The betrayal of silence
By Alberto Moreno, El Hispanic News
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Several months ago a young girl was cowardly gunned down by men who sat perched upon an Afgan hilltop. They claim they were defending God. God does not need or require our defense at the point of a gun. Nor was she offending God. All this young woman was seeking was an education.
Likewise, a few weeks ago, five men, giving in to their basest urges, used a metal pipe to brutally rape and sodomize another young woman. She died from her internal injuries.
Women across the world are outraged. As they should be.
But where is our voice? Where, we must ask, is the chorus of our own outrage? Why have we, as men, remained silent?
Have we not mothers? Have we not sisters and daughters?
Then, why are we complicit in our silence?
In any war between the aggressor and the victim, neutrality cannot be an luxury permitted us. We must understand that to permit violence is to participate in it.
We live in a time when we permit women to be routinely referred to as “bitches” and as “whores.” We celebrate and even purchase these songs. All under the guise of freedom of speech. But the fact that these words are protected by freedom of speech does not mean that they do not have a cost. On our daughters and sons, both.
We must break the narrow confines of what it means to be a man. Redefine vulnerability as strength and reclaim a fuller expression of our masculinity. Teach our boys not to confuse force with strength. To see that we are more than our anger or our fathers’ rage transmitted across generations and time.
You see, I know something about the violence of men, having spent most of my life as witness to the brutality of men. As if men’s bodies were only weapons, sharp and blunt…
An unwanted, uninvited memory: It is night as I walk through the living room and can sense his presence, gestating. It’s hard to make out his features in the chiaroscuro of a neon night. His skin is pulled tight over him. His features are harsh, with slivers of darkness and light cutting the outline of his 49-year-old face. A Javier Solís mustache sits on his upper lip, like a black caterpillar that will never quite turn into anything else. And so it sits there, desolately ensconced. But it is his receding hair which carves him out for me in the antechamber of my mind. Dark hair that is beginning to retreat as if it has reconsidered its original decision to stay. It’s his hair that sticks in the crawl of my throat. The way he combs it after he is done with her.
Invariably, emerging sweaty and flushed, he takes his black comb from his rear pocket. He places the comb high on his receding hairline and vigorously sweeps it back through his hair as if by this single act he was putting everything back the way it should be, as if by this simple combing back of his greasy hair, he was restoring order.
And while her bruises swelled and turned a deep purple, while she settled into a quiet groan and wiped saliva and blood from her ruptured lips, he combed his hair to show that he was not to blame. That he had somehow been forced against his will, to retaliate, as if his ego or pride were flesh and bone, something palpable that had itself received blows and injury.
With his hair now combed, everyone could see, clearly and beyond doubt, through this single act (possible only from a dignified man), that he was not the beast, that he was not to blame…
No, our sons cannot wait. It is time to recast ourselves as men, as fathers, as brothers. Not in ways that assert our superiority through force, but instead, in ways that create sacred spaces for our sisters, for our mother and daughters. We must move from using our bodies as blunt weapons and instead use our sinew and brawn to create and hold safe spaces for women. To create spaces where we can finally walk as equals.
The five men who raped and killed this young woman will be tried and sentenced. And it will be tempting to conclude that justice will have been served. But the problem does not die with these men.
The problem is the climate of silence which permitted, even condoned their actions. The structures which vindicate men’s fears will remain in place. The agar in which violence thrives will remain.
Unless, unless, as Dr. King once said, we end this betrayal of silence. Unless we, as men, end this betrayal of inaction.
Este artículo también está disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
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