In the spirit of relating my personal understanding of the theme of this column, I offer this experience from my youth.
I covered my eyes during most of the film “The Wizard of Oz.” I was a child old enough to go to the movies in downtown Seattle with just my older brother. The 1939 film was a reissued yet again mid-century. No doubt my brother, who frankly thought I was the ultimate drag, was bribed to take me.
I was terrified during most of the film, which I handled by covering my eyes. I had nightmares that night which convinced my mother I was a child who took most things seriously. The malady continued, at least in my mother’s mind. She advised me not to see the film “Psycho” released in 1960. It was not necessary. I, by then fully understanding my aversion to violence, was not planning to see the film.
More than a peek
The times required me to face the realities of violence. I grew into an adult through the tumultuous sixties and was witness to violence on nightly news broadcasts, whether an assassination, inner city riots or hopeless war. I saw mobs outside my office window and learned that threats of violence became necessary to provoke certain changes to which the system turned a blind eye.
What I wonder now is if violence is an inevitable part of daily human life. The other day I heard someone refer to the “normalization” of violence as if we should expect it. I hope not.
Conflict is a normal part of life, but is using violence to solve conflicts as inevitable as it has seemed lately? Individuals kill others over their own despair, punctuating it by killing themselves. Consider, too, the scenes of the unmerciful invasion, destruction of property and killing of innocent people of Ukraine. Consider the rise in addictions and suicides as people wage violence on their own conflicts.
Civilized societies seek to control violence toward others and self through laws and culture. Religion seeks to control violence through teaching morality and the way to a heavenly afterlife.
Problems occur when we cannot agree on what is lawful and moral or what our culture should be. Problems occur when motivations of greed, lust for power and righteous indignation become factors unrelated to laws and morals.
Our country and its people have a history of justifying unmerciful acts of violence as the means to control other people or punish their differences. Most were in a time without social media, 24/7 cable news and smart phones. People believed the leaders of the time, and most violence and oppression were not examined then or later.
Now, we have the means to examine and act if warranted by our examination.
But we have to look at and be open to what destroys us.
Today, we have a choice. We can bear witness or cover our eyes so we cannot see. We can choose willful ignorance. We can choose to promote non-violent solutions.
Avoiding anger, fear and guilt
Recalling past injustices is painful. Living as witness to present day violence is painful. It is understandable to want to avoid the pain. Yet, we human beings have great capacity to empathize, to feel the pain of others. Often, it is what moves us to change attitudes or act to prevent unnecessary violence in the future. We want to relieve pain, not inflict pain. We can learn from our examinations of the past and current events.
Then, how do we explain a burgeoning trend into withdrawal into darkness and misinformation. “Cover your eyes” policies enacted to support an informational desert.
How do we explain denying the black experience by banning books about oppressive slavery and post-civil war lynching in libraries or schools? Adults excuse the banning of certain books as protecting children from feeling guilt, fear or anger, all normal human responses to learning about past atrocities. That tells me those adults feel guilt, fear or anger and cannot explain the past to their children. Age-appropriate information should be provided on complex and sensitive topics and become more explanatory as a child ages. That does not mean “white washing” the early teaching.
How do we explain to school children who regularly practice ways to avoid being shot in school the banning of the fictional book “Nineteen Minutes” about a school shooting by a boy who was bullied in school? An Illinois school says the book is banned for all school children except high school students with parental consent because of a page that describes sex between teenagers. Georgia banned it and seven other books as inappropriate for public schools.
Among them were books that related stories about the travails of gender identity, race and sexual orientation. Note to parents: always a good idea to check your children’s online search history.
Finally, how do we explain the effort by some to avoid any news about the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the results of a national election? FOX cable is the only major news channel not showing the Jan. 6 committee’s televised hearings on the attack on the Capitol. I do not know why – could be guilt. But I suspect it is a cover-up and far more insidious than a child covering her eyes during “The Wizard of Oz.”
It is very possible; the hearing might expose the little man who ran out of buttons to push behind the curtain.
Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.