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Katie’s Musings: Night Terrors

Katie Miller
June 21 2018

When I was little, I was terrified of the dark. 

It made no sense, and I knew that. The darkness of my childhood bedroom contained no real terrors and one very real, very brave big sister in the bed parallel to mine to protect me. Yet night after night, I’d pad my flat feet down the hall to my parents room and crawl into bed with them because I was little and I was scared. Safety and comfort, it seems, resided with only them, the ones who made me. Nothing, no unseen evil thing, could get me when I was with them.  They would protect me.

I don’t believe in evil these days. Not really, not in the traditional sense. I certainly don’t believe in monsters under the bed, or demons giddily keeping an eye out for evil tricks they might pay on unwitting innocents, or some devil with horns, licking his chops, waiting to claim the stained souls of humanity for his own.

No, I don’t believe in any of that. Because all that stuff?  I’m thinking it might have been made up by our ancestors, trying to spare us the stark, even more terrifying realization:

In the quest for fulfillment and success and in the face of shame and fear, desperate to protect ourselves or our souls or our brains…

We humans are capable of truly terrible things. 

No…. check that: we are more than capable. We are ready and willing.  

Is something challenging what you might know about the world? Never fear! Slap a label on it and proclaim it and everything like it “disgusting!”  

Having trouble understanding something? That stinks. …. Oh gosh, no, don’t go to the trouble of actually understanding… no, do the “disgusting” thing again! Works every time! 

Thinking someone’s threatening your power? That’s easy! Find a Bible verse to manipulate for your purposes! I mean, who can argue with the BIBLE?!

Still feeling threatened? Huh… OH, I know!  Just take those bad, scary people and put them in a tent city where you never ever have to think of them again! And do the “disgusting” thing again, I’m telling you, it works like a charm! 

…Oh wait, they have little, innocent kids? …. meh, just KEEP THE KIDS! No seriously, just take them from their mothers’ arms and put them somewhere else! ….. What? Oh… yes, yes, I know it’s crying. But hey, that’ll teach them to come up in OUR house, amiright?!!!

And if all else fails? Call them unpatriotic. And “disgusting,” always use the “disgusting.”

Evil does not have horns or a devilish grin. That’d be too damn easy. 

No.

Evil looks like you and smiles and gives you easy, pretty words that you can immediately recognize as your own.  

Evil brings you homemade tuna noodle casseroles when you’re sad and sits at your dining room table talking quietly about not understanding why those brown people have to be so gosh darn lazy, and while we’re at it, why do those foreigners have to come in and steal all our jobs like they do?

Evil masquerades as a well-meaning soul with a WWJD bracelet saying you may as well stop arguing because you clearly just don’t understand its way of life.

Evil baits and switches, casually sidling up to the truth and then stabbing it with a shiv made out of righteous indignation and some twisted sense of patriotism.

Evil takes a person who is leading bravely with compassion and says that person’s too soft.

Evil listens to desperate, crying kids and parents, fleeing out of terror or desperation, and says it’s all their own fault.

Evil, my friends, is just … us.  Me.  All.  Terrified.  Surviving. Franticly throwing blame out in every direction, praying it won’t land on us. Running as fast as we can and as hard as we can, doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s away from the complications of connection and compassion.

I am grown up now, my brave big sister is about to have a sweet baby of her own, and tonight, I lie in bed wrapped in a blanket of privilege so heavy it might suffocate me if I let it. The darkness doesn’t scare me anymore. The evil still does. 

Where are those kids going when they’re scared tonight, without parents’ rooms to pad down to?

Is someone reading them a bedtime story? Is it in a language they understand? Is someone holding them and wipe the tears from their faces, lying through their teeth saying it will be alright?  

I’d like to think so, but I’d just be lying to myself to make myself feel better.

Evil does that, too.