Subway has been my addiction for years — more specifically, the chain’s macadamia, white chocolate chip cookies. I’ve rationalized that feeding my habit every day is just reward for struggling through a tuna sub. I hate eating anything that comes from the sea, but I know Omega-3′s are important to my health. I was there two weeks ago for my daily ritual that also involves the Washington Post, the paper that used to be reliably progressive. I’m able to counteract negative energies by savoring my cookies and reading any of the truly liberal articles still occasionally found on the Op Ed page. Pardon my bluntness, but I wish the Post would show less favor to that cantankerous old Charles Krauthammer whose uber-biased analyses tend to trigger attacks of acid reflux.
I ordered my tuna sub as usual, but was shocked when the cashier told me the company would no longer carry my daily fix! Macadamia prices must have skyrocketed. They’d substituted a white chocolate chip cranberry concoction that I hoped would also satisfy my need for a reward, but I had my doubts. Now I won’t say I was totally anxious about the change, but I did wonder how I’d cope without my daily macadamias. I took this as a sign. It was not going to be a good day.
As I swallowed my last bite of tuna and felt my glands salivate in anticipation of a sweet confection, an article on the face of the “Metro” section dampened my growing enthusiasm. “Girl’s grandfather accused of sex abuse” flashed up at me from the page’s lower left quadrant. My desire for the new cookie lost its fervor. I know about these things. I was sexually abused by my father when I was a lad.
The 64 year old grandfather, Mark K. Kleinsorge, a former NASA employee, was indicted in Charles County, Maryland. He was accused of having abused his unnamed granddaughter from the time she was 3 until she turned 14. “Do I really want to be confronted by this just when I’m about to take the first bite of a potentially new delight?” I asked myself. I postponed my cookies and read the article. I’ve always thought that duty should come before pleasure. Just like similar stories I’ve read or heard, the granddaughter kept her secret until age 17, when she feared for the safety of two female cousins. At ages 1 and 3, they were about the same age as she when the abuse began. Forgotten or suppressed memories of abuse are often “reactivated” when a survivor “sees” herself (or himself) in the image of a younger child. Kleinsorge had already been arrested in Florida, because he also allegedly abused the same granddaughter in that state. He is denying the charges, and his Maryland attorney is promising a vigorous defense. It reminded me of Jerry Sandusky and his protestations. Pedophiles don’t see anything wrong with molesting a child.
With the article read and duty satisfied, I gave myself permission to devour the cookies. The first bite was a letdown. Macadamias and white chocolate were made for each other, the perfect combination, yin and yang; dried cranberries and the vanilla chips — not so much. The flavor was tolerable but more disappointment than reward. I questioned whether I should eat or toss the second one. I sighed and returned to the paper where an article in the front section caught my attention.
The headline, attributed to the Associated Press, read “Bishop convicted of failing to report sex abuse.” Robert Finn, of St. Louis, had become the first Catholic bishop convicted in the sex abuse scandal, it reported. He was found guilty of failing to inform the authorities that Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a priest under his charge, had pornographic images of children on his computer. Finn was sentenced to two years of supervised probation for his role in the cover-up, and the diocese was fined $10,000 to support counseling for the children abused by the priest. Ratigan had already pled guilty to charges involving photos he took of children aged 2 to 9. Add this to the recent conviction and sentencing to three years in prison of William Lynn, a Philadelphia monsignor, for knowingly reassigning a pedophile priest that caused another child to be abused, and the disgust intensifies. How could I eat another cookie after “chewing” on that news for a while?
Contrary to how it may seem, I do not believe there’s been a dramatic rise in the incidence of pedophilia; rather a dynamic increase in awareness, prosecutions and persistence in addressing this problem nation-wide. As distasteful as the subject is, as degrading for the victims, and as depressing for family and friends, seeking justice for them is work that must be done. Celebrity survivors like Oprah, Tyler Perry and Don Lemon are stepping up and speaking out. Premier organizations like Male Survivor (www.malesurvivor.org) are increasing efforts to prevent abuse, raising understanding about the plight of survivors and helping them heal. That’s the good news. It’s what gives each survivor hope – to know that we are not alone, that there are others out there like us, and that we can survive and even flourish after tragedy.
Although I don’t look forward to reading new stories in the media about sexual abuse, rape or incest, I will always take the time to understand what is reported and to see if it requires my action. Like the bonds that war veterans or breast cancer survivors develop, survivors of sexual abuse share common experiences and challenges that make us “siblings under the skin.” We look out for each other, and we appreciate the allies who join us in our efforts to be all that we can be.
I was deep in those thoughts when I cleared my trash from the table that day in Subway. I chose not to eat the second cranberry thing. It wasn’t what I read. I think it really was the cookie. And it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m resilient. I knew I’d find another way to reward myself that might be just as satisfying. I took a deep, cleansing breath, exhaled forcefully and went on with my day.
P.S. Good news! The next day I patronized a Subway closer to home where young El Salvadoran women have taught me how to order my tuna and cookies in Spanish. It seems that the chain had NOT discontinued the macadamia, white chocolate chip cookies after all. The cashier at the other franchise had been mistaken. I can once again enjoy the only addiction I have left and get my Omega3’s as my doctor suggested at the same time. Dos macadamia por favor! Life is good.