“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
HT, Ryan Stollar
I am not a huge fan of the Dr. Quinn the Medicine Woman series (in fact, I have a whole post written about the literary problems with this series sitting in my drafts, that I have not published). But there is one episode that I have watched over and over and over again. I have watched it so many times I have the lines memorized, yet I still watch it again and again.
It is the episode called Washita, based loosely on a true event in America in which General Custer and his army intercepted the safe passage of a Cheyenne tribe, a First Nations people, along the Washita river, and murdered women, children, braves, and the chief, and also slayed their horses.
In the series, Dr. Quinn, a Boston native who has moved to Colorado Territory just after the Civil War, friends the Cheyenne people. For three years, she forms close bonds with a Cheyenne tribe, fighting with the army to keep their promises, feeding them when the government will not let them off the reservations, and sharing and exchanging medical teaching.
But then, horror strikes. Dr. Quinn, her fiance (Sully), and their good Cheyenne friend, Cloud Dancing come across their worst nightmare; they see the dead bodies, the smoke, their friends lying at their burned camp along the Washita.
After this, Dr. Quinn and Sully go through two stages in processing their grief. The first is just unbelievable anger and sorrow, the kind where Dr. Quinn screams to herself, the sheer anger that her fellow white people could murder First Nations people.
The second part is just apathy, the part when there is no fight left within, the feeling that after three years trying to persaude Americans to do the right thing, it all just ends in needless slaughter.
As Dr. Quinn is battling so much anguish inside, Sully then says to Dr. Quinn’s adopted son:
This ain’t just about losing folks you care about. It’s more than that. . . I’ve never known anybody like your ma … She’s always tryin’ so hard to see the good in and … ‘n she believes she can do anything … ‘Cept she couldn’t stop this. What she saw out there — things can’t ever be the same … Your ma’s lost. somethin’ inside herself, Matthew. She’s gotta find a way to get her hope back.
Dr. Quinn and Sully may be fictional characters, but I understand what they are saying at the deep core, because I too witnessed a genecide of a people group in SE Asia. I can remember one Sunday watching a video clip of a village being burned to the ground. I had a friend who hid in the jungle for months, barely moving and eating nothing but the roots of bamboo, until the army left and he could safely escape during the rainy season. I had a little boy stay at my house who watched his parents get murdered when the army broke into his village. I have posted pictures here on this blog of children who are now dead. I have held a little girl who clinged to me so hard she would not leave my lap; her mother was killed in their village raid while her father fights to protect their land, their tribe, their villages.
I maintained a much greater distance from it all than Dr. Quinn did. But, but, I still lost something inside myself, and I will never be the same.
I bring this up because as a kid, I was taught that I needed to protect my heart. This is why I was taught that I should never date and only practice courtship. I was taught that everytime I gave a piece of my heart away, I would never get that piece back.
Now I see that what I was taught was partially right. I went to Asia with so much optimism, believing that I could do good, and that things could change. I took in kids who were not mine, and I gave a huge piece of my heart away.
My kids still ended back on the streets or hospitals, after we failed them and they failed themselves. And every day for the last two years, I have had to live with the horror I saw in refugee camps, in the slums, and with those kids. I’ve had to live knowing that a little boy was nearly burned alive in a village, that the preschool in one of the camps was intentionally burned, and that people are still trapped to reservations, only now we call them camps.
This is why I can be on the top of a large mountain at Glacier National Park, as I was this summer, and start weeping, because I gave a piece of my heart away.
I have gotten my hope back in so many ways, to the point where I’ve begun to dig out of my apathy, and feel ready to believe again that change can happen.
But I still lost part of my heart, and I’m okay with that. My heart is big, and I suspect that I can give pieces away, and my love will never run fully dry.
The purity culture wanted to protect my heart from guys. I have loved in that way too, but my parents forgot to tell me about the pain of life. They did not tell me that nothing in life is safe, and that it takes courage and integrity to give our hearts away, knowing that our heaRts may suffer.
My parents never told me that it is noble and necessary to give the heart away. When we give it away, then we have truly stood for something.
My parents did not tell me that I would not have truly lived until I found something and somebodies worth giving my heart to, even if the outcome is sure to bring some kind of heartbreak.
Jesus does not tell us to stay shy in the corner. Jesus says love the enemy, clothe those who are sick and dying, and pray. Jesus says forget the comfort and follow him.
What the purity culture did not teach me is that when I do those things, my heart can get broken.