Monday, January 15, 2007

A Hero's Day

Today is the day to commemorate a hero, a true lion of hope and equality. So many, like him, have fallen at the hands of known and unknown purveyors of fear: Malcolm X, JFK, RFK, Gandhi, John Lennon, the students of Tiananmen Square and Ohio State, Rachel Corrie, and the Greensboro Five. Some theorists feel that Paul Wellstone could be added to that list. Still others are driven from their homelands around the world, their lives spared but their hopes for freedom dashed.

Famous or completely unknown and unsung, so many have dedicated their lives to the freedom of others, and to equality and justice. Actions small and large accumulate and exponentially multiply the effect.

At times I wonder if I'm not doing enough, if my candle should be burning more brightly. If we all cared enough, wouldn't all the problems already be solved? We can't all be Martin, John, Mother Teresa, or Rigoberta Menchu, but we can all be who we are, enacting change by embodying love and compassion in the world. Some do their part simply by living quiet lives of meditation. Others march in the streets and speak truth to power. Still others send money, write letters, or speak up for those without a voice.

And the others, you ask? Yes, there are still others who do nothing but fend for themselves and take all that there is to take. But even for these there must be compassion somewhere in one's heart, even if for now that place is closed and inaccessible. As for those who are purveyors of fear and sowers of division, must we not also feel compassion for them as well? Some of us are capable of such compassion, some even attain the bliss of true forgiveness. Still others even more enlightened might realize that those brokers of fear are no different than ourselves and fully deserve our compassion.

As for me, I continue to struggle to forgive some in the world who have wronged me, like those who murdered my closest friend in the prime of his life and the rest who did their best to obfuscate the truth. My hatred and anger are still not dissipated, and I know that these emotions will only cause me harm in the end, no matter how human they may be. I also have strong vitriolic feelings for those who I feel are responsible for the raping and pillaging of our country, our culture, our economy, our ecology, our very soul as a nation. Will I some day feel compassion and forgiveness for them? It is a tall order, I must say.

But in the spirit of Martin, today is a day to hold forth a vision, even if the more difficult emotions serve to cloud that vista from time to time, like an emotional cataract. Without that vision, all is lost, and only the clouds and darkness hold sway. I'm sure Martin forgives his transgressors and sees the bigger picture from the vantage point of enlightenment. We can all catch a glimpse of that picture from time to time, and when we do, it's a breath of fresh air. It may be a mad, mad world out there, but to paraphrase and twist the words of W.C Fields for my own purposes, "there's a hero born every minute". Let's prepare the way for the the heroes of the New World, the world that's just around the bend, the one which Arundhati Roy says that she can hear breathing.


Anonymous said...

Wow. This is pretty deep, the revealing of one's plaguing demons. As a reader of your blog for the past couple years, I've read the vitriol you continue to harbor toward the person who took your friend's life. I might offer this bit of insight to your pain -- and in no way would I even pretend to minimize your hurting:

as a human in the healing/nurturing profession, you see others squander their god-given lives with drugs and other means of self-destruction. They do this wantonly, as if life holds no meaning. To you, life is something to celebrate. That Woody's life was taken, perhaps, by one of these who hold no respect for life -- and which flies in the face of everything you believe -- it became a personal act. Not only against your friend, but against you. Not being a psychologist, but a student of human nature, I would say: it's not about you. As long as you hold tight to the personal affront that was his death, you will never be able to forgive...not only the misguided person who murdered him, but yourself as well, for not being able to prevent his demise. Can you forgive yourself?

Sorry, Keith. I don't mean to preach. But this post reached out to me, and elicited this response. I wish you well.

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Christian, your comment is taken in the spirit it is offered, and I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

You are very right that I still need to work on forgiving myself. I am the first person that I write for, and I need to continue to try to take my own counsel.

A hard thing is that Woody called us from the church where he was killed on someone's cellphone and we were not home. While our outgoing message was playing, the cops burst in and shot him 7 times. This left two minutes of his agonizing screams and yells of "help me!" and "I love you" on our answering machine. It has been a difficult cross to bear and five years have passed now. I think I can begin to let go of my guilt that I was not home to answer his call for help. Forgiving the cops is harder, although I see their humanity and know that they too have suffered in their own way. The most maddening thing is the cover-up that happened without consequences for those involved. Luckily, a documentary film is being made about Woody's death and a great deal of the truth will emerge at the time of its release.

I feel that one of my greatest triumphs in this life will be forgiving those who killed my friend. I do not see it as an impossible task and hope that I will one day be able to say that it is a reality. For now, I do my best to first forgive myself.