The shootings in Aurora, Colorado won’t go down in history like the JFK assassination or 9/11. The entire country will not ask, “Where were you when?…” But it is very emotional, nonetheless.
We are used to crime here. I love the South, but it has a history of violence just like anywhere else in the world. It’s not surprising, dealing with all the violence here. I don’t know why I have been so put out by it since I moved to a large Southern city.
For crying out loud, I grew up with violence. It is, dare I say it, a part of my nature. It is the first thing I think of when something goes wrong. Who did it? Got a name. Why? Doesn’t matter. Let’s kick some. I have a visceral fascination and tendency towards it. I understand it. Not in the random sense of breaking into a house and senselessly killing its occupants or robbing someone on the street corner. It is a mode of revenge, and that I get. I appreciate it. I miss the Wild West as if I actually lived it. I GET it.
This is amazing to my friends here. They grew up living mostly quiet lives, where they never saw destruction or fear or poverty or desperation. They grew up in upper-middle class suburban bubbles, for the most part, and violence is abhorrent to them – even to the men. My own husband is this way! It makes for difficulty between us. When my reputation or safety is questioned, I expect him to “take care of it.” This means, of course, what you can imagine, with the added precaution of deniability on my part. The men handle problems and the women don’t ask them about it.
I sometimes wonder, with an inward sneer, I confess, what it would have been like to grow up like these good men and women I know. I feel tougher, stronger, better able to think things through, and weight the options in a crisis. I don’t think they have it any better. Are they equipped to meet danger? Yes, I suppose, but in a much different way than I am. They are appalled in the face of aggression; I am strengthened, almost, by it. I know what to do in a fight, to some extent. They, maybe not so much. Then again, they have had no use to know how to do it. I have.
So I smirk, sometimes, but it is not out of jealousy. It is out of frustration. We don’t understand one another. They think my instincts are wrong and I think theirs are too tame. Yet, they cannot help it. They have a greater sense of security than I will ever know – at least, as far as human beings are concerned. I am not the lucky one in all facets of this issue. I know that. I am glad for them that they have had these things. It makes it easier for them to deal with others – in a way.
Anyway, violence is system that worked fairly well, I think, when I was growing up. We were protected. Except for the natural feeling of vengeance it inspired, it was a good system. I still have to fight against that.
Over the years, I have had many chances to either employ it myself or have others do it for me. For example, I had a college job where I was being sexually harassed. The issue made it all the way up the chain of command to the top; the boss said that I had been working there only a few months compared to this venerable veteran; he advised me to let it go or I’d lose my job. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, when I would be harassed. And it was handled both poorly (the guy was immediately fired) and badly (the guy was protected) over the years. It actually became something I expected and something I eventually tried to deal with on my own.
But I digress. This, as you can imagine, did not sit too well with me, and it did not suit my then-boyfriend at all. I have no idea what happened to the man I worked with; all I do know is that the next day, my boyfriend drove me to work and picked me up. But I had to wait inside the store until he “handled” it and then I was allowed to go to the car when I finished my shift. The guy who was giving me a problem? Never spoke to me again, much less frightened me.
So, that was how it went. For the last few years, I have been astounded by the crime and unnecessary violence here. I have yet to get used to it. They aren’t protecting their families. They’re just thugs.
But when I watched the news for the last two days and the images from Aurora, I felt tears form for the first time. Not anger, not the absolute need for revenge for the sakes of those hurt or killed, but just an intense sadness.
And that was followed by love. LOVE. The need to just saturate this crazy, dangerous, ill-omened world with love. To use it to cast out darkness. How that works I have no idea. I have not made it a life study, if you will, like I have aggression and power. But love has its own power too.
No, I will still demand that my kids take care of themselves and those unable to defend themselves. That, to me, is a matter of right and wrong. My boys will never get in trouble for doing that; they will get in trouble for letting an innocent kid get beat down. It’s wrong. It’s cowardly. And being scared doesn’t make you a coward; not acting despite being scared does.
But I will also continue to teach them love. Love for the underdog. But love for the criminal too. Forgiveness. Because despite the life I have lived, I am able to forgive now. And it is good. It is cleansing. It if freedom!