I rented Twelve Years A Slave tonight.
As I watched the beginning scenes I could easily spot the trouble with those two “circus” performers, those “artists” who were so clearly conning Solomon. He seemed so eager to believe them, to follow them. How could such an intelligent man not see the potential danger?
As I watched the penalty for his naivety unfold, I began to see how much like Solomon I was. So much so that I could not question his decision or condemn the man for trusting the total strangers who seemed to offer something too good to be true.
I had only known R for five months when I married him. I trusted a man I barely knew. I believed his promises. And, I suffered for it.
I felt panic as Eliza’s children were ripped from her arms. And, I thanked God that He had intervened and prevented that in my life. But, I know, too, just like Eliza, I cannot relax in that hold with my children on either side of me. The threat always lies around the next bend that the cruel men will take them from me.
My heart pounded with anger as I watched Solomon betrayed by the drunk who tended his wounds, as I had been betrayed by my own brother when he told my ex husband, “Be careful what you do to her. She’s writing it all down in a secret file on the computer to use against you.” The secret file that my brother had convinced me was necessary in the event R killed me. The secret file my brother helped me create.
I cried for Patsy as she was raped, favored, jealously questioned, and then beaten mercilessly. How many times was that cycle repeated in my marriage? Oh God! How many times?!
My children and I were not worked to the point of death. However, we were worked to the point of fatigue and illness, not allowed food, water, or medical care. We were yelled at, ridiculed, and beaten for not working hard enough by a man who spent so many days lying on a couch with a beer in his hand.
His beatings were justified because I was “HIS wife!” Those were “HIS children!” Like the master, he saw us as his property to do with as he pleased. So many times I was chastised that I’d brought it all on myself because I was nothing more than “a contentious woman.” I was told I was “too strong,” and he was “willing to stop if [I] would just cry.” He assured me the beatings would ease up if I would just break before him.
The end captions explained that Solomon did not find justice in the court system. Neither did we. I settled out of court for what I felt was the lesser of all possible evils with the realization that there is no justice for “people like [me].”
We skulk away just glad to be free of our “masters,” foregoing any protection or restitution, and try to rebuild what is left of our wrecked lives.
My heart utterly broke as I watched that movie. My heart broke for the real people represented in the film, the people who lived out that horror a century and a half ago. My heart broke for my children. For me. For the millions of women and children just like us.
Don’t be fooled into thinking for one moment that we are a free and enlightened society. Slavery still exists in many forms. I know. I spent sixteen years a slave.