I don't think it was one, hard, direct hit.
I think it was the result of repeated blows.
Delivered over years and years all those years and years ago. A lifetime or two has passed since then. But even so there is still a mark on my soul that is the distinctive colour of bruise. Even the slightest touch there, hurts, deeply. Even the slightest breeze over the tender skin reawakens the ache. Up through time, comes the horror, the overwhelming fear, and at sixty, I'm six again. An adult, a child again. Power is gone, strength is gone, words are gone.
For me it is a tone of voice, a tone that I feel dismisses me, that I feel diminishes me, that I feel dishonours who I am. "Who do you think you are?" asked of a four year old ... leaves the only right answer to be "no one, no one at all." And that's what happens when I hear that tone. A cascading river of humiliation pours over me. A reminder that no matter what I do, now, will never, ever, make up for what happened then.
Today, this morning, I asked Joe a question. We were both tired. He spoke to me with impatience, he spoke to me with that tone that called me 'stupid'. Hearing that tone, in his voice, hurts beyond measure. I don't understand why he can't hear it. I don't understand why, when that tone is used, the world doesn't stop and gape at the cruelty behind the message contained in the timbre. When a soul is struck, why don't the angels cry out in protest. When a spirit is assaulted, why doesn't the world stop - shocked. When a 'self' is rent asunder, why does it fall in Humpty Dumpty confusion never to be put back together again.
And, AND, A.N.D. I hear that voice all the time. I hear it in the mouths of parents who speak to children as if children aren't breakable. I hear it in the impatience that comes in the moment, the impatience that forgets what it was to be powerless, to be left gasping for air - struck by parents who forget that their power has a very long reach ... a reach deep into the heart of self hood. I hear it and wonder - do these parents remember that love is a decision that is made every moment, that love is an action more often of restraint than it is of generosity, that the love a child offers is only free for a very short while, that the love that they need now, you will need then? Perhaps not, because I hear that voice all the time.
And, AND, A.N.D. I hear it in words that flow over people with disabilities, words that are paid for, paid for by their disability, paid for by their need for support, paid for by employers without the power to employ. I hear that tone used, and used, and used again as if disability comes with it the inability to feel humiliation to understand dominance. Disability does not mean inequity - though you'd never guess that. Disability does not mean inability to understand, or feel, or hurt - though you'd never guess that. Disability does not mean that discrimination, in act, or tone, or deed is acceptable practice - though you'd never guess that.
And, AND A.N.D. I hear it in the words spoken between those who pledged to love and honour each other. I hear it in the words that pass between couples. I see it's footprints that draw a line, a demilitarization zone, down the center of a table between two who once loved - who now eat without speaking. I hear it been men who love men, between women who love women. I hear it in mixed marriages of men and women. I hear it in my mouth when I speak to Joe with impatience. In his mouth when he speaks to me in frustration. I hear it and wonder how it can be that it comes to this. I hear it and react with anger. I say it and live with regret. How does it become so easy to hurt another, to diminish another. Why is praise not natural? Why is cruelty so easy? I don't know.
Perhaps because the angels don't cry out.
Perhaps because the world doesn't stop.
Perhaps because the responsibility lay with us, lay with those too tired, too busy, to care any more.
Do people realize the damage that can be done?
By a tone.
By a glance.
By a stare.
Sticks and Stones ... bring them on. Let them rain down on me. But, Lord God Almighty, please, please, please, watch what you say. But, I beg of you, watch how you say it.
You have power.
Don't misuse it.
You have power.
You have responsibility.
You have power.
And the purpose it is best put to ...
Is to govern yourself.
That is power indeed.