How I’m Learning to Fall Back in Love with my Scars


I heard the click of the bic lighter, a sound I would later come to pretend to love and then I saw the flames.

It’s one of those cute stories I used to tell. That time I put a fire in a diaper out. At first I forgot about the lighter. I blamed it on a faulty furnace. I forgot where the burn scars came from, scars that only some of my more observant lovers would notice. They are actually all over my body and I remember now how I treated them myself. A cold shower flushed the plastic down the drain, but the scars remained.

I issued excuses, and then covered those up. It’s all a series of elaborate lies. I could lie so easily, my intelligence and respectability, my pale skin acting as a kind of alibi only I would ever have to live with.

Now it’s all of you who will need the alibis.

Only once did they ever ask questions, my body seems to know how to hide. My body knows how dangerous the truth can be, maybe that’s why I’d fall in love with the truth later as an adult. Maybe that’s why I went looking for it.

And so here I am today, thinking about how best to cover up defensive wounds on my wrist from that Christmas they tried to kill me. I remember how they got there now and I used to be grateful only those with the right background could see they weren’t self inflicted. Pretty clear defensive wounds, kids. I wasn’t kidding about some of my skill sets. I got them from the father in died in prison for selling the same drugs you are now all entrepreneurs for selling.

I lied because I had no choice and you can call that convenient but I know my brain is magic because the truth only came when it started to be safe. All right, I lied again. It came a little sooner than I would have liked but that’s the way my brain handles things. I’m not in control of it and that has turned out to be the greatest miracle of all.

Or so I thought.

Then I got reminded how much pain my scars could cause.

I could lie but the truth should be obvious now. I can play CSI on myself. I change the subject and pretend to be normal. Do the scars or the Stanford degrees come first?

No one seems able to process both.

So from now on you’ll have to listen to those stories about each scar because each and every single one of them is proof that I belonged at Stanford in the first place.

You did extracurriculars. I survived murder attempts and rape.

I’m not going to apologize for that. I won’t be backing down or lying anymore. I’m here because my own brilliance saved me from multuple attempts on my life.

My ability to get back up and laugh after rapes can be called madness all you like but it’s also why I’m an unstoppable force. I refuse to apologize for that either.

I’m going to stop apologizing for my pain. I’m going to start falling back in love with my scars. I know who I am and I’m not going to be told what to hide anymore. Choose to deal with it or don’t. I can’t help you there.

But if you want to know how to survive, how to thrive even, when everyone around you is mad enough to light babies on fire, I’m your girl.

The answer to the question of how I’ve survived seems to be jokes, music and love. Little acts of kindness made by people who didn’t have the power, fallen soldiers in a war we lost before I was even born. I got conscripted before I even had a choice, like my ancestors before never, going further back than I even know. We come by our stubbornness honestly, because what other choice is there? They said give me liberty or give me death, and too many people weren’t given the choice at all. I’ve always been more of a lover but that’s a weapon too when the whole world wants war and the struggle is against anger, pain and hate. They called me stubborn, and I call that still being alive. That stubbornness was all passed down from ancestors who survived long enough to keep me alive.

My body is all the more beautiful because it has been marked by monsters that fell long before they could take me with them and I’m going to fall back in love with it even when no one else can handle it.

It’s not my concern anymore whether or not it hurts you because maybe you need to know discomfort. There is beauty in this kind of madness. I wonder sometimes how much beauty the rest miss out on because they are so afraid of being anything other than normal.

But I can’t make you see what is patently obvious to me.

This is centuries of the human condition. I wasn’t the first fire. I won’t be the last one sold. This isn’t an unfamiliar story, it’s just one that never gets told.

I’m almost bored by it these days. It makes you forget your social graces.

“Oh shit, was it just inappropriate to mention the murders I witnessed. My bad.”

That’s my mundane.

And I’m not sorry about it.

And the reason I’m not sorry is because despite this, I’m still standing, and laughing my ass off at this whole charade.

That’s a choice.

It’s always a choice you have.

So make that choice like your life and the lives of everyone depends on it.

Those scars, they aren’t going anywhere but if they remind you to love they are beautiful, and you should demand love for them.


I Hate Most of You, But I Still Wouldn’t Let Trump Kill You


Let me explain something to you, to all of you on the left. I hate the vast majority of you. I think your ideologies are stupid and that half the time you are acting as the oppressor. Every single leftist connected group and organization has does something actively horrible and oppressive, personally, to me over the last 28 years. But if Trump tries to oppress you, I still consider it my responsibility to try to stop it the best I can, because that’s what a real leader does.

I ain’t Mexican but if Trump comes for Mexican people I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the Mexican people I love, and if you don’t have anyone who fits that demographic that you love, maybe you are the problem.

I ain’t queer but if Trump comes for queer people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the queer people that I love and if  you don’t feel that way about people you claim to love, maybe you are part of the problem.

I ain’t black but if Trump comes for black people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him do that shit on my watch without any opposition. You don’t come for people I love without my fighting like hell for you.

I have people I love in every marginalized group in the leftist coalition and I have since I was a kid and we fucking look out for each other. He comes for one of us, he comes for all of us.

But even if I didn’t have people that I loved in these categories, even if I hadn’t experienced poverty and gender violence and oppression firsthand, I would still fight anyone who would seek to hurt other human beings because that is the right thing to do. It is just the right thing to do. Everything I have ever done in social justice has been for someone else. I did not benefit in any tangible way from starting FLIP. I alienated myself socially, professionally, and personally defending the marginalized. I have a list of actual physical beatings I have taken for other people and injuries I’ve endured defending the defenseless. I did this stuff while I was homeless, while I was sick, while I was myself being tortured and abused. I don’t do any of this shit for me or what I can get out of it and I sure as fuck don’t do it for my mental health. This is service, if you aren’t willing to do it, that’s fine. This isn’t for everyone and I respect that, but if you call yourself a leader then the first thing you need to learn is that it isn’t about you. If your work costs you nothing, I doubt it is as subversive as you think it is.


I don’t stand in solidarity with specific groups or ideologies. I don’t have particularly strong affinities for any of your parties or for the work that most of the left does. I’ve never had a home on the left, and the left has done almost as much to oppress me as the conservatives. I do my work in solidarity with the people and the children. If you can’t handle doing that, it’s not something I would brag about and it certainly isn’t a legitimate policy position for a movement to have.


And before you lecture me about self care, I don’t want to hear it. I’ve been going through a hell that none of you can even imagine over the last month and I have still managed to be strategic and thoughtful in my organizing. Let me tell you about some memories that I’ve been battling over the last month and half since Trump has been elected and you guys have been whining about the mourning you still have to while giving a fascist advanced warning of terrorist acts that you half-assedly planned. I’ll name just three, but there are more. 1) It turns out that my family has tried to kill me on four separate occasions all occurring before the age of 13, two of which happened when I was an infant. 2) When I was 9, I was so violently raped by my father as punishment for resisting his advances that I needed 6 stitches in my vagina. My own mother helped him cover it up. 3) I was trafficked as a child more than once , at least as early as 8.

I’ve been spending the last month and half processing all of that while listening you guys whine and complain and give privilege lectures, and you guys can’t even be bothered to properly plan things so that you don’t screw over the working class with your bullshit. So look, if you don’t want to stand in solidarity with all childhood trafficking victims, and everyone who has gone hungry and anyone who might be the target of state repression, then fine. Now you are corroborating with the oppression of others. And if you are doing that, frankly, I’m not terribly interested in your help or your opinion about anything.

Don’t you think it works to Trump’s interest if we are constantly doing this to each other? They are planning for us to do this and you are playing right into their hands. Divide and conquer is a very old strategy indeed. But you guys aren’t actually interested in doing anything to stop him are you? Because you live in a magical land where the consequences never affect you and where the working class will take all of the bullets for you anyway. You’ve lived there for so long that you can’t even properly plan basic safety tips for a protest during a Republican administration. We don’t need more “leaders” who put their own needs first. We don’t need more “leaders” who expect other people to act as their cannon fodder or pawns. That is not good leadership, that is childish. This is service. You are here to serve. If you are not here to serve then WE DON’T NEED YOU. You are no good to us until you get the ability to make decisions that will put other people’s needs first. Social justice is not a brand. It is not a t-shirt you put on or something you wear when it is convenient. Social justice is about liberating the actual people who aren’t free yet, and if you have the luxury to say, “I won’t be disciplined and thoughtful enough to do what is needed to free the most people that I can” or “I won’t be adult enough to put aside my own feelings for the good of others in the name of liberation” then I don’t know what form of imprisonment you’ve experienced but it was very different from the one I experienced.

When you are hungry, there is no room for error.

When they can and do torture you, there is no room for error.

When the consequence is death, there is no room for error.

When rape is a form of punishment, there is no room for error.

You sure as fuck don’t make mistakes because you are too lazy to plan if it means someone is going to kill you, what is even more monstrous is to make these mistakes on someone else’s behalf when the consequences don’t affect you. Do you know what it is like to be threatened with someone else’s pain and to offer to take the beating instead? I do.

My bottom line is this:  all this theoretical bullshit was fine when it was on your college campuses and no one was getting hurt. But if you become a reason that people might get hurt, even if it’s because you are incompetent instead of just straight evil, then you are right that we aren’t in solidarity with each other. Because I consider you part of the problem and you can either get your shit together or else you can find out just how fiercely I fight on behalf of the oppressed.

Here’s something I know about all of you, you hit like a bitch.


Using Political Jiu-Jitsu To Disintegrate Hostile Regimes


In the past decade alone, the deaths of Egyptian Khaled Saeed, Iranian Neda Agha Soltan, and other fatalities caused by repressive governments ignited nation-wide revolutions which were recognized and lauded internationally. A youtube mashup by Andreina Nash of violence against student protests in Venezuela brought international attention and pressure on their government. The massacre of dozens of civilians in Sharpetown by South Africa’s apartheid government crushed their reputation internationally. Same goes for Gandi and the British empire. And today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. who brought “Bloody Sunday” to the nation’s television sets.

These are all considered examples of “political jiu-jitsu,” when activists use a regime’s repressive actions to damage the regime’s own pillars of support. It is arguably the most powerful weapon available to activists in a nonviolent struggle.

Yet when nearly two million Indonesians were slaughtered within a period of months in 1965, the international community shrugged, domestic reaction was muted, and the authoritarian Muhammad Suharto rose to power and reigned for the next thirty years. Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt best summed up the western world’s reaction to this genocide in commenting that he was pleased since “‘with 500,000 to 1,000,000 [of them] knocked off… it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.”

The difference in results lies in whether the activists or the opponent are better able to manage the outrage or backfire resulting from repression. While the majority of readers may find the above quote by the then-Prime Minister abhorrent in its current form, more than a few would be pacified if the brackets were replaced with “terrorist sympathizers.” The Prime Minister was talking about “communist sympathizers.”

Political jiu-jitsu can nonviolently coerce opponents or even ignite the disintegration of the opponent’s regime. When properly crafted, even if the regime chooses not to repress activists, activists will still be able to claim a victory. On the other hand, if the regime successfully defends against political jiu-jitsu, they can violently repress dissidents without fear of consequence. To understand how regimes fight political jiu-jitsu, the core assumptions behind nonviolent struggle must be examined.


Perhaps the biggest difference between modern pragmatic theories of nonviolence and Gandi’s beliefs involved explaining the success of this jiu-jitsu. Gandi believed that forcing police to violently repress peaceful civilians would throw off the policeman’s “moral balance” (what Richard Gregg called “moral jiu-jitsu”). This process would be mainly psychological. However, later studies of the Dharasana salt raids found that if the policemens’ moral balance was thrown off, their behavior was certainly not effected. Observers noted that many police became angry at the lack of resistance and even more enraged. Professor Gene Sharp (whose book “From Dictatorship to Democracy” was a guide for several 21st century successful nonviolent revolutions)  , proposed that the effectiveness of Gandi’s acts were due to political, not psychological, processes. Namely, the backlash from Webb Miller’s graphic reporting on the British government’s political, social, and economic pillars of support.

Political jiu-jitsu aims to make repression “backfire” in that it creates more support for activists. This is best done by leveraging the pre-existing beliefs of a regime’s supporters against the regime itself. For instance, the Ukranian student resistance group “Otpor” crafted dilemma demonstrations by identifying regime policies that conflict with widely held beliefs and then forcing the government to choose between doing nothing or applying sanctions that violate those beliefs. If the action goes forward without repression, it accomplishes something worthwhile related to the issue. If the regime represses these actions in a way supporters find intolerable, the regimes pillars of support are eroded and the activists gain even more attention.

If, instead, the action can be ignored or tolerated (such as an antiwar rally on Hiroshima day in Japan) or if the repression does not generate popular concern (such as arresting a protester who punches a policeman), there is no dilemma for the regime. In these cases, the regime will always have the option of avoiding political jiu-jitsu.


Violent suppression does not guarantee political jiu-jitsu will occur. This will only happen if two conditions are met. First, individuals with influence over the regime’s pillars of support must believe the repression is unjust, unfair, wrong, or inappropriate (a receptive audience). Secondly, information about repression must be accurately conveyed to those individuals (a secure communication channel). An empirical study of violent repression against nonviolent protests from 1989-2012 found that regardless of severity of repression, the biggest predictor for the success of political jiu-jitsu was pre-existing campaign or communication infrastructure. For instance, what if Gandi had failed make sure reporters like Miller would cover the march? What if Miller’s newspaper was only read by a handful of British citizens, none of whom could include the relevant pillars of support? This was not the first time police had beaten innocent civilians. It was the first time that these acts were conveyed through a secure communication channel to a receptive audience.

Regimes can prevent backfire by ensuring one of the two above conditions are violated. Brian Martin outlined five such methods: cover ups, devaluing the target, reinterpreting what happened, using official channels to give the appearance of justice, and intimidating or rewarding people involved. Cover-ups involve restricting media access, censoring the media, and discrediting any sources. Devaluing innocent Indonesian women and children as “communist sympathizers” allowed the Australian Prime Minister to condone Indonesian atrocities without so much as an angry letter to the editor. Americans in Guantanamo Bay tortured “terrorists” and “criminals” not “men and women imprisoned without due process.” The fairness of repression can be reinterpreted by lying, minimizing, reframing, and blaming. When first asked about the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, the Indonesian government claimed that the protesters were carrying weapons (they weren’t), that only 19 people died (271 people were murdered), and that the protesters instigated violence (they didn’t). The American government claimed it did not engage in torture since waterboarding and stress positions leave no lasting (observable) injury. And even if the American government tortures a few arabs, it is just because the alternative is letting a “ticking bomb” detonate on American soil.

One of the more insidious means for regimes to manage outrage is the use of official channels to give an appearance of justice. Ombudsmen, courts, commissions of inquiry, panels of experts, grievance procedures, and any other formal process for dealing with problems can be exploited to reduce public outrage by creating the perception that the problem is being dealt with. Due to the slow and technical nature of these channels, people’s outrage dies down as time passes. Reports are issued, low level lackeys are sacrificed, charges are dropped as public attention dwindles. When questioned about massacres, the Indonesian government claimed they were investigating the issue of “rogue soldiers” killing civilians. Many committee hearings and investigations occurred into Abu Ghraib, but only a few privates were convicted while the preponderance of evidence showed the abuses were systemic.

Notice how each of these five techniques effect either the secureness/accuracy of a communication channel or the receptivity of the audience. Cover ups prevent either condition from being fulfilled. Devaluing targets lowers the receptivity of the audience by lowering the resulting disgust or outrage. What is unjust about mistreating an inhuman target? Believing the victims were violent or aggressive makes violent repression appear to be a more reasonable (less unfair) reaction. It can even be considered “just” to kill peaceful protesters as long as the audience believes these protesters were a serious threat. Similarly, a sense of unfairness about the repression can be dampened with the appearance of sanction through official channels.

If activists have no control over communication channels, the regime can flood the audience with propaganda aimed at lowering their receptivity or discrediting the very existence of the repression. While the internet has provided an invaluable opening for communication, regimes have equal if not superior access to that channel. If every major newspaper and blogger claims violent repression did not happen, even photographic evidence of the act may not convince the relevant audience. In the future, however, the greatest challenges to the truth will not come from an unified “cover story” but from multiple disinformation narratives that create debates over what should be basic factual information. The recent controversy over “fake news” is a good example of this. What if an activist’s website gets labeled “fake news?” What if a trusted source is secretly turned by the regime and comes out against the activists? What if everyone has a different explanation for what happened because the opponent has purposefully created multiple, contradicting narratives?


Each regime outrage management technique can be countered. Most immediately, the regime’s cover up will fail if activists can expose the actions with video, photographs, eyewitness accounts, and other forms of evidence. In 1991, Indonesia endured yet another massacre, this time two hundred and fifty civilians. The government informed the international community that it was a “misunderstanding” due to protester-instigated violence. Same as they had for decades.

However, these civilians were part of a funeral procession covered by journalists like Amy Goodman and videographers like Max Stahl. The footage was broadcast across television networks inciting international outrage that lead the US Congress to cut off Indonesia’s military aid. However, had this occurred a decade earlier, Suharto’s iron control over media access would have prevented the story from coming out. The cover up would be complete.

Once repression is exposed, activists must be sure to validate the victim. The regime depends on dehumanization to lower the outrage of the public at a perceived injustice. As noted above, simply referring to civilians as “communist sympathizers” allowed the leader of a western nation to condone borderline genocide without raising an eyebrow. However, what if activists had been able to put names and faces on these “communist sympathizers?” At the very least, the Prime Minister’s reaction to the massacres would not have been so flippant.

If the repression cannot be covered up and the victim’s humanity has been acknowledged, the regime must invalidate the injustice itself. The perception of injustice depends on the perception of the government having a disproportionate reaction to the activists. So, the opponent and activist’s struggle is over how the audience perceives the event. The regime’s lying, minimizing, reframing, and blaming must be actively countered. This is why pre-existing procedures and institutions for communicating activist viewpoints was the best predictor for success in political jiu-jitsu.

Only a deep knowledge of the relevant political institutions will protect activists from being entangled in meaningless official channels to give the appearance of justice. The difference between “congressional hearing” and “independent inquiry” could be the difference between a scapegoated bureaucrat and an overthrown dictator. In many cases, no good official channel exists and nonviolent struggle is the only option. Psychological preparations must be made for resisting regime intimidation or bribes.

Successful political jiu-jitsu is not a simple matter of activists encountering repression. Even genocide, carefully reframed, can be stomached by the masses. Every photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. marching depicts the tip of an iceberg: below it are months of planning and the careful crafting of dilemna demonstrations. This means forcing the government to choose between allowing activists to accomplish a protest-related goal or increasing activist support through repression.

If the regime completely dominates the receptive audience’s information channels (ex. news media, AM radio, internet, etc), it can cover-up violent repression, devalue the victims, reinterpret events as not being an injustice, dampening outrage with the appearance of justice, and even bribe or threaten witnesses and sources into recanting. In response, activists must collect the evidence needed to counter official regime statements that the mainstream news media may parrot as truth. They must actively humanize victims that the regime seeks to dehumanize as unworthy of outrage. Careful analysis by relevant experts must be undertaken before allowing regimes to resort to official channels. The longer the regime can drag out an event, the more activists must fight to mobilize people to maintain outrage. Political jiu-jitsu is not a result; it is a process. And when successful, it can crush the world’s most dangerous and most powerful tyrants.