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Saga Volume 10: Can We Escape Violence?

violence

The story of Saga, as told by Brian K. Vaughan, and brought to life by the fantastic artwork of Fiona Staples, is a story about violence and its consequences. In its tenth volume, the story continues the story of the monsters that act in violence, and the kind people that seek to escape it like Hazel, her mother Alana, and her brother Squire. But can it be escaped? This is the question I was left with after reading this arc in Hazel’s story, 3 years after her family was broken, and 3 years after Saga went on hiatus. For conflict, as natural as it may be, is only something we learn from hate, or to protect ourselves from that hate. To unlearn hate and be kind is a difficult choice that is rarely respected by the monsters that seek to continue violence.

The Consequences of Violence

Something in the nature of brutality that has always terrified me is what it takes away from the people it affects. From their feelings to their identity, to the very things that make us human. For the monsters that commit acts of it – the enemy, the other – it means seeing their victims and those affected by it as something less than human. Something not deserving of mercy. People become “its” and “animals” to make brutality appear more justified. You would never wish harm upon another person, but an animal needs to be reminded of where it belongs.

Violence is a tool used by monsters to perpetrate the lies of superiority and inferiority to justify their learned hatred and treatment towards those they cannot see as human. And for the victims it is not just their identity as a person that is taken from them, but their feelings and emotions as well. Despite her parents’ best efforts, Hazel was still exposed to it at a young age and, now at 10 years old, has lost more than anyone, let alone a child, deserves.

Ever the resilient child, she does her best to just get on with it, but will still wake up most days not feeling most things besides hungry, angry, or sleepy. Violence will never be satisfied with the immediate toll it takes on a person, inflicting lingering effects on those hurt by it. And while the scars she is left with may heal over time, they are rarely ever forgotten.

The Same Thing That Has Always Kept People Alive

Although the consequences of past harm may be reconciled, the memory never fades, and forgiveness by one side does not always mean forgiveness by the other. Violence can be avoided, but can only be avoided for so long before the question of retaliation is raised, and whether there is justification to respond with the same hatred and malice. Yet, to respond in such a way will always be the easier choice, and will always encourage more of the same. The hard choice will always be the one with at least an element of kindness in it.

A choice that Hazel and her family find harder and harder to make as their old pursuers draw closer and new monsters emerge. The problem with some monsters is that not all wear their intentions proudly, hiding their true nature behind a friendly and sometimes familiar face. The violent actions of the people we trusted, family and friends, hurt the most because their actions are that much more harmful. They know how to hurt us. And this trust, once broken, is not so easily repaired.

And it is trust that keeps people looking to escape violence alive. Trust in one’s self, trust in some code, and most importantly, trust in one’s family, whether found or by blood. It is family with whom you share your most vulnerable and intimate moments with, your insecurities and weaknesses as well as your strengths and courage. And family is the one thing that remains consistent throughout Hazel’s life, helping her to grow into a kind person. It is what ultimately protects Hazel from physical harm, but it cannot help her escape the consequences of hate and what happens when it comes for her family.

And Then We Were Homeless

Saga, for all of its grand concepts and ideas, is ultimately Hazel’s story; from the moment of her birth to when she becomes homeless, to the time when she has grown old thanks to her family, something that not everybody does. Yet, throughout it all she is never truly bound to escape violence, losing many people in her life, including her family, to natural causes before she is even 10 years old. Though none of them died peacefully. Because of the idea she represents–being able to unlearn hate, she will always be a target for the monsters that seek to continue it.

She is given every reason to be cruel and vindictive, to choose it at every opportunity, yet she remains kind and will only resort to it when all other choices have been made. Despite all the things that have been taken from her, Hazel still makes the difficult choice to be kind to everyone she meets. Something that she learned through her father. It is not a choice everyone is willing to accept, but for those who can accept the choice, it will make all the difference. And perhaps if more people behaved like Hazel, with kindness, we can all escape violence together.

 

Cover: Aidan O’Reilly

Edited by: Patricia Beschea

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