Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight: An anarchist nurse’s reflections on violence against the people

I’ve never been violently assaulted, lost a loved one to violence, or been put through whatever it must be like to be witness to such terrible events. A murderer did try to kill my friends and ended up massacring people I knew. The killer, who likely was mentally ill, used his fundamentalism to justify slaughtering people who he didn’t know and who only had shown him kindness, because he believed they were filled with sin. Watching one’s friends suffer as anyone suffers from senseless violence stays with you and is a reminder of the weight of life and liberty, and the violation when others take those things from us.

Too often we seek to take the misery of world events and make them seem sensible. Now we all are searching for logic and clues that can help people speculate about and ultimately understand what happened in Boston. As a nurse, I watch what is unfolding with pain and the deepest sympathies for everyone touched by this situation; families sick with worry pacing the halls of hospitals, waiting; the healthcare workers stretching their bodies to the limits to try and do the best for all the people lying in beds; most of all the injured regaining awareness of what has become, how to adjust to their role of being cared for by others, and surely frightened about what their future will be.

I feel the deepest pain for the injured because I’ve seen how hard it is to carry oneself through life with serious injuries. Patients who lose limbs, suffer paralysis, and who end up with incapacities fight everyday. There are wounds to be dressed, pressure ulcers to stave off, phantom limb and nerve pains that are difficult to beat back. Patients deal with assumptions, strange looks, and strangers placing their own biases upon them. Injury is a life long affair, and something that places unnecessary burden in our society because of our unwillingness and inability to win real healthcare worthy of human beings. I’ve taken care of many gunshot wound patients, who carry with them the weight of a single moment with them for decades. Nearly all of them are young black men. Looking at someone paralyzed from the waste down with a personality, aspirations, and character, and I can’t help but wonder what could cause someone to rob another of all the joys they could have had making love, running, and feeling the sand in their toes. With violence, youth are being robbed daily of their humanity in a system that reproduces terror in every generation. To place that burden on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of individuals solely out of a desire to advance a political statement or cause is the height of a monstrosity.

During the media frenzy around the bombing, officials and media personalities were searching for an angle to categorize the bombers. Now we know that whatever process they went through happened largely here while coming of age in the United States. Though some militant fundamentalism may be the root source of this violence, it’s worth remembering that most of these types of events are not the product of fringe extremist groups but rather causes closer to home.

Acts of mass violence against random people have usually been carried out by governments and nationalist movements, and only to a lesser extent the mentally ill and political extremists. When we think of mass violence against populations we shouldn’t only think of Boston, but also of Gaza, Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, Franco’s Spain, Nazi Germany, white racist mobs in the segregation south, and other more mundane examples. Genocide and mass death through social engineering stand out as features that grew with the modern State and capitalism. Military technology developed through capitalism has made indiscriminate killing common place. Nor is it only dictators that carry out criminal acts of inhumanity on random people. Indeed the only country to use nuclear weapons against a whole population so far has been a democracy founded on freedom allegedly, the United States. It was typically not dictatorships that created the brutal legacy of colonialism (with it’s slavery, famines, torture, etc), but often the parliaments of Europe. The British conquered nearly 1/3 of the world with it’s democracy (leaving a legacy of brutality in its wake). The French tortured, murdered, and exploited the Algerians, Vietnamese, and countless other nations with their own democracy. Indeed Germany brought the third Reich to power through the popular vote. Today our cluster bombs, drones, depleted uranium, and other hellish toys of the world’s armies destroy whole areas without concern for the generations they will touch. States and statist movements are prone to using whole populations as pieces in their chessboard, and do so on scales far beyond anything that isolated extremists ever could.

A number of racist and prejudiced allegations emerged within seconds of the bombing. In times of trauma these things will occur. As we collect ourselves, we should recognize this and seek to sort out why these things happen, rather than reactively retreating into flag waving and hating the first enemies we find nearby. Rather than affirming war, drones, bombings, and other forms of mass terror against populations in the name of the injured, we should step back and ask what we can do as a society to prevent such things from happening again.

In looking for easy enemies, our fear of foreign terrorists can hide the dangers closer to home. What about the violence in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces? People do not come out of the womb killers, especially not ones who are ready to torture large number of strangers. In fact systematic random killing is a disturbingly recent trend. For nearly all of history people found other less destructive ways to exercise their wicked instincts. Today, we seem to be creating more with each generation (even while violent crime is declining overall). The United States is a society plagued with senseless preventative violence. We live in a society that inflicts trauma on people everyday; tens or hundreds of millions are raped with impunity, we exceed nearly all others in filling our jails, the poor and exploited are beaten, robbed, and killed because they were born in the wrong place with the wrong parents, children go hungry, people suffer in illness without healthcare, and our autonomy is taken from us constantly. How many die because of our unsafe workplaces, the reckless poisoning of our environment, or the dangerous social experiment with the automobile? Our society is founded on violence against the poor, the oppressed, and exploited, and this violence is repeated in all of our country’s communities and institutions. Some of us try to find ways to something better, others can’t find their way.

Today we don’t know why the bombers carried out these heinous acts, but I can only hope that whatever lead them to carry it out will end with them. Thinking of the victims of the bombing, their loved ones, and all the victims around the world who were used as symbols in political chess games, we should dedicate ourselves to healing our sick communities that keep reproducing individuals carrying out violence against us. That is why I’m an anarchist; to build a world without senseless violence against people and to mend our wounds together collectively. Against the state, anarchism is a movement to systematically end the creation of killers and terror against the population, not to perpetuate it.

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One thought on “Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight: An anarchist nurse’s reflections on violence against the people

  1. Pingback: an anarchist nurse’s reflections on the boston bombings | The Heart's Tongue

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