The Boy They Couldn't Kill
November 18, 2015 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Ok, I really need to go hang out in that hugging thread again.
posted by Melismata at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I read it all.
posted by infini at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2015

I'm sorry. Why is that not titled "The Boy They Couldn't Kill: Cherica Adams' son survived and thrives"
posted by crush-onastick at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2015 [31 favorites]

That grandmother is amazing. The headline was written that way because it's Sports Illustrated and the murdering dad was a pro athlete. It's the formula.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:32 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by TedW at 6:12 PM on November 18, 2015

I live in Charlotte and drive frequently past where Cherica was shot, coming home from the movies. I think of her often, especially when I'm on that road at night. They wanted her to die there, in the dark, alone, and the lack of remorse from any of the men involved is sickening.

Chancellor just turned sixteen* (*this story originally was published in 2012 and posted on in January) and Saundra did an interview with a local TV reporter. I admire her so much.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:36 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Here's is an update on the son, from this week.
posted by stargell at 8:45 PM on November 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

I had to skim the article. Amazing women and blessings to Chancellor but oh boy reading about the father (really doesn't deserve the title) was too hard for me. I will be reading the updates sweetie darling and stargell posted
posted by biggreenplant at 7:29 AM on November 19, 2015

I find forgiveness as the sign of the true hero in these situations a troubling narrative. It's not that I don't believe in having compassion for one's enemies or for those who have done wrong. It's not hat I don't believe in showing mercy even to those who have done nothing to earn it.

It's that I HAVE done these things and I'm just not sure painting survivors narratives and experiences of forgiveness as demonstration of how admirable they are is the best focus. My family is steeped in violence and sexual abuse. My cousin's dad stabbed my sister's dad in the back. My sisters dad is dead now. Before she got to meet him. The larger issue was the alcoholism, but could that injury have impacted his long term health?

Now, my cousin, whose father did this, is in prison. For assault with a deadly weapon.


I have spent years passionately reading all the research I can find on the origins of violence, both in ancient texts and wisdom and in current research. I have found that a huge amount of the research we have actually points to the fact we might want to take ancient wisdom more to heart when we look for understanding and wisdom about these things.

In many cultures, there are teachings that the personality is shaped by many factors in the environment- is shaped by the air, the water, if there was lightning, storms, earthquakes, if there were unique animals present during the pregnancy, they would see all these things as influencing the person. If the parents are fighting, if they are hungry if they are afraid... all of these things shape the ability of the person being created to get all their needs met and may promote the development of alternative survival strategies to cope with an environment where needs are currently not being met or recent experiences of the parents and grandparents have imprinted on the new person there is high risk of the environment not meeting these needs.

We act like it's mysterious where violence comes from, we just don't understand it, but that's also because the subject material is hard to approach, it's hard to spend time trying to understand something that is multifaceted and complicated in it's creation, that requires and emotional understanding of what it means to be human and to suffer and that involves many variables we do not yet have good capacity to measure with scientific instruments.

When we decide to eat all of the damage that was done to us ourselves, to process the suffering that has been given to us by those were unwilling or unable to process their own, who were unable to see our lives as worthy of protection-- it comes at a huge cost.

I can remember once I was with a dangerous man and he was screaming at me, his grown man screaming at the top of his lungs-- and I look down and I see this hammer and I think I want to smash my head in. I feel this because I have spent my whole life carrying the weight of my anger internally, so that I can be this great understanding compassionate person for all the dangerous people who have been in my life and hurt me. And I'm exhausted of it.

I want love to save the day and to heal all the wounds and to that miraculous force that makes peace possible, but I feel like the forgiveness narrative puts this burden on survivors that if they can't forgive YET they must keep growing, and striving, because they aren't really a good person until they do. And forgiveness means so many different things. In this story thankfully the perpetrator is behind bars and he did NOT get to take his son after all that, and frankly I think it's the work of people who focus more on accountability for those who have done wrong than on empathy for how those who have done wrong feel who are able to hold people who do these things accountable, to set boundaries that really may harm those who have done wrong for the sake of protecting those they hurt or may hurt in the future.

On the one hand, our culture as a whole needs more forgiveness- on the other hand, men continually doing these deeds to women and everyone standing around forgiving feels, weird. Like... no anger at all? I mean, I guess, to me, anger is hard to bear, which is why in some ways, I hope survivors don't have to carry that burden, but because their communities help with the weight not because there is a kind of idealized "anger is unenlightened" goal being applied to survivors. I know this piece mentions that it's understandable for survivors to be angry or bitter, but it makes it sound like this is some understandable flaw whereas those who don't are better people.

I am the sort of person who has sat and cried with men who have raped me comforting them for their pain for being sorry for what they did. And I still worry about that guy and I still fight for our communities to do the things they should have done for him when he was a boy and his family was struggling and we as a community failed him, left his single mother without resources and dependent on abusive men.

In so many cases of these abusive violent people when you look deeper there isn't so much to forgive as the understand.

I know why my cousin did this. Why his father did this. Poverty, suffering, violence, have destroyed his people. And yes, it does take heroes to choose love over hate. I can't feel much anger for my daughter's father, who I think may have even killed someone before, who I lived in fear I might be next because he was so failed by everyone around him, so hurt so badly. But I do think it's easier to stay on the side of forgiveness when others in the community are holding the people who do this things accountable, or accurately assessing that the person may not be at fault but that also means they need to be stopped from hurting others because they are dangerous even if it was damage done to them the true cause.

There is- not always, but sometimes- truth in anger, and I think when we want these stories to be devoid of anger and hold up that as the ideal, we may miss some heroic work done by survivors that does include anger. At this point I'm not even sure what anger is- to me it's just pain that seeks justice. It can be overwhelming and used for destruction, or it can be used to uphold restoration of damages, ensuring communities understand what harm is done, and enact measures to prevent and protect from such things happening again.

I see there is anger used for it's healthy purpose and anger that becomes chaotic. I think we have a fear of ourselves and other feeling or expressing anger because we are afraid we can't do so in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. And I think we sometimes have a preference for ensuring that people who harm others get forgiven over held accountable, because we know how often we make mistakes and know creating a world where every harm is taken seriously will mean all of us face a lot more work on behalf of others, and that sounds.. hard and difficult.

I do like in this story that he is forgiven and held accountable. For me I would say my anger is still more active because I still face harms of these people free in my community and no that so many others do too and that there are organizations right now trying to fight for abusive men like this to have custody of kids and tell women who try to protect their kids from them that THEY are the abusers and deserve to be in jail. The words behind the anger are frequently words that need to be said. You hurt me, I want you to know how badly you hurt me. I want you to care. I want you to make amends.

When you break down what is often behind anger, it's not really "hate". And there is often great value there, great wisdom. And even, love. In this case, because she has enough resources to care for her grandson, because she has protection from him, because she is not starving-- holding him accountable for the damages is less relevant, but that assumes a community that will help in his place.

Anger, a strong feeling of displeasure aroused by a wrong. Shouldn't we be upset at seeing wrongs? I'm still not sure that framing anger as an inferior emotion is actually helpful. Carrying the burden of anger- of seeking to address wrongs, is a heavy burden that should not be carried on the shoulders of survivors. I don't like anger, I prefer to love everyone, when I see even people who have hurt me I love them, I am happy to see them, I hurt if they hurt. But I am often told I am an angry person if I try to fight against these injustices or point out ways people are being harmed and how heinous it is, and I just... I agree we don't have enough words in our language for these terms because the more you look in depth at emotions and what they represent within, the less comfortable I am with framing emotions as "positive" or "negative" as heroic or less admirable ways to feel. Before prisons, justice was carried for thousands of years without out the option of keeping dangerous people both alive and away from those they could harm. Our instincts and emotions around this took thousands of years to develop. I want us to move beyond that model, but if there was some good being done with the old model we might want to be able to examine that as well, so perhaps we could find more peaceful and compassionate means to address those goals.

I have found that an either or model of being only allowed to have forgiveness at any moment, is not a healthy model. I can be angry as shit, and also still love. Forgiveness entails letting go of "negative" emotions, releasing the desire for vengeance, and wishing the person well. I'm pretty quick to forgive but when I am forced to deal with people like this and they say things that are extremely harmful I feel "angry" in the sense I want to tell them that their self serving bullshit is harming people around them, or even that I want to scream "look at what you have done?? What did you do? Look at this horrific suffering!" none of which are emotions I think are negative. Like we should be creating a lot more compassion in prisons, and a lot more restrictive about keeping the mentally ill, and non-violent offenders out of there- but we might should be saying and doing a lot more things to people causing harm that might give us the label of "angry".
posted by xarnop at 8:53 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

xarnop, there's an interesting follow-up article in today's Observer that tackles your question:

Q. I could never do what Saundra Adams did and say that I forgive Carruth for his crime and also say that I want him to have a relationship with Chancellor when he gets out of jail. Do you think she’s genuine?

Absolutely. Saundra Adams has a deep faith in God and a deep belief in the power of forgiveness. Here’s what she said in the story about this subject.

“The main reason I want Rae and Chancellor to one day have a relationship is because it is his son,” Adams said. “And that’s why I chose early on that I would forgive Rae. Because I don’t feel like I can offer unconditional love to Chancellor if I don’t forgive Rae. That’s his father. It’s a part of him. Chancellor wouldn’t be who he is without Rae. I want them to bond, or at least to meet again.

“Right now,” she continued, “Rae is still in denial about his part in Cherica’s murder. Not that Chancellor would change that. But if anybody were to ever touch his heart, to make him want to be truthful, I think it would be Chancellor.”

(For the record, I still think Rae Carruth is a piece of shit.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:20 AM on November 22, 2015

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