In summer 2014, within the boundaries of the continental United States, I was handcuffed by police, incarcerated for a month without arrest, access to competent counsel or fair trial, and force-fed brain-damaging pharmaceuticals that left me bleeding from three of my orifices because I come from a family who lied to authorities about child abuse, elder abuse, rape, homicide, and our shared genealogy in an effort to force me to sacrifice my career goals to perform household labor to meet their ever-changing and oftentimes contradictory commands, or the crime that the FBI describes as labor trafficking.
There. Despite graduate level education in both psychoanalytic and feminist theories, still it has taken me nearly two years to rewrite that sentence directly implicating my family in their criminally abusive behavior. Imagine how challenging for a child to describe similar abuses to police or social workers overworked, suffering compassion fatigue, or predisposed to sympathize with the narrative of abusive parents over their vulnerable dependents. Or for a battered wife who gets to spend her life in and out of mental institutions raging her scriptures at the walls because her family, her religion, and many quarters of her society – yes, still, in the 21st century – teach her that she does not deserve better than an abusive husband who knows he can call his neighborhood police force to have her hauled off and injected with antipsychotics if she dares to speak a perspective that differs from his own. Or a teenager trapped between divorced or dueling parents whose own conflict resolution skills are limited to alternating bouts of pouting and shouting, yet paradoxically our culture seems to demand their adolescent offspring should have learned healthier behavior skills sometime before high school, let alone college.
Investigating no further than testimony from feuding family members just familiar enough with psychiatric terms to abuse their definitions, suburban Boise law enforcement and isolated Idaho mental health professionals dismissed as “delusions” biographical facts from my personal, professional, and post-Great Recession job-seeking experiences – quite remarkable, I suppose, even unbelievable when compared to their dull personal lives, but readily corroborated by bureaucratic and genealogical records, my professional portfolio, design files, contracts, email communications, blogposts, and major media news sources.
“In the midst of a family feud, psychiatric labels can be used as dangerous weapons,” notes Allen Frances, M.D., a psychiatrist who sat on the panel for DSM-III and chaired DSM-IV, writing critically of DSM 5.0 in his 2013 analysis intended for lay readers, “The family needs to resolve the feud before they can be usefully involved in the diagnosis of any one of its members.” By winter 2016 Oregon law enforcement was spending $100,000 per week and required FBI intervention attempting to negotiate with more members of my family, so who was I to succeed at that same process on zero budget, without access to federal resources, armaments, or authority?
Just to be clear, Idaho’s mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel did not try to argue that my family is delusional, mind you, but that my relationship to the Bundys was a “delusion” of mine. One problem with that diagnosis is that Ammon and Ryan’s great-great-grandfather Abraham is also my great-great-grandfather Abraham. If my father’s ancestors are not also mine, then how can I exist? A metaphysical conundrum.
Fortunately for me, my little MFA thesis examining critical theories of identity, trauma, and the taboo means that not only did I learn that am I better read in psychoanalytic theory than anyone employed within at least one state’s entire mental juridical health system, but I’ve also read quite a bit of philosophy too, a field notorious for taking up questions like who am I? Why are we here? What is real?Questions unanswered by psychiatrists earning hefty paychecks dispensing pills contributing to egregious and widespread social harm.
And now that I have done the genealogy research that my hypocritical Mormon family was too self-absorbed or too afraid or too much in denial to do, analyzing datasets from multiple sources, as well as historic narrative record, not only have I stumbled across yet another field – gaining in popularity with ever-advancing discoveries in human genetics from my undergraduate alma mater – desperately in need of my graphic design skills, where the visual interface of genealogical databases seems to be designed to obstruct communication of relationships between individuals, rather than clarify them, made all the more complicated by intermarrying and polygamous and intergenerational relationships, but, even accounting for typographical discrepancies or redundancies in the Mormons’ own data, which I will need to further compare against original early American Quaker documents dating from our pre-Revolutionary War era, I can now explain in language simple enough even the most fundamentalist of Christians might follow along, because it reads something like a backwards list of Old Testament prophets:
For verily, my ninth-great-grandfather, William Bundy, Jr., a humble shoemaker, immigrated to the New World and beget three sons, which shall be named also William, a son Samuel, and another son Caleb. Pay attention to Caleb. We shalt therefore return to him in later verse.
William’s son Samuel beget a son, Josiah, Josiah beget Joseph, and Joseph another Joseph, and that Joseph beget Jesse, and Jesse beget Isaac, and Isaac beget my great-great-grandfather, Abraham, who beget many children, including a son Roy, who beget David Ammon, who beget Cliven, who beget two sons, Ammon and Ryan, as well as twelve other children. And it came to pass that Cliven and Ammon and Ryan departed the desert and went henceforth into the mountains and the forests with another of their tribe, Captain Moroni, but his adventures are recounted in another book.
Yet verily, Abraham also beget a daughter, Lillie Belle, whose long, raven-dark hair likely the phenotypical heritage of our Native foremothers, lured the attention of another of my forefathers:
Verily their union resulted in a daughter, Letha May, who laid down with many men, but always under the protection of marriage, including to my biological grandfather, who beget my father, who beget, alas, only one son but many daughters:
Lo! And behold William also beget another son, Caleb, remember how I promised to return to Caleb? And Caleb beget Jeremiah, sometimes called John, and Jeremiah beget many sons: Joshua, John, another William, Benjamin, and Thomas, as well as a daughter, Joan or Jean, and another son named for his grandfather, Caleb, and Caleb took unto himself three wives, and beget many children, including a son Christopher, who beget another Christopher, who beget many children by two wives, including a son, Hardy Culpepper, remember that name too, and another son, John Christian, who beget John Clyde, who beget John Culpepper, because the fathers like to name their sons after themselves, who married a woman already with son, Theodore Robert, beget by her father and his grandfather, who proceeded to reenact the rage of his forefathers and abandonment or lack of protection or nurturing from their mothers on women throughout the land…
Or so history goes.
Though of course Deuteronomy never reads quite that way, and the only incest the patriarchy concerns itself with is sons fornicating with their fathers’ wives, which sometimes happens, but almost never.
And Theodore Robert beget only a daughter, who remains unnamed to this day…
So now I can affirm with full professional authority, better educated in psychoanalytic theory than the employees throughout at least one state’s mental juridical health system, and not at all personally surprised, as intimately familiar as I am with the behavior of my family, why yes, it appears that the Arizona Strip Bundys, more recently the Oregon militia Bundys, are indeed related to the Bundys formerly of Tacoma, Washington, or the 20th century personification of “born” evil was reared by: my family.
Unless or until Gary Ridgway’s clan coughs up an M.D./Ph.D. psychiatrist/psychoanalyst or, better still, another MFA who focused her research on trauma, I think that makes me the worldwide expert in the psychology of serial killers, m’kay? Let’s face it, those other so-called experts out there are merely conducting post-mortems, at best, many of them none too self-aware themselves, unwilling to self-examine their own male privilege to recognize their objectification of women as a behavioral trait they share in common with “born” evil, rather magically attributing Ted’s behavior to “demons.” Or they look no further than the crime, reluctant to better understand the criminal, even if my inquiry hopes to prevent further criminal behavior. Or their theories quickly devolve into something something brain chemistry about which we know little, mumble mumble, whereupon the neuroscientists obediently churn out another generation of pills that teach nothing at all about gendered structures of power, or internal or external conflict resolution, let alone role modeling healthy behavior.
Journalist and self-published author Rebecca Morris observes of the sentencing of my adopted shirttail cousin Ted, “About the childhoods of serial killers: their families would rather their loved ones die than reveal ugly scenes that might save them from the electric chair.”
Or the insane asylum.
But I would not call that love. Because love should look nothing at all like abuse. Forcing one’s will over any other is abuse. Healthy human beings negotiate their conflicts to successful resolution without threats, coercion, or lying to authorities about child abuse, elder abuse, rape, homicide, or their own genealogy. The failed bonds of familial duty, maybe, but certainly not “loved ones.”
Yet “born” evil remains the prevailing myth in a culture that danced outside a Florida prison when my cousin Ted was put to death by that state.
If true crime writer Ann Rule, who amassed a comfortable fortune writing about her former friend and coworker, could not role model healthy communication for her own sons, perhaps her expectations were a trifle high for Johnnie Culpepper and Louise? And the story she left unwritten, unexamined, while her nemesis haunted her to her grave, might have more reflectively explored her feelings of betrayal, fear, and the source of those primal feelings from her own childhood? What sort of law enforcement family leaves its daughters to learn how to crochet from a woman jailed for murder-??
When a naïve social worker from rural Idaho stuttered, “I-I-I- don’t really know that much about serial killers,” in response to my description of my educated professional expertise and personal experiences before she obediently listened to my electrical engineering brother-in-law’s blustering denials and repeated to police his amateur opinion that I am “psychotic” for speaking out about the abuse in my family, what I meant in describing her behavior to police, is that a young woman unable to value herself except by her status in relation to men, e.g. choosing to prefix herself as a “Mrs.” in the 21st century, is poorly qualified to investigate domestic violence crimes or to be entrusted with the state’s authority to revoke Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Ditto advice to the federal authority responsible for investigating the departmental failures of white, male police officers unable to respect educated women for the gendered flipside of the same coin. May my civil rights violations urge caution to legislators tasked with rewriting public health law.
As psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D., writing in 1988, forewarned of the so-called neutrality of our present state system, “Male domination, like class domination, is no longer a function of personal power relationships (though these do exist), but something inherent in the social and cultural structures, independent of what individual men and women will…
“…If the rational, autonomous individual’s claim to neutrality is compromised, then so is his claim to universality. If his way of being in the world is not simply human, but specifically masculine, then it is not universal. And this means that his way is not the only or inevitable way of doing things. Furthermore, if this subject establishes his identity by splitting off certain human capabilities, called feminine, and by refusing to recognize the subjectivity of this feminine other, then his claim to stand for equality, liberty, free thought, and recognition of the other is also invalidated. And this means that his way cannot be the best way of doing things.” [emphasis mine]
The rational, sovereign state’s claim to neutrality is compromised.
Our present way of doing things is not the only, nor even the best way.
Given that quite specifically – statistically speaking, almost always – masculine rage working its way with ever increasing frequency across this nation, perhaps we are overdue for finding better ways for resolving internal and external conflicts, recognizing the other within ourselves, respecting multiple perspectives as we work together to find healthier solutions?
Among the many lessons I learned during my month-long close observation of the failures of at least one state’s mental juridical health system: the most significant difference between mental health professional and mental health patient is not behavior, but the countertop or fishbowl windows – e.g. the structure of power – between them. Paradoxically, DSM labels for various “mental illnesses” describe patterns of behavior – which the experts in the field might do well to better recognize as symptomatic of trauma – not systems of power. Begging the question, when do we begin to apply diagnostic labels to the abuse or lack of nurturing, rather than blaming the victims of unhealthy role models?
Tyrannical Father Disorder?
Narcissistic Mother Disorder?
Genocidal Dictator Disorder?
Ask your doctor, is s/he suffering Diagnostic Inflation Disorder?
Building from my graduate research, my initial hypothesis had been that evil is not born so much as it is designed and built, or science has weighted nature far more heavily than nurture (or that lack in both our private and public spheres) in its relentless quest for greater knowledge, a pattern of research that relies on the presumption of blaming the victim in abusive families, zeroing in on first the individual, then isolating the brain from the body, collecting cellular data, then the nucleus of the cell, rather than more rationally recognizing behavior as imitation, from one generation of chimpanzees to the next, with ever-decreasing social tools passed down from parents to children without tremendous self-awareness work, thus the relationships between human beings slip ever elusively away from the grasp of neuroscience.
If designed, or nurture reexamined, then we might also redesign ourselves; the problem of evil, or its solution, trauma recovery, self-awareness, and healthy communications are not problems for science so much as for art. And design. Science is cool and all, but every time my family attracts global headlines, my pharma-free method of trauma recovery becomes that much more socially relevant.
If my brother-in-law wanted to reduce my visual communications media from furniture that I designed and built, textile design and build, book design and bookmaking, printmaking, print design through full press production, painting, drawing, illustration, web design and development, and motion multimedia combining my range across analogue and digital media to the bucket o’ crayons deployed by the insane asylum as a method of temporarily alleviating their patients’ distress, he temporarily succeeded by force.
But to accomplish what goal? I surpassed coloring in the lines before I reached kindergarten.
The insane asylum’s curricula did include one hour-long design workshop, but unlike in my university teaching experiences where I role-modeled healthy communication for my students and taught collaborative working skills, the clinician only briefly introduced the design problem before standing to one side, noting prisoner behavior on her ever-present clipboard.
Notably – though unfortunately for me, where I might have added still further to my professional job-seeking qualifications – the insane asylum does not offer classes in computer science.
Hmm. So, on some level, the mental health professionals seem to vaguely understand the notion that art and design are essential to psychological well-being, even if their staff are not any better qualified to teach visual communications than they are human psychology, whereas the computer sciences may be detrimental? Is this theory reflected in national education policy, public health policy, criminal justice programs, salary comparisons between artists and engineers, or community investments?
As my daily journal shows, noting my observations of the behaviors and interactions of both mental health professionals and mental health patients, I maintained self-awareness throughout the traumatic experience of psychiatric abuses and civil rights violations from within a nation that I used to believe to be democratic:
My fiction has been warmly reviewed by a graduate of CIA-funded, nationally recognized Iowa Writers Workshop, read aloud on Radio Free Moscow, and published in a Chicagoland literary journal that receives public funding from Illinois Arts Council as well as private sources, including the MacArthur Foundation. I find it amusing that the editors incorrectly spelled my name. That can happen when you try to run a business operation on unpaid labor.
By January 2016 I realized there is no point in fictionalizing a life that already reads like a fictional narrative, though I remain open to alternate titles for my memoir of my experiences of incarceration, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State. Even destitute, homeless, and escaping further trafficking without my desktop computer, I’ve completed the task of typing up notes from my hand-written journals. Editing, jacket design, typesetting, page layout, and printing work remain, the same methodical, disciplined process I followed to complete my graduate research, not some mystical cre8tivity credited to an outside force or invisible muse. I remain hopeful, due to its social relevance, the importance of this work will attract a wider audience than my fine press, limited editions exhibited throughout the United States and housed in Special Collections in two of those states, welcoming the assistance of a judicious editor, commercial printers, marketing experts, reputable book agents, or publishers.
A chronological outline of my experiences I’ve included here as an open letter to one of my former husband’s former law professors – as a matter of historic fact, not Idaho’s delusional grip on 21st century reality – currently the Director of Stanford’s Constitutional Law Center:
- “Arrest” – for What Crime?
- Psychiatrist #1
- Designated Examination #1
- Designated Examination #2
- Mental Illness and Mental Health Professionals
- Judicial Proceedings
- Psychiatrist #2
- Subjective Diagnoses v. Compelling Evidence
- Unplaying the Shame and Blame Game
- The Cold-Case Homicide that Seattle and Meridian Police Departments Failed to Refer to the Appropriate Investigating Body
- Weaving the Threads Together
- Release from Incarceration, Reconnection with ‘Ordinary’ Life
- Conflict Mediation, Resolution, Remedy
All contributions go directly to restoring my autonomy, combatting human trafficking, and ending homelessness without administrative overhead. Contributions US$1,000 and above will receive named appreciation on the acknowledgments page and an autographed copy of the print edition.
keywords: art, bundy militia, bundy ranch, design, great recession, history, law, memoir, politics, poverty, psychiatry, psychology, ted bundy, trafficking, trauma