Art by Rob Goldstein

In the South of my Childhood

Trigger Warning: This post describes violence.

CPTSD differs from PTSD in that CPTSD  is the result if multiple episodes
of abuse sustained from months to years.

My dissociative disorder is in part the result of the institutional racism and homophobia of the mid-20th Century.

Emotional development can not happen when the brain constantly thinks the survival of the body is at stake.

As I begin to remember my childhood, I find that I have panic attacks that make it almost impossible for me to move.

As I type this my heart is racing, my skin crawls and I feel as if I am crushed.

It feels like dying.

The details of the memory are out of reach yet they are as vivid as if I am living it.

The South of my childhood was saturated with racism and antisemitism.

“I can buy and sell you,” was a common childhood taunt.

The South of my childhood believed that “intellectuals” and “yankee snobs” were the source of its problems.

Art was for sissies.

Compassion was for Sissies.

Intellect was for sissies.

***

There are therapists who say that severe PTSD is the aftermath of a confrontation with human evil.

M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who authored the best-selling self-help book,” The Road Less Traveled, described evil as a form of militant ignorance“.

According to Peck an evil person is consistently self-deceiving, to avoid guilt and to keep up an image of perfection.

They also;

• Deceive others as a consequence of their own self-deception

• Project his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets (scapegoats) while being apparently normal with everyone

• Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others.

• Abuses political (emotional) power (“the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion”

• Maintains a high level of respectability based on lies.

• Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)

• Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim (scapegoat)

• Have a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

According to Peck, evil people realize that what they are evil but they can’t tolerate the pain of introspection. They can’t admit that their actions are motivated by evil.

In the South of my childhood the “good people” beat the rest us into our place.

It was a “moral” obligation.

***

On the first day of the first grade, we children were told to open our books.

Each child was asked to read and as the children stumbled through their paragraphs, the teacher corrected them.

I knew how to read because my Grandmother had taught me when I was four.

I read my paragraph with no difficulty.

The other children snickered.

The teacher sneered at me.

She sent a note to my Mother.

It was I had caused problems in class.

My Mother beat me and screamed at me for causing trouble on the very first day of school.

This was the only time my Father ever stepped in.

My Mother was screaming at me to stop crying while she beat me with a belt buckle.

My Father grabbed her arms and asked how she thought I would stop crying while she beat me.

I was frightened and confused.

It would be years before I understood that as a “kike” I had stepped out-of-place.

I had done the unforgivable thing of behaving as if I was better than the “white” kids.

In the South of my Childhood, kikes were not white.

The next morning I walked alone to the bus stop and noticed that a group of parents was there with their children.

At first, I felt safe because I still associated adults with protection.

But they surrounded me and the parents ordered their children to beat the faggot out of me.

One of the parents pulled out a pair of scissors while the other adults held me down.

She was the next door neighbor.

She said that she was going to cut my eyelashes because they were too long and too pretty.

She said that if I moved she would cut out my eyes and it would be my fault.

This was when I discovered that if I left my body I felt no fear or pain.

That was the morning Bobby was born.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015 All Rights Reserved

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43 thoughts on “In the South of my Childhood

  1. I still live in the South so I know exactly what you are talking about; as a black woman I’ve seen and experienced some of this.
    That said, I still cannot imagine what you went through as the target of such deep hatred.
    The fact that many of the adults that you encountered were no better than the children is incomprehensible.; yet I know exactly what you’re talking about. Sheer ignorance!
    I’ve had white people here say that they can’t stand President Barack Obama because he is ‘so uppity.’ In essence, that is code for “Black folks need to stay in their place;” and you know where that is.
    Thanks for sharing such an intimate experience in your life.
    I send nothing but love and light your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we grew up in the same town!!!! With the same ignorant trashy entitled people that hurt just to hurt with now accountability. None of those things should have happened to you. It is heart breaking that they did. I completely understand the need to disassociate as a protective mechanism. Seems normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Robert, much of what I feel and think has already been said and I am still trying to put the pieces together. I remember my husband telling me about his mother. He wouldn’t go into detail but her treatment of him was horrible enough for him yo hate her. She died long before I meet him. He left home underage and went into the navy at 17 and I think pretty much forced her to sign his papers. Later it was found she had a brain tumor which affected her behavior. Even knowing that he said it was too late. He couldn’t forgive what she did to his life.

    I can’t give you a platitude and say, “It will make you a better person” although perhaps it has, but it is hard even imagining such pain, and as a child not yet mature enough to stand up to it. I am truly sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SonniQ,

      Thank you for this. As the memories of my childhood become more clear I see how the institutional abuse of the racist South of that time was a factor. People who think that children don’t hear and understand the coded language or who think that children don’t see through the lies we tell our selves to justify social policies that leave children homeless and hungry are mistaken. Children know hate when they see it. What they don’t understand is that they’ve done nothing to deserve their misery.

      I am not, was not and will not be the only person who will have to learn how to get past a childhood that was torture.

      At last count over 20 Million children go to bed hungry in the U.S. while the adults play decadent political games.

      This aspect of modern life may be the most painful of all for the abused children of today: the adults who have the power to make their lives better refuse to grow up and fulfill their obligations as adults.

      How does one explain to a child that the adults in their nation consider access to guns more important than the lives of their children?

      How does one explain a political party that incites violence by demonizing the people of other races, cultures and religions to children who only want to be safe and grow up and enjoy the miracle of being alive?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand – as much as I can having not gone through it. I had a good childhood. I also see things that i was taught not being taught to my children’s children – and my grown children don’t understand it. My daughter seems to enjoy screaming and yelling in front of her kids – either to make them listen out of fear or to get a twisted recognition from them of some sort. I visited them last month and literally escaped early after 5 days because my daughter thought it really cool to use me as a punching bag for everything she thought was wrong with her life. It was insane. I didn’t know someone could scream so loud – and she brought her young children into the room so they could hear her. The details are too long to explain but I called for a ride to get me out of there. She refuses to see how her actions could affect her children and the memories they will have of her later. It is easy to see the total breakdown of the family in her house. Her boyfriend always carries a gun at the small of his back and owns, I believe 136 more of all sizes and shapes. Although most are locked up, it all hinges on the word “most”. She accused my son of molesting her 30 years ago ( which gave her the ability to get on disability because she now says she’s too screwed up to function because of it.) Strange how the issue never came up before be she says I always knew and refused to help her. Really? I told her, that’s nice dear? And then her daughter accused my husband of molesting her ten years ago. ( she saw how much attention her mother got) They both have had a problem with telling the truth. They tell stories. They don’t pay attention to the lives they ruin. i am most worried about her two youngest ages 7 and 10 and they affect this will have on them. There is not much I can do about it. There is so much that forms who we are as adults. It doesn’t just go away – you know that. It surfaces as issues we have to work through, some worse than others.

        Parents are taking young kids to gun ranges to teach them how to shoot – yet I wouldn’t allow my son to even have a toy gun because I didn’t want him to think guns were okay – and he does not own a gun today.

        Like

  4. It is horrible what you had to experience, and things that things like this go on. There is so much pain and anger inside humans. And this current society (regardless of where we live) seems determined to turn a blind eye to the real important issues and simply dehumanize us. Thank you, for being who you are, and sharing your story. You’re an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that I came out of it with my faith in humanity in tact…Many people who grow up in environments that normalize racism and static class systems become angry bigots in turn as adults. I think that this is where the Dissociative strategy is magical. The part of me that has faith was protected…

      And I can say the same to you as well…you attend to the small and beautiful..and you express that it your work…It’s an inspiration.

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  5. Your advocacy for decency is an example of that spirit that establishes the line between humanity and the dark evil of humankind. Keep bringing the light, Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think we are all of us struggling to bring a light into the world…

      It can’t be done alone…keeping people separate is the goal of all oppressive systems.

      When we join forces we become the light.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t remember all of it..I do know that I must have been terrified…I strongly recommend a titration of my blog…I sometimes think I should post a “trigger” warning but the only way to put an end to this is to discuss it openly. I see no difference between my experience and the experience of living in a culture that lets a mentally ill person die on the street.

      If that isn’t abuse nothing is…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was an impactful read. I’m very sorry you had to endure that experience. I’m honestly floored that you can recall this with clarity and integrate your hardships as you explain your condition. I don’t think I’ve read many accounts that do this well, and I’ve been long mystified about disassociation. Your blog has been helpful in broadening my understanding, though I feel for you. What you are doing is brave.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and for leaving such a thoughtful post.

      I don’t know that it’s courageous to take a necessary stand.

      I have so much more to lose by staying silent.

      The system can strip me of access to resources but it will never strip me of my faith in my right to exist.

      Liked by 1 person

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