Sunday, March 3, 2013

this is not what your hands are for

As I was driving to work, which is apparently when most things happen or are thought of in the day, I saw two grown up ladies and a tiny girl walking by their side, not even at the height of what seemed to be her mother’s knees.

The girl attempted to hop around her mom’s legs so that she’d be the one nearest to the street, and all of a sudden the mother slaps her back and forth across her face like there’s no tomorrow. The sight of the tiny girl being beaten up while she squinted her eyes and held her hands to her face was utterly heartbreaking.

It’s a strange and somehow horrific matter to me, how some people allow themselves to physically overpower or abuse someone else, let alone a child.

That is not what your hands are for.

For Lego, for building things, for writing, for peeling oranges, for holding, for high-fives. Yes.

But not hurting.

It’s a taboo to discuss this in our culture, even though it happens more often than not. It’s not even something people can get protected from, whether by calling the police or filing domestic violence charges. A man could beat his wife senseless or a mother could break her child’s arm and nobody would have the right to intervene.

Even scarier is that the mingling of “love” and violence becomes as confusing as it is toxic, and as complicated as it is obvious.

The mother would justify viciously slapping her girl in the middle of the street by stating she cares for her so much, she was scared she’d run off in front of a car or something. Others find beating their children an essential part of disciplining them. Men beat their wives believing that otherwise they wouldn’t have “respect”. Then the wives quickly forgive them, giving them all the excuses in the world, till it happens again, and more excuses are given.

Everything could be very easily justified these days, right?

No. Some things just aren’t right, and no bullshit should be accepted. These people are complete and utterly pathetic cowards. If they were anything but that, their actions would speak differently.

It’s not just a bruise, a fractured finger or limb, or an open lip. While the physical infliction will most probably heal, the psychological one never will.

I can imagine putting myself in that girl’s shoes, having to convince myself I didn’t deserve to be hurt, that I wasn’t responsible for what was happening to me, that I needed to ask for help somehow, and that there was another life possible for me than what I was drowning in. I can imagine the feelings of fear, terror, anxiety, unworthiness, and how it could seem absolutely hopeless.

I can imagine I’d be harboring very twisted ideas of “love”, “care”, “respect” and “responsibility”. Let alone the ideas of what should or should not be, or what’s deserved.

But no, let’s not discuss it. Let’s make it very normal by showing our actors and actresses do it, and let’s laugh about it like it’s funny. Let’s not learn or teach any other ways. Let’s not control ourselves like a creature supposedly more evolved than an animal should. To each his own!

Anything except affirming: that is not what your hands are for.

And because this happens on our TV screens, and in our homes, and happens again and again without people standing in the way of it, and because beautiful young women do not walk away, I feel compelled to convey a few things:

That violence is not acceptable, whether it’s towards a spouse or a child. Ever.

That no one is “asking for it.”

That no one “has it coming to them.”

That what abusers have come from and have seen and have been through is not an excuse, but a factor… and not something others are responsible to bear.

That you can choose something else, even when someone you love or admire does not… or won’t.

That words matter, too; that swearwords and insults and all the words we use as knives are not acceptable, in any relationship, at any time.

That choosing violence should have clear, solid consequences: losing access to someone you love.

That there are a million more choices you can make in the heat of the moment that don’t leave bruises and scars.

That we can all do better, for our own sake, and for our kids’ sake.

And simply, plainly, always: that is not what your hands are for.
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