Was There Another Way?

As we finished up the reading for Beloved in class, there was an almost overwhelming amount of content to discuss not only within the book, but outside the book as well.  One of the discussions that Dr.McCoy urged us to look into outside of class was about Bresha Meadows and Marissa Alexander.  Not being familiar with either of these names or the conversations taking place because of them, I decided to look into them in order to help aid our own conversations and discussions within the class and the blog.

Both Meadows and Alexander are victims of domestic violence, but at a glance it almost would not seem so because they are being charged with aggravated murder and aggravated assault respectively.  One would think that it would be the abuser, not the victim of domestic violence that would face charges this serious, but Meadows and Alexander seem to also be victims of their race in regarding these criminal charges.  Bresha Meadows, only 14 years old, is accused of murdering her allegedly abusive father and is awaiting the decision of whether or not she will be tried as juvenile or an adult for aggravated murder.  More can be read about her case here.  While on the other hand, Marissa Alexander was attempting to flee her abusive husband and fired one warning shot in order to scare him off (no one was injured), and now faces a minimum-maximum sentence of 20 years for aggravated assault which can be read about more here.

While looking up information on their cases, I couldn’t help but feel shocked and confused over what I was reading.  This confusion can even be seen in the titles of news articles, especially regarding Meadows’ case with lines, such as “Murder or self-defense?” or “Hero or Murderer?” It is shocking to say the least, to see these titles attached to a 14 year old girl.  Or to read about how the judge residing over Alexander’s case claimed that “Alexander’s decision to go back into the house was not consistent with someone in fear for her safety,” even though she felt that she could not re-enter the house without the safety of a gun with her.

Relating these current events to what we have read in class, both of these cases depict extreme ends of domestic violence and what someone will do when forced to protect themselves and no longer be the victim.  We have seen this depicted in Beloved as well, as Sethe felt that the only way to save her children from a life of slavery was to take their own lives, that way they would not be hurt by someone else.  More importantly than what she had done was what she claimed as she said, “Its my job to know what is and to keep them away from what is terrible.  I did that.” (194)  Similarly, Bresha’s attorney stated that “It was [shooting her father] the only way that she could defend her family from the man who abused them.” Here instead of killing her family to protect them, Bresha protected them from the abuser directly, just as Sethe attempts to do at the end of the novel when she lunges at Mr.Bodwin.  In Alexander’s case, her attorneys tried to use a state law that allows for the use of potentially deadly force anywhere they feel reasonably threatened with serious harm or death.  This again reinforces the idea of not knowing what someone will do when they are forced to protect themselves or others from impending violence and having the right to act within certain boundaries.

Just as with reading Beloved, I have a lot to take in and digest when it comes to the material presented.  These are not easy topics by any means and it is, dare I say, (im)possible to draw a line between right and wrong regarding these actions as a whole?  Who is to say what is right or wrong in situations where your own life or the lives of others hangs in the balance?  Paul D claims that, “There could have been a way. Some other way.” (194) but was this really the case for Sethe, Bresha, or Marissa?

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