“Bullet in My Neck” Response Essay
It is not easy to get over the trauma of being shot, let alone to forgive the person who is responsible for the shooting. It also depends on the situation in which one is in, in that moment and how he/ she gets out of it. In the case of Gerald Stern, a poet on his way to a conference, he and his companion Rosalind Pace were cornered and shot at while stopped at a red light for no apparent reason. Although most of the shots were misfired, Stern took on to his neck. Injured, Stern and Pace managed to drive away from the scene and drove around, lost with no help, eventually finding himself at the entrance of a hospital where he and Pace were attended to. In his essay, “Bullet in My Neck,” Stern describes both his and Pace’s emotional responses: where Pace was shocked, in disbelief, and frightened, later filled with anger and sorrow, Stern was also in disbelief and frightened, but mostly in grief. In his essay, Stern makes the claim that it is best to move on from trauma and to forgive the person who has wronged you. Although I agree that to move on and forgive is best, I also believe it the circumstances of the situation should be given weight when determining how much one should forgive/forget. After being in the hospital for a day and a half, Stern still went to his conference. He got his appearance for the conference rescheduled just so he could show up and be there. He didn’t want the shooting coming in the way of his life’s work. Stern says, “I didn’t care, as such, for the conference itself, nor for the measly bucks they were probably going to give me; what I cared about was being there, going back to my life, not letting the shooting defeat me”. He felt that it was very important for him to still go to the conference and read and talk. Continuing on was so important to him even though his neck was three different colors with a bullet in it and he was bloody and he looked and felt ill. He did not want to let what happened to him stop the events in his life. Stern did not want to let the shooting slow him down or break him in anyway. He wanted to keep moving on and not let the fact that he got shot bring him down. It is really important to move on from trauma because if you stay traumatized it will do you no good. All it will do is hold you back and keep you in fear. Compared to Stern, Pace was very angry and that held her back from moving on whereas stern did not want the shooting defeating him so he wanted to move on and still go to that conference to feel like he has not been overpowered by his situation.
Although full of grief, Stern was more positive about the shooting and less angry because he was grateful to still be alive. Stern confirms, “If anything, I felt lucky. The bullet didn’t kill me, the gun on her side misfired.” He was exceedingly miserable because he wondered as to how someone can do such a thing to another human being. He was heartbroken by all the malice in the world to drive someone to do such a thing. There were a lot of shots that were misfired that did not kill either one of them. If he wanted he could have thought of the whole situation in a negative way. For example, Pace was in shock and was traumatized and angry at the shooters. She was in pain and angry and screamed for two hours because she was taking everything in a negative way. If she had thought about the situation as Stern did, she would have been at peace with herself and those boys. Stern was looking at the bright side of things. He felt extremely lucky for escaping the way he did and surviving. Stern explains how it took him two to three months to recover and that he was sleeping more than he usually did. He also explains that he was exhausted all the time and that the physical pain was more than he had expected it to be. Stern was also more accepting because he had grown up in a brutal time and city. Having grown up in rough circumstances himself, Stern was no stranger to street violence, and so was able to be positive about being alive. If I were in his place, I would be exceedingly gloomy because I would also think about how anyone can do this to another person. Even as someone who just read about the incident through his essay, I still wonder how anyone could do such a thing and how anyone can harm another person to that extent, to the extent of almost causing the person to die.
Stern came to a realization that he would not get anything out of this situation if he was angry and did not forgive the two young boys. Stern expresses, “And I want to remember how small was my brief “suffering” compared to thousands of others’, what cruelty, absurdity, insanity, maliciousness they were forced to experience, how the lamb itself was twisted and pulled in a thousand ways, how it wept for itself at last, just as it wept for others – and continues to do so”. He knew if he did not act towards the situation like he did, if he had not taken the whole situation so calmly, the only person it would be affecting would be himself. He also thought of all the things those two boys had gone through to become the way that they are. How did his suffering compare to theirs? He had suffered for a couple of months and recovered but he wondered how much longer they probably had to suffer and if they ever recovered from their situation which to him was worse than his. He wished that they are doing well and were all right. He also knew that they were not bad people although what they did was undeserved. In order for Stern to move on, he had to forgive them for their actions. Considering that the young boys might not have been in the right situation themselves.
Getting over such a trauma and forgiving the person who has caused you such pain is easy for some. For Pace it was harder to get over her trauma but for Stern it was easier because he was more accepting of the situation. After reading this essay if I were to be in Stern’s place I would do the same. I would be angry and scared at first but I would also know that holding onto something like this would only cause me pain and hold me back and no one else. From personal experience I feel this is very true because people can be extremely cruel and malicious but that does not always make them atrocious people. They might be going through their own problems, which are causing them to act the way they are. Like Stern mentions, “Sometimes the brutalized is brutal, the oppressed is oppressor.” Sometimes what people are going through can cause them to treat others the same or even worse to make themselves feel like they are in a better place or to make themselves feel superior in another place to make themselves feel better about what is going on with them/ in their lives. Doing the same to others as what is being done with one makes one feel better about themselves. Holding onto those bad feeling will only make you feel worse and kill you more and more each day.
For example, Pace, being angry only drained her energy and hurt her and put her in fear even more than she already was hurting and in fear. Holding on to the past only prevents one from moving onto the future because although time is passing on your mind and thoughts are always on what has happened in the past events of your life and thinking about past events only brings stress, pain , fear and regret into your life. Knowing this, Stern did not want to be held back. He wanted to forgive and move on with his work and life.