american culture is one that supports new beginnings and even celebrates them [see nytimes oct 6 ‘great betrayals’ by Anna fels]. it has a soft door for sons and daughters, who set about revising their ways. for people who start over – including reformed addicts, recovering alcoholics, well behaved and sorry parolees, convicted [including murderers, pedophiles, rapists etcetera] and unfaithful partners – who rededicate themselves to family or relationships. some, like anthony wiener succeed, but others like petraeus, schwarzenegger and tiger woods get re-established into new relationships, professional and personal. sometimes they fare better after scandals than before when they were honest people.
we live in a culture where it’s never too late to start anew. and it’s a great thing for the person who has wronged, or strayed. maybe he/she genuinely made a mistake – once – and that should be forgiven. sometimes we don’t know we are committing mistakes, so the lesson has to be learnt for some to not repeat the wrongful act. everyone deserves a chance at reversing wrongdoings ONCE the lesson is learnt. this way, the sinner or transgressor gets a new beginning.
but some transgressor’s sins are short-lived, because their regret, self-loathing and shame are short lived. they hide or do their betraying or wrongful acts in hiding because what they are doing is not accepted. when they can make new choices easily, why do they make ones that harm others?
we live in a society where everything is there to support the sinner, but not the victim. and worse, victims are blamed, especially in the case of rape. we’ve seen that ‘aplenty’ in india lately.
so what about the one lied to or cheated on? does he or she start anew, too? what is there for the victim left in the dark and betrayed?
something more disturbing occurs for such people. the gamut of emotions they experience may range from embarrassment to humiliation, to blindness, to self-hate, to naïveté and to alienation. but these are temporary. what is not temporary is the ‘lack’ they feel henceforth: lack of trust, lack of self, lack of joy, lack of sleep, maybe even a lack of faith in humanity.
for those on whom the wrong is done, everything changes: memories become suspect, their past becomes a lie, their friends and family are mistrusted.
there is a new beginning for the person affected and hurt, too. it is called bitterness. whoever said that new beginnings are good have never been betrayed or hurt because here, clearly, not all beginnings are equal. how can this false new beginning be good for someone who used to smile?
when no solid narrative comes from all the mind searching and there is nothing to stand on, can the victim really move on? new info discovered disrupts and undermines their own sense of their past. and if you don’t know your past, can you really move on? isn’t that what africans have experienced? they don’t know from where they come so how can they claim any identity for sure? how can they say for sure they come from Burkina faso or Somalia or Cameroon etc? they suffer an identity crisis that is permanent. their ‘chip’ on their shoulder is due to their gaps in knowledge of their past. it uproots them. the sense of displacement they feel is forever written about and explored. they need answers to close the fissures of identity and lacks which they feel, like those wronged and betrayed.
they become cynical, paranoid, and though it happens more often than people write about, very little exists to support them. how do they move forward if they are constantly reviewing their past?
can therapy really put the victim in a path to reclaim her/his past? and can it stabilize the shaky ‘self’? how do these victims reverse falsehoods in the long and short term?