Armed conflict escalates as death toll rises in Salem


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July 21, 1694, Reuters staff writer

SALEM, Mass — Over 60 Puritans have been killed today as the death toll rises on both sides of the conflict in Essex County. The Naumkeag people have also suffered, having lost 14 warriors and two other members of their tribe since the fighting began a month ago.

“We were here first,” said a Naumkeag warrior who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity. “The Puritans are terrorists who oppress and kill us as well as their own kind. Their women are tortured and hanged and made to wear funny bonnets. Their morality is positively medieval.”

According to a treaty created by the sovereign state of England, the Naumkeags are entitled to most of Essex County. The Puritans are allowed to remain within Salem city limits, but in practice have been regulated to Gallows Hill as the Naumkeags have moved in on the other neighborhoods after carpet-bombing them with pig’s bladder balloons full of poison gas, as well as long-distance trebuchet shrapnel bombs. Pickering Wharf is now blockaded by the Naumkeags.

“They were asking for it,” the same warrior said. “They elected a mayor who is known to be hostile to our kind, and they refused to come to the peace talks in England. It all started because a white person killed three of our teenagers, so it’s really their fault. All we want is peace. We tell them we’re going to bomb them, and they still don’t leave their homes. They keep shooting muskets in the air instead. One of the bullets actually hit someone. They will not rest until we are all dead.”

“We could not make it to the peace talks,” Puritan mother Chastity Brown explained from her kitchen near Gallows Hill. “They blockaded the port and took our boats. They bombed our gardens. We have no food now. Over a hundred of our children have been killed by the airstrikes. They tell us to surrender, but if we surrender we don’t know what they will do to us. They have already taken so much of our land and killed so many of our people. They tell us it’s their land, but I was born here too. My father was born here.” Brown stops and begins to sob. “They shot my son as he was playing kickball in a field.”

Over 500 Puritans have died since the conflict in Essex County started. A Naumkeag chief recently called for “the killing of all mothers who breed little Puritan snakes,” and about 50 Naumkeags have recently taken to a hilltop to watch the long-distance bombings with a spyglass and cheer when something or someone gets hit. “#bloodforblood,” one Naumkeag elder wrote in the sky via smoke signal.

The English government has provided the pig’s-bladder balloon bombs and trebuchets, and several English banks have made agreements to invest in experimental weapons and land-clearing devices, since the Naumkeags are excellent innovators.

A faction of high-ranking Anglican dispensationalists believe that the Bible foretells the second coming of Christ to Salem, but that this will only happen if Salem is not populated by the Puritans, who are their enemies.

Christian Zionism and Judas Iscariot



I grew up hearing a lot about the Israeli-Palestian conflict, and it was always the same story: the Palestinians were the aggressors, Israel barely holding its own and hoping to eventually settle conflicts that had been there for thousands of years. But Israel was for Jews, that much was clear. Because the Babylonians took their land, then the Romans, then all kinds of other people. And, most importantly, because the Bible foretold the Jews returning to Israel (or something) and because this would have something to do with the second coming of Christ. But it was complicated. There was a lot of fighting. War In the Middle East. Peace Talks. All those headlines.

In brief, Israel needed its land back and was fighting to make that happen, which was good progress as far as most people I knew were concerned. But when I actually read the Bible, that seemed a little weird. Or at least when I read the gospels. Jesus was teaching during a time when many Jews, including at least one of his own disciples, were Zealots. Zealots wanted the Roman invaders off their land, and were willing to fight to make that happen. But Jesus said things that were completely anti-Zealot. Such as “render unto Caesar,” “if any man compels you to go one mile, go with him two,” and “love your enemies.” In the context of a people group oppressed and frequently compelled by invaders, this was anti-intuitive, and not all his disciples were keen on it.

Some historians and theologians, in fact, argue that Judas Iscariot was a Zealot, and not just any kind of Zealot, but a sicarious, an assassin who was willing to kill not just the Romans, but Jews who didn’t go along with getting rid of the Romans. Read this way, it certainly puts an interesting spin on things. Alerted by the authorities, who in turn have been alerted by Judas, Roman soldiers and temple guards show up to take Jesus prisoner, Judas in tow. Peter fights back by whacking someone’s ear off. Before anyone can do anything else, Jesus rebukes Peter, and goes off with the soldiers. Judas is upset and hangs himself. A very quick change of heart for such a heinous action, unless you assume Judas was betting on the other disciples fighting back, betting on Jesus acting in self-defense and from there sparking a larger Zealot following to rise against the Romans and re-gain Israel. Jesus could do it: Judas had seen the crowds adore him. But that wasn’t Jesus’ style.

So this is why it is puzzling that Christians are defending civilian killings of Palestinians in the recent Gaza airstrikes. It’s puzzling even if you accept the premise that all of Israel should belong to the Israelis. It’s even more puzzling when you look at the map of Israel over the last 60 years and see how the Palestinian territories have shrunk — it’s not the Jews who are being invaded this time; this time, they’re the invaders.

So it seems to have less to do with theology than with religious propaganda. If you can convince a group of people that something is a necessary part of their religion, they’ll go along with it, no matter how many children are being killed in the process. Of course, this is easier if you label the Palestinian extremists who kill two citizens “terrorists,” while maintaining that Palestinian death tolls of hundreds of children, bombing of hospitals, using chemical weapons on neighborhoods, calling for the killing of Palestianian mothers and so on, are all part of a war, a two-sided conflict. And justified, at that. Jesus would have wanted it that way. Someone in your territory kills one of ours, well, our military will kill a hundred of you. The true meaning of “turn the other cheek,” no doubt. A hundred eyes for an eye.

But maps of invasions don’t lie. Civilian casualty numbers don’t lie. They’re cold and hard, removed from the spin of either side, and they should trigger appropriate condemnation from all people — Christians included.



Halcyon Heline Botkin


IMG_8457My grandmother died today. It was strange, in a way, because I had just witnessed by first-ever live birth, racing my sister’s contractions in my red Subaru the two-plus hours to Moscow. I saw the baby’s name for the first time inked on the whiteboard and my eyes got a little misty: Norah Katherine, keeping the tradition of having family names as middle names. Norah followed Chloe Ann (after her paternal grandmother) and Elaina Halcyon (after her maternal great-grandmother).

My name is Katherine Heline Botkin. Heline is my grandmother’s maiden name, because my grandmother’s brothers died before they could pass on the name. Perhaps it was this, or perhaps it was the many other reasons that I thought we were alike, but I always felt a keen kinship with my grandmother. She had stories — so many stories, from so many places, especially given the time period. She loved her stories, and she used to tell me: make memories, because they will keep you company when you are old and blind. In the end, even her memory failed her, but until that point she was cheerful and happy — blithe, my grandfather called her.

She told us stories about growing up on the farm in Iowa, the depression, about the war, about going to the city and to carefully-chaperoned dances with soldiers. She told us about working in the fashion industry in New York, and how it was not quite as glamorous as she expected. She told us about going to Europe after the war, and staying there to work for two years. She told us about zipping around Paris on the back of a moped, about traveling the ocean by steamer, about galavanting around the United States and then getting married in her 30s and having four children in quick succession. She showed us the gowns she designed and made, using silk given to her by one of her suitors before she married. She wrote letters to the soldiers, many, many letters — among them her brother, who died, and the man who became her husband and eventually my grandfather.

Before I was old enough to be interested in her stories, she showed me how to sew, how to make paper dolls, even how to drink beer — she gave me my first taste of beer, which at the time I thought was horrid. But most of all she showed me kindness and love, and I used to sit on her lap and trace the veins on her hands, look at her turquoise rings, push at her wrinkly skin. She let me do all this, smiling at me. She wrote me letters, many, many over the years, and I saved all of them because I knew one day she would be gone, and all I would have of her would be our memories.

Kilmainham Gaol


I’m IMG_7705goingIMG_7722 to visit my friend Emma, who married an Irish guy a few years ago and is now living in London while he goes on TV to talk about his father and the corruption that took place in Dublin not long ago. I know Emma pretty well, and she’s more passionate about Irish independence than anyone I’ve ever met. So in preparation for my visit with her, I took the bus down to Kilmainham Gaol, and toured the facility where the 1916 executions of political prisoners took place. Those executions turned the tide of opinion for Irish independence, particularly the last one, James Connolly, who had severe gangrene and had been given a day or two to live. Not to be denied their execution, the jailers had him delivered from the hospital, carried in on a stretcher, propped up and shot by firing squad.

The jail housed a number of other political prisoners, among them Grace Plunkett, who married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in the jail’s chapel a few hours before his own execution. Grace was imprisoned during the civil war of 1923 in the same jail, and, being a talented artist and cartoonist, smuggled in paints that she used to decorate the walls of her cell.

The jail operated over a period of over a hundred years, beginning in the late 1700s, and a number of the prisoners were thieves who stole food during the Great Hunger. Women and children were brought in by the thousands then, and had to sleep crowded together in the damp limestone hallways. They were allotted food in jail, however, so they did not starve, although some of them did die from the filthy conditions.

IMG_7741The jail’s museum contained a number of notable items, among them an executioner’s business card. This particular executioner was apparently quite proud of his ability to calculate the proper drop in a hanging, and would pass his card out to the press at the public hangings.

One of the political prisoners of 1916 who was condemned to the firing squad, and subsequently pardoned after public opinion met James Connolly’s death with such horror, went on to become the prime minister of Ireland. The last to leave the jail at its closing, Eamon de Valera was the first to tour it when it was re-opened to the public in 1966, 50 years after the 1916 uprising.


On being thin


I had lunch today at a mostly-vegetarian place in town with some friends. I scanned the menu and noted that there were an awful lot of beans and rice, and not much in the way of hamburgers and fried potatoes, my eating-out meal of choice. I thought: well, I should probably have some veggies anyway, considering how infrequently I eat them. I ordered a side order of them, cooked, because salad as a meal is for Californians. I was walking in to grab some silverware for our table, and the cashier stopped me and asked if I was, you know, eating enough. “You’re so tiny,” she said.

I turned bright red. “Um, no, I eat,” I said “I already basically ate lunch anyway.” Yes, my mid-morning snack was a decent helping of gluten-free lasagna.

“I struggled with it, like, four times,” she replied “it’s not worth it.”

I had no idea how to convince her I probably ate more than she did by twice, so I just said, “I’m paleo. I eat, like, three things of meat a day.” Hence why I wasn’t ordering much at the vegetarian joint. I don’t think she bought it, so I just slunk back out to join my friends.

And I sat there thinking, I’m not “so tiny,” thank you very much. I was half-tempted to roll my sleeves up and start flexing to prove it. Or rip my shirt off and yell, “how about now; do I look anorexic now?”

I’m 5’7”, and right now I weigh about 116 pounds. That sounds small, I guess, but for me it’s completely healthy. I think I’m 34-25-36 naked, which theoretically is pretty close to voluptuous. Since adulthood, I’ve hit below 110 pounds, and up to 150 pounds.

When I was a kid, I was scrawny and short enough that my parents were worried there was something wrong with me. I had my first blood test at age 8 — they checked my thyroid and found out I was normal, just small for my age. I ate a lot — meat was my favorite. And, slowly, I grew. Eventually, I was taller than average — I who had been the runt of every age-appropriate class I’d ever attended.

In college, I started gaining weight longitudinally rather than merely latitudinally. At the time I thought this was really weird given how skinny I’d been for so long, because I would go to the gym three days a week, and I ate pretty healthy. Well, kind of — my main concern was being cheap, so I ate the most nutritious prison-style food I could find — raw oats, lots of potatoes, whole wheat bread, a $4 block of cheese, bulk soy powder, dried beans, and the least expensive meat I could find, which was primarily of the hot dog variety. Then, of course, if I had access to free food, I ate it, even if it was pure starch (as free food often is). I spent $30 a month on food, but I was getting very little clean animal protein and little to no decent fat. I rarely felt satisfied, but I kept gaining weight, even if it was just a couple of pounds a year.

I topped out at around 150 pounds in the summer of 2002 when I went to Taiwan and ate fried food and sweet bubble tea for a month. It was so humid that doing anything outside, even going on a short walk, was agonizing — the one day it rained, I danced in the courtyard with my friends, getting drenched, relieved beyond measure to be out in the open with a moderate body temperature.


Me in early 2006, second from the right

In 2004, I moved to France to teach for a year. The French eat differently than Americans, with less guilt and more butter, and the pricing scheme of their food meant I bought higher quality ingredients for less money than I’d spend shopping in the processed aisle. I walked everywhere — nothing new, but Rouen, at 400,000 people, was much bigger than my college town — and I frequently treated myself to fresh pastries, but when I came back to the United States in 2005, my friends asked if I’d lost weight. I wasn’t sure, but I thought so.

I started grad school in 2006, and I had enough money from my teaching salary that I could splurge a little more on food than I had as an undergrad. I bought chicken and veggies and generally ate more like I had when I was in France. I bought a road bike and used it almost exclusively. By the end of grad school, I weighed about 125 pounds.

In 2008, I got a real job and married a lawyer, which meant our food budget was enough that I could splurge. Between that and the stress, I dropped another ten pounds in a year and a half without ever meaning to. I was too stressed and in physical pain to work out anymore; running and biking hard made me feel ill, so I lost most of my muscle mass.

I got divorced in 2009, alarmed at how little I weighed — the lowest since age 17. I made an effort to get healthy again, and cured myself of my debilitating chest pain. I was still pretty skinny, but I looked and felt OK again. I remembered that I’d been skinny for most of my life, so I ate whatever I wanted and called it good.


Me in 2010, fitting into my Grandmother’s 22-inch-waist dress from the 1940s.

There were a lot of people who apparently thought I was still too skinny, however, and they made a point to tell me so. They asked what I ate and gave me plenty of non-expert medical and nutrition advice. They suggested I do more squats at the gym. They suggested I eat until it was uncomfortable. In fact, everyone had a different approach I should take to gaining weight. Some of them listened at the bathroom door to make sure I wasn’t bulimic. I started protesting, automatically, whenever anyone brought up how small I was, “I’m just small-boned.” I started wondering, am I the only person who thinks it’s weird that people are allowed to pass negative moral judgement on thin girls this way? It seems way more culturally acceptable to give me unsolicited nutrition and weight advice up close and personal than it would be to stop an obese woman on her way to grab silverware and give her unsolicited nutrition and weight advice.

The thing of it is, I do have small bone structure. I’ve always had small bone structure. Even at less than 110 pounds, I still had curves. In that way, I’ve won the genetic jackpot, I guess. But in other ways, it’s a huge inconvenience — even aside from the unsolicited comments. I am so slight that I tend to injure myself at pressure points that would not even phase someone else; right now, I’m recovering from a cracked rib that wouldn’t have broken on a larger person. Before you start saying that’s probably my own fault, I’ve faithfully taken calcium in various forms and drunk milk my whole life. This actually was worse when I was heavier; I injured my wrists repeatedly trying to hang my weight from them and my joints hurt when I ran, which has not been the case recently. Now I can do pull-ups, no problem. Strength to weight ratios, baby.

All of the unsolicited advice affects me, as it affects anyone. I stopped doing cardio years ago, opting for the occasional sprint instead. I’ve played with things, stopped eating gluten, started eating more meat and fat. At one point, I made a food diary and checked in with a nutritionist, and she told me my diet was perfect. I got a few blood tests to check my thyroid, iron and so on, and everything was still normal.

This last winter, it got to the point that I literally tried to gain weight and literally lost weight instead — hence, despite being mystified and frustrated by my excess pounds for years, sometimes I have a hard time believing weight loss should be difficult for anyone. Apparently all you have to do is a little cold-weather recreation while you eat a ton of organic grass-fed meat, organic veggies, dark chocolate and as much butter, cream and coconut oil as you can get down.

Or maybe I just have parasites from all my travels. It’s something to consider. I’ll probably get that tested soon.

Vice, Victims and Doug Wilson



Doug Wilson thinks that Lourdes Torres-Manteufel is not a victim; that she was a willing participant in an affair with Doug Phillips, and here’s his logic:

  1. Doug Phillips sexually assaulted her
  2. She cried and asked him to stop
  3. He did not stop
  4. She didn’t immediately leave his house. Therefore, it must have been consensual. Therefore, it’s adultery, not abuse.

In so doing, Wilson is keen on providing apologetics for even the “wrong” kind of patriarchy, claiming that he has to assign blame to the women who are used inappropriately by the “wrong” kind of patriarchy, because to do otherwise would mean they have no agency.

Perhaps Wilson would like to explain what Lourdes was supposed to have done in that circumstance. Her words of refusal were ignored. Should she have tried to kill her host with the bedside lamp? Should she have waited tensely for a few hours, gotten up in the middle of the night covered in his dried semen and run out into the street, screaming like a banshee until the neighbors turned the lights on? Should she have called the police on the house phone? Should she then, no doubt, have had endured Phillips’ immediate assurances to all and sundry that no, she seduced him, no, he didn’t actually do it? “I didn’t violate her,” he would have said “if I had violated her, she wouldn’t be acting so crazy. She’d be in shock. Look at this, look at this little hussy! I invite her into my home, I pay for her and her family to travel all over America, and she tries to slander me. I suppose I ought to sue them and take their mobile home to pay for the court fees.” Or, alternately, “if I had violated her, she wouldn’t be so quiet. She’d be angry at me.”

Undoubtedly, Wilson and I do agree on one topic: all other things being equal, it would have been better for Lourdes to have left Phillips’ home immediately. I imagine this has been a reoccurring theme in Lourdes’ head, too. Why didn’t I leave? Why couldn’t I find my voice, that first night? The second night? Why, God? Why was I silent? Why did I let him do that to me for so long?

This may come as a surprise to Wilson, but not acting in the face of abuse is not limited to Lourdes Torres, and this in no way means that the victims are consenting to the abuse. It is true that such abuse is not limited to women, or to children, or to sheltered women and children; it is true that if you’re “ever likely to encounter more than three men,” you “will encounter this kind of man.” Abuse is not limited to those who have been told to “keep silent” their whole lives, or to women who have been told to “submit” to male authority figures “as to the Lord.” Not that any of that helps; those phrases act as enablers for abusive men, both directly and indirectly. I know for a fact that one of the women in Wilson’s own congregation was shocked at her own response when someone tried to sexually assault her, and this is a woman who nobody would have described as mousy or quiet. She was a vocal proponent of saying no to the wrong kind of man. She was and is physically and emotionally strong, and even so, her first reaction was to stifle her own screams and be polite.

She writes, “All of a sudden I thought, ‘Dear God, I’m about to be raped.’ But get this…and this still amazes me…I didn’t want to scream for fear I’d wake up the other two people sleeping 15 feet away. Pretty dumb, huh? ‘I’m sure I can get him off quietly and then that way no one will have to know. Besides, what would she do if she found out that her boyfriend tried to rape me? He’s probably just doing it because he’s drunk.’ All that eclipsed through my mind in about two seconds. Risking my chastity for the sake of saving others from embarrassment. Pretty stupid. We definitely fought. Really a struggle. I think if he hadn’t been quite as drunk, he may have even won. But my persistence finally made him give up.”

In brief, she never screamed. She didn’t report him to the police. She didn’t make a scene. She was lucky: he was drunk, and she works out. She was lucky: it was a virtual stranger, not someone she’d been taught to respect and revere and submit to. Otherwise it might be her, getting accused of “adultery” on the grounds that she resorted to all the subconscious training that had ever been drilled into her about submitting, not disturbing other people, not “screeching,” not imposing, saving face, obeying without contradicting, all the rest of it.

Societal training is subtle and insidious. It requires deep cognitive dissonance to teach women that all of their wishes and desires come second to the visions of the men over authority over them, that they are to obey these men “as to the Lord,” and then whine that it goes without saying that these women should really only be submitting if the men in authority over them are submitting to God in turn. In fact, this is actively taught against in many ways. Here is a brief sampling of the quotes I’ve heard from Wilson and Wilson’s apologists: “If he says ‘jump,’ you ask him how high on the way up.” “If your husband is running your family’s finances into the ground, let him do it.” “Win your sinful husband over without a word, with a meek and quiet spirit.” “If he’s sinning against you, you have an independent duty to submit to his authority.” You can’t logically teach those things and simultaneously teach that specific women should actually not have submitted to specific sinful authority because, from your position of detached neutrality, you find it odious now that you’ve examined it after the fact. It might be your only possible cop-out, but it doesn’t add up.

Is Lourdes Torres-Manteufel an adult woman of uncommon spirit and determination? Yes, I believe so. Does this mean she was impervious to the social conditioning she was subjected to? Hardly. She came from a background of relative poverty and low social status. She was in her wealthy pastor and mentor’s home, as his guest and his servant. Her options for alternate employment and education had been limited by the self-same pastor. Her options to appeal to any other “authority” had been limited, also. There was no higher authority to appeal to: Doug Phillips ran the church both as law and clergy, the church was the sum total of her world, and the government was evil.

Why did she not immediately run from him? Because it wasn’t an option then. The laws of gratitude, hospitality, authority, fear, shame and practicality prevented her. Doug Phillips knew this; he had orchestrated it that way. He had a hundred reasons why she could not deny him and why he would be safe from her protests. She showed spirit: she said no anyway. And he ignored her, and continued to ignore her.

Doug Wilson’s denial of the realities that made such a situation possible only ensures that such things will continue to happen, perhaps even in his own community. They already have, of course. I’m thinking specifically of the case where a young teenage girl was molested, and Wilson saw fit to accept the abuser’s “repentance,” and refused the girl communion because, naturally, she wasn’t a victim either; she was a fornicator, and her refusal to admit to such a charge meant she was unrepentant. Unshockingly to probably everyone but Doug Wilson and those who think like him, the same abuser, who for a long time was a member in good standing at Wilson’s church, has now been charged with various domestic violence suits in Latah County, and his own children are being sheltered from him by the courts.

These suits will not stop because Wilson cries “adultery” without addressing how such broad teachings as “if your husband sins against you, you have an independent duty to submit to him, and to teach your children to submit to him” can play into this. Until abusers are held accountable — and I mean really accountable — women will marry “repentant” jackasses with the blessing of pastors like Doug Wilson, and they will submit until they are literally strangled.


Let’s talk about something real



So the whole world, relatively speaking, seems to be exploding with outrage over the recent suit against Doug Phillips. And for good reason. The man who earned a lavish living preaching that men should keep their daughters close in order to keep them safe was discovered to have been sexually preying on a young woman he’d invited into his home and called “part of the family.” Regardless of how much “consent” she articulated at any given time, he was still preying on her by virtue of the fact that he was in a position of authority over her, and he had in many ways adopted her as a kind of spiritual daughter. Despite the fact that Doug Phillips said he believed that females should serve the visions of their fathers with a meek and submissive spirit until they were married, he seems to have had no qualms about taking over this authority and providing a teenage girl with his own vision for her — apparently an extremely creepy and perverted vision, even if you only believe his side of the story.

I’ve always found it a little weird that the quiverfull/patriarchy crowd has been so into women serving their fathers in the confines of their own homes. The idea is that by doing this, they don’t go out into the cut-throat world of corporate politics and serve anyone unworthy (cough, Doug Phillips, cough). The idea is that they’re protected from nasty male bosses (cough, Doug Phillips, cough), and work for the glorious rewards of familial love and duty, rather than merely being “wage slaves.” Sidenote: this is also a great way of justifying not paying the women in your employ, whether they are your real daughters or merely young women of your congregation.

Besides the obvious abuses made possible by such an arrangement, the result of this is, there are a lot of women in this culture supporting some fairly mediocre family business ventures. Some appear to spend the majority of their time blogging about how imperative staying at home is to their faith. Some take pride in the endeavors of their fathers and brothers, which is probably how it should be on some level, but it also means that said brothers and fathers don’t get much of a reality check in the event that their business practices or ideas are actually terrible. Anything with the slightest sheen of testosterone is labeled as “manly,” and therefore a worthy masculine pursuit, no matter how flimsy the result is.

About ten minutes ago, I just finished creating a website for Collin Beggs Design Build Timber Framing, which — the company, not so much the actual website — puts everything I’ve ever seen coming out of the patriarchal culture to shame. I’ve been learning about the company for over a year, and from the first moment I walked into one of Collin Beggs’ houses, I was awestruck at how real it was, how solid and rich and long-lasting. The Port Orford Cedar, hand-planed into silky smoothness, wafted in the quiet air; the ceiling curved upwards like a cathedral cut from living wood. I’d heard a lot of talk about 200-year plans, laid out on a spreadsheet grid, but I’d never actually seen anyone who expertly built things to last that long. I’d heard a lot of talk about starting your own business, learning a craft, and not needing college for something like construction, but I’d never actually met anyone who pulled all of that off better than the masters-level architects I knew. I’d heard a lot of discourse on classical education, but I’d never seen a twenty-first century home built the way homes were built in the middle ages. And naturally, had I never left my own house, I would never have known about this company, let alone collaborated with it.

What I didn’t put into the website is that the person behind the business is such a purist that, for better or worse, he has refused to compromise on just about everything, without regard to money or winning people over. At one point, he had some clients who brought him a photo of a hammer beam truss, which is popular in commercial timber framing, although it is rarely used in a historically accurate way. Collin looked at the photo, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash. “Let’s talk about something real,” he said.

Today I remembered that in relation to all the revelations of Doug Phillips’ charismatic, money-making, two-faced ways. Let’s always talk about something real. It seems more healthy than dwelling overmuch on the unreal.

In which Lourdes petitions for a lifeboat


The date may be significant, or it may not. This morning, April 15, on the 102nd anniversary of the Titanic sinking, Lourdes Torres filed a civil suit against Doug Phillips, self-styled leader of the Christian patriarchy movement and the founder of the Christian Men And Boys Titanic Society. The Society, and Doug Phillips in particular, commemorated the sinking of the Titanic annually, praising the patriarchal Christian men who sacrificed their lives in favor of putting “women and children first.” Naturally, that’s not entirely true; the survival rate of first-class men aboard the Titanic was greater than the survival rate of third-class children. And perhaps this is significant, or perhaps it is not, but Lourdes Torres, the only daughter of an immigrant family, met Doug Phillips when she was 15, and shortly thereafter was invited up from her family’s mobile home to partake in Phillip’s far more lavish lifestyle, as a sort of unsalaried servant; she helped with household chores and childcare. She was rewarded with trips, gifts, pocket money, and the assurance from Doug Phillips that she was “part of the family.”

Lourdes’ complaint quotes Julie Ingersoll, noting that “In biblical patriarchy, the refrain of ‘women and children first’ hides an agenda whereby the women are ‘first’ only insofar as they keep their place which is subordinate to men . . . tragically, a biblical woman is also ‘first’ to take the blame for marital problems, ‘first’ to be excommunicated as part of church discipline, ‘first’ to serve her father and then her husband in his vision for dominion.” The complaint also points out that some other proponents of biblical patriarchy, namely Bill Gothard and Jack Schaap, “have stepped down or are incarcerated for crimes against children.”

In October 2007, 23-year-old Lourdes was invited to move in with the Phillips family. According to her complaint, shortly thereafter, she found the man who headed up the community she was part of, her spiritual authority figure and pseudo-employer, in her bedroom, sexually assaulting her. There was no penetration, so Phillips didn’t technically lie when years later he claimed that he hadn’t “known” Lourdes “in the Biblical sense.” Lourdes said she cried and asked him to stop, but he didn’t. This behavior continued over a period of some years, despite Lourdes’ repeated requests that it stop.

Phillip’s lawyer claims that all sexual activity (not that there was any, according to the lawyer) was consensual, and that Lourdes is out for some cash rewards. He says she’s given different accounts of what happened to different people.

And I say, so what? That’s normal. You don’t tell every person in the world the exact gory details about how your (pseudo) pastor/ (pseudo) employer assaulted you until you’re good and ready. Especially if that pastor/employer is a lawyer who excommunicates people on charges of gossip and threatens them with “slander” lawsuits to boot. As so what if she’s out for cash now? She put her education, her work and everything else on hold in order to serve Doug Phillips, often free of charge. The least he can do is make good on his promise to spare her a lifeboat before his ship is finished sinking.

The complaint does a good job of outlining how the community the Phillips presided over was a “total institution” where all outside influence and opportunity was barred. Lourdes relied on Phillips for sustenance, both physical and spiritual. As a result, Lourdes was technically incapable of consenting to sexual advances from Phillips. By her own admission, she did not verbally resist every time, and even says she loved him, but this in no way is an indication of consent; it merely highlights the extent of the abuse.

I first heard of Lourdes Torres in 2007, because she appeared in a film (shot before Lourdes moved in with the Phillips family) that my cousins produced and then sent us: The Return of the Daughters. I was so struck by her engaging personality and her desire to serve other people that I e-mailed my cousin and said, half-jokingly, “I noticed that Lourdes seemed a good, spunky, pretty and intelligent type of the San Antonio area, so I thought that I would write and recommend that you wed her posthaste. Not that I know anything about it.”

Remembering that confident and hopeful woman, I almost cried reading the complaint. Which is definitely the first time I’ve ever been so moved reading a legal document, and I’ve read a fair number. Despite the claims of conflicting stories and the fact that I really don’t know her at all, the complaint rings very true to me. If Lourdes was merely out to play the victim, as some posit, she could have claimed Phillips assaulted her when she was underage, because she was frequently in his home when she was underage. She could have claimed he did other sexual things to her, or that he threatened her, or any number of things. But she didn’t. She’s outlining a very specific and a very believable train of events, given everything we know about Doug Phillips, the nature of sociopaths, the nature of power and sexuality, and all the rest of it.




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I lie in my hostel bunk, surrounded by butterflies. Lovely things, with bright-colored plumage, skimming through the air and landing on top of their impossibly large and complex backpacks, strung with hiking boots, towels, beach mats. Their limbs are long, well-shaped, tanned. They speak together of their adventures, and make plans for the day. I listen wordlessly from behind the tent I have constructed from a sarong. My muscles ache from dehydration. My mouth is dry. I pick at the edge of the sarong, and I know I am a different species here.

I still don’t know what I have. Something gastrointestinal — bacterial, viral, hopefully not something worse. I went to the pharmacist two days ago, and she gave me charcoal pills. They may have helped, but they didn’t seem to help much. Perhaps I didn’t take enough, or I took too many. I couldn’t read the instructions, so I erred on the conservative side.

I’ve tried eating yogurt with live probiotics, but I accidentally bought the kind with added fiber, designed to make you regular, if the drawing on the side is any indication. I looked for sports drinks, but there weren’t any, or at least there weren’t any that were obvious. Apparently sweet fruit juice is not a good idea. I haven’t yet resorted to making my own rehydration salts, although I keep thinking about them, and about how easy it is: water, sugar, salt, and yet diarrhea is still one of the leading causes of death in African children.

When I have gotten everything out of my system, I feel good enough to walk to the 7-Eleven. I find Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, coconut water and mineral water. I eat the corn flakes slowly and gulp the coconut water. Nature’s rehydration salts: you can survive on coconuts. I wish for some chamomile tea with lemon, and some salted, weak bone broth, and many things I have no access to here.

On the fifth day, I feel better. I’m hungry for a meal, so I find a restaurant with a plaque on the wall claiming it serves “clean food,” which is by no means a requirement here if my necessity-fueled investigation into the back corners of cheap restaurants is any indication. The silverware comes wrapped in a protective coating, which seems like a good sign since the table is sticky and humid. I order bottled water, which I drink straight from the bottle, and noodle soup with chicken. I eat the whole giant bowl of it, nearly moaning in pleasure. Nothing ill befalls me, so I try a leg of chicken from a street vendor next. I watch him grill it, which takes awhile, but it satisfies me that it’s done properly, and then he wraps it in a banana leaf and I can consume it without having to worry about the sanitation of any silverware.

It’s so good that I never want to stop eating it.

Couchsurfing Thailand



I’m so charmed by Thailand that I’m seriously thinking about moving here. It’s a young and emerging market, and the expats who flock here from all over the world seem to be able to land decent jobs. Every one of them I talk to is enthusiastic about it. It’s so affordable! There’s so much to do! The people are so nice!

Indeed, the people are nice, quick to offer help and quick to smile. I’m standing waiting for a taxi to the airport when my rolling suitcase falls over, and the bellboy cracks up helplessly. “It’s sleeping,” he jokes, as if he’s never seen a bag topple.

I think about various business proposals for Thailand all the way to Ao Luek, over the course of one taxi ride, an airplane, a tourist bus and a local bus. I’m not actually sure that I’ll be able to stay in Ao Luek according to plan, but something’s going to work out — I’ll find a cheap hotel, if nothing else.

I’ve decided to try couchsurfing in Asia for the first time ever, and I’ve found hosts in Ao Leuk. I’m supposed to call or text once I get there. However, I’m not sure that my phone will work — and in fact, it does not. I go into a pharmacy and ask the clerk if there’s a public phone anywhere. She says no, but she offers to call on her own cell phone. Five minutes later, I’m riding in a car with W. and M., who were apparently out looking for me given that I’d estimated my arrival time a bit earlier. I’m quite happy to be taking a break from the tourist fast track, and here I am, about to experience Thailand as lived by regular middle-class Thai people.

And then I get to the house, which is all pretty clean and nice — a little crowded with all the amps and instruments — except for two things. The otherwise-tidy bathroom consists of a ceramic hole you pour water down to flush, and two earthenware jugs. The larger one is the shower: you pour water over yourself and it runs into a drain hidden behind the toilet. There is a sink, but it’s missing a drain pipe and a working faucet.

The kitchen, however, is what really gives me pause. It’s an outdoor kitchen, and that’s smart, except that the dirty dishes are sitting around in plastic tubs filled with lukewarm water as the flies swarm around them, landing on bits of stale food that have been dumped out into the barren yard beside them. Nothing insane, but that’s still the sink, and there’s also a hose for a faucet — cold water only, or whatever temperature it is when it comes out. Many things occur to me at once, and the foremost is: it would be rude to do anything other than jump in and accept this excellent hospitality.

So I sit down to wash the dishes with M. as W. begins to cook. There’s no hot water. We fill one tub with cool water from the plastic hose, and I squirt extra soap in, and then I fill a second tub with water to rinse the dishes, since M. is setting them on the ground, still a bit soapy, I’m sure. I try to make small talk, but I’m pretty busy watching out of the corner of my eye to see how hot the food W. is making gets, because he’s mincing up raw meat with his bare hands. I’m hoping it all reaches boiling point. As far as I can tell, it does. Also, he’s putting an alarming amount of chopped peppers in, which probably helps kill germs.

We eat around 8 p.m. with a group of mostly-expat English-teacher friends, and it’s all delicious. Spicy, though. Very spicy. My stomach begins to hurt. I decide I need to go lie down, and it’s at this point that W. and most of the English teachers decide to do a little band practice.

Here’s another thing about Thailand: the music is always cranked to an inordinately high volume. I noticed it on the dinner cruise I attended in Bangkok, when we had to shout to network — and that was in a business setting. In this setting, I’m in my own room with earplugs in and two pillows stuffed over my head, and I’m still worried I’m undergoing hearing loss. They play for maybe 20 minutes.

The next day, I delve into my boring food stash, and have instant oatmeal for breakfast after attempting to sterilize the dishes in the microwave. It’s too late, though — I feel ill every time I put food in my system, no matter what kind of food it is. I start researching my symptoms… E. Coli, maybe cholera? Hopefully not cholera.

It’s bad enough, however, that I’m seriously rethinking my plan to move to Thailand. Because apparently, I can only stand tourist-grade Thailand.


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