A Difficult Love, Again
On practically the ‘eve’ of the celebration this February of our sometimes commercialized and commodified understanding of love and the affairs of the human heart, a death occurred: a violent death, a death that follows the route of .
This time, the one who is stabbed to death is a man and the one who stabbed him is his girlfriend.
Let us put names to the faces—and faces to the names: John Shaniyo and Rachael Berta.
On January 5, this killing that should not happen happened—something that the larger Hawaiian community, in partnership and collaboration with other not-for-profit organizations—have always been working hard to address.
And it happened in Kahului where peace and quiet and tranquility could be its other name.
We go to Kahului from any point in Maui and the vast and calm sea greets us with its foam of waves, its fluid dance one of dynamic stillness, rhythmical in its constant teasing of the shore where the land begins.
The town’s verdant palm fronds reach out to the blue skies, and the tops and shoulders of mountains invariably remind us of spring and summer that both come in time and beyond time, with these two seasons proudly showing us the fresh flowers endlessly abloom on the town’s roadsides in that riot of colors we can only see in a land touched by human hands, true, but the touching suggests care, concern, and commitment to what is alive, to what makes life, to what sustains life.
But this death in Kahului rattles us off from our grace-filled tranquility. We simply cannot be still, not when domestic violence has that haunting presence in our midst.
While it is so that by the quantities, women outnumber men in that sad tale of women taking the beating and men doing the beating, we cannot take domestic violence as a simple case of men against women. It is much more than that.
While it is that in past, the pattern tells us of women dying—being killed—by the very men who have vowed to love and protect them, we cannot take domestic violence as a simple case of women going to the grave and men going to jail and repenting after committing the deed.
There is something awfully wrong somewhere in every phenomenon of domestic violence. Some people have called it power and control—a circle that is vicious: who wields, who yields, who can up the ante, who loses beyond loss, who is maimed, who dies, who threatens, who scares, who blackmails in the name of love or its substitutes.
It is February and it is the month of love—but how can we enter into a celebration when out there, so much of the loving has yet to be defined for what it is in the light of fundamental human justice, and defended for what it is in the light of our commitment for another human being?
Many of us will go through the familiar annual rite: the bunch of pink roses on hand, the chocolates in red beribboned boxes, and the candles with their dancing light giving off that glow that can only reveal the texture of romantic moments.
Let it be.
At the end of the day is that one difficult question we need to ask: what is love in this time of difficulty, in this time of extreme need, in this time of crises, in this time of recession, in this time of financial want and burden?
What is love when the jigsaw puzzle of life seems not to fall into the right places so that we are left wondering which are the pieces that need to be worked out?
What is love when worries come knocking on the door? When the world is turning upside down, when all our cares do not make sense any longer? When instability of all kinds makes us go haywire?
Domestic violence is a difficult text of our life—one text that needs to be eradicated totally. We do not need another death whether man, woman, child, parent, friend, neighbor.
Every death diminishes us.
Every death of this kind makes us loving less and less.
Every death of this kind invalidates what The Day of the Hearts means.
A. Solver Agcaoili
Published, FAO Editorial, Feb 09