Weaving the Threads Together

Part 12 in multipartite post, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State.

I first began to contemplate the power of ordinary people to not simply struggle through historic change wrought by the poor decisions of powerful leaders, but to affect history ourselves, when, post-graduate school, I finally read a book that had lingered for many years on my want-to-read stack. In A Chorus of Stones, historian and Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Griffin writes of the father of the Dean of my former College of Graduate Studies:

“Wernher von Braun never mentions concentration camp Dora. Yet he was seen there more than once by inmates who remembered him. As the designing engineer, he had to supervise many details of production. Conditions at camp Dora could not have escaped his attention. Dora did not have its own crematorium. And so many men and women died in the course of a day that the bodies waiting to be picked up by trucks and taken to the ovens of Buchenwald were piled high next to the entrance to the tunnels.”

The administrative clerks supervised by the upperclass product of first cousins and the daughter of a former Nazi first objected to my petition to print my thesis from movable type on the basis that it “might not be archival,” ignorant of print specimens remaining from the technology, first developed in China in the 12th century, that did not revolutionize the Western world until Gutenberg published his Bible in Germany some 300 years later and 500 years ago. Conservators’ standard PVA and wheat paste on signatures further strengthened with linen thread hand-sewn on hemp cords comparable to codices surviving from the 14th century “might not be as strong as” the heat adhesive requirements for contemporary theses and dissertations, Idaho’s bureaucratic clerks further stalled. And to my query about publishing on 100 percent cotton rag Italian mould made paper, exceeding by at least four times their requirement for theses and dissertations on loose 8-1/2×11 sheets machine milled from 25 percent cotton fibers?

“Oh, no one ever does that.”

Did you hear that? No one enrolled in the graduate college of Idaho’s flagship institution of higher learning ever attempts to exceed the bare minimum.

The graduate college supervised by the daughter of a rocket scientist partially responsible for developing NASA’s research program, thus indirectly for the Challenger explosion that caused the death of schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, due to, what was it, nothing more than O-rings poorly designed by Morton Thiokol, and, two years later, a rocket fuel plant explosion that blew out the windows at my former high school the same year that I returned to Vegas and married the first time, coincidentally on the exact date in history that one of Ward Weaver, III’s victims was born.

And that, dear patient readers, is what the education of little salt girls has to do with rocket science:


Retablo | Evening News, 2005, 26×17 cm, collage/mixed media

Are we condemned to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, in an endless traumatic loop, or might we learn from history?

The Dean of the College of Graduate Studies could not help but overhear, from where she sat at her desk in her inner sanctum with the door wide open, my conversation with that same administrative clerk while she raged at me about the campus newspaper publishing the story of my petitions without receiving prior administrative permission at “the Berkeley of Idaho,” where no one ever attempts to exceed the bare minimum, and apparently the administration not only typically controls its fourth estate, but blames the subjects of campus news stories for not performing the jobs of its editors, publishers, and faculty advisors.

Another time, encountering Dr. von Braun face to face on a Moscow sidewalk outside a popular eating establishment, she encouraged me to instead use 21st century technology and publish my thesis as a PDF “on CD or something,” directly communicating to me her disinterest in rigorous intellectual inquiry combined with her lack of knowledge of 21st century technology production tools. I cheerfully shrugged and responded that I could do that in addition to a fine press version:

wild child

Wild Child, 2008, 26.5×28.5×6.5 cm. Title refers to le jeune fille sauvage, the creature that philosopher Giorgio Agamben describes at the border of difference between man [sic] and animal. My MFA thesis explored critical theories of difference, sexual difference, desire, trauma, and taboo. Pigment ink jet and letterpress on Magnani Pescia, paste paper covers on museum boards, linen thread, exposed hemp cords, variable edition 6 signed and numbered, included in the collection at the University of Idaho Library, Moscow.

And she blinked.

But why would you want to press a shiny disc-object in the era of networked computers and now Cloud servers?

And after you save your digital file to your shiny disc-object, next that shiny disc-object is going to need a label and a case. Both of those will need to be designed. Hopefully by a visually educated human being. By the time you set a mark to a surface, you have already begun seeking a visual solution to a communications problem.

No doubt painter and designer Paula Scher could supply a PDF of her monograph. A year ago last spring I dug a copy out of Boise State University’s library, where her mass produced printing and adhesives used in her industrial binding have not held up so well under the ravages of college students. But at least you know they are doing their research down here in the southern portion of the state. In Moscow, the library stacks tend to attract more dust than students:


From her amusing illustration of our national map, maybe mental health professionals can begin to get an idea of the external challenges faced by graduates from institutions located throughout the American West, competing in our post-Great Recession era global job market?


Pace the opinions of tenured architecture faculty from Idaho’s flagship institution published in 2009 a full year after I graduated (PDF alert) and two years after I recommended a 180° shift in their drawing foundations curricula from product to process, because the human anatomy products when I arrived on their campus more closely resembled turkeys drawn from outlining my kindergarten hand and adding beak and wattles to the representation of my thumb and tail feathers to my fingers than Bauhaus design education. Something lost in translation as they continue to struggle to adapt their curricula from 1977 to find relevance to problems challenging our current era, such are the failures in communications between tenured architecture and communications design faculty in the same college.

With all due respect to Román, who acknowledged my presence in their college with a chin lift, once, after two years of me slavishly providing care to their students in what passes as their foundations program, slashed from the national standard of a full year to a mere semester, even as the architecture faculty complained about how little their students know on entering their area focus studies. “Get to know your students,” an emeritus faculty of Education implored incoming graduate teaching assistants, inspiring my pedagogy already grounded in the discipline of my undergraduate professors. Even your grad students. Strange, even if architects do not respect teaching and learning as intercommunicative process, you would think they would at least appreciate the importance of a solid foundation?

And a nod to Phil, who, as I recall, chatted with me halfway through my third year at a New Year’s Eve party in a neighboring community, comparing the similarities of his experiences designing prisons and elementary schools, before asking about what software I was using for drawing and teaching. I was then in the midst of my You Have Seen Me series of drawings that I would only be able to partially install in their cramped facility for my thesis exhibition the following spring. You should have seen him blanch three tints whiter than his natural hue, when I answered:

“A brick of charcoal about half the size of your face.”

you have seen me

You Have Seen Me, 2007, series of 24 drawings, each 76.5×57 cm, charcoal and Prismacolor on Fabriano Artistico (close detail). Photo documentation courtesy Patrick J. Finerty, Jr.

It’s all about selecting the right tool for the job.

Sometimes it’s about not being afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, although I can appreciate how that might be a challenge for architects who sign off on their work without visiting construction sites. Maybe the design of elementary schools should be similar to the design of prisons. Or maybe our elementary schools should be nurturing spaces, within nurturing communities, teaching and learning healthy communications, resolving internal and external conflict, obviating the need for the design of prisons for future generations?

More qualified now than ever before to encourage that same 180° shift in the design curricula that got me reassigned from my graphic design teaching assignment three quarters of the way through my third year at the University of Idaho, where teaching process instead of product draws immediate reaction from an administration with more energy invested in sweeping its dirt under its rug than obeying federal law when abusive males with alcohol problems threaten their female colleagues.

Still more challenging when regional employers offer design graduates paychecks less than what I was making before I graduated from college, not factoring for inflation, while demanding knowledge that I did not learn from my graduate school design faculty, and negating the skills of a professional designer by committing to art direction provided by visually illiterate market-driven bureaucrats:


As I explained to visually uneducated Ms. Dalrymple with the goal of communicating my level of expertise to encourage her respect despite my current socioeconomic status, to which she inappropriately responded by accelerating my brother-in-law’s psychological abuse with her threat of involuntary incarceration, I would expect fully tenured art education faculty to remain abreast of changes in their field without relying on emails collegiately forwarded via an outbound academic administrator from a graduate made destitute by the Great Recession coinciding with completing my studies from an institution with a nationally worthless brand, if I did not already have experience providing graduate teaching assistance for a lecturer whose repetitive pedagogy without grounding in historic and theoretical understanding of art probably causes more harm than good to the fields of both art and education, and whose grading rubric for student essays is a red pen randomly assigning A’s and B’s to writing that I would describe as significantly lower than my expectations for college level standards.

But maybe my expectations are too high?

Six years after I graduated with a “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out” degree, the University of Idaho Department of Art and Design visually communicates to a global audience its lack of comprehension of the concept behind STEM-to-STEAM educational policy developed under the direction of John Maeda, MIT grad and former president of RISD, one of our nation’s top design schools, influencing national legislation, before leaving for greener pastures venture consulting in Silicon Valley, where the poster design advertising Idaho’s 23rd Annual High School Art Exhibition copies Mr. Maeda’s content, but the form says nothing more than “make it pretty,” or art-as-self-expression in an era when we have progressed technology to the point that we urgently need to recognize “self expression” as the traumatized subject self attempting to repair its wounds, with the entire history of Western and Native art production providing evidence thoroughly researched and published in the cross-disciplinary fields influenced by critical theory, from the first images painted on the walls of caves at Lascaux to the totem erected under the shadow of the Space Needle in 2012.

Urgently, we need to ask: what would happen if we inserted trauma recovery, critical thinking, and healthy communication skills of art and design into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the foundational level of education, let alone policing, social work, and public health, fields that should be proving grounds for the application of academic theories, not for private profiteers?

I repeat: trauma unremediated through art-making becomes visually communicated via graphic design. Any disagreement between form, content, and structure reveals underlying abuses to someone with my level of visual literacy and knowledge of human psychology, even if I was not already intimately acquainted with the abuses institutionalized on the University of Idaho campus. If we want to stop campus shootings, we need to redesign our communities around an economy of intercommunicative care instead of our present economy that rewards narcissistic aggression.

The response of the clinician and treatment team at the state mental hospital in Blackfoot complaining about reading a mere 57 pages reminded me of Dr. von Braun’s administrative clerk, who first responded to my petitions by wailing, “Do I have to read these?”

mfa petition

A Double Petition, 2007, 26×28.5 cm, Early mock up for what would become my MFA thesis, while simultaneously petitioning the grad school for permission to produce my thesis in an alternate format, laser and letterpress printed, edition 2 signed and numbered (close detail).

From my experience providing administrative support for the research sciences, administrators in higher education typically facilitate academic research, rather than dictate its limitations. Never once, in editing manuscripts from research scientists worldwide, did I snarl, “Do I have to read these?” Instead, I quickly realized English grammar still applies, even though scientific texts were dense reading for me, for one project producing “the cleanest manuscript” she had ever received, according to a former production editor at Oxford University Press.

As far as I know, my 2007 academic petitions never received academic faculty review.

Which is unfortunate, given the U.S. Department of Education’s tardy review of the institution’s failure to uphold federal law. Unfortunate again when, in 2011, the same year that my ex-husband’s former mentor resigned from his position as District Attorney in neighboring Oregon after the DOJ investigated his (alleged!) sex crimes, coincidentally the same year that the University of Idaho lost former psychology female student and male professor to homicide/suicide, and coincidentally again that same year I was passed over for a one-semester, one-night-a-week class substitute teaching a beginning level course in Women’s Studies offering less than a living wage, despite references that included the Associate Dean who chaired the hiring committee and who had previously asked me to substitute teach her own classes on similar subjects, kept my writing for one of her upper division courses as examples for her future students, has since relied on my review and expert analysis of feminist theory prior to acceptance for publication of her own writing in a peer-reviewed academic journal, and the husband of the faculty member on sabbatical whose absence I would have been replacing, because faculty on the hiring committee did not understand what art and design have to do with gender or human psychology.

Who says it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?

In my experience of our post-Great Recession era, it’s neither. Corporate, campus, and community all seem to want me to supply not just my art, design, and technology skills, but bring my own budget.

Maybe I should bleach my skin, but the sun down here in the southern portion of the state has been so healing for my psoriasis, much more so than any treatment developed by dermatological science. Undergo a sex change operation. Magically reduce my age by half. Or beget myself from wealthy, well-connected parents. And play dumb as a box of rocks. That should get me hired in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Nor does it seem to matter whether your relationships begin with a handshake, a contract, or more intimate contact. Or whether those contracts are private or with publicly elected officials.

Never mind integrity. All that seems to count in the 21st century is if you are either in a position powerful enough to enforce those contracts or your hypocritical, contrary, or mercurial will over others.

From my petition challenging the masculine bias of language in higher education: “I can envision a future where the name of the degree is no longer presumed masculine as the norm, as the standard, without question. Perhaps an educational system of Beginning, Intermediate, and Final Degrees? Or First, Liminal, and Superior Degrees? Still a hierarchy, but a system based on knowledge, on level of education and effort, with no bias to either gender. Have they never conferred it because they have insisted we conform to the masculine standard – Or have we never asked?

“There is a value to men in these imaginings,” I wrote six years before another University of Idaho student left a fraternity house party and perished of hypothermia in Moscow’s bitter winter clime, urging that campus to better educate its rigid dichotomy between passive sorority and aggressive fraternity often performed by self-medicating with alcohol the sadness of that separation. As Dr. Cixous wrote a generation before me, “Men’s loss in phallocentrism is different from but as serious as women’s. And it is time to change. To invent the other history.”

In 2007, I continued, “We must pull apart, examine the hierarchical system from within the very system that keeps that hierarchy in place. Where else might we challenge these old rules, these old prisons, that keep us locked in? If not from within the institutions of higher learning, then from where? [Little did I realize then the prescience of my own writing:] From another form of institution altogether? From the sweat shops in third world countries? From the battlefields? From the trailer parks? From the pedophile’s grip on the chain-link, just on the other side of the fence from the children’s playground?”

In response to my petition to change the name of my degree as a challenge to our broken system of higher education that continues to privilege aggressive masculinity over passive femininity, Dr. von Braun’s bureaucratic clerk snarled, “That would take five years and an act of Congress.”

When I worked similar administrative jobs, I always kept in the forefront of my mind that my role was in service of research and education, not vice versa. Curiously, Dr. von Braun’s administrative clerk neglected to: 1) acquire her boss’s signature either approving or denying my petitions. When I returned to her office to receive the requisite signatures, administrative staff tried to redundantly argue that I still needed to produce a second version of my thesis, badly designed and cheaply bound to match the institution’s standard of banality. Like a second set of books. And still further, even after the campus conservation librarian – i.e., higher academic authority – approved my petition to design, print, and bind my own thesis, 2) follow through the process on the institution’s computerized system for graduation requirements, which meant the University of Idaho had the unmitigated gall to charge my account its automated $10 thesis binding fee, for my two hands an eight-hour, full-day sewing task for each volume of the edition, necessitating yet another telephone call away from my academic research and scholarship.

Administrative clerical tasks, both.

With my years of experience formatting Ph.D. dissertations for scientists too lazy to produce their own, I saw no point in paying graduate level tuition just to repeat my undergraduate experiences from one state to the south.

Midway through my first semester of graduate school, I learned to significantly lower my expectations for the institution. But there is a point where lowering still further would mean I would arrive someplace akin to Bill Gates’s “solution” for the problem of poverty. Or the equivalent of flushing.

What happens when administrative support staff dictate the terms and limitations of academic research far outside their own knowledge, and academic researchers race about performing the tasks formerly assigned to administrative support or information technology staff, conforming to administrative data form fields?

In 2011, administrators at the University of Idaho followed their same deny, avoid, blame-the-victim response to Katy Benoit as their response to my request for conflict resolution and help for a male colleague suffering anger management and alcohol abuse problems in 2005, or, as I explained in 2014 to Meridian Police Department personnel lacking in imagination, understanding of metaphor, and listening skills:

I am Katy; Katy is me.

That is not quite right. Katy was a victim. I am a survivor.

Psychologically recovered from similar traumatic experiences, I could as poetically, as metaphysically, state:

I am Ernesto; Ernesto is me.

wild child gatefold detail

Wild Child, letterpress printed gatefold detail.

Which does not make me responsible for Mr. Bustamente’s actions, but is why, as I explained to the deaf, dumb, or deeply traumatized Ms. Dalrymple, it is very important that you hear me.

In my professional design opinion, Katy deserves better than a cheap funerary bench engraved with tacky typography from the office of the same Dean of Students who neglected to do his job in 2006, five years before she was killed by a University of Idaho faculty mentor.

From the personal to the familial to the communal to the wider national community, this is how we avoid solving global, sociohistoric problems:

In 2012, former University of Idaho President Tim White giggled nervously in response to reporters’ questions about another of his former students, so many students he could barely remember the number, let alone by name, and whether or not they shook hands at commencement. In 2006, kicking off the new autumn semester and academic year, he sure remembered shaking my hand at the previous year’s event, much to his wife Karen’s visible dismay. Second wife stamped all over her. (Don’t worry, Karen. I’m not after your man or his money. Neither interests me.) A pity for those theatre-goers outside Denver that then-President, now-Chancellor White seemed more interested in my breasts or his unresolved difficulties in relation to his mother than in my painting or the rest of my academic scholarship. Difficult to establish a safe learning environment complying with Title IX when women scholars are treated as little more than objects by its male executive officer and embittered female staffers alike. Similarly, his top-down, dictatorial, campus-wide memo my final year of grad school announcing that racism would not be tolerated after an incident where the racist threat of GO HOME NIGGER was left on a classroom whiteboard does little to solve that abusive communications problem where parents, K–12 education, and political decision-makers have failed to better educate yet another generation of scholars before they arrive at campuses of higher education. “Loose associations” only to mental health professionals undereducated in what human identity has to do with human psychology or what healthy communications have to do with resolving internal and external communications conflicts.

Like James Holmes, I did not bother to attend Mr. White’s commencement. Unlike Mr. Holmes, I have been able to figure out that neuroscience does not answer all the questions posed by psychoanalytic theory. Empathy robots notwithstanding, science has yet to provide psychotherapeutic care.

Advice from a former colleague at the time of my grad school injuries and institutionalized rug-sweeping: “Just graduate, get a job, and then sue the shit out of them!” I performed the first with flying colors. Will the second happen before the third? Pity our society has not yet learned to better mediate our communications conflicts outside the time and expense of a court of law.

Not until 2013, while applying for a public art project memorializing two former Congress members from Hawaii, did I find Title IX, the federal law that I had previously associated only with college athletics and that the University of Idaho failed to uphold, which was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act by President George W. Bush in 2002, coincidentally five years prior to my petitions:

patsy mink daniel inouye memorial rfplunar spread

Two-page spread from Hawaii proposal, 2013, includes reproduction of a black and white portrait of Patsy Mink with (edited) images of Apollo 11 launch and moon from space courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, specifically the NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center.

Real slow and simple-like for readers other than yourself, Professor McConnell:

Congress. Initially. Passed. That. Act. In. 1972.

In 1972, I was still wetting my diapers at night. It would be one more year before my second husband was born to FBI parents, coincidentally the same year that Jay Bybee served a Mormon mission in Chile coincidentally overlapping an earlier 9/11, the 9/11 that most North Americans are too privileged to remember, the year of Pinochet’s bloody coup. Coincidentally that year Ted Bundy performed poorly on the LSAT but nevertheless got accepted into law school at the Universities of Utah and Puget Sound, and coincidentally I learned how to read.

Coincidentally, a few years earlier, on the date in history when the metaphoric stork was flying down to the earth to deposit my messy bundle in my mother’s arms, the Dean of my former Graduate College was staring up at the sky while her father’s rockets lifted men to the moon.

I do not remember whether or not she blinked that day.

Coincidentally, on that same date in 1951, J.D. Salinger published his now-notorious The Catcher in the Rye. Famous throughout much of the world, with Wikipedia reporting sales at 65 million books, when I introduced Salinger to my sophomore class of University of Idaho graphic design students, only 3–4 of perhaps 20 recognized this master of American letters, and only 1–2 students had previously read any of his work. That may be what first clued me in that something had gone seriously awry after George W. Bush complimented the reading skills of elementary school children who delivered atonal memorized chanting as substitute for reading and comprehension, and not too much later applied his signature to No Child Left Behind. And that something was connected to the trauma my students were first hauling into and then resolving in my drawing classes.

Yes, I know, J.D. would probably spin in his grave over one of my graphic design student’s postmodern interpretation for his jacket covers, but you should have seen her architectural illustrations before I pushed her to cut loose. As if her tenured architecture or interior design faculty are trapped in the 1970s:

teaching portfolio

Book jacket series, designer Heidi Miller (student work).

Coincidentally, and fortunately for me where my taste runs toward the literary and away from mass market horror or romance, the state mental hospital had not banned his work from their library. I like to think J.D.’s ghost was exacting some eternal revenge, or what better setting to wish I had broken my rule of humans never doing a job that computers can do better and begun counting his use of the terms “goddam” and “madman” that he intended as a mnemonic or literary device, I am certain, almost boustrophedon, but not quite, something happens in the memory as an ox turning while plowing, before working its way back again, the structure of memory akin to the structure of trauma akin again to the structure of language, so reminiscent of a Moscow writing workshop student reviewer complaining of the repetitions of “body” and “desert” in my work. She actually counted them. So reminiscent again of a scene from Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, so maybe now I have paid my dues, or history exacted its toll, some cosmic matrix of debits and credits realigned?

Coincidentally, on that same date in history 24 years prior to my birth, the United States government exploded the world’s first successful nuclear bomb. What someone of Ms. Dalrymple’s limited imagination or life experience or learning might dismiss as another “loose association” was for an artist who grew up outside Roswell and Area 51, attended graduate school in driving distance of the Hanford site, and who pays attention to the coincident signposts of all our lives no surprise at all when the Glenn and Ken Show pointed out the isolated mountain behind which lurks Atomic City on the way from Boise to Blackfoot.

At the time I wrote this requiem for former University of Idaho student Rob Harder, I did not remember that he had been officially enrolled, if not in one of my officially taught classes for which I earned poverty level wages, then for one of my unofficially taught workshops, for which I earned nothing more than departmental rage from the same administrator who tried to prevent me from collaborating with STEM faculty to teach my students human anatomy, demanded that I return my key to their meagre letterpress studio rather than work together to solve the problem of inadequate ventilation for that media in a low-ceilinged, windowless room with no fume hoods, and stunted my typography students’ real-world, hands-on learning experiences by refusing permission for chronologically adult human beings to optionally carpool 15 minutes to an off-campus facility.

For this workshop, I incurred the department administrator’s wrath for including all of her requisite information about my course on my poster advertising the class, in one small, exquisitely kerned paragraph, without requiring further paperwork from me by completing her badly designed administrative form:

spineless workshop poster

Notice the final S placed beyond the standard print margin for our desktop printers? That was so my students could participate in the design process before printing and posting the fliers around campus; default print setting crops the S but still leaves it legible, communicating that design extends beyond print collateral evidence of our thought processes into our walking-around world, or they could choose fit-to-page if they felt the anal retentive urge to contain design within the poster-product-object.

Exceeded my maximum number of attendees for the workshop.

Discovering an image of Rob in my digital files sometime during my years of submitting faculty candidate dossiers not only left me weeping for a light shut out of the world too soon, but reminded me of another time when I had seen him as a work-study student with his lungs and skin protected by nothing more than a thin cotton dust mask, head to toe in grit and debris, cheerfully scrubbing out a former ceramics studio to be repurposed for printmaking, where the department decided to hide behind some rickety bookshelves an asbestos-riddled kiln deemed too expensive to be professionally removed even after the near-explosion that attracted fire engines to campus the same day as the second threat from my male colleague with anger management and alcohol abuse problems that pushed me to move my studio off campus when Idaho’s flagship institution of higher learning decided to disobey federal law and failed to fulfill its contractual obligations to provide me with a safe place for working, research, and scholarship.

But maybe the kiln isn’t what killed Rob. Maybe cancer is just your destiny when you grow up with Hanford in your backyard. Here he happily poses with his completed “spineless” binding approved by the conservation librarian as “the direction we would like to head” for theses and dissertations in the State of Idaho, where, like me, Rob always seemed to be more interested in his learning process, and recognized the product of his bookbinding labors that day as simply taking notes for his next chapter:

rob harder at spineless bookbinding workshop

Another time I remember Rob devoting his energy to the college’s undergraduate students’ club, that year changing its acronym from DNA (huh?) for designers ‘n’ artists to AND with my blessing, where ampersands conjure many more possibilities related to both art and design than deoxyribonucleic acids, pace the earnest appeals from Seattle ad execs about really digging deep into the “DNA of a brand” and shifting the object of T-Mobile’s customers’ desire from a pink wardrobe-wearing ingenue to leather-clad, bike-straddling femme fatale. A pity for shareholders that their expertise has yet to work out as well as the CEO of T-Mobile continues to hope.

In 2006, in his role providing student leadership for AND, Rob discovered the club’s faculty advisor had yet to send $800, pennies donated from the University of Idaho’s working poor students intended for Louisiana State University’s decimated art department and raised thanks to the efforts of myself and one of my cohort, donning bright beads and in her case a colorful wig, standing out on the quad shaking our money makers while that same tenured art department faculty member screamed his abuses at us from a balcony above, a mimicry of Mardi Gras on a miniscule scale.

A full year after Hurricane Katrina, and still those funds had not been sent. I wonder if that money ever arrived, or if Idaho’s flagship institution continues its history of administrative fraud albeit on a significantly smaller scale than federal administrators tasked with rebuilding New Orleans? Don’t worry, I didn’t actually flash my breasts on the campus quad, but I think my time might have been better prioritized to binding a sketchbook and sending it personally to an art student at LSU, from one human being directly to another, rather than a body of citizens relying on traumatized faculty or our institutions or our governments for care or recovery.

I hope that Idaho’s flagship institution of higher learning isn’t draining the pockets of grieving parents gifting scholarship funds in memory of a student they praise for developing “relationships with students and faculty” after the same tenured art professor disrupted my foundations drawing classes by raging at my students for rearranging the furniture so they could learn how to draw and kicked off my second year of grad school with a tirade lengthened beyond his usual hour by warning his audience of graduate instructors against forming “relations with students,” when of course effective teaching requires professional, healthy relationships between students and teachers? Especially not from a faculty member with a lengthy personal history of outing homosexual military members during the Vietnam War and later allegedly inviting leather-clad young men to his campus office followed by suspicious sounds from behind its closed door?

Besides, isn’t that tirade as effective as closing the barn door after a male graduate stallion has mounted his way through a crop of female undergraduates and graduated the previous spring?

Question that I would like to hear answers from my former faculty, administrators, and debated by constitutional scholars, even though I am still not at all prepared to ask in open court: why was it my job to enforce federal law at Idaho’s flagship institution of higher learning from 2005–08?

More questions: why have academics across our land not better educated our federal government, explaining that yet another layer of bureaucratic rug-sweepers Title IX Compliance Officers will not solve the problem of aggressive masculinity performed on passive femininity, or passive aggressive communication resulting in crimes of sexual abuse, only proximity and empathetic listening skills learned through the arts and humanities from teachers cognizant of the falsely dichotomous, hierarchical structure of our society can begin to repair where parents, K–12 teachers acting under the sometimes contradictory directions of elementary and secondary education administrators, and political leaders have failed their young men and women entering their college careers in the early 21st century?

Why are we still repeating the same old questions from the Victorian age, blaming the predominantly female victims of predominantly male criminal behavior instead of asking why the male perpetrators’ fathers failed to role model healthy masculinity for their sons, and why their parents failed to model healthy communication based on mutual respect for their children of all sexes?

Happy to notice just over the time of this writing that the Department of Justice has deleted its former tagline from its global communications platform thereby finally beginning to answer my question of when our systems of education and jurisprudence are going to begin using language inclusive of all humanity rather than privileging the will of men over the agency of women:

doj tagline


Is our society so phallologocentric our minds draw a blank without privileging man over woman? Do they need my copywriting expertise devising another tagline?

In such a pretty typeface too.

State Hospital South does not subscribe to national or state print newspapers. The regional newspaper tends to feature articles about livestock or high school athletics over state or national politics, or, as I teased my treatment team, “If you keep me here past November 2016, I’m no longer going to be able to answer the question, ‘Who is the President of the United States?’” Despite optimistic scuttlebutt from returning graduates of Idaho’s Skittles School, Internet access is limited to three library computers shared among perhaps 30–50 patients during 30–40-minute sessions limited by staff-supervised scheduling. Some of their staff are regularly scheduled to work 16-hour shifts, which are not conducive to building healthy communication skills. I was able to log on just long enough to discover the free email account – a quick substitute for my brother-in-law’s refusal to uphold his terms of our agreement to pay for my web host “as long as it takes” for me to acquire professional salary in exchange for educated professional work – had been shut down due to inactivity while I was incarcerated, further thwarting my job search, and to notice yet another campus shooting in Oregon while Idaho was coincidentally imprisoning me without fair trial, but not long enough to click on the link to the story or establish a new email account, let alone trudge forward with my job applications, before staff directed my group back to our locked-down ward. Thanks to the library’s print subscription to Time magazine, I noticed that month’s cover story coincidentally detailed the failure of Title IX enforcement on college campuses across our nation.

Maybe it is time to question the effectiveness of that legislation?

I know it’s hard, maybe painful. It’s been law since 1972.

Time to rewrite history?

To first step back from the communications problem to better identify it, rather than attempting to solve it with top-down, dictatorial “solutions” that leave the victims of socialized and institutionalized sexism responsible first for the antisocial behavior of predatory criminals and then for enforcing federal law?

On your own campus, a victim of a fellow student’s criminal behavior “estimated that she had to write over 100 pages for the proceedings” of Stanford University’s failed attempts to enforce Title IX legislation. Does that mean the victim is manic? Or does an institutionalized process “extremely detrimental to the ability of the survivor to keep on surviving” indicate a broken system for administrating hastily written federal law?

If removal of institutional education funding is the only stick the federal government wields over state injustices, threat of enforcement only further harms the victims of antisocial, criminal behavior.

Maybe try carrots before sticks?

Education before punishment?

Arts and humanities funding equivalent to STEM and football, value humanist pursuits at least as much as technology and war?

What most interests me right now is the correlative promise by Title IX’s coauthor Birch Bayh, not just America’s broken promise of equal opportunity in education to learn the skills I have, but the opportunity “to apply those skills with the knowledge that [America’s women] will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work.” Whose responsibility is it to enforce that promise? May I sue the state for infringing on my right to work?

Where is my fair chance? Where are the jobs of my choice?

Working through the chaotic and increasingly threatening atmosphere of my family’s compound in 2013, I narrowly missed the deadline for Hawaii’s public art project. Nevertheless, I remain grateful for the experience of design research behind my application. Confirming my earlier sense that former U.S. Senator and Chair of the Appropriations Committee Daniel Inouye would support my efforts, his name gave me an opportunity to find commonality with one of my captors, of Hawaiian-Illinoisian descent, who readily recognized Title IX as equal opportunity in education without his masculinity appearing at all threatened, grudgingly complied with my backseat request that he refrain from smartphone usage while driving, please, and even produced a bottle of water to quench my thirst along that desert journey.

How would STEM-educated former Microsoftie Gayna Williams respond in a similar urgent situation, do you think? Would her expert confidence see her through?

More questions I am not prepared to ask in open court: did that retired California child abuse case detective reflect on the cognitive dissonance between transporting me across Idaho in shackles while expressing regret for the United States government abuses of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II? Or did he satisfy himself, as did so many good Germans in the midst of the 20th century, that he was just doing his job?

Grateful again for research for that application that led me back through my own journals, timelining my life to see where the threads of my work further entwine with the work of Patsy Mink and Daniel Inouye, only to discover communications that I had forgotten. By no means casting myself in the role of victim in my second marriage where I readily acknowledged, earlier to my then-husband and more recently to state mental hospital staff, who stopped taking notes whenever I discussed relationships in answer to their questions that isolate their patients in some sort of psychiatric or amnestic bubble, I became the more abusive partner in our relationship, owning my behavior, asking forgiveness from one of your former students, this passage from my journals during the era when we were commuting from Pendleton to Moscow and Moscow to Pendleton describes the depth of my empathetic listening skills that I developed through the process of trauma recovery leading to self awareness:

“He tells me of a dream he has of his mother. He wakes yesterday and tells me he had bad dreams. He tells me of a group of men chasing him, trying to kill him, of going out into the desert, of shooting them all – fifteen or so – before they could shoot him. He describes riding around in a Jeep with these men who are trying to kill him.

“Then he tells me how that was not the bad dream part, but the bad dream part was trying to tell his mother about the experience, and she would not listen… ‘No matter what I said,’ he tells me, ‘She just would not understand. I would say something, and she would just ignore it, or talk right over me, about something else, about nothing.’ He looks at me again, painfully. ‘You know how she is,’ he says to me.

“…So the bad dream part was not about being shot at, but about not being listened to, not being understood? …’Yeah,’ he mumbles. I pause again, considering. ‘You weren’t in the dream at all,’ he hastens to tell me, ‘Because you would have understood right away.’”

That is all I ask for, to be listened to as well as I listen, my listening skills recognized even at the level of the unconscious.

Isn’t that beautiful? I wept when I came across that passage in my journal. I had remembered him replacing all of my furniture with cheaper imitations, my cat with another kitten of his own. I remembered him telling me that he looked to me as a role model for providing care for that cat, not to his mother for how she treated their family’s cats, and certainly not how she treated her own children. I remembered hearing second-hand his anti-climatic confrontation of his father for his parents’ bad behaviors, in particular, how his mother treated me, like some piece of goo tracked in on the bottom of her son’s shoe, not deserving of respect or basic human dignity. But I had forgotten that dream.

That is why I write.

When I was younger, I thought it was because I had run out of people to whom I could turn for wisdom, encountering problems that my mother and my older sisters did not know how to solve. Now I realize it was also so my older self could learn from my younger self, boustrophedon.

That dream is the Oedipal journey:

The boy must leave the mother. Find his way in the world. Kill or be killed. But still longs to return, to tell an/other. It is not enough to have lived. It is not enough to dream. It is not enough to survive. We must also tell the stories of our lives to a listening other. Primal desire: our longing to be heard.

We speak and we hear; without which we are not.

If he sometimes felt only truly alive in my journals, I used to envy his dreams, so rarely do I dream, or remember my dreams on waking. When I do, I write them down, because of course our interior dream selves tell us more about human psychology than any textbook, dreaming the solutions to the problems troubling our lives. As well, that dream reveals the crux of my MFA thesis research: the power of the absence of nurturing, of being heard, in tandem or tension with the presence of abuse, killing, or the fear of being killed.

In her autobiographical report of my Cousin Ted, true crime writer and police consultant Ann Rule writes of interviewing with Seattle police psychologists as they try to track the serial killer, preparing in advance to give rational opinions, rather than share her dreams or fears. But of course our fears and dreams reveal much more about our psyches than our so-called “rational” judgments, and it is quite revelatory of Ms. Rule’s own psychology that she would repress her fears rather than share them with homicide investigators. Hers is psychoanalytic expertise influencing law enforcement agencies across our nation-?

She was young then; perhaps her understanding of human psychology has matured since. The edition I read was updated in 2009, but maybe the editors or publisher just weren’t very thorough in their review?

In separate passages describing what some investigators believe may have been his first homicide victim when the killer was as young as 15, Ms. Rule describes multi-state and federal authorities searching for the body around Lake Crescent, which she places near Tacoma/Gig Harbor. Is that a typo? Was her publisher trying to protect the abuser’s family from a public that danced outside a Florida prison when he was put to death by the state? Or did authorities never discover the body of the first victim of one of the 20th century’s most notorious serial killers simply because they were searching around the wrong lake-??

Today, anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and a web browser can access Google maps to confirm that Lake Crescent is way up north on the Olympic Peninsula, hell and gone from Gig Harbor. I have driven beside Lake Crescent. Located adjacent to the highway between Port Angeles, a seaside, blue-collar lumber town, and the northwestern-most point of the continental United States, its still waters appear so blue, so deep, almost not blue anymore, a turquoise mirror reflecting back the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Good to know a one-armed warrior awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a Medal of Honor for his sacrifices to his nation has got your back, even if he deceased coincidentally in Bethesda on the exact date in my personal timeline that I met with the development director of another community in Maryland to discuss the relevance of art and design to community development, coincidentally three days after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, coincidentally the exact date in history that, three days prior, a West Virginia astrologist claiming CIA connections predicted a powerful event before attempting to benefit from my educated expertise while offering the exact same remuneration offered earlier by Bill Gates and later by the director of Boise’s women’s homeless shelter.

Maybe she’s delusional.

Or maybe she’s an aging woman deeply traumatized by her earlier professional experiences, telling her knowledge to anyone able to hear?

Surely not America’s schoolchildren the victims of that possibility suggested by Dr. Olnes?

Why chalk up to government conspiracy what can be more easily explained by astrology?

On Friday, 13 June 2014, when I finally had an opportunity to attend a group session taught by my state-assigned clinician, I gleaned new insight into her description of my writing as “too much writing” thus arriving at her tentative diagnosis as “possibly manic” behavior. Following the categories of learning styles that I learned through an education seminar I attended in grad school, the clinician is herself a kinetic, rather than read/write, learner. For her conflict management workshop, she taught zero healthy communication skills to mental health patients, but offered a welcome reprieve from the mental health professionals’ typical pedagogy of taking turns reading aloud from photocopied handouts: instead, she split the group into two competitive teams, verbally described a remedial design assignment, and gave us 20 minutes to solve the design problem, while she stood to the side, making notes on our behavior, collecting more data for the state’s bases on one of those ever-present clipboards.

Would you like to make an educated guess as to which team won that design contest?

Assuming the point of any design problem is to win, when of course it is not.

Yes, in design courses taught by healthy teachers, students might learn healthy communication and conflict resolution skills while simultaneously devising ways to build, using nothing more than one long strip of masking tape and 12 drinking straws, an object that will hold a golf ball dropped from a 10-foot height. More or less.

A pity that design education in our era of STEM-worship may not begin for many students prior to institutionalization at the state mental hospital, and there supervised by visually uneducated social workers rather than taught by educated designers in return for a professional salary.

Bullet point added to my cv last summer: design direction working with all-male team of two military veterans, a homicidal maniac, and a former middle manager for an information technology firm.


Forgetting Heisenberg, the clinician interfered with her own experiment and muddied her data collection when she shushed me for observing that the other team was cheating by dropping their golf ball from a height much lower than 10 feet. When their ball dropped and toppled and rolled out of their design, my point about integrity became moot, but with the room already filled with cheering or booing for either side, why glare at me and silence my voice specifically? Are the mental health professionals incapable of abiding by their own rules? Is integrity a principle foreign to state bureaucrats?

Do you suppose that sexism stops at the doors to the state mental hospital?

Following yet another morning when I was again awakened at dawn for a blood draw without prior communication scheduling an appointment, with state mental hospital staff replicating the abusive behaviors of the state’s privately contracted facility, I queried of the surly collection of desk attendants if their actions matched the written text of the hospital’s badly designed Venn diagram of its values and customer service guidelines, printed on a poster, cheaply framed, and bolted to the wall behind their left shoulders:

state hospital south value journal page

While their written communications profess a commitment to our shared values like the systems thinking that is the butt of Meridian Police Department jokes, integrity, compassion, and so on, notice the gaping hole at the center of the Department of Health and Welfare communications overlapping circles? Another example of the breakdown between written, visual, and structural communications, or words, image, and actions, wherein the visual illiteracy again correlates with abusive behavior. Redesigning a system of healthy communications internally and externally for the Department of Health and Welfare would require not merely a “pretty” poster, but a 180° shift from their current practice, but with vernacular graphic design obfuscating their own internal communications, of course external communications with their clients degrade into abuse.

Later that morning, as I was transcribing the diagram into my journal in lieu of access to my smartphone for photographic documentation, I overheard two male voices kvetching about the institution’s “diversity” training to the pretty, young female nurses behind the desk, who giggled and cooed obediently in response:

“…We can’t say anything about race or gender anymore. We can’t call people names. We have to be all ‘sensitive’. We’ve gone through ‘sensitivity’ training.”

“It’s like in the military. Like in the Marines. If some guy tries to use the women’s restroom, you can’t jeer at him for being a princess anymore…”

Two wrinkled walnut specimens of white humanity with rapidly shrinking Y chromosomes unwilling to sacrifice what feminist theory describes as male privilege, also known as treating human beings with anatomy and skin color different from their own with what I consider to be basic human dignity, beautifully illustrate the failure of top-down, dictatorial, data-checkbox-filling bureaucratic administration of laws instead of better education via shared narrative and empathy building skills learned through exquisite compositions – literary, visual, theatrical, musical, philosophical, or some combination thereof – which can only be created and appreciated between human beings. Each time hospital staff clad in the black uniforms of campus security guards uttered the word “sensitive,” their voices rose in a high, mocking falsetto, a soprano outside my vocal range.

Would you be surprised to learn that I was forced by the State of Idaho to take brain-damaging meds longer than a homicidal male patient assigned to the same psychiatrist?

What version of Title IX governs that state campus?

Freely sharing with me his narrative about job loss leading to dire poverty, a traumatic experience with which I could readily relate without blaming the patient, no need to cast himself in the role of victim with his martyred whine, “through no fault of my own,” until the hairs rose on the back of my neck as that patient responded to my question about whether he felt frightened by his own homicidal rages, his tone eerily devoid of affect, “No, I just wanted to kill my girlfriend’s daughter. Gut her like a fish.”

Before hastening to add an Elliot Rodger-like qualifier lest I misunderstand, “But that was just a phase, a momentary reaction. It’s gone now.”

And the next time that patient is faced with a traumatic experience or asked to resolve conflict? Did the state-mandated Bingo games, hours of television viewing on weekends when staff preferred to cluster behind their desk glaring at their patients rather than better prioritize that time with life drawing lessons or intensive psychotherapeutic care, or library stocked predominantly with titles by Stephen King, Danielle Steele, or Dean Koontz and authors of that ilk help him build those skills?

Critical question I am fully prepared to ask in open court: does our society need more golf ball catchers?

Given the opportunity to type, proof, and edit my journals for a publisher professional enough to offer a living wage contract in exchange for my labors, that chapter in my forthcoming book should provide both amusement and contemplation for both slow and rapid readers.

Or maybe in this era of volunteer contest labor and populist publishing, I should appeal straight to Jeff Bezos, skip the burden of professional wages for agents, editors, proofreaders, typesetters, illustrators, graphic designers, printers, binders, publishers, publicists, marketers, web and multimedia designers, developers, and administrative support staff and overhead?

Here are a couple of covers with spines (!) from which blog readers might choose their personal favorite:

desert bodies book jacket cover

even a sadist gets lonely sometimes book jacket cover

In comments, instead of beginning with the narcissistic, “Wull, I like…” first provide some basis for the expertise of your visual, literary, or psychoanalytic opinion. What is your family background? Where did you go to school? What was the emphasis of your studies? What else informs and influences your judgments?

Still open to alternate titles and writing styles. Maybe Bundy Girls and memoir instead of novel? Or should I commit to this post’s working title, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State, and categorize under clinical psychology and law? Would readers invest in longer explanation of Unplay the Shame and Blame Game, with still more anecdotal examples, improved graphic design, and illustrations to better help you make that leap out of the vicious cycle of the trauma narrative from victim/abuser to survivor?

Fifty-seven pages already drafted of that version.

Another excellent example of the challenges in communication, speaking and listening, hearing and being heard. If anyone on the planet would like to reward my hard work with 57 pages of feedback, I would feel deeply flattered. My brother-in-law’s response?

A snarled, “You shouldn’t’ve done that.”

Which I do not know how to hear as other than a threat, his intent evidenced, to my mind, by his later actions.

But what’s your perspective?

Coincidentally, Michael Dukakis was the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1988, the year that plate glass exploded out of the window frames at my former high school and I returned from New England to Vegas and married the first time. Michael’s cousin Olympia starred in a movie with O.J. Simpson, who starred in another movie with Kevin Bacon. With O.J. Simpson at least temporarily successfully prosecuted by the district attorney responsible for the office that plea bargained with the man allegedly solely responsible for the murder of my first husband’s third wife plus an as-yet unidentified body in the desert, maybe playful readers could confirm my arithmetic by answering the question, does that put me at eight degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon?

But, through you, as the former law professor of my second ex-husband and teaching colleague of Barack Obama and as a George W. Bush nominee to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, I am only three degrees of separation from both the current and immediate past Presidents of the United States. Should family genealogists decide to roll up their sleeves and get busy connecting the dots, through my second ex-husband, who is also related to the sprawlingly abusive Bundy clan – though only through marriage, his family was quick to point out – Presidents Obama and Bush could be more closely connected to one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century, other than my ex-husband graduating from the same high school attended by one of his young female victims, than my relationship to the Footloose heartthrob of my teenage years. You see? We are all interconnected. Buddhism calls that muge, with only our narcissistic aggressions barring our freedom from all duality, the concept that I introduced at the 2010 Designers Accord in Seattle, recognizing that we are all one and must learn cooperative sharing the rapidly vanishing resources of our aleatory blue sphere.

Which means we must learn healthy communications to form healthy, interdependent relationships, instead of codependent, passive aggressive communications dictating or acquiescing to abusive behavior from the structurally most powerful position in the household, corporation, or among global nations.

If Vincent Van Gogh had been alive during the era of risperidone, we would not have The Starry Night because he would have been sleeping 12 hours a day instead of painting. And then how will the next generation of Google engineers occupy their time on this fragile planet? How many readers think the world would be a better place without that painter’s contribution to society?

Coincident to this painter’s incarceration in Bingham County, Idaho, a 3-D printed replica of Van Gogh’s ear posed as art at a museum in Germany, compatible with the sardonic wink-wink, nudge-nudge of our era of mechanical reproducibility, to reference the work of philosopher Walter Benjamin for mental health professionals oblivious to psychologist Jessica Benjamin’s concept of intersubjective relations, with that painter’s original ear stored at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Why paint? When you can print your own? Why print? Why ask why?

(Why bother? – the apathetic side effect of the state-funded pharmaceutical experiment.)

Former Colombia presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt toured her memoir of being held captive for six years in the Amazon jungle shortly before I left Seattle, Amazon’s global headquarters, describing experiences remarkably similar to six years of job applications through our post-Great Recession era of late capitalism, which is like being held captive by former and potential colleagues, neighbors, and your own family, as I explained to Ms. Dalrymple’s snarled, passive aggressive denial:

“That’s not true.”

Identical in word and tone to the passive aggressive responses of your former student and son of passive aggressive ex-FBI parents through nearly six years of matrimonial hell until he finally heard my expertise repeated on the jacket flap of a book in the psychology section of our local library and had the courage to voluntarily invest in his own psychotherapy. If Ms. Dalrymple wanted my truth to more closely match her personal truth, then she needed to change her behavior before choosing to be the bureaucratic clerk whose opinions formed by ignorance and obedience to fearful abuse of patriarchal authority would encourage United States government-funded security forces to imprison me in the desert of Idaho, because now my experiences share even more in common with the experiences of Ms. Betancourt, despite the disparity between our wealth, education, and fame, rescued by U.S.-backed Colombian army forces on 02 July 2008, coincidentally the precise date in history twelve years after my father’s death and when I coincidentally completed a portrait of Patty Hearst as she appeared via security cameras during a bank holdup while suffering Stockholm Syndrome, included in my grey series of post-graduate school paintings, mixed from complementary colors, or opposing forces:

rich girl

Rich Girl, 2008, 56×61 cm, oil on birch panel. Photo documentation courtesy Patrick J. Finerty, Jr.

Pace the visually and psychologically undereducated opinions of Idaho’s mental health professionals, noting coincidences is not delusional. It is called paying attention. It is art and design education. It is applying the sociological imagination and fact-checking history in the process of designing infographic timeline for yet another government-funded project deadline preempted by my abusive brother-in-law’s rages:


Two-page spread from Hawaii proposal, 2013. Closest I could get to sincerely flattering one of my design heroes without being able to afford Virus Fonts, this layout expands the document timeline, finding strong coincidences between schoolgirls and warfare on 03 October throughout history. Color scheme continues from the project identity. Background images are screen stills from my PTSD recovery video.

Another relevant historic 03 October coincidence that I did not discover until after designing this two-page spread: in 1892, the University of Idaho first opened its doors, five years to the date before Freud wrote to his friend Fliess, abandoning his seduction theory, while confessing his own hysteria, dreams, and memories of childhood cruelty toward his niece.

Some significant 03 October events coincide along both Ward Weaver, III’s and Ted Bundy’s timelines, Ms. Rule may be interested to note. Or not.

Coincidences that may not be legible from your screen replication of that page layout intended for print media, 03 October 2008 marked three events, deeply interrelated rather than loosely associated for educated artists and graphic designers attuned to the threads interweaving the personal and the familial with the global sociohistoric: 1) former President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act rewarding financial industry and legislative greed while temporarily prolonging our globally unsustainable automotive industry and consequently Western dependence on oil, 2) a Utah genealogist published Bush family ancestry on all sides of the Salem Witch Trials, adding to our former presidents’ previously linked Nazi heritage, and 3) overnight, a young woman in Ohio hanged herself outside her bedroom window, successfully completing suicide.

mentor project

Study for Mentor Project (Portrait of Sladjana Vidovic), 2010, 51×56.5 cm, charcoal and Prismacolor on Fabriano Artistico. Collection Celija and Dragan Vidovic.

Coincidentally from my personal timeline, that morning I woke from a dream of giving birth to a girl child while my mother attended, insisting on telling me I wasn’t doing it “right,” until I sent her away, reassuring her that it would be okay, that I had done this before. There was a boy toddler in the dream, the difference between ages the same as the chronology of years between Sladjana and Eric, one of her former classmates who successfully completed suicide the previous year, coincidentally on the date that more utterly meaningless “anti-bullying” legislation was signed into state law in Ohio, stories that I did not encounter until another 03 October 2010, the year and the date that I coincidentally posted my last iteration of my online portfolio and was catching up on national news after two months of being buried in code.


Screen shot 6other.com source code

Yes, I know, I am overdue for updating to HTML5 and CSS3. Multitasking that with my job and project application deadlines before the State of Idaho decided to violate my civil liberties.

Born at the height of the Bosnian genocide while then-President Bill Clinton and the rest of the world turned its back on the city coincidentally home to the incident that sparked World War II, and coincidentally on a date in my journals when I wrote a poem titled my own personal marilyn, memorializing a friend who coincidentally died when we were in high school, Sladjana immigrated to the very state coincidentally home to the Dayton Accords ostensibly resolving that conflict, only to decide that American adolescents are more brutal than Serbian soldiers, a beautiful young woman who had gone to the unfortunate extreme of surgically removing a beauty mark from her cheek in hopes of escaping the taunts of “slut” and “whore” from her high school peers, who later jeered into her casket and posted on their Facebook pages, “Success!” Antidepressant medication for which she was strip-searched by a school guidance counselor blaming the victim increased her trauma and the profits of the pharmaceutical industry but did nothing to change the abusive behavior of Sladjana’s peers and administrators at Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio, in a nation starved for healthy mentors.

one child left behind

One Child Left Behind, stop motion, multimedia, in progress, (frame still)

Tears shone in the eyes of Bosnian American housekeeping staff at Intermountain Hospital inquiring about the new pronunciation of my name in tribute to Sladjana before they heard a story inaccessible to Idaho’s mental health professionals closed to truths that exceed the limits of their personal knowledge or experiences. The jeering of Meridian Police Department personnel toward my better educated expertise replicates the jeering responses of Mentor police and school administrators impatient with Sladjana’s mother’s accent: from Mentor to Meridian… from Washington to Washington… from sea to shining sea… my country ’tis of narcissistic aggression… sweet land of incarceration…

By 2010, Mentor High School administrators successfully taught their students lifelong abusive behavior, but miserably failed spelling, as their online profile boasts to its global audience:

mentor high school spelling success

Ten years earlier, in October 2001, then-Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift formally apologized to the families of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, declaring them innocent of their previously accused crimes. Memorialized by the same architect who coincidentally designed homes for both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, over 300 years later, the “witches” in America are hanging themselves.

Must we wait another 300 years before the United States government apologizes to its own children?

one child left behind

One Child Left Behind, stop motion, multimedia, in progress, (frame still)

As Ms. Betancourt reflects on coincidence after her six years of captivity so similar to my six years of captivity under capitalists ignorant of basic human psychology or healthy interrelations, convinced of the “truth” of their individualist bootstrapping mythology, passing over the “talent” urgently needed to solve problems in business, public policy, and education, while passive aggressively blaming the victims of their abusive behaviors:

“I no longer believed in coincidences. Ever since I had been abducted, in this space of life outside time… I’d concluded that you had to be patient and wait for the purpose of things to become visible. And then coincidence ceased to exist.”

Patient. And waiting that involves actively seeking colleagues healthy enough to reciprocate my respect. What less self-aware folks dismiss as coincidence, I describe as destiny.

“Tie the two strings together,” Rick Williams offered his Native wisdom after he listened to my description of working on designing solutions for problems in American public education that have resulted in the deaths of so many of her schoolchildren.

But why limit myself to two strings when, if you tug on a loose thread long enough, the complex weave of the entire tapestry, both warp and weft, begins to unravel?

Of course I knew that I would journey to Blackfoot before Mr. Stanciu’s memory failed to inform me specifically which date. Or for that matter, even prior to meeting with the taxpayer-funded, white, male, private security personnel in Meridian. That’s not delusion, grandiose or otherwise. That’s just analogue journal writing dated 14 May 2014, from my notes graphic de-signing a badly designed suburban neighborhood disintegrating into a continuous dull, oceanic roar from the interstate and meth cook houses while police cars whiz by, not slowing down long enough to notice the telltale paraphernalia littering the ground or the birds falling out of the sky too poisoned by exhaust fumes from traffic congestion to keep flying above relatively uninhabited Idaho. May I introduce a term that innovative neuroscientists and psychologists may soon add to the academic canon?

Empirical empath.

Empathy is like a muscle. It gets bigger and better toned the more you exercise it.

Empathy requires listening. Paying attention. Like we do in art.

Go on. Assign entire reams of scientists to study me. I will work on replicating my experimental results. I can be of far more help furthering your research as a respected colleague de-signing your environment or working on visual solutions to communication problems instead of the totalitarian state forcing me to become yet another drooling vegetable-object of psychiatric data collection in our failed experiment in democracy.

If I must remain within the inhospitable State of Idaho, the community for me might be Hailey, conveniently situated near those meetings in Sun Valley. I was even able to network interest in my live/work community healthy communication conflict mediation space concept from a retail property owner while we were both incarcerated at Intermountain Hospital, based on the strength of my design portfolio that so intimidated Ada County Sheriff’s office. He vowed to buy refills for my Waterman so I could keep writing on the outside world, and, desperate for an empathetic listening m/other, continued to confide in me from my staticky connection on the short-corded end of the telephone shared by all of the patients on my unit at the state mental hospital:

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

“Because I listen?”

Of course, as he pointed out, I am in a vulnerable position for leveraging to get what I want. “Well, the thing is, for a man of my position and resources, you’re in an insane asylum. And that’s not good.”

“I know.”

“You’re in jail.”

“Yes, I understand.”

But from my perspective, he’s a drunk. Not the most reliable landlord or business partner. And not quite ready to acknowledge the drinking as self-medicating from unrecovered trauma. Alternatively, I hear through the grapevine that Bruce Willis also has space available in Hailey. With just two degrees of separation between them, maybe Kevin Bacon could put in a good word for me?

If military psychologists are anything at all like the mental health professionals statewide or stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in neighboring Washington, Hailey’s native son Bowe Bergdahl may need my expertise working through his process of trauma recovery with someone who can deeply empathize with what it is like to be held captive for six years as a result of the decisions of our government leaders, his release from Afghanistan coincident with my involuntary captivity within American borders coincident with President Obama quoted in the 16 June 2014 print edition of Time magazine: “Because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders” (emphasis mine), an article I read coincidentally before staff returned my group to our locked ward where another patient coincidentally raged, “FUCK THIS PLACE AND FUCK YOU PEOPLE,” charging through the dayroom, threatening staff and/or other patients with physical harm because, speaking from his personal experiences, “I’D RATHER BE IN A FUCKING PRISON BECAUSE AT LEAST YOU GET A FUCKING RELEASE DATE.”

What about within our borders?

Coincidentally, thanks to conversation with a first generation American of Afghani descent further abused by the wardens at Intermountain Hospital who discriminated against her religious beliefs on the pretext that scarves are not allowed on the ward, causing her further psychological harm by isolating a patient severely depressed and suicidal after suffering the traumatic experiences of immigration preceded by the murder of one her sons, I am prepared to greet Mr. Bergdahl in my very best imitation of English or Pashto, his preference.

Tiny detail included in my initial reading of The New York Times story reprinted in the Idaho Statesman, later omitted by journalists or editors at Time magazine: while he left behind machined weaponry, Mr. Bergdahl carried with him something to write on and something to write with. What more evidence do military and political leaders need that the pen, shared food, and common language are mightier than however many trillions of dollars they continue to invest in warfare if our mutual goal is the survival of the species?

Empathetically, how is the White House different from a gilded cage?

Where is my apology, first from the University and now the State of Idaho?


8 thoughts on “Weaving the Threads Together

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