Get to know your enemy

"The universe provides everything you need when you need it" (via). I'm not sure I know, exactly, what this means or if I even agree with it, but there does seem to be an element of it that is undeniable because, sometimes, things just sort of come together and the universe (whatever that means) seems to be helping out. 

Josey and I first watched Band of Brothers over Christmas break of 2012 and have watched it a couple times since. From the very beginning, this scene, more than any other, stuck out to me, and I never really understood why. In recent months, the "universe" has helped provide some clarity.

Don Malarkey meets the German PW from Oregon and discovers an unknown story of the Germans: they are not always the monsters he and others have believed them to be. In fact, in some cases, they are more like comrades than they are enemies. 

Malarkey also learns that, in some cases, his own countrymen are a bit more like monsters than they are comrades. 

More and more, this difficult truth has almost forced itself upon me, and it doesn't seem to be letting up. Because there are some people in my life that I'd rather reduce to monsters and nothing more. Because it makes it easier. Because it creates a distance. Like that of German and US soldiers. 

Then, this morning, while I walked the forty-minute square that surrounds my in-laws rural neighborhood, I listened to this story of a "ten-year-old girl from small town Michigan named Sarah York, and how she became pen pals with a man who was considered an enemy of the United States, a dictator, a drug trafficker, and a murderer: Manuel Noriega."

You may not have time to listen to above excerpt. Here's a simple rundown: Sarah York, through several months of writing small letters back and forth with Manuel Noriega, finds herself invited to Panama and touring the cities, landscape, and playing with Noriega's own daughter.  At one point, Sarah is caught in the crashing waves and it is Manuel Noriega who rescues her. Sarah's mother has a picture of the moment and shows them to the producer,  Andrea Morningstar. After seeing the photo, Andrea states, "He doesn't look like a ruthless dictator, or a drug kingpin. He just looks like someone's dad" (min. 30:10). 

From the little that I know, Manuel Noriega was a terrible man and responsible for hundreds of deaths and disappearances, but he was also a loving father, which, for me at least, is a bit difficult to swallow because, how can a monster not be anything other than a monster? 

How can he be anything like me?

But, the truth of it is this, they are like me, just as much as I am like them. And even if they aren't, it is becoming increasingly clear that I need to think of them that way. 

There aren't many monsters in my everyday life. There are just the few that public opinion and media like to point out and dissect. But there are a few that I consider monsters. They're the ones I can't imagine eating dinner with, visiting while driving through town, or making any time or concession for. They're the ones whom I have a difficult time seeing any redeeming qualities. All they do seems to have selfish motives, and all that they are seems ugly and destructive. They no longer look like possible mothers, fathers, or humans. I've reduced them to monsters, plain and simple. 

And that's where I'm at right now. No conclusions, no wrap ups, and for sure no stories of beautiful reconciliation. In some cases, I've even lost the hope that there is a hope it may happen.

But over the past few weeks, with a culmination in this mornings walk, I've begun to consider that maybe they aren't monsters. Or rather, if perhaps they are more than simply monsters, and that we might have more in common than I have otherwise thought. That they are fully fallible, like me, and have made some pretty f'd up decisions, just like me. And, like me, they still are not monsters.

I just need to stop marching, reloading, and waiting for the attack. Which, for me, is super friggen hard. Because I'm terrified it might happen, again. And I'm tired, real friggen tired of being hurt. 

Yet, where we're headed now is, at best, in opposite directions. At worse, to another battlefront. 

Unlike Malarkey.