BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


open fire
August 7, 2009, 2:11 am
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oona and florence came back from italy today, and they are enormous, overgrown children, smallish adults. talking different, walking different, but also the same.

they are exiting kid and entering the amorphous zone in which a lot of things feel uncomfortable, including me. florence’s body is changing already – bumps sprouting and all, and it is so scary, and also great. 

this week a man killed three women in pittsburgh in a premeditated murderous spree that he outlined on his blog, a morbid pathways to his mind, and a source of endless fascination for the sensationalist media in the past couple of days. he opened fire because he hated women. simple as that.

he hated women because they would not sleep with him or have a relationship with him. a relationship he felt entitled to have , an entitlement that brought him to believe that women were at fault from holding back what was righteously his.

this was going through my mind as i sat across the dinner table from my daughter today. not a kid anymore really, not protected by the lack of sexualization of childhood, but a very soon woman to be. a target.

thinking that i moved across an ocean to give them more space, to let them and me become more than just what an overly sexist society was allowing us to be. now i look at them, and i am not so sure that we are safer here, or have more choices, or freedom. 

maybe the acceptable roles are different, but american society is not one were equality exists, not for women, not for people of color, or poor people or queer folks. but sexism is what seems to be so pervasive that it becomes invisible. it is ridiculed and trivialized, co-opted by ad companies, ignored by the media, even though a man living in such society felt it was ok to kill women, because he hated them. he is dismissed as a maniac, a deranged individual, no matter the fact that gender violence is happening all the time. 

i want to take my daughters and find somewhere safe, somewhere i know no one will cause them harm, but it’s impossible. i know that the only way for them to be safer is to change the conditions that would bring someone to have a sense that women are less then, that they are disposable, and that they exist to fulfill men’s needs or else they deserve to be hurt.

i feel engulfed by it sometimes, i see it all around me, and i have to force myself to remember that so many people are doing so many things to create a less fucked up world. they just don’t make the news



why would you even care?

that is one of the questions i got from an anonymous middle schooler last week,  ” why would you even care about what happened to some random person?” more precisely, which is a perfectly legitimate question.

i took my time explaining the services we offer for survivors of violence, and for people around them. i spent long periods discussing  what impact people can have as bystanders, but failed to talk about emphaty.

what i omitted to elucidate is the very idea that each of us is a random person, a stranger to more people than not, an arguably insignificant being. we often revel in an artificial sense of self-importance, of indispensability. we come to believe that our pain is more significant that another’s, our joys a cause of greater celebration. we surround ourselves with people that feed that sense of uniqueness and individual worth, and end up leaving everyone else behind.

i did not say all that, i just made up some fast, unsatisfying answer about the world being a shitty place if we stopped caring about people we don’t know, if we only protect and feel for our kin and close friends. but the question really stuck with me. maybe because i ask myself that all the time.

i do care, at a visceral level. not about life itself, or the essential worth of human existence. i am well too aware of the smallness on one life, which causes me frequent fits of anxiety. no, what i react to mostly is the unnecessary nature of violence, the pain that holds people captive and could be prevented way too easily.

those are the things i want to try to change. the gratuitous hatred, the avoidable worries. we can’t do much about sickness, or death , or unrequited love. but there is so much unnecessary shittiness, so much hurt that is a choice and only that. the violence we decide to deliver, or the judgment, or the prejudice can be avoided.

i was recently listening to Karen Amstrong on PBS, a religious scholar that studies the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity), and she was claiming that the base for any religion is emphaty, more precisely  the simple “golden rule” of treating others the same as you would treat yourself. she was challenging the viewers to do that, truly, even for just one day and experience how hard it is.  it made me feel like a bad person, as i am sure i don’t behave in such manner all the time.  i can justify that by calling upon an instinctual sense of preservation, or self-defense,  but there is no excuse. i know that until the time when blind egotism surpasses our sense of emphaty and compassion all the preventable pain will not cease.