Welcome to a brave new year. Why you might ask?
Each new year comes with new promises. Promises to the ones we love, promises to ourselves and promises to be the better human being than we were the year before. While we may fall short on some of our plans and our expectations of a new beginning; there are other resolutions that we can, or must uphold.
During the past few weeks, I’ve had the luxury of some time off in my work schedule. This allowed me to relax and unwind and truly enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s hectic pace without becoming truly frazzled. While comfortably ensconced in house and home, I curled up with my Kobo ereader for some quality reading time. While my choice of books is not for the faint of heart, I’ve always thought it important to speak about the unspeakable and touch on the untouchable. For these were not a choice of light and heartwarming books as I find them somewhat akin to fluff. Fluff, has it’s place in time I suppose, however it’s not the most popular book choice for me. My choice are books about the human condition, the ones that make you think, the ones that make you cry out with indignation. Those are the books that make me ponder about life and wonder about man against man and nature vs nurture.
While the carols took over the airwaves and the lights of Christmas were twinkling, I was held in the grips of Gary Ridgeway and raged about the injustice of his victims in a book written by Ann Rule. I was also, for a time, on the pig farm as Picton savaged his drug-addicted victims. The terrible, terrible truths of the last hours of these women were a gut-wrenching way to spend the time of year when warm and fuzzy feelings are afoot. This was not to be light reading, nor was it picked up with that thought. In fact having finished the last of these books over a week ago, I still find myself slipping back to the horrors and the atrocities. It’s hard to shake it loose. Maybe it shouldn’t be shook loose. Staying aware and not afraid to speak of the forgotten devastation that was once visited on these lonely, abandoned-by-society women, is important to me. They need many voices that never let the world forget that they were once someone’s daughter, mother, grandchild, aunt; that they were loved, truly loved. The tragedy is that as the ages pass, so does the horror. And it shouldn’t pass.
From the bungled police investigations to the disposable lives of over 120 women in Washington and British Columbia; the significance of this never ceases to trouble me. Primarily due to the fact that both of these killers would no doubt have been captured long before had these women been of the so called working class as opposed to the ‘working girl’ class. While, I understand in some small way, the risky lifestyle of these women and the choices that they made, it doesn’t diminish the fact that they were human beings. Important to someone. They became the garbage that was dumped in woodlots or disposed of in other horrific ways. The common thinking is often that these women were a product of their environment. That they came from the lower dregs of society. The truth of the matter is that the majority were raised in homes where they were loved, some were well-educated. Many were brought into new homes which were good and loving homes. The subsequent choices; meeting the boyfriends who were users, victims being prone to low self-esteem, – these factors all contributed to the vicious cycle of selling themselves to support their drug habits and as a result put them in harms way. In a nutshell, it could be any daughter taking a mis-step in life but not feeling like they have a choice to turn their life around. Most of us are lucky, our kids are raised with choices, sometimes too many, but they have choices. Do they always make the right one? No! Do they deserve to fall prey to someone who removes the possibility for them to get a second-chance. NO! For this, the murdered prostitutes already paying dearly, paid once and for all with their lives.
I find in our lives, we get a kind of shell around us all. I’m guilty, everyone is. We’ve got this little teflon-coated shield that we put up whenever times are tough, too tough to worry about other people’s problems when we’ve got enough of our own. But the truth of the matter, is that by being a voice for others, it makes you take down that shield and cast the light back on yourself and your thoughts. For that moment in time, our feelings are pure and virtuous. The pettiness and insecurities of everyday life somehow seems very insignificant. The raw human element needs to be held up and examined for we are all too comfortable in our own little suburban homesteads doing our daily mundane things. It’s too pat an answer to say, what’s done is done. I’ve never been a good example of someone who can just forget something and move on…I can move on, but I never forget the things that matter most to me. Human beings who deserve better, but no longer have a voice, always get my attention. It’s just in my nature I guess.
Let’s have some statistics now, to put it all in proportion shall we? Ridgeway was charged and found guilty of 49 murders. In subsequent years, it was determined that he murdered at least double that number. Indeed Ridgeway had led the police to numerous “cluster” disposal sites actually lost track of the numbers and where he disposed of others. He claimed “killing was his profession”. Robert Picton was convicted of six murders, charged with another 20 and confessed to a planted cell-mate of killing 49 prostitutes. He bragged that he wanted to make it an “even 50” but he got arrested instead. His grotesque means of disposal and in-fighting between the police and their various departments no doubt meant the impossibility of justice for the remainder of his victims. Unfortunate, but how many times can a man be charged and not have it be redundant.
In the end, the only thing that we can do is to make sure that the ghosts of these womens’ voices are not silenced through the passage of time. We are living in troubled times, this wonderful brave new year.
Our voices are necessary. Our compassion for others needs to be non-negotiable. Our involvement ever passionate.