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