The term “raising Cain” is a figure of speech (idiom) used to reference a person’s behavior most often being disruptive, rowdy or creating an uproar. Its origins come from the Bible story (Genesis 4) about Cain who was the first murderer, according to scripture, killing his own brother Abel after God accepts his brother’s offerings and not his. It was a deliberate act of jealous rage resulting in Cain being cursed by God.
I first heard this figure of speech when my southern grandmother was referring to the behavior of my late grandfather. He would occasionally drink a beer after a long day at work but she did not like it. Grandma would agitate him for some reason or another (my prying young ears and mind could not discern all the facts) until he finally started mumbling and defending himself. As Grandpa paced the room, black eyes piecing as he cursed, my grandmother would start singing gospel songs. She’d tell him to stop “raising Cain” and leave her alone. These arguments wouldn’t last long because he’d eventually walk away to the front porch or sit outside nursing his beer – – and his head – – still muttering about the encounter. Even back then, I never sided with my Grandma. I always sympathized when someone was being unfairly aggravated feeling an alliance for justice. My Grandpa’s righteous indignation was warranted during those arguments even though I also heard through family lore that they had a early complicated, abusive marriage so perhaps she had reason to get him back – – so to speak.
For one to “raise Cain” in today’s environment is still needed when injustice occurs whenever and wherever we see it. Crimes against humanity are not okay but acts of rebellion and courage (small or big, profound or personal) are still warranted when you hear that small voice of angry conscience.
Do you act or not?
Do you speak or not?
Do you fight or not?
Do you forgive or not?
Do you love or not?
As we lose many courageous voices of conscience, let’s not forget the important role the tragic Cain symbolic figure can play in calling out inequality and injustice. They might appear to be trouble-makers, difficult or unruly at first but beneath it all, there is always a hidden truthful dynamic or flaw we need to investigate, address and change. In fact, these rebels often unveil our hypocrisies and just how complicated relationships can be especially since no one is necessarily, completely innocent. They also remind us that we may not be the final judge.
So, what would Kane do now? He would raise questions and expose inaccuracies to trigger each one of us to look inward and at each other along with our country and world much more thoroughly than we ever did before. Perhaps, we will finally be able to answer the million dollar question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”