Archive for the ‘violence’ Tag

WHAT WOULD MY FATHER THINK?   13 comments

At this point in writing my father’s story, I am deeply immersed in the years 1910 – 1912. Before my father went off to college supported by the money he had saved working for two years on a job he didn’t like. Before the first World War that killed his first – and maybe only—best friend and Best Man at my parent’s wedding (June 6, 1917.)

Some few people in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut were buying cars, enough so there were six automobile dealers and retailers listed in the city business directory. He walked to work past private homes whose green lawns were enhanced by gardens of asters and chrysanthemums. On Sundays he walked to Bethesda Lutheran Church to participate in the Swedish service, singing in the choir, having practiced there on Wednesday evenings.

I imagine peace, quiet, and hope when I spend time there. But on 9/30/1910, three days after my father arrived in the United states, the newspapers reported a terrorist bombing of the Los Angeles Times. Twenty people were killed. The source I read didn’t give any details about the bomber or motivation for the carnage. But it awakens me to the fact that we have never been without terrorism.

So what would my father have to say today if he were here about the most recent terrorist attack? Maybe that’s when he’d say of his life, “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” I know he’d feel sadness, dismay, and probably disgust that people or groups choose killing as a way of solving problems. I’m quite sure we would be discussing it at the dinner table, searching for possible answers.

I know he wouldn’t jump to conclusions about motive, while he would relate it to the spate of killings to which we have, sadly, become accustomed. I know he wouldn’t scapegoat.

Was the Orlando attack part of an organized plan by an organized enemy? Apparently not, according to FBI reports. Was it hatred of the LGBT community? Was it the perpetrator’s personal illness – bipolar disorder? Was it the killers confused battle with his own sexuality? Was it a combination of some or all of the above?

Whatever lay behind the horror, he’d know it can’t be explained by simplistic assumptions. He’d worry that some might not understand how complex the situation is and would choose to rush into inappropriate reactions. My father wasn’t opposed to emotions, but he did favor rational consideration when it comes to understanding and responding.

Looking over all the terrorist attacks, domestic or externally motivated, from Columbine to now, he’d see, as we can’t help but see, that the one common denominator is not only the use of guns, but more basically the choice of violence.

On today’s news I heard that investigators are suggesting a psychological factor uniting them all – that the killer(s) were trying to gain control. My father’s youngest daughter (me) finds that highly reasonable. Having control over one’s own life is basic to being fully human. To oversimplify, it comes from expressing one’s own individual abilities and strengths and feeling rewarded and respected for them. When one doesn’t receive that gift through life situations or genetic givens, then shame may encourage debilitating depression, or, with more energy, blaming and gaining control over others. Demagoguery is one control route, but not for all. Enslavement is another, as is killing, whether organized or individual.

I think my father would say we’d better be careful before rushing to violent conclusions of our own, and take a look at the complexity of life under any circumstances, but certainly in a democracy. It may not be immediately satisfying, but solutions that stick in the long run usually aren’t quick and easy.

 

 

I’M FURIOUS WITH “BLUEBLOODS.”   10 comments

I doubt anyone has noticed, but it’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog – just too busy trying to do other things. But I have faithfully kept track of the friends I “follow.”

Today is different. I feel a moral obligation to respond to the lie that was told last evening on the latest episode of “Bluebloods.”

If you don’t know the show, I’ll tell you about it. First, though, I want to explain that I was watching it because it’s one of the fictional shows I enjoy at 9:00 p.m. Central Time. I try very hard to be ready to relax by that time so I can lose the day’s stress watching make-believe. I like the show. I like the characters – a good-looking bunch of folks.

It’s the story of a wealthy Irish Catholic family that basically controls an error-free, noble, always just, New York Police Department. It’s clear they are wealthy, because at the end of almost every episode they all gather around a large table in their attractive dining room in their large house for an ample meal accompanied by wine. (The children in the family don’t have wine glasses in front of them.)

At the head of the table is the police commissioner, or his father, the retired commissioner. The rest all serve in one way or another – detective, officer, prosecutor. The children all plan to follow the noble path when they grow up. Often there are political problems with the Mayor who has a bad habit of thinking first of re-election. In between there are the kinds of things one expects to happen in a cop show.

There are some interesting things I tend to mull about when I watch it. For some reason that seems to have nothing to do with the drama, the writers killed off the mother and the grandmother before the show even began – and an older brother who died in the line of duty. (Hm. Sort of makes me think of the Kennedy family.)

Alcohol seems to play a major role. Not only is there the wine at dinner. (Let me be clear, I like wine at dinner.) But there is also the ever handy bottle of bourbon, or whatever it is they drink, when there is a problem to discuss – at home or at the office – and a glass poured at the end of the day to relax. There’s no obvious threat of alcoholism, but I often wonder what was the writer’s purpose in introducing it.

I’m quite sure the writer’s have a political point of view different from mine. On a few occasions they have spoken disparagingly, almost sneeringly, about the ACLU. Not anything long, just sort of a giggly hope that no one they know would be “that” kind of lawyer. No problem. I suspect it even fits the plot line. Lots of people in their line of work don’t especially like the American Civil Liberties Union. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, the first President Bush bragged about tearing up his ACLU membership card.

I personally have been a member of the ACLU since I traveled to Germany (among other places in Europe) shortly after WWII. The rubble was still all around. Yes, I’m that old. The thing is, I met so many wonderful people – good people who had let the holocaust happen. I remember one of our student guides saying, “It will come to your country someday.” I learned what I think is an important lesson. It’s true: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Hence, the ACLU membership.

But that’s not why I’m furious. They have every right to make their opinions known. No, I’m furious because they basically lied, and misinformed, in an area which is extremely important in the current atmosphere of violence, cruelty, and vengeance.

For no apparent dramatic reason, last night they introduced the concept of “restorative practices,” sneeringly suggesting it might be OK for High School students to apologize for things they do, but …

OK, so the lie. They completely misrepresented the process, thereby distorting the purpose. The subplot starts when a young woman who is about to be married receives a letter from a man in jail – the person who years before had killed her mother, father, and brother apparently in a home invasion. He would like the young woman to meet with him in jail. WRONG! That is not the way a restorative justice interaction begins. Unless something has changed a lot very recently, the perpetrator is not allowed to harass the victim. No, restorative justice began for the relief of the victim, not the criminal. It’s the reason why, for example, victims now have the opportunity to testify before the sentencing. It would have to be the victim who initiated the meeting.

The next WRONG!. When the young woman wants to do it, in spite of the Commissioner’s advise, he insists he is going with her. Here’s where things get to be a big lie. As it’s presented, they just make a date and go to the prison. Once there, she and the killer and a woman — apparently some kind of social worker – meet over a table in a private room. The “social worker” person yields easily to the Commissioners insistence that he will stay, and is ready to end it all if he detects that the prisoner is hurting the woman in any way. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE.

There would be no such meeting without a long process of preparation – often as much as a year or more– being sure both parties want the meeting and are prepared for it.

Rather than presenting a restorative practice interaction as the serious, important, and productive process it is, they made it look like an amateurish, thoughtless, activity.

Finally, the Commissioner encourages her to maintain her vengeful attitude. She has every right to do that. As one who cares a lot about forgiveness, I’m the first to say that forgiveness coerced is not forgiveness at all. The sad thing, though, is the next day she gets married still harboring the hate. WRONG! Forgiveness is not a gift to the killer. It is a gift to oneself, proved many times over to be important for one’s physical and mental health. She has now begun her married life carrying the hatred and all its potential damage with her.

The fact is, restorative practice is a very practical response to crime. A highly developed legal process in several countries, and less widely in the U.S,, it has been demonstrated to reduce recidivism significantly. To say nothing of the fact that people, both victims and criminals, are rehabilitated. The process saves money and saves lives and the quality of life.

I’m furious with “Bluebloods” because the misinformation is presented for no apparent reason except to degrade an important development in judicial process. I guess it continues to be more important to enjoy the satisfaction of inflicting retributive pain than to work at solving problems.

I’ll keep watching the program. Along with CSI and NCIS and their variants, it is one of my favorites. I know the blood is fake, the gun ammo are blanks, and the actors will get up off the floor.

I’ll also keep doing what little I can to encourage restorative practices rather than pleasure in vengeance that leads to no productive end.

VENGEANCE vs. FORGIVENESS   6 comments

I think it’s safe to say that vengeance is the most powerful obstacle to forgiveness. I have been reminded of that recently in reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality

I’m especially alert these days to quotable material as I anticipate the four-session discussion of forgiveness I’ll be leading at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota. So I made note of page 151 where he reports “good advice about not engaging in revenge.”

A number of wise men have warned us against the would-be benefits of vengeance. Mark Twain said, “Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” Walter Weckler further observed that “revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst.” And Albert Schweitzer noted that “Revenge … is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.”

 The problem is, as Ariely points out, the urge to vengeance is a powerful built in response to perceived offense. For those who would encourage forgiveness – as I do – it’s a problem requiring solution. Part of the solution lies in the other point he makes, that the vengeful emotion fades a bit with time. That’s why we count to ten, I guess.

But there are other things we can do, as some of my clients have done. We can, for example, engage in wonderful fantasies of clever methods of torturing the offender. Carrying out the fantasies would probably not be a good idea, much as they would backfire on oneself  – guilt, for example, an awareness that one’s own morality has been breached.  Or the very fact that someone who has been punished rarely smiles with a “Thanks I needed that.” Nope, vengeance breeds vengeance.

But maybe we need to add something. Vengeance doesn’t necessarily mean physical violence. In fact, Ariely goes on to give examples of what might be called positive effects of vengeance. One quick example (page 154). Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose successful steamship company was basically stolen from him by a couple of associates, responded as follows:  “Gentlemen, you have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.” Then he formed a new company so successful that eventually he regained control of his first company.

OK. I’m sure the punished associates didn’t perceive that as positive. For them it was emotional and financial violence. But it did work for Vanderbilt.

I’ll leave it at that. Food for thought. Knowing the hazards of vengeance, how do we handle it when it comes so naturally? It’s complicated. And now I’ll shamelessly refer to my two forgiveness books, both of which recognize that forgiveness is a difficult but doable process: When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time.

And if you come across some nice, tidy “forgiveness” saying, I’d be very happy if you’d share it in a comment. Or maybe even a personal story of dealing with vengeance?

WAITING FOR THE FEVER TO BREAK   6 comments

Remember the old movies where the family gathered around the person in crisis, suffering high fever and approaching death? Usually there was a happy ending when the fever “broke” and the patient recovered.

Crisis: I’ve lived through so many in my lifetime. Oh, I’m not referring to pneumonia, or even personal crises. I’m referring to national and international crises. Like waiting in the New Haven, Connecticut railroad station for my boyfriend to meet me. My thoughts? We’ll never get married. I’ll never get to graduate school. We’ll all die when the atomic bomb drops on us. No, the 1950s were not a calm, peaceful time.

Korea: My boyfriend (a different one) sent letters home as he served in the “action” that never was officially a war. Always, at least once in a letter, he’d say, “Christ, we’ll all be killed.” It was a kind of mantra, I think, to ward off death.

The Cuban missile crisis. Now I had children for whose safety I feared. Sleepless nights of worry, even though I knew my worry had no power to stop “it.” – whatever “it” might turn out to be.

The 60s – Oh, the 60s. Now I look back and see the amazing changes that have happened – and the ones that haven’t. This could be a whole long blog all by itself recounting the changes in women’s lives, for example. (A subject on which I have more authority to speak than on racial changes.) Women lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, mail carriers, news reporters, commercial pilots, fire-fighters. police officers, – even chiefs of police. Women still earning less than men for jobs of equal value —  not as far behind as they used to be. But I’ll save all that for another time.

The Iraq thing: Definitely kept me awake, watching powerless as that terrible period developed leaving behind an aftermath for which decades will find us paying the price.

OK. You get the idea. Now, of course, we are in another crisis. No – make that plural — crises. Technical advances changing the way we make a living – or don’t. “Global Weirding” and the related rejection of science. The rush to violence and the growing reactions against it.

I feel like I’m living in a maelstrom. And I feel like I’ve felt like this before. And I know that while I’m/we’re in it, we’re too close to see the effect it’s having on our evolution as a people, a nation, and a world. Even as a universe.

So, what’s this all about? I have learned to wait and see. Do what I can. Act as I believe is right and moral – knowing that some people  think I’ve “got” it, and others believe I’m way off the mark – and that none of us individually has much power to stem the tide. But watching in awe as public opinion is making itself known. Ten years from now, maybe less, where we are heading will make sense in retrospect.

Someday the fever will break. The patient won’t die, but things will never be the same as they were. Change will happen, maybe for the better in the long run. And maybe more quickly than we expect. Just look at what’s happened to gay marriage. Maybe even our current rush to violence will “break” as more peaceful solutions prevail.

In the meantime, I’ll listen to music sometimes, instead of watching the daily din of news which will, of course, be bad, because the good stuff doesn’t make news. I’ll assume I and my world will be around long enough for “Mrs. Job” to find a new home and a new name, and even begin to make some money again.

And I’ll read the good news in my two favorite “positive-focusing” magazines: YES   and ODE And wait for the day when the news media will be presenting some good news in spite of themselves.

 

Remember? What has changed.   6 comments

I’m in the middle of reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I wish I had someone — or many — right here with me to discuss it. In that light, I couldn’t help appreciating this article in my e-mail this morning. Long, but oh so thoughtful, and thought provoking. See what Congressman John Lewis has to say.

WE ARE ALL ONE BODY – A GOD’S EYE VIEW OF MOTHERHOOD   9 comments

“Set your alarm clock a few minutes earlier” and you’ll tap into your creative juices, Jonah Lehrer suggests in Bottom Line Personal, May 15, 2012. “Our minds tend to be drowsy and unfocused just after waking. Drowsy, unfocused minds are prone to wandering, and wandering minds are great at making creative connections between seemingly disparate concepts.” What a neat example of turning a perceived negative into a positive. Being drowsy and unfocused is a good thing.

Personally I need no alarm clock, not like I did when I was young and could sleep until 5:00 p.m. Really. One time when I was home on vacation from college my mother came to my room at 5:00 p.m., to ask if I’d like some dinner before I went to bed. I did, and I did. Right back to sleep, catching up after intense studying for hefty exams in the five courses I was taking – because that was standard.

Anyway, back to this morning. In my drowsy state, pieces dropped into place like some wiggly jigsaw puzzle: Mother’s day, detoxing – as in nutritional program and/or psychotherapy, skin – our outer layer and largest organ, change and fear/resistance to change, internal warfare, Jung’s Collective Unconscious as I understand it, Freud’s struggle to understand the battle between the forces of life and death, even telephones and automobiles and blogging.. Evolution is the right word.

 I wish I were a poet. The best I can do is a kind of bulleted approach, wondering what the ages look like from a God’s eye view, or even to genuine historians who see the context of time. But here goes.

 I was there when my granddaughter was born. So were my deceased mother and my grandmothers, and the women before them that I didn’t know much about. It was impossible to be unaware of the continuity of life that stared into my video camera as that baby was placed on my daughter’s belly. They tell me that she, now twenty-five, looks like me. I’d like to believe it, because she is beautiful. I mean really. But they don’t mean she looks like me. She looks like they imagine I looked at twenty-five. Together we are part of the life and death of cells in the body of humanity.

 I’ve been in a nutritional program for the past several months. First came treatment of the skin, reducing the inhibiting (he calls it blocking) effect of scars. Is it fair to say that’s removing the effects of our external wounds? Hmm, there’s a parallel in psychotherapy.

 Then came detoxing – slowly, because the body becomes accustomed to the bad stuff we carry around and resists parting with it, getting sick in the process of letting go. Many years ago I spent two years in psychotherapy, so painful I described it later as pulling barbed wire out through my pores, one bit at a time. At the end, everything seemed so clear, I wondered why it took me so long to “get” it. Like every cell in my body – every cell in humankind – I was afraid to release what Adlerians would call the irrational ideas that had me in their clutches. Those two years were years of violent internal cellular battle. The years since have not been without their struggles with personal conflict and sadness, as well as mini-depressions watching the world go through the same thing, wondering what my one little cell can do to help detox. But the barbed wire effect is long gone.

Telephones and automobiles? I am in the process of writing a piece about the evolution of telephones, from French phone party lines to bluetooth convenience, producing the effect of general schizophrenia as we walk around apparently talking to ourselves. Automobiles? My parents dated in horse and buggy. ‘Nuff said?

 Blogging. There are separate bundles of humanity coming together as one. Recently I’ve been moved by the rallying of so many in care of one woman blogging about the joy and stress of caring for her brother. We are all one body, rushing to the support of a part of us in need and, in turn, receiving the gift she gives of faith, hope and health.

And so to Jung as I understand him this morning. We are literally all one body, over the generations and right now. I hope this little cell called Mona will have, in some small way, removed some fear and violence toxins from the other cells in the body of which I am only a part. That would be a happy mother’s day theme.

I expect “A View From the Edge” will cite St. Paul from whom, I believe, I’ve stolen the title for this blog.

Happy Mother’s Day! For now and for eternity. Now wouldn’t that please the God’s eye view?

 

GERUNDS, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, AND “YES.”   5 comments

Yesterday I called my sister to wish her a happy birthday. In the conversation I said something like,” I’d like to talk about gerunds.” Her response was immediate and enthusiastic, loosely quoted, “It makes me furious.” There was no need to explain my intention. So when did it become correct to say “”I appreciate you coming with me,” instead of “I appreciate your coming with me?” Obviously it’s now acceptable, but when did it happen? My sister, the former teacher and MFA, can explain in detail the new relationship. As she pointed out, we learned the gerund rule way back in grammar school but we have to accept that language usage changes, even though it causes ear pain. I for one, though, expect to continue saying, “I appreciate your coming.”

But then, what does it really matter when the cover of the “Intelligence Report” from the Southern Poverty Law Center says “The Year in Hate and Extremism: The ‘Patriot’ Movement Explodes” and spells out in the interior contents the details of growing racism, hate, and consequent violence.

In the same reading session, however, I found an article in “Yes” magazine where Frances Moore Lappe says “A new way of seeing that is opening up to us can form a more life-saving mental map. I call it ‘eco-mind’ — looking at the world through the lens of ecology. This worldview recognizes that we, no less than any other organism, live in relation to everything else.” Gong on, she elaborates six inherent traits we can foster, once we learn to navigate the world with the map of eco-mind.

1)    Cooperation

2)    Empathy

3)    Fairness

4)    Efficacy

5)    Meaning

6)    Imagination, Creativity, and attraction to change.

Pages 12-15, Yes” Spring 2012. www.yesmagazine.org

I want to believe those traits will overcome hate. But then, I didn’t say I expect they will.

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