On Violence

I wrote a draft of this when The Dumpster had his rally in Chicago, then lost my note pad – and still can’t find it. But this is my attempt to understand the violence in America that this election seems to be raising. And while my examples are physical violence, please don’t ever forget words.

I remember coming home from playing contract bridge and turning on the TV. What came on shocked me – it was the 1968 Democratic convention, or rather, the violence that was taking place on the streets of Chicago. It shook me to my core and I never played bridge again. Why not? Because that kind of violence just didn’t happen on the streets of America, not with protesters, not with kids who were being beaten to a bloody pulp by Chicago cops. And then, there were the Days of Rage a few years later. I responded the same way, sick in my heart and stomach. I witnessed a fist fight outside a bar across the street one spring morning at around 4:00 a.m. The guys pummeled one another until the cops finally got there.

I have a deep-seated abhorrence of violence.

But more than that, I wonder what the hell we’re so angry about. As a country, we seem to be uninterested in civility. And I have to believe it’s because we’ve become convinced that the pie is shrinking – the pie we’re supposed to have a share of. Something like “I won’t get a share of the pie, therefore I’m willing to take yours!” I don’t mean to over-simplify or to reduce everyone’s anger and rage to one simple motivation. But sometimes, it’s hard not to. So, who’s shrinking the pie? All of those “Others.”

If it appears that you’re different from me, well hell, I don’t have to try to understand you, much less try to walk in your shoes. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mexican or Syrian or African-American or straight. Why the hell should I try to understand why some women are attracted to men? It’s just so repulsive that I don’t even want to think about it! Ah . . . get my point? I’ve worked with plenty Hispanics, both in New Mexico and when I returned to Indiana and have always been struck by how willing they were to pitch in and help whoever needed help – even this Anglo chica. I’ve known Muslims for years and though I don’t share their belief, I’ve always tried to honor it because if I didn’t, why would they honor mine?

Perhaps I’m mellowing in my old age, but the last time I felt real anger (besides watching the televised debates) was at a Mom who was beating her little girl. Then I reigned in my temper and asked her what I could do to help her. “Just mind your own fucking business,” she said. “No,” I responded, “I mean how can I help? What can I do to entertain your daughter while you’re shopping?” She gave me a long look, then nodded. “She’s been a real bitch today. Just take her for now and I’ll meet you at check-out in fifteen minutes.” She took off with her cart and didn’t look back. Well, little Laurie and I had a good time for the next half hour. And yes, the woman did find me and thanked me for taking care of her little girl. And yes, I was appalled that this Mom would leave her child in the care of a stranger. Guess I have an honest face.

See, I don’t like violence. Never have, never will. There’s so much rage in the atmosphere, it’s hard to defuse. Sometimes I try a rational exchange, sometimes I walk away. But the point here is: peace begins within each of us, no matter how deep we have to dig. That’s all I have to offer, folks. Dig deep, try to understand the fear beneath the rage and most of all, be kind. I’m praying that when I turn on the TV November 9th, I won’t see something like 1968. We won’t see violence, nor hear it. We all owe it to our country to keep the peace.

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