I didn’t notice how I started crying. I had been cutting down a story about deaths in a Russian orphanage specifically designed for the children of female inmates – children born in captivity, like tiger cubs in a zoo (though tiger cubs generally get better treatment). Space on the page was limited, 300 words or so needed to go. I was busy making my usual choices – cut down on some of the details? Trim some of the longer quotes? – when I was surprised to find tears cascading down my face.
“Well, damn,” a voice said inside my head.
Someone passed along a link to the infamous video of Judge William Adams beating his screaming, terrified daughter. I was roughly a minute and a half through before I had to turn it off and look at pictures of cats on the internet.
The voice inside my head became less charitable. “How do you expect to cover the news anymore?” It snapped. “Oh em gee, I’m a mommy now! Somebody get me to cover the more appropriate stories! Like the Moore-Kutcher divorce!”
I pretended as though I didn’t hear and scoured the internet for cheap offers on televisions (“Skyrim” is out and I NEED a new TV).
That voice and I – we’ll need to have a chat eventually, though. We will have to reach some sort of impasse. Our constant bickering is bound to get people to start looking at us kinda funny.
In my last play, I made fun of the “hormonal mommy syndrome,” or, rather, society’s reactions to it – but I am also one of those people who makes fun of the things she believes in (see my previous post on religion, for example). I also refuse to believe that hormones are 100% to blame for increased sensitivity following the birth of a child – after all, you end up getting a completely different perspective on life, and it can take a long while to get used to it.
As I dress my child for bed, I hold and kiss his flailing little arms and legs, the little arms and legs that formed inside me for all of those months, and I marvel at the fact that anyone could ever want to harm this pudgy, energetic little body – whether through deliberate neglect, or worse. I am amazed that violence should even exist outside of movies and video games, somehow tricking my own brain into blotting out the entire concept behind how the human race has come to dominate planet Earth. I go full Godwin on myself – wasn’t Hitler once a helpless, toothless, adorable being who grinned at his mother as she picked him up from his crib? Nature has made me invest heavily into life, and so I find it harder to contemplate violent death.
Young filmmaker Madina Mustafyina, part of the same project that allowed my husband to shoot “Katya, Vitya, Dima,” shot a documentary about a family of bums living outside a village in Kazakhstan. These two odious alcoholics have somehow managed to give birth to a pretty little girl, Milana. Seven-year-old Milana and her parents live in the woods. The mother experiences random, completely unpredictable bouts of primitive aggression. She hits the daughter right on camera. The daughter screams and begs and promises to be good. Later, Milana takes sadistic pleasure in trying to feed a captured bird to a dog. “I will kill you!” She rages at the bird. The bird – small, helpless, dirty – is Milana herself.
When Milana’s mother gets extremely drunk (as opposed to her usual state of being, which oscillates between somewhat drunk and very drunk) and stalks off into the woods to hang herself, Milana screams and begs the other adults to stop her, which they eventually do.
Would Milana have been better off in an orphanage? You know, the sort of place where she would be neglected by the underpaid staff and possibly allowed to choke on her own vomit? What does it say about our world when a small child like Milana essentially has two choices: batshit parents or a batshit state care system? The questions hang in the air. Not even “Skyrim” quite drowns them out at the moment.
These are the things that I can’t write about right now. I’m writing about them anyway.