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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Naomi Rose Ebersol, aged 7
Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, aged 13
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, aged 12
Lena Zook Miller, aged 8
Mary Liz Miller, aged 7

On October 2nd 2006, Charles Carl Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and shot 10 young girls, aged 6-13. This man shot all 10 girls execution style, leaving 5 of the girls dead and the other 5 girls with wounds and memories to last the rest of their lives.

What makes this a feminist issue? We might assume that the schoolhouse was in fact an all-girls school, and hence we have the reason why it was only female students that were shot. But we would be wrong. When Charles Carl Roberts entered the schoolhouse with a 9mm-handgun, he ordered the female students to line up against the chalkboard, and sent the male students (along with a pregnant woman, and three parents with infants) out of the schoolhouse. However, this was not before he instructed the male students to bring inside items from his pick-up truck, which included: a shotgun, a stungun, wires, chains, nails, tools, and a bag which included sexual lubricant and flexible plastic ties.

This was an act of gendered violence. And it does not stand alone. Yesterday was the “Sisters and Brothers in Solidarity – A Walk for Justice, for Missing and Murdered Native Women”. The list of missing and/or murdered Native women across Canada has now reached 582 names. No one paid any attention until bodies began turning up on the farmland of Robert Pickton in 2002. On December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine shot and killed fourteen women at L’École Polytechnique in Montréal. While most people recognize the internalized hatred and sexism within Marc Lepine, others have praised his actions, hailing December 6 as St. Marc Day: “It has been established that it should be a day when we remember the first counter-attack against the feminazi’s war on men. By celebrating Marc Lepine and embracing him as a hero, it was believed that this would disturb the feminists’ plans and enrage them”. To most people, we see these acts for what they are: violence enacted against women based on their sex.

I came upon an article today reflecting on the Amish schoolhouse massacre, whereby the author posed the question: Was this act considered unforgivable? To be quite honest, I do not know how I would react if these acts had been committed against my sister, my relative, my friend. Thinking about it, I feel as though the anger and sadness would consume me, making forgiveness impossible. No amount of justification or explanation could lead me to extend my forgiveness to the now-deceased murderer. To the family, friends, and loved ones of the murderer? Hard to say. But this is exactly what the Amish community did: “though their hearts were filled with grief and shock, they reached out with compassion to the killers’ family”. It seems unfathomable to me at the moment. But we never really know what we are capable of — both in terms of our ability to be compassionate, and our ability to project anger and hatred — until we are faced with a situation of extreme sadness or grief.

Although I find the author of this article spends a little too much time contemplating if ‘the Amish have it right’, he closed his piece with a lovely idea:

“I can get as angry as the next person, and I think that a capacity for healthy and constructive anger is a necessary part of our emotional wholeness. Sometimes injustice needs to be corrected, and there are people in the world from whom we, and our children, need protection… Yes, there is unimaginable anguish and violence in the world. But when all is said and done, love might still have a strength that hate can never defeat.”

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