This is Rachael Abraham
As I have mentioned here severaltimes, I was extremely disturbed by the murder of Rachael Abraham this past August. The above photo, which I was sent yesterday by a friend of Abraham’s, was taken around 2006. Since then, Abraham had become the mother of six daughters, worked as a caregiver for the elderly, did henna on the hands and feet of other Muslim women - Abraham became a convert to Islam a decade ago - and, I am told, was a good baker and a shy person who, in the words of her friend, “when she gets comfortable, is a big, big personality; a firecracker. Everybody knows Mouse is there.”
Friends called Abraham “Mouse” because she was small, nearly a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than her estranged boyfriend Mohamed Adan, who strangled Abraham to death on August 27, in Portland, Oregon. I am not going to go into much detail here, not more than to say, my perturbation over her murder and what I saw as the contributing factors, led me to write a 6500-word feature that will be dropping very soon. I have, as some of you may recall, been talking about Abraham’s story for a while:
On yesterday’s taping of Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, the podcast I do with journalist Sarah Hepola, we talked about the necessity of complicating the story. People do not like to do this, not about Harvey Weinstein (the subject of the latest episode, which should be out later today), not about Amanda Stott-Smith, the mother who murdered and tried to murder her children in my book To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, not about any number of people we might brand “monsters,” a term neither Sarah nor I like because it effectively frees the accuser of thinking more deeply about what happened, what led to it, what transactions people abetted and regretted. In addition to his own pathologies (and about these, Sarah recommends listening to the audio version of Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence by Ken Auletta), Weinstein was able to sexually abuse women and bully staff for decades for any number of reasons, including that people were intimated, or they were traumatized, or wanted a ride on Miramax’s gravy train, or because they believed the casting couch was simply part of the Hollywood machine, a machine that showed itself at least partway obsolete if you gave it a few good kicks. All of which is a more interesting and optimistic and limitless than saying, “Harvey Weinstein is a monster” and shutting the door.
With this in mind, I examined the political, judicial and ideological systems that allow the Mohamed Adans of the world to carry out what any person not blinded by their mission would have seen as his objective: to murder Rachael Abraham, the mother of his children. That people would not recognize they were abetting murder might mean they were enchanted by their right-think in action, or hopeful events might autocorrect, or had gone paralytic when they saw the system they’d been building had taken on a life of its own; a creature they could no longer control. That last is a bad thing to be bound to but what can you do, two election cycles and millions of dollars in: express shock and sorrow? Admit the system is at least partway ganked-up and work to correct it? Whistle past the literal graveyard in the hope everything works out in the end? I am loathe to think there are those who consider a murdered mother of six is an acceptable loss on the road to criminal justice reform, but perhaps there are some who do; who cling to the inherently rotten belief that the ends justify the means.
When I wrote To the Bridge, I had people contact me to say, they thought the book important because it might help the next mother who found herself at loose ends and thus, prevent another maternal filicide. I told them that objective was never on my mind, and also, that such a mission would be bound to backfire. I recently had a short exchange with someone on Twitter who’d posted the below image, which is the home address of someone who ran for (and won) a seat on the Portland city council.
I messaged this person, whom I’ll call John, and asked if he’d posted it, mentioning I might want to refer to it in my work. His response:
Hi thank you for reaching and asking instead of just using the image. Respectfully, I am going to ask that you do not include it in your work. Even without the twitter handle included, I feel that it is against my best interest that this image is shared publicly. In fact, that tweet was taken down prior to you messaging me here. Thank you for understanding.
That John did not see the irony of not wanting to invite a virtual mob to swarm his Twitter account, but was apparently being cool with inciting an actual mob, I might have been surprised but was not. I sent back what I believe was a respectful video, asking to interview John to try to understand his objective, and mentioning that, while it might seem a little thing to publish someone’s home address, what happens afterwards is completely out of his control. John’s response to that? He blocked me.
I received similar responses when seeking to interview people who’d had a direct hand in refusing to hold Mohamed Adan in custody, who let him out again and again and again and again (repetition accurate). Did they believe they were doing the right thing? Did they feel locked into the ganked-up system? Did they see Rachael Abraham as an acceptable sacrifice, gotta break a few eggs and all that? The article will answer some of these questions.
Which brings me back around to the question: Can you, with any ethical honesty, write a story without a political objective? Yes, yes, 1000 times yes, it’s the only way to do it, write the story and let the reader decide. Though if you care to, you can remember there is nothing arbitrary in a story’s construction, that someone is putting it together for you.