Standing with the Other

Barrack Obama’s reception of the Nobel Peace Prize pleased, puzzled, and perturbed in equal measure yesterday.  I personally found it an interesting commentary on the state of peacemaking in our world when simple acts of willingness to talk with “the enemy” are considered an extreme, award-worthy stance.  Surely much more is needed in the violently interconnected world in which we find ourselves if we are to make stronger in-roads to peace.  Recently, I have been catching up on season two of HBO’s True Blood.  In the ninth episode, “I Will Rise Up,” we have a scene in which two potential enemies exhibit a much more powerful and peaceful approach to relationships with the other, a stance that might serve as a model for the ways in which we should live as well.

In the world of True Blood, Vampires have moved out of the coffin and  infiltrated popular culture.  This displeases a large part of society, especially a group of conservative, religious extremists, The Fellowship of the Sun.  In an attempt to make peace with the group, Godric (Allan Hyde), the Vampire Sheriff of the Bon Temps region gives himself over as a prisoner to the Fellowship.  Believing that he has been captured, his subjects rally to “save” him.  They do and in the process infuriate one of the more enthusiastic members of the Fellowship who then undertakes a suicide bombing of a gathering of Vampires.  It results in the death or injury of some vampires. To make amends, Godric sacrifices himself.  As he stands on the rooftop of a hotel awaiting the rising sun, one of his oldest subjects, Eric, weeps at his decision.  Godric commands him to leave, but Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a human with mind-reading capabilities, agrees to stay with Godric until the end.  Their exchange is especially poignant:

Sookie:  It wasn’t very smart, the Fellowship of the Sun part.

Godric:  I know…I thought it might fix everything somehow…but I don’t think like a vampire anymore.  Do you believe in God?

Sookie:  Yes.

Godric:  If you’re right, how will he punish me?

Sookie:  God doesn’t punish, God forgives.

Godric:  I don’t deserve it.  But I hope for it.

Sookie:  We all do.

Godric:  You will care for him?  Eric?

Sookie:  I’m not sure…you know how he is.

Godric:  I can take the blame for that too.

Sookie:  Maybe not…Eric’s pretty much himself.  Are you very afraid?

Godric:  No…no…I’m full of joy.

Sookie:  But the pain….

Godric:  I want to burn.

Sookie:  Well…I’m afraid for you.

Godric:  A human with me at the end?  And you in tears…2000 years…and I can still be surprised.  In this I see God.

Sookie:  Goodbye Godric.

Godric burns rapidly and expresses no pain.

Godric’s attempt to right relationships with his enemies and to sacrifice himself to make amends for his failed plan attest to a compassion  and emotional depth not evident in many of the human, and most religious, characters in the story, aside from Sookie.  Her willingness to stand with him until the end and to feel compassion for him, while disagreeing with his decisions, returns the favor so to speak. This final scene represents much more than a willingness to simply talk with the enemy…or the other.  It enacts a compassionate way forward to peace, at least for the two involved, that should model the ways in which all vampires and humans should treat each other…in the world of True Blood of course.

The featured video on the home page is of Lyle Lovett and His Large Band singing “I Will Rise Up” which plays during the closing credits of this episode.  You can also watch the scene below: