Saturday, January 12, 2013

"I believe you"

In England, a police report details decades of sexual abuse by the much-beloved and now-dead entertainer Jimmy Savile. A boy of eight was among the alleged victims.
Some 214 crimes were recorded across 28 police force areas, including 34 of rape or penetration, the report said.
Jimmy Savile
The predations occurred over a period from 1955 to 2009. Savile, who received a knighthood in 1990, died at 84 in 2011.
NSPCC director of child protection advice and awareness Peter Watt said: "The sheer scale of Savile's abuse over six decades simply beggars belief.
"He is without doubt one of the most prolific sex offenders we have ever come across and every number represents a victim that will never get justice now he is dead."
 "Never get justice..."

"Justice" suggests that Savile, like the Vatican or Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, might deserve and receive some punishment that would somehow expunge or 'heal' or bring 'closure' to those who suffered. But I wonder if "justice" is precisely what those who were victimized really want or would really find healing. Sure, a swift kick in the ass, an eye-for-and-eye, would be a vindication of sorts, a sigh of relief that those with stature and power cannot (at least in one instance) be held blameless.

On BBC television last night, one of Savile's objects of desire, a plump blonde woman, Deborah Cogger, now in her 40's or older, seemed to put her finger on things. Asked whether the police report brought some sort of healing or closure or relief, she seemed to grow thoughtful and dubious. Maybe a little, she said at last, but the important element in the whole matter was at last "to be believed."

Deborah Cogger
What a galling and horrific thing, to have an experience that reaches down into your very being and then ... no one believes you. Horrific or wondrous ... and no one believes you. Or, worse yet, even if they do believe you, it is perfectly clear that that belief does not mean the believer knows the lash that experience has delivered. What an incredible sense of loneliness! What a betrayal of an implicit social contract that says human beings are social creatures who depend on society for their definitions and outlook. I agree with me because you agree with me. But when you fail to agree with me, when you refuse to acknowledge me ... who am I? Lonely, lonelier, loneliest.

Savile's victims.

The children preyed upon by Roman Catholic priests.

No one believes you.

Watching that frumpy and beautiful and courageous woman on TV, I wanted to take her in my arms, to hold her close and warm, to touch within her what could not be touched, and to tell her (because it was the best of a bad bargain), "I believe you." Experience cannot be undone. "Healing" and "closure" are talking points for those unwilling or unable to sit quietly and absorb life's honesty. Trying to fix what cannot be fixed is, in the end, cowardly. Nevertheless, given half a chance, I would hold that woman and croon and mean it: "I believe you." It might not be much and it certainly wouldn't 'heal' anything, but I would gladly offer the best I could ... the best of a bad bargain ... "I believe you."

American Civil War: Gettysburg
I wonder if soldiers returning from faraway battlefields do not experience the same sense of bereft-ness. Perhaps that is the basis on which they button themselves up in a lock-down silence or, alternatively, bury themselves in confusion and rage and perhaps commit suicide or embrace addiction. What must it be like to return from a place of actual-factual, real-blood war and become brightly aware that no one understands. You can tell they don't understand from such things as the awarding of medals or the speeches that drone on and on about "heroism."  Aren't these things despicable reminders of the loneliness of experience? No one believes you ... and even when they do, it's clear they haven't got a clue.

Nor is it necessary to remain mired in the horrors that life can deliver. Ask any love-struck teenager ... or love-struck adult, for that matter. It is a consuming matter, all over you like honey on toast, seeping in to every pore, informing every sight and sound: "I love Suzy!" And yet, when trying to tell a friend, no matter how long and hard anyone tries, the best that can be expected in response is, "I believe you," a totally-inadequate understanding of the experience... a half-baked rejoinder that lets you know that facts are facts and experience cannot be shared.

It seems to me that only in a courageous reflection can the loneliness of experience be resolved. The betrayal of the predator cannot find resolution in an "I believe you," however kindly it may be meant. The impossibility of 'sharing' a battlefield nightmare must be met on its own, piercing ground. Love is love, always similar perhaps, but never precisely the same.

I will say it aloud as circumstances warrant: "I believe you."

But I will hope as well that anyone might take the time to cradle and care for and embrace and make friends with that which cannot be compassed or healed or exalted by belief.

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