choices as men.

If you have never become pregnant as the result of a rape, and then been forced to give your rapist visitation rights of that child, you do not get to tell women they have the same control as men.
If you have never reported domestic abuse, only to be asked what you did to make him mad, you cannot say women have equal protection.

If you have never had to fight your employer for maternity leave, a clean, private area & the time to pump breast milk for your child, you do not get to say the workplace is “woman friendly”.
If you have never had to tell a man you have a boyfriend to stop his advances because “I’m not interested, “ or “No” were not enough, you cannot say men value women’s opinions.

This is just a short list of the discrimination women face in the US. It doesn’t even begin to touch on intersectionallity, or the discrimation felt by other ethnic and religious groups. No, it’s not Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, or India. No, we do not have honor killings and female genital mutilation, although those things happen in the shadows. However, the argument that we don’t have it as bad as them is as ridiculous as saying someone with lung cancer shouldn’t complain because someone with brain cancer has it worse. It’s still cancer, which is exactly why women rose up to meet the occasion.

We stand and fight because a man who not only openly scoffs at, but promotes the degradation of women and other minorities represents the cancer that has lived so long within this country. Trump isn’t the only problem. It’s everything he represents. Sure, maybe he is a good businessperson. Maybe his failures are fewer than his successes, but it’s how he became successful we should worry about. The way he speaks, the way he openly degrades, women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people who live with disabilities is sickening. To allow his presidency to become a larger reign of terror is to let us all implode.

You see, we don’t march so we can have casual Fridays, free cable, or even because we don’t like the word “pussy”. We march because when he says “grab,” “wall,” or “register,” we know what that connotes: assault fascism, and the end of the freedoms so many of us have fought for—not just for ourselves, but for ALL.

A Cycle of Abuse:Understanding Why Women Might Vote for Trump

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If there’s one thing I know, it’s the mindset of the abused woman: how we get there, why we stay there. I was an abused woman; it’s not just observation that gives me this insight. So, when I read this New York Times article about why women chose to vote for President elect Donald Trump, I heard the voices of so many women, myself included, who have excused an abuser’s bad behavior. Many of the reasons some of these women cite could come straight from an abused girlfriend’s or wife’s memoir.

One woman, Kasia Riddle, used the “good earner” excuse, stating the PEOTUS has “good business sense”. Pam Cornett said the words many abused women say when confronted by loved ones about their abusive significant other, telling others they shouldn’t categorize him: You “can’t put him in a box.” There were other varying reasons, but two were particularly bothersome and telling. Guzin Karide says she believes Trump is “a voice for women,” while Sandy Pearson is quoted as saying Trump is a “good man, deep down.” Pearson, from whom the headline of the article is taken, suggests her choice was easy when she would overlook the bad and “focus on the good.”

Women have been conditioned to “focus on the good” for centuries. We are taught from infancy to speak only kind words and to never mention someone’s negative attributes, no matter how bad they might be. Ladylike decorum trumps being truthful, pun not intended, but fitting. We’re even told to smile through pain and difficult situations; our menfolk don’t like to be uncomfortable due to our disapproving facial expressions. We’ve also been taught we don’t have a valid voice in the world. As Karide’s statement suggests, we need someone to be our voice—someone besides a female, someone who the world takes seriously: a man.

Despite our struggle to escape this unfortunate truth, the word of a man, even an abusive man, is worth far more to the world than the supposedly overly emotional, indecisive, misguided, shiftless voice of a woman, regardless of her level of experience or expertise. Thus the reason women for centuries have married men who mistreated them, stayed with their abusers, and focused on men’s “good” qualities instead of giving them the boot. After all, both men and women describe females who choose to be single as “damaged” and “faulty,” or even as “rabid feminists” not to be taken seriously. We don’t even trust other women, let alone expect men to see us in a different light.

Understanding the fact women still rely on men who leave them battered and broken emotionally, financially, and physically makes understanding why some women can look to Trump, and his plethora of male-centric supporters, as the “voice of women,” the man who will “Make American Great Again,” the “good man, deep down” who, regardless of his repulsive rhetoric and actions, will lead us into a financially and socially secure place as a nation. Men have inculcated women to not only ignore, but deny abusive actions and words in order to protect the patriarchy and its power. Escaping this harsh truth is difficult at best.

American women who speak out about their decision to vote for Trump are reminiscent of the hundreds of women I’ve spoken with who try to excuse their abusers.

He only wants what’s best for me. It’s my fault he has to be so harsh.”
“He’s not that bad once you get to know him.”
“He really loves me. He just sounds mean.”
“He didn’t really lie. He just didn’t tell me the whole truth because he knew I’d overreact. ”
“He’s better than someone else who might abuse me worse.”

I’ve heard the stories over and again—different voices, same plot. Women who’ve decided to vote for Trump are largely the same. Just as we shouldn’t judge a woman whose significant other punches them in the face, we shouldn’t judge the women who choose to support Trump. Instead, this should open a new dialogue. Maybe if we changed the way we taught women to respect men and excuse their abuse, these supporters would have viewed our President Elect through different eyes. Maybe if we taught women not to accept misogyny,they wouldn’t accept it from the man who will be in a position of power strong enough to diminish all we’ve fought to achieve.

An Open Letter to His New Ex-Wife

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Remember when I was the bad guy? Yeah. So do I. I always knew you had the wrong idea about me. “She’ll learn,” I told myself. His empty words, hollow promises, and blatant lies had reeled you in. But the truth, just like the dirt, always comes out in the wash, so they say. His wash water must look pretty filthy right about now.

It was never me keeping his kids from him as he said it was. He simply never made the effort to see them. He’d show up once in a great while, hang out for 15 minutes, and then his phone would go off and he’d be out the door. Visiting his kids was his cover, I’m sure, but as they can tell you, they only saw him maybe 10 times over the last few years. They’re adults now, but it still hurts them more than his cheating hurts you.

See, they’re his blood. He created them. He has a cosmic obligation to treat them with love, dignity, and respect. Being cheated on hurts, for sure. Now imagine if it was your father who betrayed you. So yeah. I stood up for them. That doesn’t make me the bad guy, though. That just makes me my children’s’ protector.

What you never thought would happen came true. He treated you just like he treated me. I know you’ve been telling yourself all these years that you were so much better than me—that marriage was “forever,” and you wouldn’t just walk away like I did. I thought that once, too. I thought I’d made a vow to live with this man for all my life, and I did everything within my power to make our marriage work. It was only when the lying, cheating, and abuse became so toxic our own children couldn’t live in it anymore that I made him leave. You’re no better than me just because you tried harder than me; I was with him much longer than you. I think I tried plenty hard.  You’re no worse than me, either. All of his actions had absolutely nothing to do with either of us, and everything to do with the fact he is a narcissist who uses and abuses people until they break.

I hate that you’re going through the heartbreak. I feel terrible that another person has suffered like I did. It makes me sick that another child will pay the price for his lack of ability to be a caring human being. I know just exactly how you feel. I’ve been in your shoes, so trust me when I say don’t let him pull you back in. Don’t let his tears and threats of suicide change what you know is true. If he comes back, things will be better for a few days or weeks, but then he’ll go back to his same harmful ways. This man is only capable of caring about himself. You will never be his No. 1. His child won’t be, either. Try and remember that it’s not him you miss. It’s not him you cry for. Who would miss a liar, cheater, and abuser? What you cry for is the loss of the dream your relationship could work. Your tears are you hopes of “forever” falling from your reality, and that’s okay. Mourn them. Just make sure you don’t let mourning lead to more than a little sorrow because none of this is your fault.Don’t let his mistakes and bad choices make you become despondent and depressed. Don’t let more of his lies make you lose who you are, ruin your self-esteem.  Even though they say “It takes two,” in reality it can take only one to ruin a good thing, and babe, the “one” wasn’t you any more than it was me.

 

(cover image via:https://www.google.com/search?q=an+open+letter+to&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=667&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBmo79zMDKAhWKJiYKHbsnATcQ_AUICCgD#imgrc=Mwpz6YOIcIOy6M%3A)

Only Today: A Concerto of Life

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My college graduation was supposed to be a time of great joy. That joy lasted about two hot minutes before the panic set in. Two major realizations hit me like a baseball bat to the face. For one, the routine I’d had for the last five years was broken. Not that college allowed me to maintain the same schedule, but just the act of being on campus engaged in learning and meaningful conversation four days a week was going to be gone. I’m sort of an introvert, but I loved that time. It was over, and like I was going through a bad breakup, depression set in. Second was the fact shit was for real, now. I had to look for a serious job paying a serious wage because in six short months, I’d need to start repaying my student loans. That’s the point when the anxiety hit. I didn’t know whether to cry in my graduation cake or throw it.

Have you ever seen the cartoons where the characters are trying to play the piano, but they end up pounding on all the keys at once? That’s exactly what my brain felt like it was doing. I wanted to hit all the keys with both fists. My depression told me to sleep, but my anxiety wanted me to stay busy. I wanted to talk to everyone, but I didn’t want to be bothered with people, either. It was a cycle of chaos inside my brain where my emotions were entwined and working overtime. Meanwhile, I had to smile, remaining calm in the face of all around me because this was not something I wanted to have a conversation about. I just wanted to breathe and forget everything that was bothering me. Of course, that didn’t happen.

I think when we’re on edge, we absorb the energy of those around us more than any other time. Having conversations with another edgy person about issues that worried me amplified my own anxiety to the point I had to shut down the entire conversation. I didn’t walk away out of rudeness, mind you, but more because if I’d stayed a second longer, I would’ve hyperventilated. It was then I realized I was in trouble. I was enveloped in this cyclone, and I had to get out of it before it swept me off to a world I’d rather not visit.

For two days, I stayed completely to myself, or at least as much to myself as I could. I stayed in bed and binge watched a newly found television series. I read a new book. I listened to new music. Basically, I sought out new things because they don’t have memories attached. They couldn’t make my depression worse or heighten my anxiety by reminding me of sad times. I also allowed my body and mind time to recharge.

Being a student is no joke. I’d spent the last five years pushing my mind to new limits, depriving myself of rest and relaxation, and cramming more work into a day than is healthy. Exhaustion was no stranger, and I’m sure my mind and body had taken the toll. So, for two days, I gave back to myself what I had been bankrupting myself of: Sleep and relaxation. It felt amazing, but I realized two days wasn’t nearly enough. So, I vowed to myself to make regular deposits back into my sleep bank each day, even when I felt better. I promised myself some other things, too.

I realized when I looked too far into the future, I felt overwhelmed, and when I looked too far into the past I felt sad. I made myself the promise of “Only Today”. One day is much easier to digest than years’ worth, and so I resolved to look no further than right now if glancing far out made me anxious. Today is manageable. Today is a bite-sized morsel I can chew. It’s a place where I can make small changes instead of gargantuan life changes. It’s changing the channel of the tv instead of changing an entire satellite. Today is a gift of the here and now wherein exists finite concepts rather than futuristic abstractions. In the moment, I don’t have to project myself into the persona of Future Me. I can just be who I am without worry.

With the concept of Only Now, there is little room for the past, baring good memories. There is no need to dwell on sad events or nostalgia. Those times are unchangeable, and it’s counterproductive to Current Me to think about who I was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. I fought. I won, and I’m here. That’s all that matters. Current Me is a better person than Past Me, so I must’ve done something right.

Worrying about what will be or what was is so damaging to the soul. It’s like somehow those negative thoughts tell our psyche we aren’t good enough—that somehow we have no value, and that’s what really hurts. We have to break that cycle of self-abuse in order to survive in this world. We have to be our own biggest supporter, biggest fan, in order to live a happy life. To do this we have to shut off that nagging voice in our minds that wants to constantly look to places in which we don’t exist. Living in the moment seems like a concept of free-spirited people who have no cares, but it really is a concept highly motivated people need to adopt, too, if only for their own self-preservation. “Only Today” isn’t about being careless or reckless. It’s about caring about too many things all at the same time—hitting all the keys on the keyboard whilst trying to compose a symphony. It’s about preserving the mental stability of oneself in order to be successful. More importantly, it’s about staying alive and well in a world that would rob us of all happiness if it could. “Only Today” is the only time we really live. Everything else is a lie.

Consciousness, Psychology, and the Patriarchy: William Faulkner and the Zombie

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Popular culture has been ripe with all things monster for decades. An examination of today’s culture shows the rise of the zombie permeating our media. One can hardly look around without finding some reference to an apocalyptic event including those undead walkers. Perhaps it is our fear of human extinction, or at least the end of life as we know it, throwing us into a dystopian rebirth of humanity. However, “zombie” is by no means new, nor is it defined in only one way.

The idea of the zombie comes from Haitian culture, in which slaves were often described as “dead men working the cane fields,” as is evident in “The Magic Island” by W. B. Seabrook (92-103).  These creatures were neither the dead, nor were they the living, but they also were not the monsters we see in present day adaptations of the zombie. Zombies described in Seabrook’s story were risen from the dead to serve only as slaves (92-103). They were not hungry for brains, overtly sexual, or any of our other modern tropes. They had simply “…been raised like Lazarus from the dead…a soulless human corpse…to act and move as if it were alive (93). We can immediately see, then, that there could be a definition of zombie to expand beyond what we see on the big screen, and the Oxford English Dictionary confirms just that. According to the OED, zombie can also include the figurative meaning “A dull, apathetic, or slow-witted person” (OED). An expanded definition makes “zombie” easier to understand in the context of interpreting some works of literature.

William Faulkner was no stranger to taboo. He never shied away from the subjects of miscegenation, incest, rape, or even necrophilia. One need not take a great leap to assume we might find the undead hidden in his works, and in fact, some of them do include hints of the recently deceased speaking from beyond including Emily in “A Rose for Emily,” and Quentin Compson from The Sound and The Fury. One novel, however, contains a plot completely driven by the death of its main character, without which there would be no story: As I Lay Dying.  One barely need say the Bundren family is confronting death in this novel that sees a family struggle to bury their dying mother in her familial burial plot whilst being forced to also overcome both natural and unnatural obstacles. What is really worthy of deeper examination is the way we understand the character of their dying mother, Addie Bundren and her state of being. Was she truly “dead” throughout the novel? When did she die, and by what definition was she “dead”? Can our fascination with zombie culture help us answer the question: Was Addie Bundren a zombie? To begin answering these questions, there are a few concepts we must grasp before we can deal with her character.

Understanding Consciousness

Most of us tend to understand consciousness through the long-held Cartesian teaching of self: “I think therefore I am” (Descartes). In short, Descartes tells us that because we are able to think, it follows with necessity that we are beings—the mind creates the reality of the brain (Descartes). If we break that down into slightly more palatable portions, we can understand Descartes to mean our mind rules our bodies, giving us our psyche, which is to say our sense of self (Descartes). The mind, then, is the all-powerful tool that leads not only our thoughts, but our emotions. At least one man disagrees.

Antonio Damasio has called Descartes’s theory into question in his book Descartes’ Error. Damasion goes through an intense explanation of the physical makeup of the brain, including many disorders, to tell us that the brain simply cannot be the leader of all things thought and emotion at all times because the brain can be faulty (1-258). One example of this faulty synopsis within the brain can be demonstrated through what we commonly know as Phantom Limb Syndrome, in which a patient with an amputated limb fails to recognize, and even feels pain in, a limb that is no longer there (Mount Sinai). Damasio takes this theory further into a study he calls the “neurobiology of rationality,” and examines what happens within the brain of stroke patients (85).

Studying something called “Anosognosia,” a neuropsychological disorder affecting stroke patients and patients with other brain injuries or diseases, Damasio found that while a patient may be completely paralyzed on one side of their body, they may fail to recognize their own deficiencies (62). He goes on to say that even when faced with not being able to ambulate, the patients when asked will answer “I’m fine” (62). There is a disconnect between the mind and the body that Damasio posits is not some “psychologically motivated denial” (62). Rather, what Damasio has found through his studies is “The denial of illness results from the loss of a particular cognitive function” (63). Michael Shermer writing for Scientific American seems to agree, suggesting that we cannot simply say that the mind causes consciousness, but rather states “Because we know for a fact that measurable consciousness dies when the brain dies, until proved otherwise, the default hypothesis must be that brains cause consciousness. I am, therefore I think” (Shermer). With what we might call “faulty wiring” sending incorrect signals to the body and the mind, we can then surmise that a person really may not know who or what they are simply because of what they think, therefore telling us our sense of self can be misleading.

Knowing that a loss of self can be devastating to a person’s mental well-being, we must also delve into the realm of psychology because even though we might not exactly form who we are by a Cartesian model, the problem of confusion about the self becomes a deeply seated problem of the human mind. The mind and body cannot be completely disconnected, after all. No matter from whence the signals come, both mind and body must communicate to keep the human in a healthy state of being free from internal discord.

The Psychology of Zombies

In a compilations of essays entitled The Years Work at the Zombie Research Center, Stephen Watt breaks popular zombie tropes into digestible pieces for us in his essay “Zombie Psychology”.  Notably, Watt finds one distinct difference between the psychology of zombies and humans: Desire and Drive (68). Watt quotes Freud from his “Uncanny,” “It is only rarely that a psycho-analyst feels impelled to investigate the subject of aesthetics, even when aesthetics is understood not merely the theory of beauty but the theory of the qualities of feelings…” (68). From this, Watt explains how desire and drive operate on different levels, and how that is present within zombie films. “Drives,” Watt explains are, “comprised of an impetus, aim, object, and source…” (74). Again referencing Freud, Watt states that a breastfed infant does not so much have a desire (specifically a sexual desire in Freud’s world) for its mother, but for the source of the milk that will give it sustenance (75). This is clearly separated from “Desire,” which Watt explains differs because, for one, “the object receiving the pulsion, or physical force,” is treated differently (74).  There can be emotion attached to an object of desire, but not for an object connected with drive (74-75). It is the difference between Tallahassee, a character from the film Zombieland, carrying out a relentless search for his beloved snack, Twinkies, and his friend, Columbus’, neighbor/ love interest turned zombie who tries to eat him, according to Watt (60-61). Tallahassee has a desire for something for which he feels an emotion, while the girl known only as “406” has a drive to eat to stay alive—sadly, Columbus is meaningless to her (60-61). In this sense we can see that “Drive” and “Desire” separate not only humans and zombies, but create a distinction we might call “Animal” and “Human”. Having explored both consciousness and psychology as they will be used within this paper, we can move forward to examining the star of the show: Addie Bundren and her personal connection to the aforementioned subjects.

Unearthing Addie

When asked by Jean Stein what he would say to people who say they do not understand his writing, “even after they read it two or three times,” Faulkner simply replied “Read it four times” (The Paris Review). Faulkner makes an important point about the very characters he created by making that statement. Some of his most simplistic seeming characters are complex in ways that take much study to understand, if it is even possible to fully understand his characters at all. As E. L Doctrow states in “On As I Lay Dying,” Faulkner writes a novel in which “Nothing is explained…the people in the book will always know more than the reader,” and so we are left to try to surmise from our own knowledge what might have been going on inside the minds of the characters (New York Review of Books). It follows then that we really must focus closely on the character we mean to dissect.

It goes without saying Addie Bundren was actually dead at some point within the novel. She was, after all, the one who “lay dying” from the title placed inside a coffin and transported by wagon to her burial plot of choice. There is proof from an overwhelming stench of decaying flesh that followed the troop on their journey, to the buzzards who popped in looking for a free meal that Addie Bundren was indeed a corpse proper, and we will not debate that notion with this paper, although some might say this is debatable (1-261).  For the purposes of this paper, we will look specifically of the time before Addie’s death proper to find if, by some definition, she could be classified as “undead,” or as some may say “a zombie”.

It is important for us to decide where Addie was in time—something that can be complex in Faulkner novels, and to give definition to her words—another complexity added by Faulkner. We immediately find within the first few pages of her chapter, Addie goes through an elaborate sequence to basically tell us one could not understand what it means to be in a specific state of being—to be a mother, be fearful, or to be proud, without never having been those things (171-172). This is predicated by her reiteration of her father’s mantra “the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time” (169). Within the first few passages of her chapter, she tells us about a part of her life she would later qualify as when she was alive. What is assumedly the time she spent as a teacher was the time during which she was preparing “to stay dead,” or by her own uncanny definition, her state of being alive (169-170). This marker in her life was highlighted by the rare opportunities she had to spend alone, and find happiness by punishing her students (169-170).

After she married Anse Bundren, Addie becomes pregnant with her first son, Cash (171). By her explanation, this is the time when she “knew living was terrible and that this was the answer to it” (171). Falling on the knowledge of Addie’s knowing things by their opposites, we can see that because Addie had a certain distaste for children, she felt having children of her own was the opposite of living, death, so that this became a period of transition for Addie from which she would change from feeling alive to dead, at least mentally. For a woman who did not want to be a mother, we might understand what was a, most likely, unavoidable byproduct of marriage—pregnancy and birth to mark the time of Addie’s loss of self.

Addie has no real motherly connection with her firstborn son. “Love” was not unlike any other word to her, but “just a shape to fill a lack” (172). Addie states she never used the word with Cash, but rather “let Anse use it” (172). In her thoughts, having children only “violated” her “aloneness” (172). In fact, Addie felt “tricked” by not only being a mother, but what we might assume is marriage as she says “he had tricked me, hidden within a word like within a paper screen,” and that even Anse had been “tricked by words older than Anse or love” (172). Her “revenge” for all this trickery would be to become despondent as she states “he would never know I was taking revenge,” and she then says he made him promise to bury her in her hometown, Jefferson (173). Addie may not have been dying when she made this statement, but she certainly believed she was in need of burial, and she also believed Anse was dead, but unware of his own condition (173).

Thinking about the previous discussion about consciousness and psychology, it is important to note here that there could be a scientific explanation for what Addie was experiencing. First diagnosed in 1882, a disorder known as Cotard’s Dellusion was first diagnosed by Dr. Jules Cotard (Ruminjo & Mekinulov). This syndrome causes patients to believe they are either figuratively or literally a zombie (dead) (Ruminjo & Mekinulov). While the delusion was noted as being quite rare, the syndrome is still diagnosed today, and causes serious impairment that must be treated with either medication or electroconvulsive treatment (Ruminjo & Mekinulov).  Of course we must not assume Faulkner was pointing to this disorder, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that Addie could have suffered from this disorder that made her feel she was dead. It is also not impossible for Faulkner to be privy to the disorder, and so it is just one thing to keep in mind.

As Addie lived her life without much feeling, she enters into an affair with a man who was an “instrument ordained by God” (174). Looking for happiness, Addie dreamnt of her lover, the preacher (174). She describes her sexual affair as sin, and states it is a “duty to the alive” (174). The affair (sex) was not a “duty” to Addie because she was not one of “the alive”. Unfortunately for Addie, her affair leads only to another child, and she ruminates once more on her father’s thoughts on being alive and dead (175). She thinks her father could not have even known what he was talking about because he was male, did not bear children, and never had to cover up a pregnancy resulting from an affair (175-176).

Following the birth of the child, Jewel, born by Addie and the preacher, Addie continues to have children in order to pay Anse back for her adulterous offspring (176). She says she gave Anse three sons, and she could now “get ready to die,” which by her definition of knowing life and death would mean she was done having children, and could know what it meant to live. For Addie, knowing life is to be dead. Addie Bundren did not want to be a mother. She wanted to disconnect from her children and her husband. She only felt childbirth was her “duty to Anse” (174).

Her friend Cora Tull was constantly reminding her she “was not a true mother” (173). However, by the end of her chapter, Addie dismisses all Cora said to her by saying Cora did not understand sin or salvation (176). If we understand Addie’s definition of “sin” to be sex, we might conclude “salvation” to be love. Being truly alive for Addie might mean having sex without the bounds of marriage and childbirth—something from which she could walk away and be alone. Death to Addie was being restricted by marriage and children—the very things which kept her from going “down the hill to the spring” where she could just “be quiet and hate them” the children who were of “blood strange to each other” and “strange” to her (169-170).

While most of this interpretation of Addie comes from a personal perspective on words, or lack thereof, and their meanings possibly further complicating and confusing the character of Addie Bundren, there are two built in observers within the novel who shed more light, and thus lend more credibility to this interpretation.

 

 

The Carpenter and the Fisherman Do Psychology

            When we fail to understand a person or their behavior, one of the best places to dig for clues is from their family. Those connections are an easily accessible gift handed to us by Faulkner within the same novel unlike some of his characters in his other novels, who must be read across several texts to really understand.  While it could be said all the characters give us a lens through which to view their dying mother/wife/friend, two in particular narrow the focus closer than the others. Cash and Vardaman give unique insights into their mother and her plight.

Building a coffin for his own mother must be a painful, painstaking task. Cash takes on the task with pride, even giving us the specifics of its design. “I made it on a bevel” begins the thirteen point list describing how he knew he simply must build his mother’s coffin (82). The list seems like incoherent mumblings, written in broken sentences and thoughts. A closer examination shows a man privy to a great deal of knowledge about the world, including physics and, apparently, phrenology.

Number eight on the list contains only two words: “Animal magnetism” (83). What could animal magnetism have to do with a dead woman’s casket? How does it even relate to things like creating “more surface for the nails to grip,” or explaining the stress caused by living humans on a house or a bed (82-83)?  At first glance, or even second or third, it probably makes little sense, but as Faulkner suggested, we might read it one more time to understand. Rosemary Franklin believes she has uncovered the real meaning behind the short phrase in her essay “Animal Magnetism in As I Lay Dying”.

Franklin explains most of Cash’s list with drawings to help explain the bevel (27-30). Important here is her explanation of what might have been knowledge beyond carpentry learned by Cash. She says Cash speaks “in an almost syllogistic form, but the simple sentences and language disguise the complexity of his logic” (24). Franklin paraphrases other critics of the novel as dismissing Cash as a “simpleton,” but goes on to explain he should not be dismissed because “his entire theory of carpentry is built upon his understanding of this [animal magnetism] pseudoscience” (24). She continues to say that “magnetism” helps drive the plot of the entire novel, and “helps clarify problems encountered in other characters than Cash” (25). According to Franklin, animal magnetism is a type of “science” involving “hypnotism,” which believers thought “cursed all through living things” (25).  “Animal magnetism,” Franklin writes, “became especially well known around 1840, when it became associated with another pseudoscience, phrenology” (25).  Phrenology, Franklin explains, was a “primitive form of psychology (25). Therefore, Cash was not just in the business of coffin building, the carpenter was roughly practicing psychology on his mother.

We might surmise a couple of things from his mention of animal magnetism associated with his mother. One, Addie must have had some sort of emotional disorder—magnetism came from the “emotional centers” in the brain, and two, Addie was technically still alive at the time he was building the coffin because magnetism “cursed through living things” (25). Addie, then, for as much as she believed herself dead was not yet dead.

Vardaman lends insight of a different type. Regardless of the fact this chapter contains only one sentence, these five words might sum up his mother more astutely than anyone, including herself: “My mother is a fish” (84). This young boy, the youngest child of the Bundrens, is trying to deal as best he can with the death of his mother, to be sure, but he does not equate her in any other way than to the fish he caught earlier (71-72). The thought of a fish is astoundingly significant when compared to Addie because even those with only passing knowledge of fish know that once they procreate, they usually die. Vadarman’s mother had effectively lived the life of a fish—an animal, who stayed technically alive only long enough to have children, then made her transition to death. This brings our thoughts back to the aforementioned theories of zombie psychology—the natural, the human with desires, and the animal, the zombie who functions only within the realm of drive.

Diagnosing Addie: Is She A Zombie?

            Viewing Addie as a character, a fish if you will, caught somewhere between being a human with desire, and a zombie who only functions on drive, we can possibly determine if she was, indeed, a zombie. George Marion O’Donnell helps us understand the human/animal dichotomy in his essay about the works of Faulkner entitled “Faulkner’s Mythology”. Within his essay, O’Donnell takes a closer look at other Yoknapatawpha families, the Sartorises and Snopes. He aligns the Sartoris family with the idea of being “human” because of their morality, and situates the Snopes opposite of them as animals because of their “a-morality” (286-290). Of significance to this paper, O’Donnell looks into the life of the Bundrens, classifying them as some Sartoris-Snopes hybrid, saying they are human because Anse keeps his promise to Addie to bury her—a moral act, but “almost animalistic” due to their “low mentality” and uncontrolled sexuality (291). He states “they are infected with a-morality; but it is the a-morality of a physical nature” (291).

Addie herself recognizes her having children as an unpleasant byproduct she really does not choose, but is forced into by “duty” (171-172). Her own sexuality had caused her to become no more than an animal fit only for reproduction—drive, and not happiness—desire. It is if Addie had diagnosed her own disease. The theory of a woman valued nearly only as chattle is not lost on E. L. Doctrow, either. As he states in his essay “The Bundren family relationships are cruel…Dewey Dell and her mother Addie are the gender afflicted…” (New York Review of Books).

We might also view Anse’s response to the loss of his wife as that of an uncaring man only set on bettering his own life with new teeth, and replacing the property he had just lost when, after Addie’s burial, Anse does not mourn, but instead remarries announcing “Meet Mrs. Bundren” (261). His actions certainly do not point to the moral man spoken of by O’Donnnell. William Faulkner himself described Anse’s reaction at the end of the book as a coping mechanism saying “The father having lost his wife would naturally need another one, so he got one” ( The Paris Review). Whether Anse is only being pragmatic is definitely up for debate as William Van O’Connor writes in “The Grotesque in Modern American Fiction,”  “Anse Bundren is the very voice of propriety in his own respect for Addie’s wishes (we have no reason to believe he is insincere in this), but he uses the funeral journey as a means of getting himself new teeth and a new wife” (346).  As practical as it might be for this man to need a wife to cook and clean around the house, it is also doubtful he needed to grab the very first one he saw because he did have an older daughter who could have worked in the home. It also calls not only his character into being, but his state of being. Addie was probably wrong with her assumption that Anse was dead, because by her own definitions, Anse was alive and fully capable of having sex when, where, and with whom he so chose.

Another important point made by O’Connor is that Addie is a woman “desperately trying to find her sense of significant being…” (346). We need not stretch far to compare Addie Bundren to our first mention of zombies in this paper, the Haitian slaves. While she certainly is not of color and is not enslaved in the most proper definition of the word, Addie felt she had been duped. She was “tricked” not by Anse, but by life about what marriage was. She was as disposable as any farm animal. Anse dropped her in the grave, and promptly found a new wife (261). One might even say it was no more difficult for Anse to switch Addie for a new wife than it was for him to trade Jewel’s horse to the Snopes for mules (184-193). If Addie truly is the equivalent of farm animals, she really is very close to Seabrook’s zombies.

Jessica Baldanzi and Kyle Schlabach offer more insight into Addie, and the handling of her corpse, in their essay that explores As I Lay Dying as a way to help understand the Georgia Crematory Scandal. The scandal in 2002 found 300 bodies left unattended to rather than having been buried or cremated in rural Georgia, and the authors use Faulkner’s novel to help explain the handling of the dead (38-55). For the purposes of this paper, we will focus only on their interpretation of Faulkner.

Dewey Dell was the Bundren daughter pregnant with an illegitimate child, and the duo write about her situation “Dewey Dell attempts to erase the illegitimate child…but she knows…the child is written into her poor, rural narrative” (48). Childbearing seems to be an accepted fate of the poor Bundren women as exhibited by both Addie and her daughter. They got pregnant. That was just part of their lives. It was an expected duty from which the only escape was death. Furthermore, the two authors go on to explain why Anse, maybe not so moral after all, goes to all the trouble to bury Addie in Jefferson. Anse needed to make sure Addie was properly buried because to do otherwise would have meant “Addie’s improperly buried body would have left damaging evidence of his marital disrespect” because her body stunk as much as did the fact she was barely dead before he replaced her (51). Even the preacher with whom Addie conceived a son disrespects Addie, showing he only used her for his own sexual purposes Baldanzi and Schlabach point out (51).

Called to the house for her passing, Whitfield the preacher remarks “she had sworn then that she would never tell it” (178). The man of God with whom Addie had found respite was only worried for his own well-being, and Addie knew so. She says in her chapter “I hid nothing. I tried to deceive no one. I would not have cared. I merely took the precautions that he thought necessary for his sake, not for my safety, but just as I wore clothes in the world’s face” (175). What Baldanzi and Schlabach posit is that Faulkner in As I Lay Dying is doing is “exhuming the truth of post-Civil War America,” and with his words “There is no such thing as was-only is” he gives an “elegant testament to the haunted character of humanity…” (53).

“Haunted” and “humanity” serve for interesting parallels where Addie Bundren is concerned. Not only does Addie really reflect gender inequality during the time this novel was written, but she might serve as more than just a female character who dies. As Susan Willis writes, the characters in As I Lay Dying “fascinate and trouble our thinking” (587). “Faulkner,” Willis says, demonstrates how “…history’s seemingly insignificant characters” and “literary modernism might be conceived as the proper mode for articulation of history” (587).

If we can imagine Addie Bundren and family teaching us the history of the American South, we surely can envision her using the lens of zombie scholarship. Even though it might have been unintentional ( Although, there is nothing definite with Faulkner) seeing as Faulkner was writing this story well before our real media frenzy that is “zombie”, Faulkner has seemingly touched on yet another taboo. If not quite taboo, one might say uncanny subject.

Addie Bundren is not only a woman bound by her duties as an unwilling wife and mother, she has decided that she is dead. She finds some reprieve in an adulterous relationship only to end up with another child, and therefore, more lack of life. The zombie phenomenon of the twenty-first century can help us understand consciousness, the psyche, of a woman caught between the animal—the zombie who functions on drive alone, and for which reproduction is necessary for survival, and the human, who has desire, hopes, dreams, for whom we might say happiness is necessary for survival, at least for the survival of the self.

Native American poet, activist, and one of the great philosophers of our time John Trudell has said many people are zombies (YouTube). Their minds have been stripped of  human qualities by what he calls “technologic miners” who “mine their minds,” removing their ancestral identity (YouTube).  He says modern humans have “entered the reality of the already dead who are just spending their lives waiting to die” ( YouTube). Of course, he is speaking here directly about the human connection with Earth and what he says are the “ancients,” but his theory can be expanded in the instance of Addie to include her as a woman who has been stripped of her human identity by a patriarchal society who keep her as no more than an animal fit for breeding. It is because of this dehumanizing of human beings, says Trudell, that we lose our connection with our descendants, thus we can say this why Addie felt no real connection to her children—she was a zombie (YouTube). We can understand Addie as a zombie because, as Trudell explains the word “human” only means “bone, flesh, and blood,” but it is our access to the “being”—the part of us that connects us to the universe, which is missing in Addie Bundren (YouTube). It is that connection to the universe through our spirit, our “being,” that gives us power in life (YouTube). Mining of things like uranium leaves behind toxic waste, and it is no different when the “being” is mined from humans, according to Trudell (YouTube). He goes on to explain that the toxic aftereffect of the mining of the “being” from humans breeds a disease inside of us that causes us to forget what it means to be human, namely the “fears, doubts, and insecurities” that distort our “perception of self and reality,” and this is the most important aspect to keep in mind concerning Addie Bundren (YouTube). Addie has no true reality of self anymore, tying together everything about consciousness and psychology, but more importantly showing that she can be read as a zombie if we define “zombie” as someone with a distorted sense of self.   Trudell says we are in a place “where spirits get eaten” by these “slavers,” and Addie is no exception (YouTube). Addie’s spirit was stolen from her just as technology steals away spirits today.

If asked directly if Addie Bundren is a zombie, the answer would be a resounding “Yes”. Addie fits the criteria of a woman whose consciousness is flawed by psychological disease brought about by lack of happiness. She is a woman who is, of course, a human, but is treated as no more than a man’s disposable horse. More importantly, Addie lacks the agency to speak for herself against her oppression. She is similar to the Haitian zombies in Seabrook’s tale in that, because of her place in history, she is an enslaved woman that even her children recognized as having problems.

Addie, the physically alive, mentally dead mother was in a period of transition during her chapter. She moved from a woman who was very much a live, to a woman who had lost herself. She was what we might call now “turning”. Addie Bundren became a zombified woman, numb from the burden of multiple unwanted births and the husband who only cared for her in the capacity he would his cattle. She resigned herself, and completely envisioned herself, as being dead before her time was up. It should not go without notice that Faulkner never says from what ailment Addie dies. Perhaps she was so depressed she climbed into bed never to leave it again just as a salmon never leaves the spot on which it lays eggs. Vadarman was right. His mother was a fish—a fish not quite alive, but not yet dead, flopping on the bank trying desperately to die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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