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WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of rape and mention of suicide.

I was a Welcome Week representative in 2012, and I met John Doe*, a fellow rep, through some friends. We didn’t work directly together, but he hung out with us often. I thought he was funny, we had the same taste in music, but I never thought of him as anything more. My friends were close to him, and I liked my friends, so it all seemed great. It was after our fourth encounter with each other that he raped me.

It was the day of the Yates Cup. I had gone to a friend’s before the match for some drinks. I was happily drunk but felt the cold November wind hitting my cheeks as the game crept closer to half time. My friends texted me that they were at TwelvEighty and there was an extra seat for me.

As I entered TwelvEighty, I saw John and my friends. I had run out of money and waved my debit card around, asking for a drink. The bartender said that if I had no cash, I had to buy a pitcher in order to use my card. I did so and ended up drinking most of it.

John got up and stretched, and announced that he was going to go for a walk. I was beginning to feel nauseous and figured that joining him would be a good way to sober up. We walked until we found a stairwell. He sat on the stairwell while I fell on them. I remember his face getting closer to mine slowly. He kissed me and I could hear footsteps approaching. People passed by, the match was still going on. I felt exposed and uncomfortable.

I suggested to him that we should go into a private room. I wanted to talk and I wanted for us to be alone. I wasn’t thinking about kissing him more. To be honest, I genuinely wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, I was just drunk. I know I didn’t encourage him, but I clearly didn’t express myself as properly as I wished.

We went into a room in the arts quad basement. He turned off the light and I sat on the ground as standing had become too tricky.

He pulled his pants down and tried to shove himself into my mouth. I was frozen. Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction.

“Get on that bench.” he said. At that point in time I was so dumbfounded that any short instruction seemed sensible. He pulled off my jeans. I realized what his intentions were, and mustered up the strength to cover myself with both of my hands and said loudly, “No. Stop. I don’t want to. No. Stop.”

I remember him pulling my hands away. He pressed his lips against mine, hard. I remember hearing him grunt, and the occasional loud cheer from TwelvEighty came through the walls. My insides were screaming for my body to get up, to punch, to do anything, but I was incapable of moving. I was scared of his strength. Not physical, as he was short and smaller than me, but his mental strength – the fact that he ignored my pleas frightened me.

Something began to buzz in the room: my friends whom I left outside at the game were attempting to find me. They kept calling. Eventually, he stopped. I had sobered up enough by then to hop off the piano bench, pull up my pants, pick up my phone. We left the room and he headed back to TwelvEighty while I made a beeline for MUSC. As I left he called out, “See you around, eh?”

Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction. 

I went to the Student Centre and ran into my friends. The shock settled in minutes after and I told my friends what had happened. They took me to Shoppers to buy a Plan B.

The next few days blurred together. I showered for 45 minutes washing every inch of my skin, hoping that the harder I scrubbed, the less dirty I’d feel. I couldn’t sleep. School didn’t matter. I lived off-campus and I would leave the house earlier because I didn’t want to face my parents.

I told my friends later on that day. It was confusing to them because they knew him for years. They said they believed me, but within that week they also told me that he made a mistake and they would remain friends with him.

John Doe called me the very next day and told me he knew I told our mutual friends, and that I was wrong. He declared he did have consent because I took him to the private room. A few days after this, I was with a friend, who was also a good friend of John Doe, but was supporting me during this time. John Doe called me, and I put it on speaker so she could hear what he was saying. He warned me again not to tell anyone, and claimed I was being ridiculous. “Am I always supposed to ask a girl if she wants to have sex with me?” he said in a sarcastic tone. I was stunned. His friend looked at me with an unfathomable expression. I hung up.

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My close friends were trying to convince me to report him, but even I was confused as to whether this was rape or not.

I even went to my old high school and confronted two of my closest teachers about what had happened. It hurt me to tell my friends and teachers. I’d see their faces register shock, worry, sadness, frustration, but I didn’t know what else to do. It felt as though I had such a big weight on my shoulders, and it had become too much for me to carry it by myself. I had to tell people who knew who I really was, who knew me before this happened, so I could cling onto my sense of self.

However, I also told people I regret telling. I shared what had happened with friends I wasn’t really close with. At the time, I thought that telling people would help bring some sense into this situation. However, the thoughts some shared with me confused me even more:

“Well, you did tell him to go into that room with you…”

“You were really drunk…”

“You are a super friendly person, so he just mistook that as flirting…”

“I’m not sure if this is considered rape because you probably enjoyed yourself once you started having sex, right?”

Another friend approached me at university one day and handed me a brochure explaining rape and that was when it finally clicked for me. I was raped. Some of my other close friends encouraged me to attend counselling, but it wasn’t until I saw the brochure that I did.

When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes. 

Two weeks after the incident, I went to see a counsellor in the Student Wellness Centre. My counsellor was nice enough but I felt rushed having to explain what had happened within my 30-minute time slot. It took me 10 minutes to stop crying. She referred me to the hospital and I headed there after my appointment.

Because I didn’t go there straightaway and had showered after being raped, they could not get his semen off my body. Instead, I underwent a physical exam and a mini counselling session. They took my urine sample and I had to take a pregnancy test. Afterwards, they gave me a handful of crushed up pills and water, telling me that these would wipe out any sort of STDs I could have contracted from him.

Within a month after it happened, I attempted suicide. To summarize it all into one sentence: I felt like a failure, like a used up rag that needed to be disposed. I am grateful that it was a botched attempt, and that I had friends around me who let me talk to them openly about it and made me realize it was not the way out.

One month after being raped, I contacted the city’s Sexual Assault unit and talked to a police officer on the phone. We arranged for them to meet me at a friend’s house, where they would interview me and fill out a report. At the time, that was the hardest thing I had to go through. When I told my friends or teachers what had happened, I was able to skip some parts. I was able to provide a summary. When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes.

I ended up going to the police station about a week afterwards and had an interview with the police. He said he met with John Doe and spoke with him. He asked if I wanted to take this to court, and added that it would take one year. I turned it down. I didn’t want this to drag on. Because I said no, it only says on John Doe’s profile that he was questioned for rape, but that’s it. The police officer patted me on the shoulder as I was leaving and said, “Take care of yourself. Next time, try not to get yourself into this sort of situation, like the drinking...”

The following summer, I found out that John Doe was going to be a Welcome Week rep again. I contacted friends involved with Welcome Week and was referred to the Office of Student Conduct. I went to their office and told them everything. They informed me that had I approached them right after it had happened, they could have done more. John Doe could have faced more serious consequences. I had no idea that I could have approached the Student Conduct Office. I wish I had known, and hope that more information is given to first years about it now.

The office asked me if I could provide a witness. I immediately thought of his close friend that overheard our phone call after it happened. I messaged her and explained the situation. She sent back a lengthy response, acknowledging that she heard what John Doe said, but that she wouldn’t be able to be a witness for me. She added that I seemed to be holding a grudge and keeping in some pent-up anger. She then closed the message saying that her and other friends were also upset about what happened, but they found ways to move on. Her closing sentence was wishing me all the best. I was disgusted, and still am as I type this.

I showed the office the message, and since she acknowledged what John Doe had said, that was all he needed. He told me that he would meet with John Doe and that he would be monitored at all times during Welcome Week. He also said that John Doe wasn’t allowed to approach me on campus, and that I could call security if he did. While that was comforting, that wasn’t the point of my actions. I didn’t want him to harm anyone ever again, especially first year students.

The conduct officer advised me to go to the Human Rights and Equity office, which I did. I met with someone who was extremely nice and warm. It was comforting to open up to such a wonderful person. She informed me of an upcoming event SACHA, the Sexual Assault Center for the Hamilton Area, was hosting at Mac, which was aimed towards friends of sexual assault victims. I attended the session with one of my great friends.

After being raped by someone who I thought was my friend, the most difficult part was letting go of my friends who still supported him. It genuinely crushed me to have my friends tell me they still considered John Doe a friend. One friend messaged me an apology this spring, saying that she finally sees how horrible John Doe is, and that she will always regret not supporting me. Her message was what I had wanted for so long, but when she finally sent it to me, it had lost its value. I had to go through the rest of my undergrad avoiding my Welcome Week friends and certain parts of MUSC where they hung out.

I would think about it at least once every single day for the first year. I would find myself taking the car and driving to a random parking lot to break down and cry without any interruptions. I’d cringe every time I heard a rape joke, pretend I wasn’t affected while inwardly accepting the fact that the joke would stay in my mind for the rest of the day. I began to join numerous clubs and kept busy. I picked up more shifts at work to avoid being home.

Some days, I would have such a good time with friends that it wouldn’t be until I went to bed that I finally realized I hadn’t thought about it all day. I learned to congratulate myself with every little step towards improvement. I dread November a little less now. I didn’t have sex again until a year and a half later. When I did, and I realized it is still pleasurable, I was elated. John Doe may have become the focus of my life and taken things away from me, but this was not one of them.

Sometimes there are setbacks, though. I recently went home with someone and was triggered by the sexual position he wanted us to be in. I ended up crying in his arms. I was lucky because he was kind and understanding. I am now seeking counselling.

Less than two weeks ago, a good friend of mine approached me and told me she had been raped. She brought a guy home who asked her if she wanted to have sex. When she said no, he proceeded regardless. As she was telling me what had happened, I was trying to control my emotions, to be her rock. But how could this have happened? How could someone assault such a kind-hearted human being? What had she done to deserve this? I felt heartbroken all over again.

While I will never be able to fully understand what she’s going through, it’s safe to say that I have a general idea. The pain from being in the position of a victim’s friend was different, but still prominent.

These situations made me realize how often people question what rape really is. I now know that, put simply, it is any form of sexual activity with another person without their consent is sexual assault.

The statistics are disgusting: one in four women in North America will be raped. While the media normally reports rapists as being strangers in parking lots (which does happen often, unfortunately), that is not true for the majority of rapists. 80 percent of the time, your rapist is someone you know. It’s a close friend, or acquaintance, or family member.

I hope people can learn from the experience I’ve had dealing with this crime on campus. There are resources on campus to approach and consult if you have had a similar experience, but it still isn’t enough. If you have been in a similar situation, please contact the Human Rights and Equity Services department at the university.

*Name has been changed.

The author of this article has asked to remain anonymous. If you have any questions, email thesil@thesil.ca.


 

RESOURCES ON AND OFF CAMPUS
If you or someone you know is in need of a support service, below is a listing of local centres that are able to provide a variety of services and couselling.

On campus
Human Rights and Equity Services
Provides confidential complaint resolution according to the University’s Sexual Harassment Policies.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27581
hres@mcmaster.ca

Meaghan Ross, Sexual Violence Response Coordinator
(905) 525-9140 x. 20909
rossm4@mcmaster.ca

Student Wellness Centre
Provides a wide range of counselling options and medical services and testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27700
wellness@mcmaster.ca

WGEN
Provides confidential support for all victims of sexual assault.
(905) 525-9140 x. 20265
wgen@msu.mcmaster.ca

SHEC
Provides confidential peer support, referrals on and off campus, anonymous and confidential pregnancy testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 22041
shec@msu.mcmaster.ca

Off campus
SACHA
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 525-4573
(905) 525-4162 (24-hour Support Line)

Hamilton General Hospital, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 521-2100 x. 73557
sadvcarecentre@hhsc.ca

Hamilton Police Services
Takes crime reports from city constituents.
(905) 546-4925

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McMaster’s Human Rights and Equity Services has just launched the university’s first-ever Sexual Violence Response Protocol.

Spearheaded by Meaghan Ross, the recently hired Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, the protocol is an effort to provide university staff and community members with the information needed when accepting a disclosure about sexual, gender-based or other related violence.

“The response protocol is really about ensuring that survivors who have experienced violence receive a consistent response and a response that is survivor-centered,” said Ross.

The SVRP was developed through two primary initiatives — the work of the Anti-Violence network as well as a joint program between the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and the YWCA, which involved research on current disclosure responses on campus.

“We know that it’s been people’s experiences [on campus] that when they disclose instances of gender-based violence that they could get really good responses or they could unfortunately get very victim or survivor-blaming responses. So it’s meant to provide some clear guidelines about ways to be more consistent in providing responses that really honor what those survivors are saying,” she said.

The protocol was officially implemented at the end of November with the launch of a website outlining its details as well as references and HRES contact information.

The website also includes a series of important definitions of terms like sexual violence, gender-based violence and survivor-driven response, that are meant to give community members a better understanding of the disclosures they may receive and how to react to them.

The protocol itself has nine bullet-pointed concrete commitments including a “highest priority on survivor safety and ensuring that the campus is welcoming, safe and inclusive for all members of our community” and “Communicating that sexual violence is not — and will not be — tolerated and will be actively addressed on an ongoing basis.”

Ross explained that in particular there were two parts of the protocol that she was impassioned about discussing and including: confidentiality limits and creating a non-judgemental space.

“We know that survivors have come forward to speak to make disclosures, but they haven’t always been informed about what the person receiving the disclosure’s confidentiality limits are. And the difficult thing about that is that survivors start to tell their stories and they don’t know where that information might go,” she said.

Limits of confidentiality refers to the fact that not every community member has been trained to safe-guard the information they have been provided, and may feel the need to share the information they have been told with someone else who can then in turn deal with the disclosure. Both Ross and the website explained that if someone is coming to you with a disclosure, you need to make it clear to them that their words will remain confidential.

“Folks need to be aware of their limits, and if they have questions about that or they are worried about that then I have a very high level of confidentiality so they can refer it to me,” said Ross.

In terms of creating a non-judgmental space, Ross and HRES want to ensure that those receiving disclosures are not asking any leading questions, or providing inappropriate advice or comments.

“So folks aren’t asking questions about what the survivor did or didn’t do, or making any sort of assumptions about that. And that they also are not providing advice … it really needs to be about the survivor and what makes sense to them,” said Ross.

Ross and HRES will be hosting three information sessions about the SVRP during the upcoming week: Dec. 7 at 12:30 p.m. in MUSC 224 and 5:30 p.m. in MUSC 313, and Dec. 9 at 3:30 p.m. in MUSC 224.

The protocol and its corresponding website are both very comprehensive and its existence is a formidable step for McMaster as an inclusive and understanding community.

“It signals a good moment in McMaster’s history, that we’re really saying that we have a commitment to survivors,” said Ross.

“It’s a really good starting place that the university has this commitment.”

Photo Credit: svrp.mcmaster.ca

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The Office of Human Rights and Equity Services (HRES) gained a spunky personality and welcoming face when Meaghan Ross joined their office as McMaster’s new Sexual Violence Response Coordinator. The position was created in response to recommendations made by “It’s Time To End Violence Against Women on Campus,” a McMaster project commonly referred to as “It’s Time.” Ross and Status of Women Canada, a government initiative, partnered to head the project, and found that there was a gap in the school’s protocol for responding to survivors of sexual violence.

While Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is pushing towards the creation of a specific sexual assault policy, there are no current legislative requirements for how to respond to survivors. This means that survivors who are disclosing may get a response that ranges from accepting to victim-blaming.

“[Survivors] may connect with a very good T.A. who knows this information who understands this kind of work and refers them to the appropriate folks. On the other hand, they may connect with a T.A. or staff member or faculty member ‘X’ and they may get a victim-blaming and a very unaccommodating response,” Ross explained.

Currently, work is being done to implement a protocol of response for which people likely to get disclosures—teaching assistants, people working in athletics, student leaders and academic advisors—will undergo response training.

In her new role, Ross will be implementing a two-part approach to sexual violence on campus. The first will be response to survivors. Disclosures can come from incidents that occurred either on or off campus as long as there is a nexus to McMaster, including incidences of sexual violence that occur at an event hosted by a McMaster student off-campus.

The second pillar of her approach is a reformation of cultural views.

“In dealing with sexual violence, institutions tend to think [of sexual assault as] one individual case rather than seeing it as a culture and thinking about the norms created in society,” Ross explained.

The #Consent campaign run through the Student Wellness Center and SACHA training for Welcome Week representatives centered around sexual violence is a move in this direction. Training focuses on bursting some of the preconceived notions floating around.

“Sexual violence has been linked with sex. You hear lots of things about perpetrators, who are most likely people we know, … being just too attracted to someone or not being able to control themselves. The danger in that argument… is that sexual violence is not about sex, it’s actually about power, like other forms of violence,” Ross said.

The other side of the issue is the reality that our culture relies on an evidence-based system of proof. This has proven to be a large barrier in the case of sexual violence, which often occurs out of sight. While society at large may not yet be at the point where these experiences can be communicated in a safe environment, Ross can certainly be that helping hand.

“I think that is where the analysis of power comes in. For me folks don’t need to [provide] proof because the reality is that is the way that power systems work,” she said.

Despite her new position, McMaster has long been home to Ross. She completed both her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and Labour Studies and then went on to earn a Masters of Arts degree in Globalization Studies at McMaster.

She brings in experience working in social services and at a sexual assault center, both of which have contributed to a deep understanding of the conditions in which violence occur and the intersections between violence against women and other identities.

“I think I am bringing both an analysis of what makes a good survivor response and [an understanding] of how folks navigate the university in order to make policy change,” said Ross.

Anyone wishing to connect with Meaghan Ross can reach her in person at the office in room 212 on the second floor of MUSC, through the phone at 905-525-9140 ext. 20909 or through email at rossm4@mcmaster.ca.

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By: Jenan Nasser

On Nov. 22, 2014, a devastating incident occurred in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre on Barton Street. An inmate, Rocky Ganesh, was brutally attacked by his cellmate. Rocky was beaten so viciously he slipped into a coma which lasted for weeks and resulted in severe brain trauma. His doctors are not predicting a full recovery.

Ganesh now lives at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre in the Hamilton General Hospital, unable to cognitively cope with the traumatic experiences he has been through. The mother of the assaulted victim, Sharda Ganesh, is seeking redress for the assault, claiming that there is not enough protection for inmates. Sharda suggests a provincial-wide revamping of cellmate provisions, which would segregate those who are known to be aggressive or have had past aggressive episodes with their cellmates, from those who have no such prior episodes.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Detention centre has had previous incidents in which prison security has proven to be insufficient, and the treatment of inmates has been inhumane. Due to the lack of security personnel, the prisoners have become aggressive towards authority on more than one occasion.

A convicted rapist was transferred from the detention centre for gassing a security guard after being confined in his cell for an extended duration because of the lack of staff on duty that day. A correctional officer at Wentworth explains that if Canadian prisons had more funding and greater attention was paid to the living conditions, they wouldn’t have to worry as much about the safety of their officers or the inmates themselves.

Due to the lack of resources, prisons are becoming more dangerous and less humane. Although prisons exist to confine criminals and law offenders, they should not be subjecting them to cruel conditions similar to those Rocky Ganesh endured. Sharda Ganesh told reporters that she wonders why the jail has enough resources to send two officers to guard Rocky by his bedside, now that he can’t move, but they weren’t there when he actually needed them.

This problem is a common one in Canada. With growing numbers of prisoners and the lack of government funding to accommodate them, a tragic incident like this could occur again. Whether people believe these inmates have a right to security is an old argument, however I believe that these inmates’ rights to life are being infringed upon. Although prisons are in place to restrict convicted felons, they are also in place to protect our rights as free abiders of the law. If living conditions worsen, not only have the constitutional rights of inmates been infringed upon but the safety and privileged freedom that we currently enjoy will also be compromised.

The money being spent on extra staff for hospital security and other fees for assault victims within the jail could be better put to use for greater staffing and larger facilities. There is no question that the prison system is flawed and can be a dangerous place, but fearing for your life or an unexpected ambush attack in the middle of the night should not be the reality of the lives of prisoners.

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Rick Kanary
The Silhouette

My girlfriend was excited to go to Todd’s surprise mail order viagra birthday party. Todd is a mutual friend, more so her friend than mine as they have known each other since they were fresh out of diapers, but that would be a fruitless argument of quantity over quality.

Todd and I have bonded over a variety of things and I was excited to go to the party as well. Why wouldn’t I be?  Todd and his roommate Scott have a great apartment, especially for parties, and there was going to be a boatload of familiar, friendly faces at the party. Except for Scott. It’s because of Scott that we won’t be attending the party.  He won’t allow me in his apartment.

Months ago I arrived at the place for a non-specific party. My buddy Andy was stationed at the makeshift DJ booth on the rooftop patio. The place was "bumpin'" and every face had a smile, including mine.  My girlfriend, Kristin, and I brought our beverages to the Tiki bar for refrigeration and began making small talk with a few other party-goers. Things were pretty chill. Then Scott’s cocaine (and other illicit narcotics)-filled face rose to the surface of the shifting sands of social butterflies, right in front of me, with a half smirk, half smile.

“Hey man,” he said flippantly. “I don’t really want you here.”

Scott and I had met amicably on numerous occasions, exchanged kind words, engaged in conversation, and generally got along while getting to know each other a little better with each meeting. We had never exchanged any words of ill-will and, for the most part, as far as I knew, we were "acquaintances" of good will. There had been no drama.

“Where is this coming from?” I asked.

Scott’s face was flush with blood, his eye-lids purplish, and his skin cocaine clammy.

“I don’t need any of your drama,” he said in a smug tone while peering off at the crowd as if they were some kind of conquest. Needless to say, things escalated to hostile words. I composed myself while he made threats and referred to his "time in the clink" with wild and chaotic dilating pupils and froth at the corners of his mouth.

“Whatever man.” I returned to the Tiki bar to retrieve my beers. Kristin had been in the midst of the fray trying to diffuse the situation and was now cursing Scott while I made my exit as gracefully as possible. We made our way downstairs to a mutual friend’s apartment in the same building where we cracked some pops and decompressed a little bit with a cross section of our friends who decided to leave the party with us.

Later on in the evening, Scott made his way down to the apartment to try his hand at apologizing. Interpersonal skills aren’t one of his strengths. I wasn’t interested in a clumsy apology and made that obvious. This escalated into some barbaric chest inflation and name-calling until I told him it was better he leave, which, backed by the tenants, he did.

Allowing this to bother me would give more value to Scott’s theft of "social capital". I am disappointed, but not bothered. Scott allowed hearsay and minute blips echoing through the social network, to have enough meaning and value for him to formulate a concrete opinion of another living, breathing denizen of this place.

I will not judge him for his ignorance. I will not hold my values against his. Being objective, particularly when the desires of a loved one are compromised, is not an easy task. It requires the regular practice of the rational mind to offset the reactionary and passionate emotional mind. This practice of balancing these two fundamental aspects of the self can bring you to a centre point, a wise mind, from which you can make more pertinent, objective, and effective decisions.

Should you be on the receiving end of a social conflict, leverage the immediate emotional impulse by practicing the intellectual skills you are currently immersed in. This is a tried and true method for ‘getting out of yourself’, ‘getting out of the moment’, or at least ‘staying out of trouble’.

Kacper Niburski / Silhouette Staff

If I was from another planet and I was visiting Earth, I’d enter the atmosphere with a wide smile. From afar, the planet would be a beautiful blend of blue, white and green. Almost nothing would be known about the little speck besides the occasional tap-dancing tune being picked up on the radio. Though brief, they’d be nearly perfect.

Some songs would be so heavenly that they’d practically be proof of divinity itself. As I’d prepare to land my spacecraft, I’d hum them. “Diddly doo, dilly da, all you need is love, diddly doo…” Besides my guttural hymns, the planet would appear almost peaceful behind the celestial firework show around it.

If I were from another planet, I’d be greeted with fear and ignorance rather than joy and happiness.

My welcoming party would take the form of ballistic missiles and nations far and wide, from big brother Russia to misnomer Papa New Guinea.

They would join hands against me like I was a houseguest who had forgotten to take off his shoes at the door. I wouldn’t even have time to explain to them that with all my tentacles, I didn’t even wear shoes.

If I were from another planet, I’d learn that many members of this seemingly barbarous species didn’t wear shoes either.

Something called money was to blame. I’d learn more too: the species inhabiting this planetary gem with music so powerful that even God would brag about it were more or less meat wagons, a squishy mass of giblets and organs that jiggled around like pocket change. They’d be animals that could think and laugh and compose great works, but they’d be animals nonetheless. They fought. They argued. They fought again. That was their history, and for some reason, they were proud of it.

If I were from another planet, I’d be jailed. In a high security prison, I’d be told that I needed a pilot’s permit to fly around the Earth’s stratosphere.

I’d tell them I didn’t know I needed one. They would reply that no one ever does – that’s how this whole thing works. I’d say which thing. They’d say that they didn’t know.

If I were from another planet, I’d learn that this species did know some things, however. They knew that the Earth was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. For some, that was already too much information to handle. They’d complain, “Oh, this winter is too hot” or “This summer is too cold” and so on.

If I was from another planet, I’d figure out that despite thousands of years of evolution, humanity was still fighting World War X. Everyone was against everyone else. Natural selection, they’d say.

If I were from another planet, I’d spend much of my time looking for the Earth’s borders. Many would point me towards a library full of dusty maps in order to show me the points at which pride met hard-fought glory. Every man, woman and child, every king and peasant, every prophet and follower, every father and every son, all the wars that had been fought, lost and forgotten, all the bloodshed, all the stories of happiness, sadness and loss, that night in Paris, that day in Monaco  – they were all contained within these patrolled borders. They were the bindings of a book only humankind knew.

If I were from another planet, I’d listen and nod to their tale. Sometimes, I’d even laugh.

Then, I’d tell them that from above, the Earth was all one big, unified landmass. And when one wasn’t knee deep in the Milky Way, the Earth was just a small crumb in a big, black bowl of cereal. It wasn’t even healthy to eat, I’d say.

If I were from another planet, I’d sift through the hokum. No political party would win in my favour. No ideology would seem better than any other. Instead, I’d say that on Juhani, the planet I was from, there were only two kinds of political platforms: winning and losing. Everyone would fit into one or the other eventually.

If I were from another planet, I’d learn of great scientists and thinkers and the aggregate of a species’ progress. I’d learn of Newton, Fermat and Einstein. I’d be baffled by their genius and sheer persistence.

And I’d try to do my part to advance humanity’s scientific theory by passing on my own E=MC2. It’d go like this: love always.

If I was from another planet and I was visiting Earth, I would be distrustful of a species whose alert, hesitant smile had seen it all: war and peace, depression and happiness, poverty and wealth, starvation and gluttony, regression and progression, death and birth. I would walk in their shoes – as they’d say – and wonder how many steps it would take until they realized that just because they could read and write, add and subtract, they didn’t have claim over this planet any more than the cockroaches. If anything, those bugs had more of one – they were around longer.

If I were from another planet, I’d remind Earthlings that they weren’t better than the immaterial mass, the lifeless cosmic stew, sifting around them either. They were simply part of it. They were the stuffing of stars.

And if I was from another planet, I wouldn’t want to come back.

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