From the Far Margins 

Bullets or bread?

Snow falls in Boise, and I write from the edge of somewhere. I write from a place of exile or distance, but I am not alone.

We are the margins, the women, the homeless, the ample, the poor, the awkward young, the ones who are told we are godless, the genderless, the gay, the brown, black, the speakers of musical languages, staccato words, the otherwise able, the depressed, the hopeful, the wild, the different, the ones who want peace.

We may sleep under bridges, in motorhomes, in houses with cold walls or mansions empty but for our heat, but we are awake and stirring. We may work at being warm, at feeding those we love, at managing human wants, human needs, at triage; at balancing, at death beds, at waiting tables, but we listen and often we find ourselves at the edge of our city looking in.

The world rocks with ripples spread by terror, shudders at the violence. The nearest, most comfortable feel it most intensely, the shock. Many live in terror of other kinds already. This terror is another layer, a separate sadness, a separate burr beneath the skin, working its way to the heart. Like standing in the wake of a hate crime, some feel, "That was meant for me." Others know it was not, know they are safe even if people they love are not. It's like a woman who's been hit once. Being struck then is forever-after a possibility, a shadow at the edge of every move, every harsh word.

Some respond in anger. The world is divided between those who long for revenge, for whom anger is an emotion closer to the surface than sadness. So often the extremes of political party lines or even gender seem to sketch this out—the line between one human archetype and another. And we can't fathom how the half other functions? Why hate? Why violence? Why lie down and cry? Why love one who hates you? This is age-old.

From the margins, the world goes on. I open a New Yorker magazine set on a college library table and there is a world there I once knew, stage plays and restaurants, food as art, words of the educated, vocabulary beyond what I use any more. I feel like an urchin in a window, smiling at the vicarious moment. Looking in makes some feel hate. Perhaps if you have striven for something that you are intentionally denied, anger is a reasonable response.

I am cool with a certain degree of disparity, but I do not tolerate those who disdain those of us looking in, those who close the shutters or chain-link the underpass to make our sleeping more invisible.

We have choices. We can work to make the world more hateful. That part is easy: turn off the TV, filter your newsfeed, don't turn down that street again, don't listen to NPR. Or we can work to make those who hate us less hateful. Hate is born of fear. It is hard to hate someone who reaches out in kindness, who gives or acknowledges your pain.

I would say this to the police, to mayors and presidential candidates, to our President Barack Obama and to French President Francois Hollande. But who am I to warn the mourning that the bombs will fall on children and that bombs teach people to hate. They create terrorists. They do. They did.

I was never a fan of drones. They seem like an evil of their own. The extreme opposite of a suicide attack. In one, everything is risked and given. In the other, nothing is. If we see terror like a sickness or cancer, we believe in human evil and human brokenness. We might cut off a limb or not carefully choose what cells to take. Our haste and inability to discern is why we fill our prisons with people guilty of nothing but addiction, unmedicated mental unwellness. No one revels at being given the charge of protecting society. With that charge so many err to overprotection, thus creating more brokenness in families, more hate in those facing cruel and unusual punishment, more crime.

When we have power, we are often not brave enough to walk the line of justice carefully, judiciously, with thought to the repercussions. Largely that is because the political divide created by partisanship makes us jump to blame our leaders. Or the leaders of the other political stripe who might be in charge. We have to be brave. Wise.

Our human rush to anger and revenge is the death of us. The death of us all. Our rush to love is our grace, our survival. If we consider brokenness inevitable—that some small portion of it is spontaneous, infectious and unstoppable—then we know the world we have can either roil with hate or settle down to active and calculated peace.

When we hold out our hand, will it hold a gun or a loaf of bread? Which will save more of us? Protect us from violence tomorrow? I would say the bread—the story of the bread will travel. It is a gesture that blurs the margins, folds the outside to the center, makes it no longer invisible. The bread will give us peace, keep us safer, warmer. Isn't it harder to recruit soldiers to kill the ones who offered bread?

Nicole LeFavour is a longtime educator and activist, former Boise Weekly reporter, and served in both the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho State Senate.

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