The Anxiety of Violence

I never really did like violent movies, especially as a child. I was the kid who watched viewed most violent movies through the lens of the spread fingers of my hands. Later in adulthood, I still didn't develop the stomach for them. I would feel my heart race and my face swell with tears. Now, as a mother, I have extended the category of "violent movies" to anything scary. I rarely watch gangster type movies, certainly no horror movies, and no movies that talk about violence against women or children. Given the work I do, I feel a responsibility to watch movies that have addressed cultural exploitation and violence. While I know movies like "Hotel Rwanda" and "Blood Diamond" are Hollywood versions of the atrocities that are occuring, I have completely avoided them. And, I haven't read books related to those issues, either. I know (as much as any average American knows) what's going on over there. Yet, I can't bear to watch it.

But why? Am I avoiding just the sheer violence of it, or am I avoiding these stories -- likely worse than what is portrayed in the movies -- because I know I'll feel guilty turning off the TV and walking away from them? Isn't the discomfort and challenge the exact thing that I tell others they need to experience in order to move forward in the conversation about race? If so, what is it that I can "more forward" in here? How does watching these movies help me move forward?

A close friend of ours filmed a documentary called "War/Dance" which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. I probably wouldn't have chosen to watch it, except for the fact that I wanted to honor the work he did. In the end, Sean created a beautiful film about the ways a few children in a refugee village -- though they had lived such tragedy -- found joy through music. I was glad I watched it, and it pained me to know that these stories were all too real.

A few years ago, my college invited an author and former child soldier. I went to his lecture, but couldn't bring myself to read his book.

Am I avoiding engaging in the conversation about violence because it brings me such anxiety? Isn't this exactly the discomfort I should be feeling in order to do good in the world?

Note: I'm posting because I'm avoiding watching one of those movies ... it's "date night" with the hubby and we chose this movie. Guess my laptop has become the new "spread fingers lens!"