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Tough Love: Look Evil in the Eye

and Watch Kittens Play with Canaries


By Jane Gilgun
I cant stand it. Everywhere I look in the newspapers and every time I turn
on public radio, I hear about the latest acts of violence. Example: The murder
of Walter Scott. A white police officer shot Scott eight times as Scott ran from
him. The officer then handcuffed Scott, who might already have been dead,
and dropped his own taser gun next to Scotts body. The officer filed a report
that Walter had threatened him with the taser to the point where he feared
for his life. If a bystander had not videotaped the episode, the officer would
have gotten away with murder. This happened two days ago. So far, it
remains a much-reported story.
Yesterday, a jury declared 21 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of all
30 counts in the 2013 Boston marathon bombings. Tsarnaev had written
inside a boat in which he hid after the bombings: An eye for an eye. You kill
us, we kill you. The bombing he committed was an act of vengeance against
the US actions in the Middle East.
Last week, a handful of militants murdered 147 students at Garissa
University in Kenya. Gleeful, they announced that the mass killings were
payback for Kenyan involvement in Somali affairs.

No wonder videos of kittens playing with canaries go viral on the


internet. How in the world do we keep our emotional balance when such
horrors happen every day?
Science teaches us that witnessing violence can be as traumatizing as
being the target of violence. Simple observation teaches us that we dont
have a clue about how to respond to those who commit violence and how to
respond to those who witness violence.
The media report what happens. We recoil in horror and seek
distractions. Thats it. Thats the end until the next violent event. Isnt there
another way?
Yes, there is. Love is the way. Many of us promote the well-being of
others in large and small ways. This is love. Yet, we dont know how to deal
with the kinds of violence that happens every day. Love is the way, but not
the she loves me; she loves me not kind of love.
I mean tough love: the love that looks evil in the eye and does not
flinch. The love that says I am going to look at you until you look back. I am
going to look at you until you recognize the human spirit in me. I am going to
look at you until you recognize the human spirit in yourself.
I am going to undermine your dreams of vengeance that give you such
glee. I am going to do this in many ways. I am going to stand with others
and to stop my government from acting out of vengeance and teaching
lessons in the name of what?

I am going to look at government officials until they look back. I am


going to look at them until they recognize the human spirit in the people you
want to kill. I am going to look at them until they recognize the human spirit
in themselves.
I am going to do everything I can to challenge the beliefs that drive
governments to kill, that drive militants to kill, that drive police officers to
kill.

We look at kittens playing with canaries. We see videos of lions lying


down with lambs. Lets have more of that. Lets also stand together and say
we are all human beings. Recognize my humanity. Recognize the humanity of
others. Bring lions and lambs together in our own hearts.
Basta. Enough.
About the Author
Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW, is a professor, School of Social Work, University of
Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA. She has done research on violence for more
than 30 years and publishes widely on violence, resilience, and qualitative
research.

Final Thoughts
I really cant stand it. Richard Rohr, a spiritual teacher, has said that most of
the world has never heard the Gospels. He means that we as a human race
do not understand that human lives have meaning when human beings

experience themselves as respected, valued, and loved. What is vengeance,


but striking back at others who do not respect us? We all want love, respect,
dignity, and worth. Is vengeance powerful than respect, dignity, worth, and
love? How can we stop disrespecting and hurting one another? How can we
show how to respond to disrespect and violence in other ways besides
vengeance?

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