The mother and the thought leader: Susan Bro's daughter was killed this weekend.
Her daughter's name was Heather Heyer. At the age of 32, she was killed in Charlottesville, apparently due to a lunatic act by James Fields, age 20.
In this morning's Washington Post, two reporters describe an interview with Bro about her daughter's killing. At one point, Bro joins the forces of moral greatness when she discusses Fields:
SILVERMAN AND LARIS (8/14/17): Every time Bro closed her eyes Saturday night, the tears would come. When she couldn't sleep, she tried busying herself doing laundry. "Who does laundry when their child's died? That's all I could do," she said."Heather's life was passionately about caring. That was the mother's reaction. It recalls the reactions of some of the Charleston families in the wake of the murders in 2015 by Dylann Roof, who had just turned 21.
Despite her pain, Bro said she doesn't want people to hate Fields. It isn't what her daughter would have wanted, she said.
"Our daughter did not live a life of hate, and hating this young man is not going to solve anything. . . . It's not that I think he should go unpunished for his crime. But hate only engenders more hate, and there's no purpose in hate," Bro said. "Heather's life was about—passionately about—fairness and equality and caring, and that's what we want people to take away from this."
The astounding reactions of those families produced amazement and admiration all over the world. In yesterday's interview, Heather Heyer's mother joined their number.
A major journalist reacted in a quite different way this weekend. He recommended this unwise twitter thread, in which a group of youngish people seemed to be applauding the possibility of violent revenge.
Before we link you to that thread, let's think about Fields for a minute. This front-page profile in today's Post describes his own family background.
His father was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1997, five months before he was born. On his mother's side of the family, his grandfather murdered his grandmother, than committed suicide, in 1984. This murder-suicide occurred when Field's mother was 16 years old.
An uncle offers more information, and speculates a bit:
SHAPIRO (8/14/17): Fields, he said, grew up mostly in Northern Kentucky, where he had been raised by a single mother, Samantha Bloom, who is a paraplegic. The uncle, who saw Fields mostly at family gatherings, described his nephew as “not really friendly, more subdued.”When we read about such matters, we tend to think of a song which was popular in certain circles when we ourselves were 20.
Fields joined the Army in late in the summer of 2015 but was on active duty for less than four months, according to online records from the Defense Department. It was unclear why he served so briefly.
“The what-ifs,” the uncle said. “What could’ve been—you can’t answer questions like that. There’s no way of knowing if his life would have been different if his father had been around.”
The song is There but for Fortune. It was written by Phil Ochs, most famously sung by Joan Baez.
When we read about stories like that, we often think of the fact that our grandparents didn't die in a murder/suicide when our mother was 16. Our father wasn't killed by a hit and run driver before we were born.
We don't know what might have made Fields commit the act of which he's accused. But we tend toward the old ways in such matters, toward the worldview called "bleeding-heart liberalism."
Heyer's mother tends toward the world of moral greatness. To borrow a phrase from Eugene Genovese, it's largely, within the American context, an artifact of "the world the [enslaved people] made."
Globally, it's largely an artifact of Mandela and Dr. King, by way of Ghandi—and by way of what the young Dr. King repeatedly referred to as "the love ethic of Jesus."
That love ethic was revolutionary because we humans don't instinctively function in the ways it recommended. This fact is being played out in various ways at this time.
Yesterday, we clicked a link in this post by Josh Marshall and perused that twitter thread. The twitter thread concerned a different 20-year-old who was present in Charlottesville this weekend.
We thought Josh showed very poor judgment in recommending its tweets, which he seemed to find heroic, fitting and just.
When we read that twitter thread, we thought of The Mortal Storm, the fascinating 1940 (fictional) film about the rise of Hitler youth. We thought about what happened to China when a large cadre of its younger, unwise people helped stage The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.
We thought about Lord of the Flies. We thought about the most remarkable passages in Dr. King's first book, Stride Toward Freedom.
We also thought about one of our favorite speeches from film—the speech in On the Waterfront in which the character played by Eva Marie Saint speaks to the Marlon Brando character on behalf of the basic tenets of bleeding-heart liberalism.
We'll review that speech, and that twitter thread, in the next few days. We thought the instincts on display in that thread were thoroughly "human, all too human" and also deeply unwise.
For today, we'll recommend Susan Bro to the world. We think Marshall gave his readers some amazingly poor advice. So it goes as the world continues to turn and we work, inevitably, to become more like the people we like to say we despise.