Of Monsters & Men
By: Evangeline Jennings
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy dressing my daughter up as a slutty well-whatever at least as much as the next feminist writer, but is that really the spirit of Halloween? I think not.
Halloween is all about the darkness. The darkness, horror, and fear. But who says that has to mean witches, monsters, or zombies? Vampires, maybe? I've never seen the need for these make-believe creatures. I rarely read about them, and never write their stories. For me, reality is much darker and more frightening.
In the spirit of the season, let's talk about witches first.
In Saudi Arabia, they still hold witch trials - not too often, but often enough. In June 2012, for example, they beheaded a man - Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri - on charges of sorcery and witchcraft. In December 2011, a woman named Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was similarly beheaded as a witch and sorcerer. Two months earlier, the Saudis had executed a Sudanese man on similar charges. And in 2007, they had beheaded an Egyptian man for casting spells to separate a married couple. Well, of course.
Clearly witches are a thing in Saudi Arabia. Or - and I'm just spit-balling here - that really is one messed-up backwards country.
One messed-up backwards country with oil enough to turn Dick Cheney's ice-blue killer's eyes a deep dark shade of brown.
One messed-up backwards country where a recent law proclaimed it was an act of terrorism to espouse atheist thought.
The biggest woman's prison on the planet, this messed-up backwards country was recently in the news because it was planning to execute two young men who were only seventeen when they committed their alleged political crimes. And how were they going to kill them? By beheading and crucifixion.
First, the Saudis behead their victims - in public - then they crucify their headless corpses upside down pour encourager les autres. And they do this in the twenty-first century. In a country that recently bid to head up the United Nations' Human Rights Council while beheading more people every year than ISIS.
The controversy surrounding these latest executions prompted British Prime Minister Cameron to explain that he's terribly sorry, but the West can't afford to fall out with the Saudis because, well, oil and terror, duh.
Reasons to be horrified, part one - we live in countries that are cowed by the Saudis because, well, oil and terror.
Part two - we live in a world where people can still be executed for "witchcraft." Seriously.
Part three - I have a sneaking suspicion that many of our own theocratic politicians envy the Saudis' freedom to imprison and even execute at will. After all, they consider marriage equality to be "tyranny" and a war on Christianity, and I'm pretty sure they hate that women can drive and vote. Let alone control their own bodies.
Such politicians frighten me. I feel frequently helpless in the face of their obsessional delusions and contempt, and they exist in my writing as the monsters they are.
But they're not the only monsters who inspire me. When I first started writing, the local news was dominated by the now notorious case of an eleven-year-old girl who was gang raped on at least six different occasions.
The investigation was launched when school authorities confiscated recordings of the assaults that were being shared on the local High School campus. And, after several years of investigation and victim shaming, twenty-one men and boys were convicted for their part in the crimes.
Men - and boys - like that frighten me, too. I will never understand the ease with which they move from human to monster. And so I write about that and them. My writing is also informed by beasts, such as Ariel Castro, Josef Fritzl, Detlef S, and the Kidwelly Cult. The Dreamboard paedophile website haunts me.
Worst of all, I think, is not the individual freak. It's the institutionalization of insanity and abuse. At the same time the news of the gang rapes was breaking, the highest courts in the land were ruling against a teenager cheerleader who was kicked off her high school squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist - the Supreme Court actually called her complaint "frivolous." In a sports mad small town, her rapist was allowed to plead guilty to a mere misdemeanor assault, return to school, and resume his place on the basketball team. Where his victim was expected to cheer for him.
The police, lawyers, and school district involved disgust me. That this was allowed to happen at all scares and angers me in roughly equal doses, but I shouldn't be surprised. Not in a country where people vote for lunatics like Ted Cruz and the like. Not where our elected leaders close abortion clinics while claiming it's for our own good. Not where eleven Republican men in the United States Congress can propose to make it mandatory for a pregnant woman to receive an ultrasound procedure before she is allowed an abortion. And not in a country where Virginia Republicans can introduce a mandatory ultrasound bill that would involve an invasive transvaginal procedure which critics decry as "state sponsored rape."
But America is not the world, and I could bore you from now until Thanksgiving with statistics and stories of violence against women and children from all parts of the world, but let's not. Let's listen to the UK charity Refuge instead: Every week in England and Whales, two women are killed by a current or former partner and ten more women commit suicide as a direct consequence of domestic abuse. That's more than six hundred dead women a year. And if there are children in those homes, half of them will be abused, too.
Vampires? Zombies? Witches? Pfft. There are monsters everywhere, and this year I am sending my kid out as a slutty Donald Trump.
About the author:
Evangeline Jennings is a witch and the founding editor of the Pankhearst independent writers collective. She tells lies for fun and profit - mostly fun - and if she was a song - and she'd really like to be - she'd be "Public Image" by PiL or possibly "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore.