Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, suggests Confucius. It is wise advice, but perhaps it is because of my Italian roots – origin of the word Vendetta – that I am so often moved to gather shovel and select plot.
Few things drive me to rage and anger—none more so than injustice. Bullies, rapists, those who are cruel to children and animals. I’d like to remain calm and civilized. I know the better person does not meet evil and violence with revenge and more violence. I know the mature and proper response is to allow justice its course and to be the better human. But often me and my characters speed past the “higher” road for the utmost, if not limited, satisfaction of an eye for an eye. Me more in thought and they more in deed.
I do not think myself the better person for it. It must take great strength to forgive the man who visited some tragedy on your child or you wife. I could argue that such forgiveness is just weakness and that revenge is a dish best served cold. I won’t argue however because it takes more strength to put down the sword than to pick it up. Still, as peaceful and caring as I may be, I am certain that I would meet such personal injustice in a manner that would require both of Confucius’ graves.
That quality finds its way into my stories. The characters tend to “do” what most people would at least “like” to do—before their better sense of morality takes hold. Justice is after all more a process than an outcome. There are rules and laws and they are judged upon the conditions and circumstances. The preponderance of the facts to achieve the clearest idea of the truth. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Without the rules, without the agreement, without justice, life becomes anarchy and safety and fairness dissolve.
But we already live in a world of conditional morals. A place and time where we parse killing into categories to determine the “degree” of intent and the selection of punishment. Where people still kill in the name of their god. A world where stealing millions from a pension fund carries less time than robbing a bank. Systems where we still consider a woman’s background to judge the legitimacy of her rape. You can not achieve balance through balance. Sometimes the scale must tip far the other way to offset its unfair slant.
Perhaps these are just thoughts and in the face of such a terrible proposition as revenge I would acquiesce to the calling of the higher moral ground. As for my characters…well, they just can’t make such promises. Often the sword feels too comfortable, its sharp and shiny blade too beautiful in the flames of vengeance. The silver treasure just too precious a thing to leave behind.
Categories: A to Z Blog Challenge