“They tried to kill me in this place of love and horror. They tried to kill me, but they couldn’t because I loved too much.” – Gloria Wisher, Holy Days
This morning I read an AP news story about the terrorist shootings at a Tunisian resort in which a shooter opened fire on tourists relaxing on a beach. The writer, Elaine Ganley described the scene: “From accounts of the attack by shocked survivors, tourists who stayed on, lifeguards and beach employees who helped at the site of the massacre emerge stories of love and horror.”
The same can be said for the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, during which some people ran from the disaster and others ran toward the horror to do help all they could. Or the 911 terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers, most people ran away, others, some of them trained professionals, some extraordinary citizens, ran toward the danger to give aid. Our own soldiers rush toward horror in war and they do so out of love, love for country, love for duty, love for honor. Abused children, it has been noted, suffer from the same PTSD as our soldiers. However, in the case of child abuse, the trauma is ongoing like war, not past, until the child grows up.
This morning, I was struck by the similarity of the words Gloria speaks about her home and the description of a terror attack. I have often compared my character, Gloria Wisher to someone who is being terrorized. Nothing so overtly terrible as gunshots or bombings is happening to Gloria. She is being covertly harmed by the very people who are supposed to love and protect her. However, unlike the other terror victims, Gloria is too small to run away. In Holy Days, Gloria Wisher has no choice but to remain in the place of her horror, in the family and the neighborhood where she is being molested.
In another sense, Gloria also runs toward the horror. Gloria never stops loving her family, and her father. In a larger sense, Gloria also loves her home and her neighborhood. She clings to them as a kidnapped victim clings to her kidnapper for food, shelter, comfort – and identity. She loves the boy who will rape her. How can this happen? Maybe it’s because Gloria, though young, is a devout Catholic. But, this love does not involve the Catholic Church or Catholic doctrine. She loves as Jesus loved. This love is not about forgiveness. It’s pure love. Love of life, love of the pain as well as the joy. Gloria’s rapist was hit by a truck when he was little, but survived with a disfiguring scar over his eye that mirrors his disturbed mind. Gloria admires him for surviving such an ordeal. She admires his toughness and his bravery. But, she is also afraid of him. The rapist in Holy Days is a metaphor for the larger scene of horrors that Gloria must struggle with every day. How much of what happens is a part of her? How much should she transform or reject? Gloria loves the people, the smells, the roughness, the softness, the fear and the comfort. On one hand, we love our homes, on the other; we are sometimes hurt by what happens there. By no means am I suggesting that women should love their rapists. It is a fact, however, that the terror of a bad home is very bound up with love.
A few years ago, I was asked to write a poem for peace. The occasion was a Day of Peace, and I wrestled with this request. Many of my friends were going to be present. They were all writing poems. I was expected to come up with a poem about peace. But, I was bitter. I did not believe in peace. I did not think mankind could ever achieve what my wonderful friends and colleagues were so starry-eyed and hopeful for. So, when I sat down to write, I began with those words, “I do not believe in peace.” I ended the poem with these words, words that describe terrorism of all kinds: “And, I do not believe in hate, because all hate is really love of something else.”
©Patricia Goodwin, 2015