I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it's about walking out at night
or whether it's about the love that I feel or
whether it's about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and indiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
-- Poem About My Rights by June Jordan (excerpt)
I went to see "Casualties of War" in the theater, when it first came out. I didn't know that much about it. I liked Michael J. Fox. He was so adorable in "Family Ties." And I was fascinated by Vietnam history. I probably should have read some reviews, but I hate spoilers. So I was totally unprepared.
I try to avoid movies with sexual violence because I am a survivor of sexual assault; multiple sexual assaults actually. So I was unprepared. Images of rape... sometimes I go numb... sometimes I just curl up in a fetal ball and shake...
This morning I read that Sgt. Paul E. Cortez was sentenced to 100 years in prison. It's not enough. I wrote about this here; about how Paul Cortez and his buddies raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl. A sociopath named Steven Green, who raped and killed the girl and set her on fire -- and killed her entire family -- was conveniently discharged by the Army a short time later and is now a problem for a civilian court. Whatever sentence he gets it won't be enough. Both Cortez and Spc. James Barker plead out and got their sentences of 100 years and 90 years respectively, with a possibility of parole. Me? I wanted to see them all sentenced to the maximum penalty under the UCMJ; death.
Some years ago I was staying with some friends in a beach house. It was a summer rental packed with people I barely knew. Flipping through channels one night one of those guys I barely knew stumbled on "Casualties of War." Can we watch something else? I asked. I like this movie, he replied. My voice felt so small all of a sudden. Can we please change the channel? I squeaked. So quiet. So invisible. He didn't hear me. Or maybe he didn't care.
So I bolted. I ran to the beach. My boyfriend found me there, curled up in the sand like a fetal ball...
Rape as metaphor. War as rape. Sean Penn grabbing his crotch, proclaiming "This is a weapon." It seems almost poetic somehow. For a moment it all makes sense. But the truth is not so clean.
In the movie, like in this most recent case of life imitating art, the girl was murdered. And I feel a sense of relief that she is dead. It seems almost merciful. Rape is worse than death. Soul murder.