Saturday, June 29, 2013

Good Guy Bad Guy

I just returned from attending another conference, and this one was focused almost exclusively on child abuse and maltreatment. It took place in Las Vegas. Let me just say that a conference with a focus on such difficult and heart wrenching topics really needs to be in a place where people can escape for some quiet time. Vegas is not that place. They blast music onto the streets. There were so many people we had to wait in line to get out of the Bellagio. It was an incredible conference, but I’m happy to be home!

On the last day of the conference, I attended a 3-hour presentation on child sex trafficking. Of course, as the speaker reminded us, we should really be calling it child prostitution. That is what it is. Trafficking sounds less bad, but it’s child prostitution, and yes it happens in the United States. And there is nothing ok about child prostitution. But something struck me during the presentation that made my yoga mind hesitate.

The speaker continuously referred to the perpetrators as bad guys. He often referred to himself as the good guy.

I want to reiterate that I find nothing good about child prostitution. But I also cannot wrap my head around this good guy vs. bad guy scenario. We all know it is child abusers who get treated the worst in prisons. There is something different about child abuse, particularly about child sexual abuse, than just about any other crime.

I have written about this issue before – “When we Dehumanize the Dehumanizer.” That post was also written after attending a conference about child abuse (a different conference, but both were great). And 1.5 years later I still find myself struggling with this issue. I still cannot find myself buying into the good guy vs. bad guy mentality.

Last time I mentioned Gandhi’s quote, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” But I think there is more to it than that, something deeper and more profound. We are all connected. I have known this my entire life. It was not until I started doing yoga, however, that I realized there were other people who realized it as well. Thus, if I consider someone else a bad guy, what does that make my connection to him or her? Because whether I like it or not, I am connected to that person even if we are never in the same room.

I still think we do better by addressing the actions as the problem rather than the person as the problem. We may be able to make the actions stop. But if instead we speak ill of people, then we begin to say there are people who are less than. That is dangerous because it has no end. At what point does our judgment stop? Perhaps child sexual abuse is the “easy” example, but if we start there, where does it stop?

I still do not have the complete answers to this. I struggle with seeing the way humans treat other humans, whether as child abuse, war, or bigotry. It hurts to see on any level. But I wonder whether we accomplish any good, or whether we create far more harm, when we talk about good guys and bad guys.

When I was a camp counselor many years ago, I remember in our training on discipline, we were told never to tell a child he or she was bad. We could say the action was not right or even bad, but the child never was. I know there are a lot of people who think that sort of parenting/discipline is not strong enough, but I can say I never had to call parents on my campers. It worked. I do not know if it works everywhere, but it worked for me there. I see no difference with any action, no matter how abhorrent.

And now, because of my yoga training, I can understand why. As soon as I begin to judge others, I judge myself. We are deeply connected, and whatever I say and do will definitely come back.

What do you think? Do you talk about people as good or bad? What are the repercussions if we do?


© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.
The post, Good Guy Bad Guy, first appeared on Is Yoga Legal.

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