I am still reading Desmond's Tutu's No Future Without Forgiveness. I wrote the other day about how evening the playing field usually requires revenge, because otherwise those who have wronged me get off free and I am left dehumanized and demoralized. I also said Tutu's idea of not seeking revenge is idealistic. Today, however, I no longer think his idea is idealistic because of one simple matter: the victims/survivors of apartheid were allowed to publicly tell their story in a victim-friendly environment. They were officially hailed as victims/survivors, then they were referred to a sub-committee which would decide what reparations they would individually receive for the gross injustices they suffered. There would be no one-size-fits-all "solution" in an attempt to push things into the closet as quickly as possible. Reparations would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
In other words, there was no need for revenge, because those who were wronged would have their pain publicly acknowledged and would be given some kind of repayment. The government wanted healing and reconciliation, so rather than pushing things under the rug and pretending they never happened, they brought things out to the light and repayed the victims. Granted, there is no way one can truly repay someone for their lost humanity, but by providing some reparation the victims could at least start on the path to healing.
Back to my experiences: there is no public acknowledgment of my pain by those "in power"--I use that term loosely, for lack of a better one...in theory, no one has power over my life, except for me--and there is no reparation for my suffering. Those who wronged me have no interest in healing, just in them remaining top dog and getting away with what they have done. How, then, can healing come to me?
If I had the answer to that question, I could make millions. :-) Not long ago labyrinthnight and I discussed the conundrum of needing closure for wrongs suffered but being unable to get it through reconciliation with the ones who wronged us. We realize we have to seek closure/healing through some other means, and those means may not be obvious and may not result in healing as quickly as if those who did wrong were willing to acknowledge our pain and their part in it. I suppose it is a good thing that we desire healing and don't want to hold onto our pain and anger; that would do us no good. But I am frustrated that the healing process seems like little more than a vague wish, since I don't have an obvious roadmap for it.
Perhaps I need to write more in this space, continue to publicly testify of my pain. I stopped doing that a couple of months ago, because I felt I was talking to myself, making myself unnecessarily vulnerable, and laying my heart bare for nothing. After all, the victims/survivors of apartheid were invited to testify, and the atmosphere was deliberately focused on them; they did not merely stand on a street corner shouting their pains and receiving acknowledgment and reparation. Perhaps I should continue what I have been doing: writing in my paper journal and writing privately to those who, despite their own busy lives, acknowledge my pain and offer understanding, even if they cannot offer reparations. In a sense, those people have become my Truth and Reconciliation Committee. They may not be able to offer reconciliation to specific people, but they are helping reconcile me to the rest of the human race; I feel less like giving up on all people, thanks to them.
The healing process is a long and painful one. I have been on this path for 9-1/2 years and still there is no end in sight. (My idea of "the end" is when I finally feel whole, rather than haunted.) I used to think the answer was God; if that was true, I would not have remained rubbed raw and vulnerable throughout my many, many years of faithful activity in various churches. If there is an answer for me, it cannot be found by merely praying more, reading the Bible more, running myself ragged to serve on someone's committees, and sitting on someone's hard pews for more hours. I just hope I am on the right track and can someday (soon, please, thank you) look back over the minefield that has been my life and marvel that I survived long enough to get to the Promised Land.
12:11 PM: It is important to note that the victims who testified before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee were allowed to tell their stories in their own language, in their own words. They were not ordered how to tell their stories, nor were they subjected to cross-examination, though the perpetrators lobbied for that to happen. The idea was the victims had already had their voices silenced for so long by those perpetrators; now it was their turn to tell their story freely, just like the perpetrators had their turn to shine in the spotlight and turn events the way they wanted them, back when they were abusing those who were now invited to testify.
I've found perpetrators are notorious for crying foul and accusing victims of misrepresenting facts and not telling the "whole truth", when those same perpetrators had long enjoyed the luxury of retelling or hiding history according to their own agendas. When the victims were given the spotlight and allowed to tell their story in their own words, suddenly the perpetrators cried for balance and the hearing of the other side of the story. That is hypocrisy at it's worst, and I've seen it in action in my own life.