commentary and current events

On Forgiveness

While leafing through one of my old journals yesterday, I came upon a note from my past self: “Maybe forgiveness is learning to live with an unaddressed wrong.”

This description of forgiveness struck me as particularly important in our current political climate.

When I defined forgiveness as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I was thinking about a situation in which I both felt I had been wronged and knew that the chances of the person who committed the wrong actually making it right were slim to none. I realized that my emotional equilibrium could not depend on the other person apologizing, providing redress, or changing their behavior to prevent the commission of the same wrong again in the future (against me or anyone else). Because those weren’t gonna happen. If I were to find any peace of mind after having been wronged, I had to find it myself.

I had to let go of what I didn’t control: The other person’s behavior. Instead I had to focus on what I did control: Living my own life from this point forward.

Before I defined forgiveness for myself as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I’d spent years needing the person who wronged me to apologize, make amends, and change their behavior. When I accepted that the apology or amends or change would never come, however, I freed myself to start deciding what I was going to do about this unaddressed wrong. I didn’t need to “let go” or “pretend it never happened.” Instead, I could treat that wrong for exactly what it was – harm done to me, without any attempts to make it right – and respond in ways that protected me. I couldn’t make that wrong right, but I could respect my own understanding of the harm caused.

Almost immediately after armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to force Congress and the Vice President to violate the Twelfth Amendment and illegally certify the 2020 election results for one Donald J. Trump, Republicans started calling for “unity.”

I wouldn’t describe the call for “unity” as a call for forgiveness, exactly. When someone asks for “forgiveness,” they’re usually acknowledging, if only tacitly, that they committed a wrong.

Calls for “unity,” on the other hand, aren’t admitting to a wrong. In fact, the most strident of them insist that no wrong was committed at all: They’re proud they stormed the Capitol to demand a lawful election result be unlawfully overturned, and given the chance, they’d do it again.

“Unity!” may not be a demand for forgiveness, but it’s a loud and clear signal that the perpetrators of the wrong will not address it. The rest of us have to learn to live with this unaddressed wrong.

The good news is that “learn to live with” doesn’t have to mean “resign ourselves to.” It can also mean “address the wrong ourselves, as far as we are able.” Specifically, post-January 6, addressing the unaddressed wrong may mean that we proceed in a way that protects us and the nation from people we know would happily harm us again.

Defining “learning to live with” to include “addressing the wrong myself as far as I can” was also freeing for me, personally. If I know the wrong hasn’t been and isn’t likely to be addressed, then the work required to protect myself is on me. I don’t have to wait for the wrongdoer to make it right. I can do what I need to do to avoid being harmed again.

Because our national wrongdoers are obviously unrepentant, learning to live with them – safely, healthily – means kicking them out of any space where they might be able to commit similar harms.

Kick out the members of Congress who encouraged the events of January 6. Kick out the ones who voted against impeachment of a President who incited an armed insurrection against the United States Capitol. Convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors, so that he can never again hold any kind of public office. Refuse to do business with him, so he can’t screw you over the way he’s so gleefully screwed over so many others. Put the country back on a track that protects it from similar wrongs, so that it can flourish.

That’s how we find peace of mind. That’s how we live with the unaddressed wrong that is insurrection. That’s what forgiveness for January 6 looks like.


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commentary and current events, neurodivergence

Inauguration Day 2021: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Four years ago today, I studiously avoided watching the inauguration. Instead, I wrote the introduction to Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, a volume that seemed even more vital then than it had when AutPress released its call for submissions ten months earlier.

Four years later, I still find the Spoon Knife 2 intro meaningful. Here it is, reprinted in full, for another inauguration day – and the entrance into another test chamber.

National Day of Testing: An Introduction

“You know what my days used to be like? I just tested. Nobody murdered me, or put me in a potato, or fed me to birds. I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up.” – GLaDOS, Portal 2

My debut piece in The Spoon Knife Anthology relied heavily on the mythology of Portal, a video game in which the player-protagonist navigates a series of nineteen test chambers, accompanied by promises of cake and increasingly sinister commentary from a sentient supercomputer named GLaDOS. As the player progresses, completing each chamber becomes increasingly difficult. Breaking out of them altogether becomes unavoidable.

Portal is primarily a puzzle game. The same test chambers that trap the player-protagonist and obscure the final goal also provide both the tools of escape and the necessary practice in how to use them. The moment of escape is devilishly simple but requires quick thinking; the game’s ending implies exactly how far one can test the chamber.

For several months after submitting my first Spoon Knife piece, the concept of the “test chamber” intrigued me. “My Mother, GLaDOS” was my first tangible test (of the) chamber, the first time I’d committed some of the rawest and most gaslit parts of my childhood to print and the first time, outside the safety of my therapist’s office, that I had ever criticized the malignant programming that tested me. I played with the concept of the “test chamber” for several months before generating the Call for Submissions that produced responses in the form of the poetry, fiction, and memoir that appear here.

The writers (and editors and publishers) of the book you now hold in your hands all have this in common: we all diverge in some way(s) from the normative, the expected, the acceptable. We’ve all been pathologized, scrutinized, corrected – often, in horrible ways.

As I write this, the United States finds itself in a new test chamber, one whose outputs will inevitably affect the rest of the world. Those of us who find ourselves already marginalized, like the authors represented here, will suffer first, but we will not suffer alone. All of us need the tools of defiance and resistance.

The Spoon Knife Anthology gives its readers the chance to name demands for compliance when we see them, and to try on the means of defiance and resistance. In Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, we explore what happens when those tools – and others – are applied to a particular purpose or demand. We test the chamber in which we find ourselves, and in so doing, we find the power to subvert it.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp
January 20, 2017


For more literature on compliance, defiance, and resistance, visit autpress.com.

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commentary and current events

It’s Election Eve and I Don’t Even Know What to Write Here

In the last week, I’ve blown up my own Twitter account, become a meme, had my worst-ever bout of gastritis, planned a winterguard season that probably won’t even happen thanks to all the people who can’t keep their mask on, and started building another dollhouse.

I want to say something profound here. I really do. But after four years, I’m exhausted.

On Election Day 2016 I went to bed at my usual time, assuming that whatever happened would happen whether or not I was awake. I woke up to the news that Trump had won the Electoral College, despite receiving three million fewer votes than Clinton.

It was the second election won without a majority vote since I started voting. It was exhausting then. It’s exhausting now.

Here’s my best advice for the next few days:

Know what is in your control and what is not. Know when you have done what you can reasonably do. Focus on the things you do control, like whether you’ve eaten and when/how you meet personal and professional deadlines. If you haven’t voted, focus on doing that; if you have, focus on taking care of yourself and those in your immediate orbit.

Know that, no matter what the talking heads on the TV want to say about whether all the votes were counted or which ones weren’t or who made up what story about finding which ballots in which opposing candidate’s butthole, you voted. You played the game according to the rules. You followed the directions, and you are owed a correct count of your lawfully cast vote.

Prepare to stop a coup. Ignore anyone who tells you that preparing to stop a coup is overreacting. It’s far, far better to be prepared to stop a coup that doesn’t happen than to be unprepared to stop one that does.

Be the helpers. Mr. Rogers’s famous advice to “look for the helpers” in times of crisis is aimed at children, and it’s excellent for children. But children need helpers to look for. That’s the rest of us.

Know you are not alone.

A strip of “I Voted” stickers along with the words “Election Eve 2020” and this blog’s URL.
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