Victims’ Rights Vigil and Violence

Written by on April 24, 2007 in Conversations on the Healing Journey with 0 Comments

Tonight I walked with my sisters and brothers, those who have suffered loss to themselves or their loved ones, all of whom suffer injury. I met a most remarkable woman of small stature and big heart. She lost her husband some years ago gunned down by men he had given the benefit of the doubt. She thought I was supporting her as I held her hand after she lit the candle in memory of her husband. She did not know it was I who was blessed by her strength, her stoic gentleness.

As last year, I felt a lump in my throat and my heart filled with emotion, as we walked down Market Street to the beautiful music of The Kiltie Band of York. I thought of my sister. “I’m walking for you”, I said silently, even as I knew she was walking with me just as if she were still alive.

We entered the church, Trinity United Church of Christ. An opening speech from the DA’s office, and then a moment of silence for the victims of the Virginia Tech slayings. After a pause, I stood up, walked quietly to the microphone and sang a prayer, “Be Thou My Vision”. I sang for those who were not here. I sang for those who were. I prayed a song for all of us. At that moment, there was no differentiation for me for perpetrator or victim.

Candle lighting – each participant invited to light a candle in honor of themselves or someone else. Each given the opportunity to say something. Many did. Some stoically, others fighting back tears, and others not trying to stop the flood of emotions.

After a very moving sharing by two people who have suffered incredible loss, each in their own way, and an affirmation of empowerment, I sang once more, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

I had thought my nine year old daughter too young to witness this, and so when she had the opportunity to be with her father, I did not protest. Except in vague and general terms, I have yet to share with her what had happened to me and why I do what I do with my music and songs.

She is young and very sensitive. But during the evening, as I sat there, listening, watching the victims one by one light their candle and speak their words, I found myself wishing she were here, that there was something profoundly powerful going on, something that shouldn’t be missed. In this space, in this moment, perhaps in a wider community of people than we are used to, there was a realness, an authenticity born of suffering and sorrow that was too rich to pass up.

And I thought how most parents would not want their children to see this. Most people don’t want to see this. And a thought suddenly occurred to me that many who would not want their children to witness such expressions of sorrow by victims of violence, think nothing of offering violence as entertainment to their children.

Oh, but that’s different.

But violence isn’t entertainment. And what you see on television really isn’t violence. It’s a kind of hypnosis, designed to titillate and deaden your sensitivity, and it portrays violence, but it isn’t violence. Violence bleeds. Violence has impact. It looks like the people I saw – this is what violence does. It makes people cry. It causes suffering.

Someone said tonight that we need to educate people that violence is not the answer. But I think that, perhaps, we need to let people see what violence is. Violence without impact is dangerous. It’s more dangerous than real violence, because violence without impact seduces us into equating it with the harmless.

We need to make it personal, give it a face – not on T.V., but in person. We need to be close enough to it to almost smell the salt in their tears to know that this is pain.

Because when we do, we will also see something else. We will see, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, a dignity of the human spirit, a depth of compassion and a stubborn sense of hope that will fill your heart so full it will hurt almost as much as the pain, itself. And that is a good thing, because when that happens, we know we are opened up, and from the wellspring of other people’s suffering and strength, we will find a way to tap into our own.
In doing so, we will realize that we, too, can take flight.

I will bring my daughter next year. We live in a violent society. I want her to know what that means so that she will not be fooled by the counterfeit one in the name of entertainment or rendered helpless and cynical when faced with the real thing. Because she will remember, not only the sorrow that such a night as this one brings, but the breath-taking beauty of the human spirit, which is just as much, and maybe even more so, a part of this evening as anything else.

About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, using spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. Demian is a traveler on the healing journey with a lifelong love affair with the creative process. .


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