Reciprocity in the Time of Despair

I’m thinking about Donna Haraway, the biologist, feminist, radical and formulator of the descriptive value of recognizing and exploring the oddity of our interspecies reality. [1] That we live with companions virtually all the time and everywhere, and that we are not, in fact, able to think ourselves adequately as lone individuals. That we gain nothing from failing to recognize that we are composed of ourselves in social arrays  with fellow beings, with species, human and otherwise. That we are inhabited by others and others inhabit the world and make their way with us, that we would not be here if they did not. That without them, there would be no “us.” How else could a pigeon or a bacterium or a dog exist, she shows us, but for the historical position we arrived at with them, and they with us? Yet how do we treat them and their habitat, the dirt they share with us?

We live in colonies; we are colonized. We are colonial entities ourselves: collections of microbes as well as genetic particularity, and laden with behavioral practices that simply could not exist without their having been grown and developed in us through interaction with others.

History is an inextricable element with biology. Relation. “Symbiogenesis”, a word Haraway uses. “Tentacular thinking” … an expression of the homely ways that the world is filled with collaborators who supply one another with oxygen, waste, feeding grounds, places of play and reproduction, should we choose them. The genius of an octopus. The art of the orchid. The entangled, world-traveling, world-making collaborations that compose us and that we compose bring into existence phenomena and characteristics that could not otherwise exist nor be imagined without empathetic alliances. The world we view as biological is replete with examples. This is only the beginning of what she has taught me.

* * * * * * *
How would Rui and I differ today if we had had each other to grow with? In biology and anthropology [sic], we can view the developments of arts of “living on a damaged planet” today; yet they are damages that long preceded us out of necessity and strangulation points, bottlenecks which demand our attention now because, well because, as Haraway points out, we are on schedule to have increased our human number by 9 billion over a period of 150 years. Driven to salvage now, we can look at current and past lives and see how the expansion and contraction of kinship (whether or not it entered into our thinking) has alternately aided our growth, and brought us to a brink of what most see as catastrophe. How could a forest ever have existed if the ground cover had not kept the roots safe, if the roots had not bent to balance the light seeking of branches, hungry for sunlight, bending to where the temperature shows that nutrient vitality can be manufactured, up, in the air? The plants hear our approach; they adapt to our presence if they can. How many stalks out of the brain stem of our own nervous systems have grown fuller and reached farther, in order to meet a stimulus or warmth, be it from the sun, or a parent’s hand? How many calories are there in the love of a parent extended to his child’s comfort and growth? I only relate these elements because they are my story; my part to play. To have raised my child alongside the others, for that would have given us both, given us all, more life; not less. How stagnant and stale it is, apart!

* * * * * *

A month after Trump was elected, I was fortunate to hear a talk given by Jedediah Purdy, [2] thanks to the glories of the Internet. Purdy is a law professor at Duke, but more than that he is a writer of consequence. In the talk, video-recorded at Harvard, he read from Henry David Thoreau, as out-of-fashion an author as you might find. The lines were written in the 1850’s, from Thoreau’s despairing moment of recognition of the falsehoods that ran through the accommodations he had made with his country like air pockets through a Swiss cheese. His country at that moment was Massachusetts, where a fugitive slave law was upheld by the courts, thus assuring that men and women desperate for freedom and safe haven would be returned to their slave masters to resume a life that was a living death: being worked to death, and tortured by their “masters” who found their wealth and prosperity to be dependent on naked brutality. They would now see this brutality more fully and penetratingly enforced on those courageous and strong enough to attempt to save their lives. At this moment, Thoreau wrote feelings that resonate deeply with us today, in the fictive reality of Trump as future embodiment of power. Jedediah Purdy pulled the quotes:

“I have lived for the last month… with the sense of having suffered a vast and indefinite loss. I did not know at first what ailed me. At last it occurred to me that what I had lost was a country.”

Seeing the value of what he loves diminished beyond repair, Thoreau continues:

“I walk toward one of our ponds, but what signifies the beauty of nature when men are base? We walk to lakes to see our serenity reflected  in them; when we are not serene, we go not to them. Who can be serene in a country where both the rulers and the ruled are without principle?
The remembrance of my country spoils my walk. My thoughts are murder to the State…” [3]

Certainly we can empathize with the sorrows Thoreau felt he must then shoulder; to defy the rules he opposed because their open-eyed cruelty was repugnant to him. These were rules made for the benefit of profit-seeking; for the purpose of propping up a social structure founded on a principle of death dealing: expand, or die. This was the restoration to tyranny of the power to crush a challenge to its totality, its full spectrum domination of its ‘subjects’. But what is on the outer edges of this awakening from a dream, sympathetic as it is, is the non-recognition required over the period prior to this epiphany.

Who was it that lost a country that day during Thoreau’s walk? Did the fugitive slave who was to be returned, Anthony Burns, have a country to lose? This was the question raised at Jedediah Purdy’s talk. For all the angst I feel for the global impact with which the ascendance of Trump threatens the world, who was it that had this world to lose to begin with? When did its loss occur?

In the discussion, they talked about Ferguson, New York, Baltimore. I thought about Flint. About Syria. About Iraq. I thought about thousands upon thousands, expelled and forced to lie on the ground in the cold open edges of Europe today. I thought about lifeboats capsized in the Mediterranean for two summers. I thought about all those in Japan who were forced to live in the shadows of the enormous military base camps of Okinawa, their rights, their dignity and the pleasures of living denied them. I thought of all the children without the guidance and psychological care of their parents, who had no institutions to care to protect them from the cruelty and profit seeking subcultures of child abduction. I thought of how barren is life, here and there, without my own son. I thought about the institutions that stole my country, long before Trump and the new right wing crazies. Many of the culprits are the same ones. And it is they who will create the new accommodations to which we must either be resigned, or plot against.

Donna Haraway shows us in her writing that despair and hope are poor resources with which to think and create. We must be less fearful of the future at the very moment when it is most violently threatened. We have to achieve present-mindedness in order to fight back against them, seeing where we are, now.

My thoughts are murder to the State.


  1. Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, Duke University Press.
  2. Jedediah Purdy, “The Politics of Nature in a Time of Political Fear.”
  3. Henry David Thoreau, “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Collected Essays and Poems. Library of America, p.344-347
  4. Jedediah Purdy’s talk has since been edited and posted here!

 I honor my heroes and favorites, and continue to try to reach Rui this way.
I keep saying it to myself… More posts, and briefer ones! More – with brevity. No manifestos; just direct, from the day, outreach.

Posted in Brian Prager, Japan Child Abduction, Japanese Child Abduction, Machiko Terauchi, Ohnuki Kensuke Child Abductor, Parental abduction, Rui Prager, Rui Terauchi, 寺内るい, 寺内真智子 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rui is Eleven Years Old

November 2016

Dear Rui,

I walked today – as I always do – past the park where you and I were once locked in and let out by the NYC police that night. Do you remember that? We were so deeply into lying on the canvas net at the top of the jungle gym, looking  up at the stars, that we didn’t notice that the park was closing. It was a little scary to be locked in, but I held you and we waited until they came with a torch to cut the gate chain.

From there I walked to the train, same one where I carried you; and going past, there were so many mothers and fathers and beautiful kids of New York who were like you riding with mamas and daddies to their homes. I had the same daydreams I have always had; but each time they are- I swear to you -aimed more poignantly – sharply  at my heart – than the time before.

I am aware that you are passing the milestone of now 11 years since the day I first held you; your entry into the world in 2005.  It’s so sad and absurd to tell you from this huge distance how much I long for our old -and now distant to you- love between us.  Father and son.

I hope you are happy today, Rui. I hope that you have around you people who actually love you, and that the days we have lost have been compensated somehow by real people, real people who want more of you than your pretty face, your school-day achievements, or your private, quiet collaboration with their secrets.

I am unable still to discover your hiding place, even though it may no longer be as well hidden as it was before. Write to me, and I will know.

Happy Birthday Rui-kun.

Listen to these New York City school kids. This is where you were supposed to grow up; with kids just like these.

I’ve told the truth,
I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid.
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 5 Comments

Close to heaven, Crushed at the gate

It’s a failing that I have not posted with regular frequency here as time has rushed by. The reason is simple: it is a pain-filled activity and therefore, a hard discipline to stay with. But it is vital to my survival, my well-being, and my cause that I do. Like so many others, I have striven to live in the dream that in speaking up and writing about the issue that I deeply care about above all others, some outward influence or projection of a voice for change might be heard, and even make some difference, large or small. I find this to be one of life’s necessary illusions.

But mea culpa. I am not often strong enough to pursue this and fall prey to the demons of everyday life. The demons that prick and tug at left behind parents are vicious, relentless ones. They strike at odd times, in unexpected places. Every venture out into the public spaces of the city is a risky proposition where the psychic triggers of children’s voices, remembered parks, playgrounds, or any other place where children are kissed and carried, can be encountered. Yet, I know we can’t stay indoors and hide from the world.

In early 20th century Europe, Freud exposed the inadvertent, unconscious satisfaction we men and women sometimes tend toward, sabotaging our hopes to escape or lessen our discontent.  In his wonderful recently published book, The Trouble With Pleasure, Aaron Schuster gives us this bit of wit from French litterateur and translator, Georges Perros, “It is true that people go to a lot of trouble in order to be unhappy. But are they?”  A reply is implied by the famous Freud joke, “Not to be born would be the best thing… But this scarcely happens to one in a hundred thousand.”¹

So, attempting to restore For Rui Boy and return to making this my place to signal my part in the struggle of left behind parents, I make this post a paean to ongoing love, the undying, uncanny vividness of the bond with my boy Rui, attenuated, decayed, undermined and degraded by the systemic abduction regime of Japan, the collaboration of the U.S. government with that regime, and by the mother and family who have hidden him and kept us apart through all these most-important years.

Rui, never forgotten or out of mind for a day since the fraud was perpetrated, since his disappearance was plotted and engineered by Machiko Terauchi, Kensuke Ohunki and their cohort. Rui, my heart. Your photographs cover my walls. I close my eyes and see you every day.

Rui 2008 New York

Rui 2008 New York

I also take inspiration and comfort from those who provide them. This seems like the right time to single out one or two special ones.

My friend Bruce Gherbetti, father of three tantalizingly beautiful daughters, Rion, Lauren, and Julia, who were abducted 7 years ago, and have suffered being kept in the region surrounding the disastrously ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant since the tsunami of March, 2011 turned the soil and air toxic. Bruce knows where his children live. He moved to Japan to try to be near them as often as he could; to let these loved children know how deeply committed their father is to standing by and protecting them. He helped to start up an NGO called Kizuna CPR to work on Japanese parental abduction alongside John Gomez and others. But although his efforts to reconnect with the girls have been partially successful, they have also been thwarted in recent years by the girls’ mother, who has rationalized depriving them of the ardor and love their father offers them. Still, Bruce keeps hope alive by making the long trip to where his children are when he can from his current home in Australia. By showing himself at their home and asking for their company, they can know in their hearts that he is longing to see them and keep the bond alive.

Bruce has inspired all left behind parents with his candid displays of love and care for his children, his sacrifices, and his unsparing generosity to fellow parents of the abducted. To me, he has provided a vital link between the worlds of the sane and struggling, and the rest, sometimes lost and dying. We both have hopes that our kids might meet one day to understand what each of them has endured, and how it will always affect them.


Rion and Bruce – First hug in 2 years


Bruce with Flowers for Lauren

Bruce with Flowers for Lauren


Bruce and Julia (2016)

Bruce and Julia (2016)

Another relentless parent, engaged in recent attempts to bring public awareness to the absurdity, the inflicted pain, and the abusive process now part of the Japanese “management” of the issue of mass parental abduction of small children, is Tim TerStege. He has a campaign named for his son which he calls Liefie is Missing with Facebook links, and numerous letter writing campaigns and public demonstrations to try to reach people,  governments and news media. Most recently, Tim climbed to the top of Japan’s national-symbolic volcano, Mount Fuji, carrying banners and mementos to advertise the injustice that he and all of us are suffering. Several outlets from the Canadian news media were willing to make note of Tim’s struggle.

How shameful it is that the U.S. media has not also been willing to grant us access to popular support. Only money talks in America.

Tim Terstege climbs Fuji for Liefe.

Tim Terstege climbs Fuji for Liefe.


Japan has continued to make no meaningful progress towards eliminating the entrenched habit of allowing parents to abduct children, of denying meaningful ongoing relationships between divorced parents and their children to go on undisturbed by state practices and social pathology. There are committees in government, meetings with NGOs, pamphlets get published, proposals that get circulated, all of them inadequate and partial to the point where they serve only the function of infinite evasion.

In the meantime, there are millions of children in Japan who are growing up under this infantile form of deprivation and falsehood. An ever growing number of kids who have no authentic relationship with and, most commonly, no ongoing knowledge at all of their parents and the struggles we suffer, longing to repair what cannot be repaired.

This malicious abduction regime exists by design. It requires deep exertions on the part of the Japanese state and its partners in the U.S. Department of State to keep it going. That is what we must unfortunately document as well.

For this day, it is longing and lost love that preoccupy me. Missed opportunities in the thousands. Learning, expansiveness, and bonding missed out on. Possibilities lost. Music unsung. Poetry unspoken, unheard, and never created. Rui’s abduction is a torment of the human spirit. It is now and forever, never to be assuaged.


  1. Aaron Schuster, The Trouble with Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis. MIT Press, 2016.

She took all my money
And my best friend
You know the story
Here it comes again
I have no pride
I have no shame
You gotta make it rain

Since you’re gone
Deep inside it hurts
I’m just another sad guest
On this dark earth

I want to believe
In the mercy of the world again
Make it rain, make it rain!

The night’s too quiet
Stretched out alone
I need the whip of thunder
And the wind’s dark moan

I’m not Abel, I’m just Cain
Open up the heavens
Make it rain.

I’m close to heaven
Crushed at the gate
*They sharpen their knives
On my mistakes*

What she done, you can’t give it a name
You gotta make it rain

Without her love
Without your kiss
Hell can’t burn me
More than this
I’m burning up all this pain
Put out the fire
Make it rain.

I’m born to trouble
I’m born to fate
Inside a promise
I can’t escape
It’s the same old world
But nothing looks the same
Make it rain!

Posted in Brian Prager, 誘拐犯, Japan Child Abduction, Machiko Terauchi, Ohnuki Kensuke Child Abductor, Parental abduction, Rui Prager, Rui Terauchi, 寺内るい, 寺内真智子 | 4 Comments

Transitional Objects

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Rui 2009 NYC 2

Rui in NY. 2009

I imagine (merely imagine) that if he could speak from this part of himself, it might sound something like this:

“I have a father.

Just like anyone, I have a father who loves me, who longs to care for me, and whose care I need; a person who is part of me who I need to know, bond with, play with, and learn from in order to form a healthy psychic self. “

I might want him to say, “I  have a grandfather as well, who doesn’t know me now. Uncles and aunts, cousins and more. I had a language and geography in which I was once finding a place for myself. All of these external persons and places, not yet fully formed in me, were becoming something.

But then, I also have a mother, who hid me, like a keeper keeps. Within a family, a blurred and narrow, painfully-induced, broken-fragment concept of what I am. Likely she doesn’t tolerate the range of things that make up a whole person. She refuses to see in me the relation between “heteronomy” and “autonomy…” The thread between the building-up frame of multiple attachments – support beams and dream spaces;  songs we sing to ready ourselves for sleep and voice-tones we hear inside the quiet – all of these attachments that we make as small, growing people, which eventually grow into those on which we must depend, though we get on with detaching from them. With guidance and help, the time we pass, the attaching and detaching, binds the fragments into a world we feel from within, and eventually hope to  share with new persons.

But – “Soul murder results in breaking the victim’s identity into contradictory fragments that function independently, without effective synthesis.” (Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder, p. 256).

From her actions, it’s clear enough that mother hadn’t acquired the concept of how profoundly the protection from the dangerous or “threatening” element in the dependencies that all children have, is part of “good” parental treatment of a loved child. Protection from the eating, ravenous, devouring object that is created between us, if we are not wary enough of it. These are hard things to express, much less to deeply intuit.

There is what Winnicott called a “resting place for the individual engaged in the perpetual human task of keeping inner and outer reality separate yet interrelated.” (in Playing and Reality.) This place, a place that exists in a ghostly imaginary in-between, is the place the protected and well-loved child pours her love into: the teddy bear space (or the thumb) become visible  evidence that this repository of this love exists, though it can be rendered unseen with insensitive eyes; eyes of blame.

I often vividly remember a plaintive sound Rui gave, turning to his mother over his left shoulder, innocently asking “why-y?” when she refused his daddy a place in the king-sized bedtime story space where he was soon comforted to sleep. She wanted The Father to Leave the Room and Shut Himself Behind the Door. To leave them to their fragment, their unitary bond. She conspired against the heteronomous person laying there under her care.  But he protested – with this intersubjective space of love almost materializing in the room above our heads, making its presence known and felt in each  of us. “Why” indeed?

As I lay down and touched his four-year-old head, he was now smiling with the cover tucked under each arm. I saw his triumphal power to satisfy his wish. It wasn’t so much to ask; it didn’t last long. I recall the way his face squeezed itself into a display-smile for his mother to understand, were she to let herself see, his defense against anxiety.

Picture 11E

Rui’s father. NY, 2015.

Posted in Brian Prager, 誘拐犯, Japan Child Abduction, Japanese Child Abduction, Machiko Terauchi, Rui Prager, Rui Terauchi, Uncategorized, 寺内るい, 寺内真智子 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments