I don’t know where the seed of violence comes from. But I suspect that it sprouts in a soil of deception, rich with lies that people are problems or that violence accomplishes anything.
My husband recently speculated that nobody has ever committed a murder in which they saw their victim as fully human. The theory he and I have been knocking around is that when you view someone else as a real and beautiful and complex human being, you don’t hurt them. Empathy stops you. In order to enact violence, you have to mask the other person in a story, turn them into an obstacle or an enemy or a sinner or a stereotype—something less than human. Make them other.
I don’t know if that’s fully true because I’ve never wanted to kill someone.
And if it is true, I don’t know an easy answer to fix it.
But I do know that every life lost on days of devastating violence belonged to an irreplaceable human—each one entirely unique and at the same time, so astonishingly like all of us who are left to witness the tragedy.
As I see people doing kind work in the face of great violence, I see them living out what’s true:
We are human, all of us, flawed and aspiring and vastly important.
I think that every time we remind ourselves of that truth, we help the seed of empathy grow.