Holiday Spirit Touches Depths of Consolation, Hope

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Candles lit in memory of the children lost in the Newtown massacre.
Candles lit in memory of the children lost in the Newtown massacre.

Credit: 2012 Andrea Much/much0 on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–I was a bit apprehensive as I walked toward the Cloisters for the holiday concert by the Waverly Consort. I buy tickets each year in September and round up friends willing to commit to spending a winter Sunday afternoon in a museum hearing not Handel’s Messiah or Christmas carols, but medieval music sung in Latin.

The Newtown massacre was on my mind, as were the bombings in Aleppo, Syria.

The final aria in the performance, I knew, would be Rachel’s lament after Herod had murdered all the Jewish male infants under the age of 2.

As Rachel’s aria began, I trembled as the words of the powerful soprano Hai-Ting Chinn filled the apse where the concert is held: “Alas, little babes, such savage wounds we see!

Alas, sweet children, slaughtered, butchered in madness. Alas, neither pity nor tender age could save you.”

An alto consoler approached and sang,” Sweetest of mothers, for the sons here slain, cease weeping. Rejoice now even in your mourning, for they live among the stars with the blessed.”

Hearing these words written more than a thousand years ago about an event 2,000 years ago was overwhelming in its direct relevance to the families of Newtown and Aleppo. I looked to my left and to my right, appreciating that my friends were right beside me.

Search for Answers

In recent days I have heard the current-day consolers express sentiments similar to those who sought to console Rachel. For me, however, the talk of murdered children being in heaven was of no use.

How then, could I console myself and go forward with hope and even joy? On the walk home, I searched for answers.

    No. 1 was the gratitude that I escaped from the terror of family violence 30 years ago and neither one of my daughters has experienced it in their own families.

    No. 2 was an awareness–made possible by the women’s movement–that has changed the landscape for families throughout the country. At the end of November, a Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report indicated a national overall decline of 64 percent in nonfatal intimate-partner violence between 1993 and 2010. Cases fell to 907,000 in 2010 from 2.1 million in 1993.

And, two recent events in New York’s legal system comforted me. In late November, a female immigrant from Africa working as a Manhattan hotel maid was believed and vindicated, as was a Jewish Brooklyn teen. Both made complaints against powerful men and, rather than being destroyed, toppled them instead.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Fall

In late November, Nafissatou Diallo was said to have received as much as $6 million in her settlement with Dominique Strauss-Kahn for an encounter that he described as consensual sex and she said was a brutal assault. Defense attorneys leaked to the hungry New York media everything they found that undercut Diallo’s credibility. That worked to get the criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn dropped, but he was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund, drop out as a presidential candidate in France and is now under investigation for his role in international sex parties. Most recently, he’s had to write a big check to Diallo, whose words carried sufficient weight in the civil case.

A week later, a Brooklyn jury found a respected member of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic guilty of 59 criminal counts of sexual abuse and related crimes solely on the word of an 18-year-old, who the defense described as “troubled.” She testified in open court about the actions of Nechemya Weberman, beginning when she was 12 years old and receiving religious counseling from the unlicensed religious counselor in his home office. She eventually confided what was occurring to a school guidance counselor who went to the police. He will be sentenced Jan. 9.

What will the world look like when the words of women are heeded? We may catch a glimpse as the gun control debate in the United States led by women goes forward in the coming year. And as the power of technology continues to give the women of the Middle East, including Syria, the ability to organize and protest, let us sing out our hope that they will be heard and heeded as well.

Rita Henley Jensen is founder and editor in chief of Women’s eNews.

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2 thoughts on “Holiday Spirit Touches Depths of Consolation, Hope

  1. Women’s voices must be heard

    December 25, 2012

    Dear Ms. Jensen,

    Namaste, Salam, Shalom, Peace on Earth,

    You wrote about women, “And as the power of technology continues to give the women of the Middle East, including Syria, the ability to organize and protest, let us sing out our hope that they will be heard and heeded as well.” I would humbly, but boldly, like to submit the time is here for WOMEN to take the world stage and capture the attention of the media, with the objective of attaining political clout. A plan is ready to go! The mechanisms are in place and the stimulus to implement the plan is prepared. Would you please join as part of the media section?

    The plan is called a Global Strategy of Nonviolence, For the Children (GMofNV). Women will lead the way! An initiative to implement the plan is a CALL to WOMEN, a World-Wide Unity Plan.

    How do I know this is the right time? The evidence that tells me now is the time is the violence in the world: 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, Syria and Gaza. Also evidence of nonviolence: The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Madison Wisconsin. Then there was the shooting of Malala in Pakistan and the massacre in Newtown. The reaction of the people around the world proves the desire for nonviolence! Lastly, the NRA response shows the difficulty of creating change. All of these happenings open the door for women to illustrate their dedication and commitment to nonviolence “For the Children” because it shows direction.

    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee recently wrote an article entitled: Rise Up, Mothers. It’s Time to End Gun Violence. She wrote, “As America and the world mourn the death of these children and children in parts of the world that have died in gun-related violence I believe that now more than ever is the time for mothers to resist the culture of violence.”

    James Carroll, columnist for the Boston Globe wrote about the children, December 24th, “That fierce and boundless love we feel for them,” as Obama put it, “a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger — we know that’s what matters.”

    People must promote the larger vision – nonviolence. A CALL to WOMEN promoting a GMofNV will empower women around the world, and men, for this is the test for women and men. The people must “continually, overtly, illustrate nonviolence.”

    What will the world look like when the words of women are heeded? New social, economic, environmental, and political ideas will be promoted for the benefit of all.

    Women leaders, such as Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, are positioned throughout the world to create history! The intricacies are complex, but there is simplicity in setting it in motion! Once it begins, it will take on a life of its own.

    There is much more to tell you. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thank you very much. On this day of PEACE on EARTH, I wish everyone Happy Holidays!

    Peace and Love,
    Andre Sheldon, Director, GSofNV
    Cell # 617-413-9064 Home # 617- 964-5267

    Sister Joan Chittister, September 11th, 2004, at the Omega / V Day conference, “Women and Power” said, “The lives of our children, the protection of millions, the hopes of all humankind, wait again now for women, from opposite cultures, opposite tradition, to step over the line of political hatred to save them.”

    Louise Diamond, author and activist, 11/22/11: Andre, Thanks for sending the information on your wonderful project. The children are indeed a unifying force, and women are indeed the active agents of a most great peace. Your GSofNV/Call to Women can enliven the spirit of peace that we so desperately need on the planet in these days.

    Martin Luther King wrote in Strength to Love, about nonviolence, “It gives them new self respect. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation becomes a reality.”

    Adil Najam, Boston University, International Relations said, “If a person with black hair sees a person with red hair, he or she sees someone different, but, if a person with black hair sees a child with red hair, he or she sees a child.”

    As Helen Reddy wrote, “I am woman, watch me grow, see me standing toe to toe, as I spread my loving arms across the land.”

    As John Lennon wrote, “Imagine.”

  2. Rita – loved your commentary and your tradition of attending this holiday musical event. Your description is powerful. The power of your words and your analysis of events that communicates significant reason for hope. Thank you for your continued optimism! Happy New Year and Happy Birthday a few days early.
    Pat West, Philadelphia