Anger breeds violence breeds anger breeds violence

Totally identifying with Suzan-Lori Parks, though not African American but white Jewish Israeli, rage is part of the birthright many of us are heir to.

Playwriter Suzan Lori (C) with actors Mos Def (L) and Jeffery Wright (R).  (photo credit: BERNIE NUNEZ MS/REUTERS)
Playwriter Suzan Lori (C) with actors Mos Def (L) and Jeffery Wright (R).
Suzan-Lori Parks is an American playwright, screenwriter, musician and novelist. Her 2001 play Topdog/Underdog won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002; Parks is the first African American woman to achieve this honor for drama.
The National Geographic Magazine June 2020 quoted her as saying, "Part of you is steeling yourself against rage... I feel like that's part of my birthright."
Totally identifying with Suzan-Lori Parks, though not African American but white Jewish Israeli, rage is part of the birthright many of us are heir to. Unaware of the tragic fate of grandparents, aunts and cousins at Nazi hands we may not, in our childhood innocence, have succumbed to anger then. For some, it probably always was smoldering within the gut. Now blazing fury has come to the fore, triggered by the most recent graphically heard and viewed murders in Israel and abroad. 
Police aggression and helplessness are seen in tragic cases of domestic violence, as well as innocents being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Israeli towns. Some of the recent incidents:
• Maya Vishnyak, 22, was strangled by her 21-year-old partner. She did not say, “I can't breathe,” as did George Floyd on May 25 in the USA. He drew his last dying gasps under the knee of the arresting police officer for almost nine minutes, while three other police looked on. Vishnyak's heartbreaking strangulated pleas for help were recorded from her modest home. Managing to phone the police, her dying gasps were punctuated by the officer repeatedly asking her, "Do you need help?" 
• Iyad Halak, an unarmed autistic man, viewed on TV carrying a small garbage bag in each hand, was graphically shot to death when he failed to stop at police requests. No weapon was found on him. A senior police officer called for a halt to fire. His command was ignored by his fellow officer. 
The Jerusalem Post’s June 8 editorial “Preventing Murder” spotlights the case of a 37-year-old woman fighting for her life after having been stabbed multiple times. Police indicated the suspect is her husband. 
• While on routine “operational activity” on May 13 near the West Bank city of Jenin, 21-year-old Staff Sgt. Amit Ben-Yigal was struck on the head by a large rock thrown off a rooftop, struck him on the head – murdering him in the flower of youth. Police arrested the attacker, assisted by Ben-Yigal’s devastated army friends who had vowed to do their utmost until the perpetrator was caught.
• Dvir Sorek, an 18-year-old yeshiva student in the hesder program (Army service combined with yeshiva religious studies), was stabbed to death on August 7, 2019. His body was initially found by his friends – clutching books as a gift for his teacher, including, uncharacteristically and to his credit, one by David Grossman who did not necessarily share this student's outlook. Police arrested three attackers who murdered Dvir Sorek.
HAIR-RAISING SCENES like these cause hackles; anger deep inside brews like a fermenting concoction. How can we combat atrocities like these? Many suggest funding for agency programs is an answer to cope with violence. Definitely important, but as all evidence indicates, far from effective. 
How about, therefore, considering the position of police? It is time to identify the roots of police helplessness. Helpless when receiving frantic phone calls, helpless to cope with violence – including their own inner violence resulting in brutality – helpless to cope with their grief upon seeing a murdered innocent book-clutching youth, and helpless to cope with the violence of society. 
It is time to think of helping the police, many of whom are worthy to wear their badge of authority. Providing funding for symptoms of violence like shelters for tragically battered women is essential. Adopting the creative option of removing battering men from home to shelters rather than their wives is a positive suggestion in the above-mentioned editorial. And it is imperative to fund and treat major roots of police problems police identified as feelings of helplessness, grief and aggression and anger. 
To return to Suzan-Lori Parks. Apparently one way in which she steels herself against her rage is by writing. 
In 2012, Parks undertook her most ambitious theater work to date. She set herself the daunting task of writing one complete short play every day for a year. She held herself to this rigid program while fulfilling a demanding travel schedule, writing in hotel rooms and even while waiting in airport security lines. The resulting work, 365 Plays/365 Days, was produced by 700 theaters around the world, in venues ranging from street corners to opera houses. It is the largest grassroots collaboration in theater history.
We can write scenarios depicting the often traumatic life of underpaid, overworked and highly stressed police? Could our writing provide a forum to help police process and thereby better cope with their unenviable role? Can we enlist officers, among who are also able and kind people, to participate in grassroots role-playing theater? It has been shown that involvement in drama, including role-play, can have a vastly therapeutic effect. Funding must be found for such creative projects.
If Suzan-Lori Parks can write one complete short play every day for a year surely we can write scripts aiming to enhance lives by treating the underlying aggression expressed by many of the police. Theater can provide a forum for rectifying an underlying lack of tools. Drama is a means to alter the equation in which anger breeds violence breeds anger breeds violence.
Creative programs could contribute to softening the scream of outrage at violence. Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munchin 1893 painted the agonized face that has become one of the most iconic images of art. Seen as symbolizing the anxiety of the human condition, it is called simply, The Scream. 
Let us not continue to helplessly scream. Let there instead be action to assuage feelings of helplessness and burning anger within at the injustices experienced.
The writer, a PhD psychotherapist, is founder of the Shalshelet Enhancing Relationships Center, Jerusalem. Email: