It seems I touched a nerve posting about the horrors of school shootings. I’m not sorry so let’s get that out of the way upfront. I’m a poet first and foremost and see touching nerves as part of the job description. For every politician and preacher the nation needs a poet to remind the people of what really matters.
I touched a nerve and heard about it in the comments. I like comments. I love my readers. For the first time ever I’ve had to delete and heavily moderate comments here. I don’t like name-calling or hate-speech or painting God as an asshole who murders preschoolers or animals.
I want to address something serious: violence can be verbal and verbal violence can be just as scarring as physical violence. What we say and how we say it matters. If it isn’t clear already non-violence and equality are big themes here. In my house and on my blog we treat each other with respect even when we don’t like each other. Deal with it.
What we say matters. Words can kill. What we hear matters. Words can wound.
God makes pretty clear that using angry or abusive language is bad for us and bad for others. “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (NRSV Matthew 5:22) If you don’t like Jesus, Buddha and Mohammad and Krishna also come out pretty strongly in favor of minding your P’s & Q’s. Manners matter. Being polite and following that basic Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is how we build a non-violent world.
Here’s the thing: violence permeates every aspect of modern western “civilization” and I am well acquainted with being on the receiving end of it. For new readers: I’ve walked out of a relationship with a gun at my back and lived to tell the tale. This is both personal and political for me. I am against violence in all it’s forms. Those of you who’ve been with me a while know this, know that I post anti-war poetry, that I discuss intimate partner violence, that I take all forms of oppression and domination seriously and write about sexism and racism and capitalism. Yes, there’s a few nice sweet cat haikus and little erotic scraps of love poems and lots of hope mixed in here. Sometimes I just sound off on being a non-trad university student and single-mother. But this isn’t the place where you find easy poetry or flowery essays. This is a place where you find poems written, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, because poetry is the media of resistance and requires far fewer resources than novels. This is a place where you find non-violence as a way of life and a peak into the insane faith of a girl who really does believe in a great huge God who is love. Here is a place where the flower of naively optimistic thrives in the poor soil of the dessert southwest. Hint: there is nothing naive or optimistic here. Here are faith and hope and love in the midst of treachery and addiction and abandonment and violence.
In my good old US of A 30,000 people are shot to death every year. There’s almost 300,000,000 of us. That’s a bit over 1 in 10,000. And that is only gun deaths. We have lots of other ways of killing and hurting each other, too. Also, our aim is bad and lots of people are merely injured and traumatized. Here in New Mexico there are nearly 450 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. That’s per year. Every single year. And that’s only what’s reported. Every single woman will experience some form of overt harassment in her life. One in four girls is raped before she turns 18. And one in seven boys. We live with violence on our streets, in our stores, at our places of work, in our schools, in our churches, and even in our own homes. We aren’t even safe in our own heads when we lash out with abusive language and torment ourselves with the internalized hate of our oppressors.
When we use violent language we are condoning all that violence. When we use violent language we are condemning ourselves to hurt and anger. When we are verbally violent we are contributing to a culture of violence and domination. Have we had enough yet? Are we ready to learn to speak and act kindly in all that we do so that this can be stopped? Non-violence and peace are not passive. Peace may be the most active and challenging thing you can do. Yes, it is something we have to DO. Peace is not something we will be given; peace is something we must give. We start with how we speak to each other and how we let others speak to us. Are you with me? Have you had enough yet?