Violence and how it is handled defines both a culture and a country. We have seen too much of it lately in America. Our police are less safe, the black culture is more vulnerable and gun control is again on the agenda in our Congress. It does no good to remind ourselves about the Vietnam War, two world wars, the Civil War that almost destroyed our country and going back in time to various dictators, inquisitions and other horrors leading us to think that this is the way the world is. It brings no understanding, no consolation. Violence appears to stalk us on a daily basis. How do we put all of this in perspective without minimizing the recent events in Dallas, TX?
I had an ex-husband who suffered extreme violence at the hand of his father when he was growing up. His father hung him in a gunny sack on a tree all day one time for being disobedient. He snuck out of the house one night only to find his father’s fist waiting for him when he climbed back in the window. He had been sexually abused when he was five and became a sexual abuse perpetrator, sexually abusing both his sister and his daughter for many years. The violence he grew up with defined who he became as an adult. It is my belief that the majority of violent perpetrators were abused as children. Does that excuse them from their actions as adults? A resounding NO is my response. I too was physically and sexually abused in my growing up years. But my actions turned inward. I never took it out on others but I took it out on myself: I chose to live with three different husbands who were all in the realm of domestic violence, I had two nervous breakdowns after failed suicide attempts, I was arrested for drunk driving in my mid-thirties. I suffered from insomnia, low self-esteem, continual suicide attempts, had weak boundaries, was addicted to sex and to relationships and I was manic depressive. That was the legacy my father left me.
The perpetrators of violence against police in our country that is taking on epidemic proportions may have suffered as a child but they had a choice to turn their life around. I heard a comment one time about how whenever someone strikes you the first message you receive is that you are not okay. Violence begets violence. What we receive we give in return. The maturity level of a victim of child abuse stops at the age they were abused. I was thirteen when my abuse began and I stayed that age of maturity until I started recovery. Then, as time progress I could feel myself growing until at the end of recovery I had recaptured the level of maturity that my age defined.
How do we deal with fear of terrorists? How do we heal from violence in Dallas after five police officers were murdered? As the mother of a 15 year veteran of the LAPD and the grandmother of a Police Officer as well, this especially hits me where my heart is.
Emmett Fox, author of The Sermon on the Mount, wrote words that I consider so important in my own spiritual growth that I have them taped to my computer monitor. “If you can raise your consciousness about the limitations of the physical plane in connection with the matter that troubles you then the conditions on that plane will change, and in some utterly unforeseen and normally impossible manner, the tragedy will melt away and to the advantage of all parties to the case.” To me, he’s speaking about prayer, something I do all day long. When I am particularly troubled I remember Abraham Lincoln’s words, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” Few people in history have carried as heavy a load as was upon Abraham Lincoln’s shoulders.
We will survive the anguish of Dallas. We will continue to fight terrorism on a daily basis. We will heal from our own troubles. Life will go on but we will have become wiser and more mature as the result of the painful incidents that have been handed to our country. This too shall pass.
We will go forward in life hoping that all will be well. And when it isn’t we too will be driven to our knees. It is our only solace.