As violence increases in movies and TV, it continues to increase in our lives as well.
I have been watching The Walking Dead for the past two seasons. During that time there have not been too many characters that I have grown fond of. As the Apocalypse progresses the characters are evolving to be less compassionate, less vulnerable, and less human. They are not very lovable.
Even Rick and Darryl, both initially good men, have changed because of the violent callousness they are forced to embody in order to survive.
Hope for humanity is left to the next generation, the children, who have been shielded and protected from most of the violence and for the most part have not had to participate in the killing of walkers or corrupt humans. Beth is one of these.
After she is rescued from the safe house where she was staying with Darryl, she is taken to a hospital in Atlanta. She continues to have some hope but finds herself imprisoned by the law enforcement officers, led by Dawn Lerner, who run the hospital. In the process of earning her keep by working in the hospital, she is put in two situations that force her to kill law officers. By the final episode of the season Beth realizes that she was set up to make these killings by Dawn so that she could get rid of potentially subversive officers without culpability.
Beth has struggled to stay positive throughout the series, even making a suicide attempt in episode 2.
She seems to have lost hope completely by the mid-season finale episode. She sits in the broken elevator shaft staring longingly down, remembering her escape attempt with Noah.
“Are you gonna jump?” Dawn asks her.
Maybe Beth is contemplating a more permanent escape. She does voice her hopelessness to Dawn:
“You… You keep telling yourself you have to do whatever it takes just until this is all over. But it isn’t over, this is it. This is who you are and what this place is until the end.”
Beth shows that in spite of it all, she has not lost her compassion or her humanity. She fights for Carol when Dawn orders her life support machines be turned off and steals medicine in order to keep her alive.
Her final act of humanity is to kill Dawn to save Noah from imprisonment in the hospital. Did she know this would be at the cost of her life? It is hard to say, but I don’t think she would regret her decision either way.
She died with her humanity intact because she was willing to risk her life to end Dawn’s cruel reign of terror and save Noah. As the Good Book says :
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Maybe Beth’s sacrifice will be the conduit to break the hardened hearts of the other characters, so that it will serve a higher purpose as the story unfolds.
As art imitates life, I can reflect on the violence and mayhem that one young man’s death has perpetrated in Ferguson, Missouri and throughout the U.S. Are we as a nation losing our humanity, our love, and our compassion? Are we unable to forgive and:
never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.?
I am reminded of the words of another young black man:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
May we as a nation return from darkness to light, from hate to love. May we live and die with our humanity intact.
Rest in Peace Michael and Beth.