Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Untitled - Jacqueline Zote

His brother finds him curled up in a ball, body shaking and sobs withheld.
"What's wrong?" he asks him.
And he replies,
"Brother, I am damaged and I am tainted.
Those men from the other night...
They hurt my body in more ways than one.
The scars you see on my face are not the only ones."
He breaks down and tells his brother
Of the monsters who scarred his soul
One fateful September night.
They run to the cops with statements and tests.
An investigation begins,
But the cops aren't doing their best.
Instead they tell them, "Perhaps it's best
To withdraw the case.
An out-of-court settlement may save your face."
The news travels in whispers through secret grapevines.
The people who speak out are met with threats and ridicule,
Even the bravest supporters - silenced.
You see, that's what happens when a monster has influence.
He sits on a throne made of grandpa's money.
He sweet-talks the cops with tales of the renowned man.
And the cops - their hearts soften
Towards the monster with a silver spoon
Sticking out of his filthy mouth.
His family uses their power so the news doesn't spread.
But they could no longer silence the mourning mother's message,
Seeking justice for the son they tried to silence.
Yet like every case of sexual abuse and molestation,
Doubt falls on the victim - the one whose soul was torn by ruthless monsters.
"The accused has an uncle who's running for office.
I bet it's just a ruse to discredit the respectful man.
Why didn't they speak up two months earlier?"
But little do they know...
How hard they tried
And how quickly their voices disappeared,
Overshadowed by the monster's influence.
And his fellow men call him a coward,
"A man doesn't get molested," they say,
"A man should have the courage to speak up."
Their voices are bold and angry,
Seemingly filled with certainty
Of how they would deal with it if it happened to them.

You see, this is how it always is -
The victims get silenced and they get shamed.
They get questioned and they get mocked.
As if the soul-robbing incident wasn't enough to destroy them.
As if they didn't feel enough shame already.
As if speaking up only to be met with doubts wasn't bravery.
It doesn't matter if it's a man or a woman, a boy or a girl or whatever,
This is how it always is.

Jacqueline Zote's response to the horrifying local story of poor widow's son versus rich men's sons that broke on the evening of November the 19th, 2018, reminds me of the late Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev's definition of ballet. While on a visit to India in the mid 80s, in a thoughful interview with an Indian magazine, he was asked the question, "What is ballet?" His response: "When you feel very happy, you sing. If you can't sing, you write. If you can't write, you dance. And ballet is a sophistication of dance." Ms. Zote's response is that of the creative writer channeling her feelings and reactions into what she does best - writing. I thank her for allowing me to reproduce here this powerful reciprocation to a contentious topical issue.

Explaining her stand for writing of the incident in English, she states: "I am trying to speak up about a problem that isn't just isolated to our society. And I am trying to show others outside the community that the Mizos are courageous, that we do not stand for injustice and we give voice to the voiceless. We will not tolerate the horrifying crimes committed against the common man by egotistic oligarchs. Or am I wrong?"

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