Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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In D. Killian’s excellent interview with Marshall Rosenberg [“Beyond Good and Evil,” February 2003], Rosenberg spoke of the immense cultural pressure on survivors of molestation to forgive their abusers prematurely, thus disempowering themselves and relieving the perpetrators of the need to demonstrate their accountability.
At a training on sexual-abuse prevention in 1995, I learned a valuable lesson in the political nature of “forgiveness” from Dr. Marie Fortune, founder of the Seattle-based Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (www.cpsdv.org). She had once spoken with a roomful of convicted child molesters in a mandated treatment program. These perpetrators were all multiple offenders who had reoffended after having been slapped on the wrist by their pastors and rabbis. She asked them why they’d reoffended. To a man, all of them said, “We were forgiven too quickly.”
Because nobody with authority took their initial crimes seriously, these men molested more children, children who could have been spared had the religious authorities understood the difference between superficial repentance and disciplined reform. One of the principles of treating sexual and domestic violence is that perpetrators do not have a right to forgiveness. Thanks to Rosenberg for recognizing this fact.
Although I disagree with Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent stance in politics, I found much to learn from his willingness to communicate about emotional states.
He described an experience he had talking to Israeli police. He pointed out to them that there are almost always opportunities to avert violence before the shooting starts. But Rosenberg sidestepped a larger question: What do you do when the society in which you’ve lived your entire life shoots at you, figuratively, every day? When the whole of that society is predicated on separating us from our natural rhythms? When the society that you were born into has been destroying the natural world for hundreds of years? When everything about our society — alarm clocks, traffic noise, living in little cubes, endless wars, wage slavery, ecological collapse, and so on — is turning us into machines? I feel furious about this state of things, and sometimes overcome with despair, and often just plain terrified.
Thank you for the timely and visionary interview with Marshall Rosenberg. During the conversation, Rosenberg cited Gene Sharp’s Internet article “168 Applications of Nonviolent Force.” I immediately went online and found Sharp’s piece. (By the way, the correct number is 198, not 168.)
I discovered that parts of the article ran somewhat counter to the principles of Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. Many of the 198 actions are uncomfortably forceful and confrontational: “haunting” officials, excommunication, mutiny, nonviolent raids, nonviolent invasion, seizure of assets. Rosenberg’s methods represent a meaningful approach to dialogue, not an attempt to provoke.
Last night I opened my first issue of The Sun in almost a year. It was like an old friend dropping by. I’ve been working through the impact of a loved one’s heroin addiction and haven’t been able to concentrate enough to read. For the first time in ages I lay in bed without the TV on, and I devoured each page, pondering the ideas, feelings, and opinions.
After finishing Holly Anne Hyde’s essay about her dog Harpo [“How to Bury a Dog,” February 2003], I recognized why, at the age of fifty, I’d become a first-time dog owner. This morning, instead of just letting Isabel into the backyard to pee, I drove her to the beach, where she ran like the wind, urging me to play. And I did.
I was profoundly moved by a “Readers Write” entry on page 37 of the January 2003 issue [“Scars”]. The anonymous author writes about three children he lost to abortion and how he built a shrine to them.
I had an abortion in 1965, and I have never gotten over it, in part because I have never been able to ask the father of the child to forgive me for the suffering I caused him. And because the abortion occurred prior to Roe v. Wade, the procedure was poorly done, and I have not been able to have any other children.
I missed so much because of that stupid mistake.
In her letter in your January 2003 Correspondence, Kris Hill writes that she is searching for a church where she, “a thirty-year-old lesbian schoolteacher and pacifist,” can find community. “I want a church with a moral backbone,” she says, “but one that worships life. Does anyone know of one?”
I recommend the Unitarian Universalist Church. Its moral backbone is clearly defined by seven basic principles, the first of which is “to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
We are also a church with great zest for life, a church that lives in the present, and a church that welcomes all without barriers to creed, race, gender, color, or sexual orientation.
I have not read The Sun in a while, and when I started looking through the January 2003 issue I noticed right away that it seemed more vibrant and crisp. It was, of course, the new typeface — Warnock — that I was noticing.
Thank you for telling us your reasons for changing the face, for showing the old and the new faces next to each other, and for giving credit where credit is due. Too many people use typefaces without knowing why they’ve chosen them. Typography might seem insignificant to some, but that’s what good typography is about: successfully conveying the author’s words without drawing attention to itself.
In his letter to the editor [January 2003], T.M. Maple writes that “religion . . . is just a cultural form of sadomasochism based on the worship of a sadistic tormentor.” He goes on to draw some interesting analogies between S/M and certain forms of religion.
But I wonder if Maple has reversed the order of things. Perhaps S/M is a distortion of the human instinct toward love and worship of a greater being. If people do not find a way to relate to a higher entity that is loving and responsive, they might easily channel that energy and instinct into sexual power games.
In the interview by Jamie Passaro [“Fingers to the Bone,” January 2003], Barbara Ehrenreich notes that unions helped low-wage workers much more effectively in the past. “During the great wave of union organizing in the thirties, members of the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] saw themselves as part of a real crusade,” she says. “They weren’t just out to increase union dues, but to change the lives of American workers. That’s one big difference between then and now.”
An even bigger and more damaging difference is television. As harried as low-wage workers are today, they still watch many hours of television each week.
Television is destructive to the interests of low-wage workers entirely apart from its content, because it cuts deeply into their time for sleeping, reading, talking, and thinking. This accounts for a large part of workers’ disinterest in politics, which Ehrenreich observed while researching Nickel and Dimed.
In addition, television’s content — both advertising and programming — artificially creates and stimulates desires that lead people to spend what little discretionary income they have in counterproductive ways, thus further limiting their ability to take stock of their situation and engage in political or union activity.
Television adversely affects the middle class, too, but they (or should I say “we”) can better afford the loss.