Never Again

This introductory note appeared in NY Times on March 12, 2016:
“LA SELLE-SUR-LE-BIED, France — “Jacqueline Sauvage and Norbert Marot married as teenagers and built their dream house of wood and stone with a big garden and terrace in this village 70 miles south of Paris. On the terrace of that home 47 years later, Ms. Sauvage shot her husband in the back three times with a hunting rifle, killing him, and putting an end to what she said was decades of physical abuse by him. She was found guilty of murder late last year and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
 The case has raised an uncomfortable question for France: If your husband abuses you for years and one day you shoot and kill him, is it self-defense?””

We are not told all the details of the quality of family life that led to this killing. But let’s assume severe physical and emotional abuse was present. The French (and our) dilemma could be guided by answers to the following question:  How long does the feelings of being a victim last? How often do these feelings morph into the need for revenge? What can be done for the scapegoat by the individual and society?  What constitutes self-defense, legal and otherwise?

After years of struggling with the ubiquitous nature of scapegoating and its seemingly inevitable link to revenge–in communities, nations, and particularly families, taken or not–I wrote two novels to clarify the issues for myself and others entitled   Cloud of Terns and Revenge of the Scapegoat. ( See for more details.)   The format I used for my novels was this:  Two young heroes on a houseboat in Sausalito,  California, where they advise their clients about revenge as a realistic possibility and help them reflect on how and how to proceed. Although Revenge is a popular subject among almost all readers of fiction  it is also  an embarrassment  and pariah among people who are struggling to find a healthier and more politically correct world which favors   forgiveness and letting as solutions to abuse. I learned this first hand from friends, colleagues and even  clients who were confused and even upset by my interest in revenge and especially my conclusion.

Scapegoats be they   individuals, groups, or nations rarely forget. Their aggrieved feelings last a very long time—years, decades, even centuries-and the ‘forgiveness’ premise when applied to all parties is only rarely the end of the story or the pain. In the writing I rediscovered that  revenge is behind much of behavior which we label with less offensive motives (for example see the excellent TV History series, Vikings ). Also that action of some sort is often crucial to healing. I concluded that only when the choice to enact revenge is in the hands of the scapegoated themselves  can they truthfully discover what is best for them.
Once thing that is certain: Revenge, even, when it begins as a personal need, always runs on collective time. As any student of history knows all too well, the span of revenge often transcends an individual’s lifetime.  Letters to Dr. Scapegoat or Dear Abby  document the duration and vitality of the  need for vengence. Mrs. Sauvage waited 47 years to act. That may present a legal problem but like it or not we humans resonate to the Mafia saying “Revenge is a dish best served cold” or Israel’s unofficial motto, “Never Again.”

Speak Your Mind