I survived watching #ISurvived

I learned of this odd social experiment a few weeks ago when I happened upon it randomly. I’m unclear what drew me in. Possibly the unpretentious witnesses. I’m guessing more the black backgrounds. For some reason, I really like it when my background doesn’t feel distracting.

I call it a social experiment because it felt like one. It was true stories, as told by those who survived them, in grizzly detail. I mean, who does that? In my own experiment/experience, once polite conversation goes off on tragic tangents, especially the likes of the I Survived crowd, people immediately feel so uncomfortable as to find plausible excuses to exit the conversation. I suppose, then, that the experiment is seeing how long these people can go before we’re all too uncomfortable.

And I got uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. But I kept watching. ‘Cause I had to know. Which is, I suspect, what makes it good interesting television.

The cases ran the gamut. One guy whined about being bitten by a rattlesnake. Another guy bitched about surviving a plane crash.

Child’s play.

The shit that really grabbed me was the truly awful, very personal shit. The shit that made me question the survivability of humanity. That made me wonder why anything’s worth it.

This isn’t Lynda’s full story. The important bit is she got away. The next important bit (for my purposes) is she thanked God.


She gets stuck in this terrible ordeal, is beaten, repeatedly raped, is clearly still shaken from the experience as evidenced by the barely contained tears, and even after all that, she credits God.

Here’s what I’d like to know. Why didn’t God intervene when Lynda was first talking to this guy? You know, when she was just getting to know him? It’d be totally plausible. Web sites fuck up all the time. She could’ve just clicked on his picture and… nothing. A 404 error. Or, if it was his pursuing her (I don’t recall as it’s been a while), God could’ve just stopped the messages from arriving. My point is what’s the point of her suffering? Still suffering (as evidenced by her barely contained tears)? What was gained through the experience? Ultra-vigilance against spooky strangers? I’d be wiling to bet she didn’t need a lesson in that.

Seems God just likes watching women unknowingly go down violent, romantic roads with assholes. God certainly seems to enjoy watching women get repeatedly raped as that’s obviously what happened. In the very least, God doesn’t seem to care that women get repeatedly raped. Or an even bigger moral question: why does God find it acceptable that Lynda got raped, but unacceptable that she be murdered?

Which leads me to my second bit (I found no video on-line). I remember once hearing that losing one’s child is among the top-three worst tragedies one can endure. I wouldn’t know. Never happened to me. But I don’t need it to have happened to recognize the unfathomable tragedy.

Here’s what I’d like to know about this case. If Willis is crediting God for helping her move on and keeping her daughters and all that, why couldn’t God have intervened by, I dunno, inspiring the culprits to go to some place that had better doughnuts? I know, I know. Free will. Okay, how about this? How about God intervenes by making the gun not work?

And let’s talk about the girls for a second. According to the Wikipedia article, per the autopsies, Jasmine’s eyes were open when she was shot. Think about that a sec. She didn’t have the luxury of maybe being pointed towards a tree and not really knowing when Henyard was gonna execute her.

She knew.

She was about to die and she knew. If that’s not brutal suffering, I don’t know what is. You’re in the woods with your sister, at night, no hope for any help, your mom’s unconscious, and some asshole’s about to shoot you in the head… and you see that it’s about to happen.

God was busy??

I get Willis’ need to make sense of this tragedy. I get that it’s probably easier for her to rationalize the whole thing as a crucial part to some divine plan. And I honestly can’t blame her. Were I to have children and they were brutally murdered, I’d be stuck with the frozen reality of it all being meaningless. That ain’t no fun.

But then I have to wonder, what was the point of Jasmine and Jamiliya’s lives? They were both killed too young to really have done anything–education, jobs, families. Okay, so per willis, they’re in Heaven with God, but then if that was their fate all along, why have them suffer so? Why not just have them be still-born, or miscarriages, or even better, have dad shoot blanks? Why not just create the souls and have them live with God from the onset? Their unbelievable suffering was to… scar their mother for the rest of her life? Earn extra brownie points for the family? I seriously don’t get it.

Now consider the two cases. Lynda gets beaten, raped, but escapes death. Willis gets beaten, raped, knocked unconscious, but escapes death. Willis’ daughters, though, are executed. So God finds it necessary to spare Lynda’s life. God finds it necessary to spare Willis’ life. God doesn’t find it necessary to save Jasmine and Jamilya’s lives? Why not? Because they’re young? Were they older, they’d still be here? I don’t get how theists justify this. Even if we go with the “plan” thing, that still fails. God likes women being raped, not murdered, but little girls murdered? How is that a plan?

This show also feels a whole lot like tragi-porn. I know I’m guilty of this and I bet you are too. Getting off vicariously through someone else’s pain. Maybe not “getting off” so much as feeling a good deal of catharsis. Check out the image they use right next to the title on the official web site.

I get that people have gone through tragedy. I even get that often, to move past it, they need to dwell within it, relive it, process it, reclaim it as their own… and sometimes the best way to do that is just to tell someone. But to do it to a camera? The worst one has experienced? This whole endeavor seems awfully cynical. To bank off of the worst people have seen and sell it as “compassion.”

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