White Hot Flame

This blog has a persona that I’ve been attempting to carefully control.  It hasn’t been the full picture, though, and sometimes I don’t feel good about not sharing everything.  As an experiment then, here’s some of what you’ve been missing:

“Hi Pete…maybe not cold blooded, but perhaps a bit narrow visioned, or at least inconsiderate, as a result of white male privilege…brutal enslavement of women is not a thing of the past.  Sadly, that is not made up.  And I disagree that it was “cured” by the U.S. military riding in on their white horse. It happens here too.”

“Hey S-,

I just finished watching “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and I have to say I’m in the mood to talk about my feelings.  Brutal enslavement of women is not sanctioned by anyone (public or private) in the United States of America.

What are you even talking about?

Individual crimes happen, sure, but those will never stop happening.  In fact, I heard the other day that a white male was murdered.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  Because I’m white.  And I’m a male.

The terrible crimes against women that happen in America and occasionally are bizarre enough to receive national news coverage (which are the only things I can possibly imagine you’re referencing as evidence of women being enslaved “here”–you do know slavery is against the law here, right?), these individual crimes aren’t even in the same categorical universe as the situation in Afghanistan–the situation that is causing Afghan women to choose to burn themselves alive.

Wait a minute.  I think I know what’s happened here.  Yes, it’s all becoming clear now.  Because I look like your dad, who I can only assume you hate, you think you get to bring up my “race” or my “culture” or my “ethnicity” without fear of reprisal.  That must be it.  Am I close?

To be clear:  (I was taught once to not use the phrase “I think” when writing, because of course each of us only ever writes our opinion.  But for those of you who haven’t learned that ev-er-y-thing is opinion, I’ll use “I think” here.)  I read M-‘s poem.  I thought it was good.  I didn’t think it was great.  But I thought it had the potential to be great.  I never doubted that Afghan girls were burning themselves alive, though I don’t have time to focus on the news these days, and until reading the poem, I wasn’t aware they were doing this.  The purpose of this course is to teach us to write better, teach us to use imagery, etc., teach us to write in a way that causes the reader–any reader–to feel what we (the writer) intended to be felt.  I did not “feel” that M-‘s word choice was as effectively-imagery-ridden as it could be, and, in my own style, I told her as much.

S-, R-, and K-, that you chimed in on this discussion did nothing except reveal how misaligned your understandings’ of life on planet Earth are.  Suffice it to say, because I have responded to you despite the fact that you used words like “offended” and “inconsiderate”, I’m now very afraid that some actual repercussion will occur, and, if so, that could result in me losing some money.  Because I clearly think I know everything, I composed a swan song that I’d like to share with you now.  Please write this down, and when able, commit it to memory:

College is the last time in your life

When you might be given actual honest feedback.

However, at your bidding, in this class, and from now on,

I’ll only say the most unoffensive and considerate things about everything you write.

In effect,

I’ll lie.

That should cause

Some real growth.

I know I’m

Looking forward to it.




  1. Joan Janis


    WHF…I like it.

    I read this blog this morning, actually. First thing I noticed was you mentioned the persona you’ve been attempting to control. That set me up to think, ok, this blog will be different, what’s going on here, uh oh, something dangerous is about to be said.

    Then, seems like a critique of your work by “S”, and this flame about brutal enslavement of women. “What are you even talking about?” you respond. At that point, I’m sort of incredulous, doesn’t Pete know about this? Dismissed as individual crimes. Isn’t every instance of brutality and abuse an individual crime?

    The tone of the paragraph about Ya-Ya Sisterhood was something I never heard from you before, so I hearken back to the disclaimer at the top, the persona you’ve been attempting to control. Lost control right there, yup. And kept the loss of control going, right on thru “cried myself to sleep” – Aw, who knew Pete was like this? Keep the new attitude rolling, “you do know slavery is against the law here, right?” and then, rip S open, invalidate all she says by “I look like your Dad”. This puts me on the edge of my seat, this is so combative, what is going ON, I have to ask myself.

    Then M’s poem. What do you mean you weren’t aware Afghan women are burning themselves alive? Unlike practically everyone in America, you were actually over there. How did you not know about that? Aren’t there documentaries on Netflix about this? I don’t watch the news much at all, and I know about it. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, you can look it up. I liked it that you said, “I wasn’t aware,” which struck me as nakedly honest. Then I thought, well, you were in the military, you were not running around socializing with the people, you were not there as anybody’s therapist. So, you said something about this poem not being all that and a bag of chips, fair enough, your opinion, you admit it. Leaves me assuming this “M” is someone in your college writing class who wrote a sucky poem about the brutal enslavement of women, leaving me to think they made it out to be more “universal” than it perhaps is considered to be, and when you said your thoughts about it, parts of the group took offense. Well, f—them then.

    When you refer to your fellow students as having misaligned understandings, again, the persona has lost control. This is the new mugwump, who does not hold back or feel the need to be politically correct. Again, this is combative, edgy, dangerous. Blood is in the air. Write this down and commit it to memory. Did you really say that? OMG. What has caused the wheels to come off the bus?

    Is this the real mugwump? You’re going to hold back your true critiques, and lie? Why? Who are these wimpy bastards who cannot take the truth? Some college students? I think of you as being above them and feel surprised you’d care so much what they think. What set you off? What were you REALLY reacting to? Still wondering. I didn’t understand the line about it costing you money. When you said you clearly think you know everything, I chuckled. Yep, that’s Pete, not only thinks that, but admits it out loud. Right on. These people are nowhere near being worthy of a swan song from you.

    Ha Ha, How brutal am I being to these poor students whom I’ve never met? Notice my quick loyalty to my friend, my willingness to see and take his side, in spite of this outrageous arrogance, hubris, superiority complex which the persona usually manages to suppress.

    Not having read the poem by M, I still want to say something about the “brutal enslavement of women.” Some would say genital mutilation is brutal, but it is not enslavement. 40 million women mutilated, mostly by other women, but enslaved, perhaps not. Cases in the news in US, at least 2 in the past year or so, women who escaped from a psychopathic man who’d had them locked up for years, tortured, sexually enslaved—one of them even had 3 women, and at least one of them had had one or more children by the captor. Yes, these were individual cases. The movie 9 and a half weeks, how many relationships are re-enacting that scenario every day? No one is going to tell us. That was not just a movie, though, I’m sure of it. Let’s talk about the large number of women the world over who work as prostitutes under the protection of a pimp, a pimp to whom every dollar they earn must be handed over, for fear of beatings, torture, and possibly death. That’s right here in Denver, man, not just Mumbai, New Orleans, and Rio de Janiero.

    I’m thinking I might be as old as your parents, so we’d have to go back to your grandparents generation to equate it to my parents’ generation. This was before “women’s lib” started in 1968, and really took off in 1970. The whole country was up in arms over the new title “Ms.” I lived thru this, it was an enormous rip in the social fabric. Prior to that, you would have called me “Mrs Jeff Bretz.” It sounds absurd now, I know, but back then, a wife “belonged” to man, and had no choice but to take his name, proving that you were his property, as were the issue of the marriage. It tore the country limb from limb, men did not women to be independent. They owned us. It seems inconceivable now, and a little bucolic, he was the provider and protector, and she wanted that. Nobody saw that as brutal enslavement, naw, but the idea that you were a man’s property was quite prevalent. In many relationships, families, and communities, men could do whatever they wanted and get away with it. When I was a kid, fathers regularly beat their wives and children, and this was normal, this was not reported to the authorities unless they actually killed someone. We didn’t wear the burqaa like they do in the middle east, where a man can cover his woman with bruises head to toe, and she is not allowed to show any part of her body, wearing the shroud of the burqaa in public, making it all seem nice, eh? When birth control pills (The Pill) came along, women were hugely liberated from the forced situation of having a kid every year for however long the man wanted. You wouldn’t remember how it was before the civil rights movement for women, but there was a huge element to women being owned by men, ordered around by men (No wife of mine is going to work for a living!), kept from having their own income, shut out of most professions, voices silenced in politics, in many cases, kept pregnant for years on end. Perhaps “brutal enslavement” is a dramatic interpretation, perhaps the words are too strong. And yes, you’re right, every one of these is an individual crime, but when you add one and one and one and one for as many times as it has happened, it does not seem so individual anymore.



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