All my life I’ve abhorred violence. As a teenager I’d leave the movie if someone started pounding on someone else. As a young adult, I avoided shows or entertainment that had any hint of violence. During my middle thirties, the response waned a bit, and by my 40s I was pretty much numb to the violence that is such a huge part of our world. I could watch a bloody battle in a movie with only a slight twinge.
That’s all changed now. Before I understood what was behind my reactions – I think it was easier. At least the reactions were less intense. I’d leave, run away from the violence. But then it was over. Now, my reactions to violence are so visceral, it’s like I’m the victim of whatever I’m watching. I can’t watch anything where people are being hurt – it stays with me for days.
I’m careful about what I watch– mainly because the reactions are so overwhelming I don’t want the experience. Remember the movie Monster? I didn’t know what it was about, and as I was flipping through channels one night I saw Charlize Theron’s face on the screen, so I decided to watch the movie. It took me a week to stop shaking after the scene where she is brutalized. Even though I turned off the television as soon as the violence began, I couldn’t get the horror out of my bones.
The same thing happened to me last week. Everyone is talking about Treme, the new HBO series about New Orleans after Katrina. I had seen one episode and liked it — so the other night, after a day of writing and seeking to be brain dead for a while, I sat down to watch another episode.
A jazz musician was riffing with a street corner violinist, making music in the night, in stark contrast to the horrors taking place everywhere in the surrounding city. The music sounded sweet and clear, a song of hope for a troubled time. As the musician left the corner, he turned to wave goodbye to his new friends. As he turned, his trombone accidentally hit the cop car sitting at the stop sign.
The next thing you know the cops were out of the car and on him, kicking his trombone – his livelihood – away down the street as they dragged him into the shadows to beat the crap out of him. I didn’t hit the off button fast enough.
I curled up into a ball on my couch and sobbed for an hour. Sobbed for the horror that depicted a reality we may not want to believe but that we all know is true. Sobbed for the abuse of someone so innocent, who had just shared such a beautiful gift with our world. Sobbed for whatever it is about power that makes some human beings turn into monsters as they prey on the weak. Sobbed for my own powerlessness in the face of a familiar pair of monsters with all the power and a rage to hurt others.
In a world so rich with enlightenment, science and wealth — how can we behave like monsters? How can we allow the bullies, the powerful, the ‘endowed,’ to treat the weak as if they were chattel, to be abused and cast aside? Why doesn’t anyone stand up for the innocent?
These are the questions that still haunt me.
“Night” ValetheKid @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rghts Reserved.
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