Communion Of Dreams

“You think about those famous truths…”
October 16, 2009, 8:28 am
Filed under: Daily Kos, General Musings, movies, Society, Survival, Violence

It’s always dangerous to quote yourself. But I think this is worthwhile:

“You think about those famous truths in our culture-about a son’s coming to adulthood and seeking to avenge his father’s death. It’s been a recurring theme in Western culture for centuries. Look at Shakespeare. The first ‘Star Wars’ movie was largely that.

“One of my favorite movies is ‘The Princess Bride.’ There you have one of the main characters, Inigo Montoya, say, ‘You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ And that refrain plays out through the entire movie. It is interesting because one of the things that same character says in the movie is: ‘There’s not a lot of money in vengeance.’ That’s a very insightful thing. I could not have allowed that to twist my life, to give me that sort of single-minded determination, to seek revenge in one way or another.”

At the mid-century point of his life, the pain is still there.

“Talented authors can explore these themes, but I was actually faced with dealing with it. My father was murdered and the man who did it was sentenced to death for that crime. But his sentence was commuted to a life sentence without parole by the court in the mid-1970s,” reflects Downey.

“If I dwelled on who he was and what he had done, there would have been a lot of rage that would have been given personification. I really wanted to avoid dwelling on the negative things. This man is presumably still in prison. I have tried my absolute best to ignore him. By distancing myself that way, I don’t feel like I have to seek vengeance personally. But the thought still crosses my mind every time I watch a movie that has that theme, every time I read a book or watch a movie, or an officer dies,” he adds.

That’s from page three of an article in this month’s POLICE magazine, titled “What Happens to the Children of Fallen Officers”.

Trust me, that was not an easy interview to give.

I’ve written about this subject before, and mentioned it in passing. It’s obviously, and appropriately, been a major factor in my life – one which has never been far from my awareness.

It’s almost trite to say “we are defined by the choices we make rather than the experiences we have,” as if life were just simply a game of cards where you sought to win some small pot of money. I know hard choices. Choices that have to be made again, and again, and again, in the face of ongoing societal pressures pushing you to make different choices. And because I have had to face this, I am much less inclined to pass judgment on those who have chosen poorly. I know full well – as lucky as I have been to have a loving wife, a loving family, and friends who care deeply – I know full well how close I have come to making poor choices myself.

Rage and vengeance are part of our heritage, part of what makes us human, part of what has enabled us to survive. That cannot be denied. But they are less important than love and community – which have allowed us to start to build a civilization.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to Daily Kos.)

3 Comments so far
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It is odd that in the face of the same life altering experience, but at such a younger age, I have typically not been as forgiving of other’s choices in life as you. I typically tend to not understand when people use their experiences as a crutch to keep themselves down, when as you said, we have had to make hard choices time and again to rise above our own circumstances. Now as my life has once again thrown me a curve ball, I am trying to be a better person and be more forgiving of other’s choices, but I must admit it is difficult to not still feel the same old feelings that if I can rise above it, so can they.

This is one way in which we differ.


Comment by Celeste

Perhaps it is just because of our age difference, or perhaps it is because of the different societal expectations, but I know that the whole “avenge your father” thing has been a very difficult issue for me. And perhaps because I had to come to terms with that, and not give in to the rage and anger I felt, I have perhaps been closer to making poor choices than you ever were – and having been closer to that abyss, I am more understanding of those who fell into it.

Jim D.

Comment by James Downey

[…] of course, whom I have discussed previously in relation to my own […]

Pingback by I blame the Prednisone. « Communion Of Dreams

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