One of my favorite western movies is High Noon with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelley. It is loosely based on the short story, The Tin Star, by John Cunningham. The dilemma of that movie is a similar dilemma in many romantic suspense novels. That is: What do you give up to get the bad guy? What do you give up to protect someone else? And when one participates in violence—even to protect self or others—does it have a long term effect on one’s psyche or one’s soul?
Throughout human history, violence has been a part of most people lives in some way. Whether because of wars or criminal activity, no one escapes violence completely. In our own home this was driven home by our oldest son who did two tours in Iraq as a Marine, and our youngest son who is a police officer. My husband served in Senegal and Rwanda when he was with the State Department, and every time we hear about wars and genocide in Africa he wonders if those families he knew are safe.
All the romantic suspense novels I’ve read have some element of violence in them. I love reading romantic suspense, yet I personally abhor violence. I think I love seeing the bad guy get his comeuppance. On the other hand, the thought of me personally killing someone—even in self-defense—is truly frightening. How do we reconcile the opposing ideals of a hate for violence with a desire to protect those we love and to see justice done?
I don’t have answers to the questions. It is a struggle I may never completely resolve. These are important questions which shape politics, religion, and our daily lives. I think it is important to realize that our heroes—military personnel, police officers, firemen, doctors—face these questions all the time. Though we may hail them for their bravery and their courage, we need to also remember they are human with human fears, human responses, and the same moral dilemmas. We need to listen and help uphold their psyches and their souls.
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