Welcome to the middle path
- Jana Svoboda, LCSW
- Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.
Monday, May 2, 2011
"Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that." MLK
Last night I was doing my geek thing, surfing weather blogs. I wanted to see what meteorologist Jeff Masters, founder of Wunderground.com, had to say about the spate of terrible and unusual April tornadoes that had resulted in enormous destruction across several states. I'd had a cancellation the week before, just as major storms were breaking out in the southern states. It was horrifying to watch the biggest tornado I'd ever virtually seen form before my eyes on a chaser site (severestudios.com)-- a monster storm poised right on top of Tuscaloosa. Hours later my father and I watched the same tornado come into Birmingham. We were seeing what was clearly at least an F4, and knew that meant many lives would be lost.
Instead of the usual post-storm deconstruction, there was weird chatter about something big about to break on U.S. news. No one knew yet what it was-- something involving Obama, the CIA-- but even before it broke, people were guessing it was Bin Laden. And it was. It leaked before the official presidential announcement. And on the news channel, people, mostly young, crowded the Capitol Hill mall, waving flags, screaming and shouting in celebration at the news of Bin Laden's assassination. It was a happy party scene. If the sound or subtitling was off, you might have mistaken it for an enthusiastic crowd at a rock concert.
Meanwhile, back in my little burg, recently named the safest US city from natural disaster, and just a few years after being named the safest town from crime, the headlines were focusing on a different story. A young man had stabbed his one year old baby and the baby's mother, killing both.
The 20 year old had come here as an exchange student as a teen. During his stay he fell in love with a local girl. They were good students, and after graduation began studies at a local college. By all accounts the two were shining lights--- loved, gentle, loving. When she unexpectedly became pregnant, both appeared to devote themselves to the task of bearing and raising their child. And the community surrounded them with support. But there were apparently problems in the relationship. According to local news reports, she broke things off a few weeks ago. He became despondent.
I don't have inside information. I don't know what despondent felt like for him. But I do know crazy. And by that I mean the twisted kind of thinking one can have when either through genetics or circumstance it feels as if the world has narrowed to one sharp and unbearable point. What I do know from the news is that he decided to kill them all. That he reports thinking they would then all be together in the afterlife. And that he successfully carried out two-thirds of his plan. He called 911 after the slitting of his wrists did not result in his own death. thinking he could get the police to finish what he could not. Something in this boy was broken, and it resulted in much harm.
I don't know if what follows will make sense to anyone. But somehow all of this feels linked to me-- the horrific impact of the storms in the South, the celebration of a death of an enemy, and the loss of three (yes three, because there can be no good ending for this young man now) lives for no reason I can begin to understand. And it is the second time in several weeks our community has had to try and fathom how someone everyone believed to be good and loving could commit such atrocities.
How is it linked? Because all of these events are tragic, and none have tidy explanation. Because in each I have watched unfolding rushes to judgment from media commenters.
In the cases of the tornadoes: multiple writers talked about this being God's judgment. The result of abortion being legal, or tolerance of homosexuality. I have lived in the South, and trust me, if you are looking for the churched and the God-fearing, you are going to find it there. Why on Earth God would pick Alabama to unleash wrath is completely beyond me. Vegas, maybe. But Birmingham?
In the case of the young man, there was an ugly flood of racism, rants about immigration (may I remind us that we are a NATION of immigrants?) and immediate calls for the accused to be hung or shot. I understand that people are reacting to the bare facts of the crime, and it is a horrific crime. But I recoil from the early mob mentality, and especially to the calls for more violence.
Similarly, while I don't mourn the death of Osama, neither am I inclined to celebrate it. For me, Bin Laden's death is one punctuation mark in a very sad chapter of world history. I don't know that I feel safer. I don't know that it was worth the 5885 American soldiers now dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 100,000 plus civilian deaths in Iraq alone. All I can think is every single one of those dead was someone's baby.
Martin Luther King Jr said: "I'm concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence, you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that."
And I do love the soldiers. Those who have been called up and served two, three, four times for a war even some of them don't get. I work with them, with their families, with their injured brains and their daddy/mommy lonesome children and their sleepless nights. And while I admire their bravery, their reality just plain sucks. There is no prettier words I can find.
We want easy explanations, simple arithmetic. We want to subscribe to the Just World Theory: that if we are good, good things will happen to us, and that only bad people can do bad things. But life, and especially people, are way more complicated than that. In these last six months it seems I have seen more examples of this than I have in a dozen years. Shit happens, as they say, and it certainly doesn't pick those most deserving. So how do we make sense of it?
I'll work on that one another day.
In the mean time, listen to Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."