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Story of rape showed the transformative power of redemption

I was raped | May 18, Perspective story

The transformative power of redemption
Joanna Connors' unforgettable testimony gives real life to a memorable statement made by Octavio Paz. The Mexican writer who won the 1990 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote in his book The Labyrinth of Solitude:

"History has the cruel reality of a nightmare, and the grandeur of man consists in his making beautiful and lasting works out of the real substance of that nightmare."

Whether we are born in famine- and violence-wracked Africa or in the comfort of upscale Manhattan, we have no control over the cards handed to us and over the people with whom we get in contact at the beginning of the game of our life. We have a lot of control on how we play these cards, however.

Because of the violence she had undergone, Connors recognized the frailty of all lives and the urgency to fill one's life with meaning. Thus she started her family, used her experience to defend and instruct her own children and to support other people, and to bring comfort to the siblings of the man who had violated her. She also sought to understand and co-opt a reality that she had previously skirted.

Since many centuries before Christ, this process has been called redemption. In Jewish daily life, the redeemer was the person who bought the liberty of a slave by paying the debt that had caused that man's and his family's enslavement.

At the price of her own pain, Joanna Connors redeemed the delusion about life generated by her privileged upbringing, avoided contaminating her children with the same ignorance, healed the wounds of other victims of violence, and maybe more important, redeemed the perpetrators themselves from the slavery of violence and abuse that generated their crimes. She restored to them the dignity of their own suffering, she made human beings out of monsters.

Redemption involves forgiveness but is much more than forgiveness: It transforms the chains of human slavery into instruments of freedom.

Lodovico Balducci, Tampa

A door to discussion

Thank you for a very powerful article. I was moved to share this article with my 15-year-old daughter, adult themes and all notwithstanding.

A father cannot be with his daughter (or wife) 24/7 to protect (and nurture) her in her travels.

The discussion that followed my daughter's reading of this article was one of the best we have ever had on safety and self-protection. Thank you.

Some things are better not left unsaid.

Jabe A. Breland, St. Petersburg
Our sacred cows stray in the way of honest debate | May 18, Bill Maxwell column

A flawed assessment

Bill Maxwell erroneously claims that because Israel is a sacred cow, "public debate and the publication of critical matters related to the Jewish state [is] next to impossible." Yet, he very frequently publishes critical articles, as do many other journalists, Jimmy Carter and professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, so it's not as impossible to have a critical dialogue as Maxwell says.

Maxwell also blames most of the tensions of the Middle East on our "unwavering," blind support of Israel. This is also an error because it ignores the Shiite/Sunni rift which causes tensions; ignores powerful Saudi Arabia and its exporting of Wahabism; ignores Hamas and PLO infighting; ignores the covert Syrian invasion of Lebanon.

And to blame the Israel lobby for working "magic" is also wrong. Perhaps some U.S. support is due to many Christians who see Israel as the birthplace of Christianity and the land where the messiah will return; perhaps some U.S. support is due to those who believe in supporting the only democracy in the Middle East; perhaps some U.S. support is due to those who believe that without a Jewish homeland Jews everywhere are at risk. Perhaps, too, some of that support is due to an Israel lobby, just as our unwavering friendship with Saudi Arabia is due to the Arab lobby. Our unwavering support of that country does not seem to bother Maxwell at all.

Jewish groups welcome honest debate and many are quite critical of Israel. It is impossible to get Maxwell to confront his own sacred cow: his bias toward the Palestinians and his aversion to a fair assessment of the Middle East.

Susan Segal, Palm Harbor

Our sacred cows stray in the way of honest debate | May 18, Bill Maxwell column

Matters of responsibility

Bill Maxwell laments the failure to have an honest debate on the sacred cows of blaming white racism for black problems in contemporary America and the Israel lobby. In the former, Maxwell criticizes blacks for attacking comedian Bill Cosby, who has stated that blacks should stop blaming whites for all of their problems and begin taking responsibility for their situation, especially their children.

However, Maxwell fails to use that same standard for his reporting of the Arab world's lack of taking responsibility for their own actions, and its consequences to their children, and the constant blaming of Israel and the Israel lobby for all of the their problems.

If Bill Cosby has a point, and I think he does, then Maxwell should apply this same standard to the Middle East and stop blaming the Israel lobby for the decisions and actions of the Arab leadership. That would be the beginning of the honest debate that Maxwell demands.

David Sadowsky, Clearwater

The trail of devastation | May 18, story

Cruelty connection

In your package on the 10th anniversary of Hank Earl Carr's rampage, Thomas Lake writes that Carr had once been accused of stomping a puppy to death.

That brutal attack on a defenseless animal and Carr's subsequent killing spree can, unfortunately, be linked with two other recent, brutal crimes: the vicious rape and beating of an 18-year-old high school student at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library and the gruesome murders of Lisa Freiberg, her two small children and the family dog. Both of the men accused in those crimes, Kendrick Morris and Edward Covington, also have prior animal cruelty accusations: Morris was accused of beating a duck with a bat and Covington of mutilating and killing three cats.

In the wake of human suffering, some may say these crimes against animals are small change. Numerous studies, however, show a clear link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. It is therefore imperative that prosecutors and judges punish animal abusers to the fullest extent of the law. Ideally, we should punish these abusers solely for the sake of the animals they torture or kill. If that's not reason enough, then perhaps we should think of the human victims who may be next.

Deborah Van Pelt, Tampa

Airline fees

Fee foolishness

We all realize that rising gas costs have required airlines to increase fares, but charging extra for the first bag checked is just nuts. If those fees were instead added to the fares, we wouldn't feel we were being "nickle and dimed."

Connie Cote, New Port Richey

Story of rape showed the transformative power of redemption 05/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 11:50am]
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