I try very hard to refrain from being judgmental, particularly when
it comes to cultural differences. I am well aware that people from
different backgrounds and cultures view life differently. But aren't
there, I have to wonder- and often do- just some norms and values
which are simply part of human decency, no matter the culture
from which one comes.
This is all rattling around in my brain tonight because of a news
story which I read on-line last evening about a young woman,
age 20, who was gang-raped in India...raped by 13 men...at the
instructions of the village elders where she lives because she had
fallen in love with a young man from another village and this
was deemed unacceptable. "The crime committed is falling
in love with the wrong person," was the pronouncement of the
head elder, as he encouraged the 13 men to "have their fun"
with her, and she is presently in hospital, in critical condition.
WHY??? Why in the world- anywhere in the world- should it
be considered culturally acceptable for such an unbelievably
cruel and heartless and, yes, barbaric act to take place? Why,
in this twenty-first century, as we humans reckon time, is
such incredibly wicked behavior against one person not only
condoned but supported by other human beings?
I have never been to India, but I have some friends who
have been and who love the country and its people. But
this little news item- and it was little...carried by Bing on their
news web-site but not apparently picked up by any of the
other news media I follow regularly...this has stayed with me
all day and, I confess, has both saddened and angered me.
Perhaps this is because I am a woman- though I would hope
that caring and compassion are not gender-specific. And
I wonder...puzzle over...am confused and confounded by...
any culture which would condone such behavior toward
one of its members.
But lest I get too carried away in my judgments, lest I can
only see the speck in another culture's eye, and miss
the log in our own, I have to remind myself that here in the
United States, a man was put to death yesterday in a Texas
prison...a man found guilty of a terrible crime, to be sure,
but a man who had also not been given due process as we in
America have deemed it should be given. His attorneys and
family claim he had had a head injury some years before the
crime and so was dealing with some mental and emotional
issues. And, as a Mexican citizen, he had not been informed
that he had the right to advice from the Mexican consulate.
All of these things- had they been considered at trial- might
have mitigated his sentence to something less than the death
penalty, which has now had the final say.
I guess what I am struggling with on this cold, wintry evening
in January, as I sit in front of the fireplace with my notebook
on my lap, typing, is this question: how can we- any of us-
look at another person and fail to see them as someone of
value? How can we continue to deny the interconnectedness
that exists between all of life on this planet? John Donne said
it well so long ago- "Each man's death diminishes me."-
or something to that effect. Well, so does the rape of each
woman...so does the death of each starving child...so does
the death of the Mexican man on Texas' death row.
My perspective is admittedly a Christian one, so I believe
that each one of us...each and every human being on this
planet...is a beloved child of God. No exceptions. EACH
and EVERY one. I know I don't always live up to that belief,
but I keep it ever in front of me. The homeless man on
the corner, the tired woman behind the register at
Walgreen's, the laughing child riding his bike down my street,
the man who gives me the finger at a traffic light because
I'm too slow on the uptake, the smiling woman checking out
my books at the library- each and all, children of God. So how
can I possibly treat them with anything less than the utmost
respect and, yes, even reverence, since I believe that the
Living God dwells within each one, as it does in me.
Having said all this, I am left with the perplexity of how
such barbaric inhumanity can continue. And I am forced
to ask myself if I participate in it...and how. For the face
in the mirror is not blameless, even if my sin is one of
omission...of failing to speak out. My heart remains
heavy tonight and my bedtime prayer will surely be a
whispered, "Lord, have mercy,"...for what else can I