The courage to love

My earliest memory of senseless murder was the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963. I was six and we were living in Dun Laoghrie across from Joyce's Martello Tower while my father wrote a novel. I didn't have a clear idea of who the President was but my mother cried and she never cried. The Vietnam War raged and we watched it on television every night with the calm yet human narrative supplied by Walter Cronkite. I watched young men dying, dragged through mud, civilians being lined up and marched away from their destroyed villages. 1968 was the year of death. Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the My Lai massacre with 500 civilians shot by American soldiers. We were living in London and my mother cried. She said we would never go back to America. My father shook his head. Then my sister went to Harvard and we watched the anti-war riots, the kids gunned down at Kent State, the amazing spectacle of the Convention in Chicago, blood running in the streets. Let's not forget the Civil Rights marches occurring across the country, lynches, mob rule, the riots in Watts and Detroit. Then there was Charles Manson and the Jonestown massacres, events devoid of political content, death dealt with bloody hands as a form of recreation. John Lennon, my oldest sister's secret boyfriend and so on.
I hate violence. I can't watch people get tortured no matter how silly the movie. I can't stand to sit in front of a screen and witness bullying or the spectacle of grown men punching one another while people watch and cheer their favorite. I can't watch my son's video game depicting some eastern European drug dealer mowing down cops. I don't care that these things are created as entertainment. I find them despicable. My father used to act violent when he drank and I was afraid of him and thought he was going to hurt us. He did hurt my mother. I never forgot. I married someone who scared me and allowed things to happen until I left and stopped tolerating other people's need to be cruel. My current husband is the most wonderful man in the world but when he raises his voice I feel myself becoming small, sad and afraid.
I have never managed to physically defend myself or to hurt anyone. The first is a shameful secret. The second remains something I celebrate and embrace. I think people who can sit in darkened theaters watching people get hurt as a form of entertainment are idiots. I hate guns and war is an abomination. Maybe I'm not from this planet. But I am putting my hand up in this piece of writing to be counted as a coward and someone who will always support non-violent resistance and peace. I wish that little girl in Phoenix had lived to grow old and be happy. I believe a gun killed her at the hand of a violent man who needed to be taught how to behave. Violence is inhuman, unnecessary and morally reprehensible. When my son was a little boy I watched him as he helped a crying child up from the ground, put his arm around his shoulders and whispered something comforting. This was an instinct as pure as his affinity for sticks becoming guns. When I asked him what he'd said he shrugged and answered, "I told him he was my friend." I remembered thinking, "Thank God," I had no experience with boys and didn't know the depth of their sweetness, the purity of their capacity for gentleness. This is something we need to nurture in ourselves and our children. Not competitiveness, empathy, kindness and the courage to love.


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