A Teacup of Water

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“When they were gone away, I studied my books, and at night I went to school. I was unhappy. I looked at a map. An ocean stood between me and the place I came from, but would it have made a difference if it had been a teacup of water?”

– Jamaica Kincaid, from Lucy (1)

Rui, Lost Baby
Your Daddy misses you every day, but worst of all this time of year – from November to New Year. I will find where they are keeping you, my darling son, and will find a way to help you discover  who you really are, and to know what  was stolen from you, and how.

Rui, it’s not your fault!  I’m absolutely certain that deep down, you feel that it is, because that’s how young ones are wired to perceive such things. The circumstances of your sudden departure, and what followed, led inevitably to that conclusion. There is no cure for a misbegotten fate, once it’s happened. But I am holding to the hope that I will find you at last, and that somehow I’ll impart to you how  deeply I hold the wound in my heart, and that I know about the wound in yours. One day-  in the future – we will work on the understanding that the injury began well before the day your mother took you to Japan, and that the knowledge and feelings you still have, feelings that you can learn to rely on, were planted in you then, as well.

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“The road started with the most obvious kind of trauma — my son’s head — and then to get to a place that had been just so devastated and traumatized, and then to see that in fact most of the trauma actually predated the earthquake.”

Actor Sean Penn, after his divorce, son’s injury, and earthquake in Haiti.

Adrianne Carey Hurley explains. “Like Orpheus, who was instructed not to look back, an abused child is taught to look forward and away from traumatic experiences.”
As the early psychoanalytic theorist and student of Freud, Sandor Frenczi, wrote in his treatment diary:

Such things are simply hidden in a deadly silence; the child’s faint references are ignored or even rejected as incongruous with the unanimous concurrence of those around him, and with such consistency that the child has to give up and cannot maintain his judgment. (2)

I long to show you not only that you are not strange, Rui, but that it is the ones who have closed you in their claustrophobic, high-walled world who are.  Again quoting Hurley,

When those motives to forget involve great personal or political interest – when the power and privilege of the traumatizers are threatened by disclosure – the efforts to silence those who have been victimized can be highly organized, [and] officially sanctioned…(3)

The key to the successful defense of child abduction in Japan is the effort to see that not only public expression about the rotten family arrangements that underlie it be suppressed, but that the conception of the trauma it induces be prevented even from being formulated. It is vital to the traumatizers, the abductors of children, the divorcees who deny their children the right to their parent, who demand of them that they dispose of their memories, their attachments, their love, and their emotional/ psychological security, that they not acquire a personal and/ or political analysis to explain their rage,  bewilderment, and loss. The existence of bonds with Daddy are the enemies of abducting parents like Machiko, her sisters and mother, who compel children to obey prescribed roles, not to resist or fight back to survive, or risk losing every remaining thing they hold precious and dear.

In this sense, it is not surprising that one thing American and Japanese youth have in common is the prevalence of certain kinds of violence. For both, the rhythm of violent outbursts is presumed to be undetected; the incidence of self-harm and hurting others has to remain “shocking” and “inexplicable.”
Perhaps when enough victims – both parents and children –  begin to see what these social and personal dysfunctions are rooted in – that they are, in fact, a form of “blowback” – then we will begin to deconstruct  the hold the traumatizers have on our collective understanding. The first step may be to let it be known to those people in Japan with short memories that conflict and contention between challengers and authorities are a normal part of  society, and control of the debate will be won back, by hook and by crook, or the price paid by Japanese society will be unaffordable.

Our distance from home may be an ocean or a teacup of water. Either way, we can swim, or drown.

December 24, 2012
My love for you, Rui, goes on forever.


1. Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy, (pp. 9 – 10) quoted in Gayatri Spivak, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2012

2.  Adrianne Carey Hurley, Revolutionary Suicide and Other Desperate Measures (p.36) Duke University Press, 2011. Quote from  Sandor Frenczi, Clinical Diary.

3. Hurley, p. 25

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