Contempt wears many faces | A Dream, Part 3

by Elouise

Courage doesn't mean...jpg

If I could make only one wish for the New Year, it’s that contempt and self-contempt would implode. Just wither up and die in the face of courage.

In the meantime, I’m revisiting my dream, recorded verbatim here. I already commented on Scene 1, but not about Scene 2. In the meantime, courageous Kenyan Muslims, most of them women, with some men, stood up for their Christian neighbors and said enough is enough. Kill all of us, or leave.

Their courage helped me think about my dream. In the first scene, I’m a pleasant, yet innocuous hostess to a growing number of young girls and women. I don’t seize the opportunity to talk to them about my life or their lives. Especially about how to attend to other people’s behavior toward us, be it ever so polite and pleasant or not. When might someone be treating me with contempt, manipulating and seducing me into handing over my body or my vote? What red flags give me pause?

In the second scene I’m still an onlooker. Here’s the second part of the dream.

Scene 2
In the next scene I’m out on the street, standing on a sidewalk next to what looks like a beer joint. Two adult men walk up to the beer joint. Each has a young adult woman hooked onto a heavy metal chain—as though they were dogs. I recognize the two young women. They were in the small room. They’re dressed well. One even seems to be dressed up in ‘Sunday’ clothes.

The men have just ‘captured’ them. One is crying out, struggling against the chain on her arm. The man hooks her chain to a pole outside the beer joint and tells her that if she’s gone when he returns (from drinking?), he’ll kill her. The second man also secures his chain and goes in with his buddy.

The young woman on the second chain throws herself down onto the pavement, face down and in a fetal position, facing into a corner just outside the entrance to the beer joint. Her knees are drawn up beneath her on the pavement, and she’s sobbing in despair. She has on a beautiful black and white print dress.

As in the first scene, I say nothing and do nothing substantial. I’m caught unawares just as these two young women have been caught and chained unawares. It’s as though I have no voice, no hands, no arms, no feet and dare I say it, no heart.

This scene, unlike the first scene, demands a response to imminent threat of violence, up to and including murder. I have no weapon. What will I do next, and why?

Here are my first thoughts about Scene 2:

  1. Call 9-1-1, describe what I see and where I am. (Use my voice and my cell phone! It’s the least I could do.)
  2. Follow my heart. Get down on the pavement with the sobbing woman. Put my arm around her shoulders and join her in every way possible. Tell her I’m not going away. If she’s willing, help her to her feet. If not, stay right there with her. Pray like crazy and take deep breaths. (Don’t ignore my heart, and don’t remain frozen and immobile!)
  3. When the men return they’ll likely be drunk. The 9-1-1 responders may or may not be there. In any case, I won’t abandon this woman. (Refuse to be a voyeuristic onlooker or a terrified witness concerned only for her own safety.)
  4. If either man threatens to kill either woman, be clear: ‘Let them go, or kill all of us!’ Can I do this? I won’t know unless that time comes. In the meantime, I won’t leave this young woman alone on the pavement. (She’s at least part of me.)
  5. As appropriate, invite the other woman to join us on the pavement, face down, arms linked. Of the two, she’s the only one who has spoken up for herself. (Don’t ignore that seemingly self-sufficient woman who didn’t fling herself on the pavement.)

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 December 2015
Bethany Hamilton quote from