I’m not sure if I still know how to do this, but here goes… 😉
For most of my life, I’ve battled with what seemed to be an entrenched faith in the goodness of people.
I’ve always seen that as a flaw in my character (vulnerability) which, once exposed, people attempted to exploit.
Still, I felt it better to be that way then steeped in cynicism. I’d rather put my faith in goodness than the soul sapping omnipresent forces of evil.
But, I needn’t have worried because time and experience relentlessly challenged my belief, even with people whom I’ve loved.
I’ve come to accept that human beings are gradations of grey, and that rarely, all too rarely, do the fullness of ourselves hold up to examination. Especially, against the elusive measure of goodness.
I’ve watched in the last six weeks as the torrent of sexual misconduct and criminal allegations have unfolded with horror. Which says to me that my self assessment was wrong. I’ve walked the earth for 17,549 days and still my desire to believe in the intrinsic goodness of humanity abides, intellect and experience be damned.
I’ve gone from shock, to jarring, long forgotten recollections of abuse/misconduct that I endured, escaped, and as the mind is won’t to do – buried. Self preservation is one of the strongest instincts.
I haven’t been able to help but think of how affirmation for those who’ve chosen to break their silence, lives side by side with unspeakable pain….and just how much these traumas shape the lives of women, unasked for, unwanted and often rarely healed.
Think of how, mounting lists of sexual “transgressions” must, as a matter of course, shape our interactions and relationships with men have kept me awake at night. I know they have shaped and marred mine and it’s an uneasy recognition.
How many women, I wonder, feel this resurgence of fear, shame, anxiety (or currently grappling with these issues daily), wedded to kinship with their sisters are battling a welling tide of resentment towards the men in their lives? Many of whom we see actively excusing, denying, or willingly turning a blind eye towards their own behavior and their gender, thereby enabling the sickening cycle of sexual abuse to continue.
I’ve asked myself (again), the question that preoccupied me, a fatherless daughter, for most of my life, “What is a good man?”
Do we ratchet back, or turn up, our expectations of male goodness in light of what’s being exposed now? How can we call ourselves a civilized society with this undertow of male immorality damaging our women, from childhood to adulthood?
Immolation, self examination and exposure mean nothing without a recgnition, and long overdue examination, of society’s role in the shaping of manhood. Part of this poison flows from that.
My thoughts turn back in on themselves and I examine this new thing, this anti-feeling, a deadening, as it were.
The initial stories evoked shock, left me shaken, in tears, grappling with a seismic, internal disturbance and unwanted memories.
How do I guard my heart?
Now, I take them in with grim, steadfast silence and painful recognition.
My mind trips over itself, intellectual constructions inadequate to contain feelings of numbness, sorrow, rage and vulnerability.
I wait for the next revelation…
No longer caught unawares, surprise has given way to expectation, unwelcome and unwanted.
I think I preferrred surprise, for what it signified about my beliefs, to this uneasy alliance with cynicism. Is man’s bestiality a given, and moral, principled behavior a rarely glimpsed exception?
Painting by Jason Siwe