But Why?

But why? That’s the feeling that arises in me in response to deliberate cruelty. I recall my bewildered child self feeling this when faced with acts of cruelty, hatred, and just plain old being mean. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t much get it now.

Intellectually, I understand that these behaviors are about controlling another, ruling by fear and is illustrative of an abuser’s internal state. As my siblings can unfortunately attest, I’ve been there and have behaved in less than laudable ways. Over the years, I have developed an increased self-awareness so that lashing out to harm another in the face of my own pain happens considerably less often. Do I mess up? Of course I do, I’m a messy human being. However, I do my best to own my behavior and make amends when this happens.

These days, my bewilderment occurs most often in response to politics or wars. The demonizing of others, by race, religion, gender, economics, or opinions still makes little sense to me, as does its converse, elevating one position (making money vs. feeding hungry people) far above another, creating false dichotomies. My brain sees that again its about fear and scarcity and need for control.

My bewildered broken heart still cries out, but why? There’s a song from my youth, Get Together, written by Chet Powers, aka Dino Valente, whose refrain captures the longing and instruction of my bewildered self:

Come on people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another

Right now

Come on people now, we can do better. Please?


10 thoughts on “But Why?

  1. That lashing out thing was a big part of my childhood. I wasn’t much of a “lasher-outer” until I became a teenager. Now I understand that it was a combination of being a teenager and fighting for my “rights” and legitimate outrage at the situation around me combined with being too young to completely understand or have good communication skills. I honestly thought that was a normal part of relationships, that things would go fine for a while and then someone would lash out. You are so right about it being about wanting to be in control (even when it’s impossible). I was also thinking last night after reading that our esteemed leader wants to stage a military parade that I don’t know where I am right now. Everything I’ve been and done in my life is diametrically opposed to the person whom the people of this nation have chosen to represent them. I feel that I live in a foreign country.

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  2. yes, as kids and teens in particular, it often seems that lashing out is our only available response to the overwhelm. And as for the military parade, I so share your bewilderment and disorientation–this can’t be my country–how could such a mentally ill despot have been elected? And why is he still in office.? It does indeed boggle the mind.

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  3. I get more bummed out because how he was elected DOESN’T boggle my mind. Ugh, I started to write a longer reply to this but I can’t. I’m so tired. I haven’t given up, but I’m just tired right now.
    Just wanted to say that I relate to this–every day.
    Greed makes me so angry, I feel like I can’t breathe.

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  4. Thank you for this, Stephanie. I also appreciate all of the thoughtful responses. I, too, am bewildered by the “military parade” proposition. We don’t need to have a parade. It is scaring me to think we have a leader that thinks this is important. It is all part of his narcissism. We need to spend that money on helping others who are less fortunate. It warms my heart to know that there are those of you out there who think of others first, and who are on the side of decency, respect and love.

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  5. I struggle to understand why some people WANT to control someone else… there is such incredible purity and beauty in watching or guiding or allowing someone to grow and gain control of his/her own self and become master of his/her own destiny…. something to celebrate, not take away by insisting on taking control, presumably because your way is better…

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  6. We are on the brink of being irrelevant. As AI rises, we will soon realize that we cannot function as well as technology. How long before a heightened state of technology realizes humanity isn’t necessary? We need to come to grips with our shortcomings and correct them the best way we know how or extinction sits on our doorstep.


  7. Your post is germane to my life right now. I’m currently in the middle of a 60 hour training class on domestic violence. I’m learning too much about controlling behavior. Interesting to apply it to politics.

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  8. Because we’re human. Flawed, imperfect, and capable of as much violence and volatility as we are of kindness and compassion. No need to ask why, just learn to forgive and offer aid and succour when able. That’s how I bear the senselessness, anyway. Oh, that, and laugh as often as possible at life’s innumerable absurdities!

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