For the living wounded . . .
It’s the living who are left to carry on . . . .It’s the living who are so far from home.– God Only Cries (song by Diamond Rio)
OUR CAMPUS TRENDZ RELATIVES, friends and “sisters” are gone. We must not forget them.
As we must not forget the many who live on with collateral damage.
The survivors of heart-rending acts, those who have to live with the afterclap – in particular, the injured (physically or psychologically) and the family members – must receive our profound attention.
What to do?
Last week I made my pitch once again that we must enter into such experiences in song – to share in loss, to bind ourselves with others, for our emotional wholeness, for our humanity, for the cementing of values, for the development of genuine community, among other things.
(Let me at this point say that, thanks to Bernard Bailey, I now know that there is a song – September 3rd by Peter Ram, featuring Jus10 Ward (Nard) – about our dark September time. I now know, too, why I was blissfully (?) ignorant about it. The broad masses might not be able to participate in that effort with suitable gravity and sobriety – for reasons that will probably become very apparent if you ever get to hear it – so I think we are still waiting for appropriate songs.)
We need song, yes, but for all the good that song can do, we need more.
Certainly, the society has to check itself, has to look at its laws and regulations; has to strengthen and enforce its safety standards for buildings; has to look at the quality of its socialization.
Some even go as far as to identify, with more certainty than I can muster, the roots of such grievous acts. As for me, I suspect one person’s “reasons” differ inexplicably from another’s. And I believe that there are crevices of the heart that none of us can fathom.
For the learned and the “unlearnted”, the privileged and the underprivileged, the simple-minded and the sophisticate, the religious and the profane sometimes shock us – they perhaps even shock themselves – with the depravity of their deeds.
So, we may undertake a course that could reduce the number of murders or other violent crimes, but – cheese on bread! – we will still be left with one too many. It, therefore, cannot be easy to prescribe the way forward.
But, reaching for the most noble in our humanness, we must try.
I would like to suggest an avenue. Remedy? I don’t know. Decency? Certainly.
Let us all develop a deep sensitivity to victims. We must come to realize that as we misbehave, in whatever way, we are creating victims. It is not simply that we are not being good – we are being bad to specific people, causing them harm in one way or another: actual pain, loss, grief, anguish, embarrassment, frustration, dashed hopes, loss of property, loss of peace of mind, loss of opportunity, loss of reputation, and many etceteras.
So we are not just damaging ourselves or offending a parent’s or authority figure’s or society’s standards; we are, critically, harming actual flesh and blood and soul – real people.
This perspective has not been a centrepiece of our socialization in respect of wrongdoing. Parents, authority figures, adjudicators, the media either focus on the act itself or on the offenders in terms of punishment or rehabilitation – not on the victims.
And certainly not on the prospects of the left-behind victims. Yes, I know that when the incident has just passed and the wounds are fresh we cosy up to them and there is the obligatory media effort at catching their grief and sometimes there is a public vigil and perhaps a commemoration in one form or another and, of course, that deeply human cry for justice.
But even as the society puts away the offender and plans, quite strategically, for his rehabilitation – and, if possible, his early release – there is no equal passion for those who suffered collateral damage, no seeking to similarly “rehabilitate” them. I get the feeling that they are left to the mercies and means of those closest to them. There is no strong broader-based societal response to them/for them, no institutionalized fervour for these victims.
Alcoholics have Alcoholics Anonymous, gamblers have Gamblers Anonymous, drug addicts have various formal intervention schemes. What is there for the innocent sufferers, who not only have lost loved ones, but are often in grave danger of losing themselves?
What are we really doing for the living wounded?
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]