My first response to the most recent wave of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, was numbness. When I began to thaw, the next wave of emotion was terror. Then fury. Grief is the last to hit me, and the hardest to bear. My heart breaks as I watch video clips of white supremacists and white anti-white supremacists hurling themselves at each other with such passionate hatred.
My heart is the heart of a mother and sister. The men on both sides look like my sons and my brothers.
If my heart is not hardened and cold, it is tender and breaking. I held those males—four younger brothers, two sons—in my arms when they were new and looked deep into their eyes for hours. I studied them. I knew that they were good and that they yearned to connect, to love and be loved, and to grow into the complexity and wonder of their humanness. I know because of those hours that there is no human outside of that truth. We all started out good and ready to love.
Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good. Jesus said, if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? I wonder: What did his mother say? His sisters?
One of my smartest female friends points shrewdly to the calm and luminous face of Mary in Michelangelo’s Pieta and shakes her head. Something is wrong with this woman’s face. This is not Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is not the face of a mother holding her dead and broken son, just taken from the cross, who she has just witnessed being brutally tortured and murdered. This is not the face of any mother or sister I have ever known, whether their sons or brothers are white or black, prophets or policemen, witnesses or demonstrators on either side of the so called “alt” line.
The mother holding the bloody, broken body of her son is all the mothers and sisters who have held the brokenness of patriarchy in their arms for thousands of years, and carried on their backs. And the look on her face is not acquiescence, submission, or peace. We sisters and daughters and mothers are numb, and then we are terrified, and then we are furious, and then we are heart-broken. We are the full, disturbing, and magnificent range of appropriate human response to humans treating humans with anything less than respect, dignity, and love.