Learning from Suffering
I grew up with both violence and denial. Denial aggravated me far more than violence.
Violence came and went. It happened because it happened. Parents were sometimes cruel, and then the kids they violated often learned to be cruel, too.
Denial, on the other hand, screamed, “I have the luxury of pretending what happened to you could not happen to me! Therefore, it happened because there was something uniquely terrible and deserving about you!”
The violence I endured as a child taught me to trust my instincts.
When a “charming” acquaintance made my skin crawl, I told my friends. They said I didn’t give him enough credit.
They were shocked when he committed murder-suicide. I was shocked, but not surprised. I’d lived with violence long enough to identify the subtle indicators others could simply choose to ignore. The little red flags he displayed didn’t even register for 99% of the people around me, none of whom–otherwise–themselves presented a single red flag.
When one of my sisters was at risk, I knew it because of how her communication changed. She didn’t have to tell me much for some part of me to cry out, “Alert! Alert! Alert!” even before she first told me he’d attacked her. I identified the risk before I could express it well.
When she called me about a later attack, I’d just finished reading security expert Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. I had vocabulary to show her the risk I saw. From the book, I read her a list of danger signs displayed by a partner. She told me her boyfriend had “done at least 25 of those things” and, thank God, packed up and drove more than a thousand miles south to begin a new life here in SoCal.
Had she stayed, she might not have survived.
When a neighbor told my son what to do, speaking over me to command Li’l D against my wishes, I trusted my instincts … and Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift. I said no and ended the conversation. My neighbor’s aggressive reaction to this affirmed how right I am not only to trust my instincts, but to teach my sons to trust theirs.
Many times before now, I’ve told you I will not perpetuate violence by my denial.
All the same, I wanted to shove my intuition aside in 2016 when it screamed, “Your representatives don’t represent you!” Instead, because I committed to never perpetuate denial at others’ expense, I researched. Once again, I discovered my instincts had guided me well. They uncovered truths logic alone would’ve kept concealed.
Despite everything I’d learned in youth, I’d been taken. I’d had no idea that the predatory tactics of pedophiles could be adopted en masse by politicians. I’d never have even had cause to suspect, had I not grown up in such mayhem.
All my research affirmed my instincts. The most shocking thing of all was how evident this alternate-and-actually-fact-based reality was with even the barest inspection: the very first book I read set forth immaculately documented details of how the U.S. has been the aggressive antithesis of human rights worldwide for decades. It wasn’t even hard to find. I just had to be willing to look.
Every book I read afterward confirmed this horrible truth.
As to “We Grew Up in Violence: Thoughts on the Changing of the Guard,” the piece my sister and I co-wrote and shared yesterday? I hope so much that you’ll read it. I hope you’ll consider, as Rache and I did, the possibility of having misunderstood everything. I hope you’ll pause to wonder why the U.S.–under Republicans and Democrats alike–is far and away seen as the greatest global threat.
I also really hope you’ll read Gavin de Becker, for your kids and all the kids you love. de Becker writes about personal safety, but what he writes in this realm also applies to politics:
Gail conceded that she wanted so badly to qualify someone as a baby-sitter that she didn’t really search for unfavorable information …
Choosing a baby-sitter is one process in which it’s better to look for the storm clouds than to look for the silver lining.
Too often, we look to qualify those in personal life and politics instead of even attempting to disqualify them. We seek only what we want to find and discard the rest. When we do this, we threaten future actual peace for the illusion of peace now.
I know by now that no fact I offer will make any other person part with comfortable illusion. I take no responsibility for what other people choose to see or conceal from themselves.
(Also, I have plenty of my own illusion to combat. What others choose to take on is up to them.)
On the other hand, I love kids. I want the best for all kids everywhere. I don’t want any more kids to suffer, ever.
So, even understanding it’s not my obligation to change hearts or minds, I’ll keep on trying. The truths adults deny, after all, are the consequences kids will have to endure for the rest of their lives.
I’ll keep trying, then, finding different words to offer every day … understanding, all the while, that denial is a bubble that can only be popped from the inside.