As I slowly begin to press open the gate towards the 70th anniversary of my birth, there are many things about this life on earth that I don’t understand and violence is one of them.
Defined by Webster as: the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy, I have become all to aware of the results of violent acts. Everyone that was alive at the time remembers where they were when JFK was shot on that 23rd day of November 1963. And that morning of September 11th, 2001 is etched on our brains for all time. Just those two events alone changed the timeline of our lives in ways that can never be measured.
Historically speaking, violence has been around for a long time. Genesis 4:8 relates the story of Cain killing his brother Abel because he was angry at his brother. My memory of this story had Cain hitting Abel with a rock to the head but in reading that verse today, there is no mention as to the method Cain used.
Be that as it may, it seems that some of us are repelled by violence and others seem prone to it.
One of my first memories of violence was watching the Friday night fights at my grandparents house during one of my summertime visits. Generally the main event featured a white guy and a black guy duking it out until one of them was knocked out or was so badly beaten that the referee would call the fight off. I can still hear my very “old school” grandparents yelling at the top of their lungs for the one guy to beat the other and the racially charged words they used. I don’t have to tell you which guy they wanted to win.
Another form of violence is what we now call “bullying”. As a pre-teen in grade school I had a big mouth and very little control over it, which often precipitated trouble for me. As I only lived a block from school, when the current bully would follow me home after school in order to start a fight, I could quickly make it to my front yard and my mother’s protection without to much effort. She could be pretty intimidating when needed. I never considered myself a “sissy” but was just not prone to fighting.
Another memory of those formative years was being forced by the current bully to fight someone else who they had a problem with. Rather than stand up and punch it out, I took the other guy (even less prone than me to fight) to the ground and despite being told to hit the guy in the face, I would wrestle and maybe throw a few punches to the back of his head. I could only imagine what being hit in the face would feel like so I was not going to go there. I guess I proved myself that one time as I was never forced to fight again.
Back in the mid sixties and my high school days, Friday night football games were all the rage. I would not go so much for the football as to see and be seen by the girls in my class. We often had a lot of fun and I remember making my lip so sore blowing an old trumpet that the salty, after game french fries would puff up my lip like I’d been in a fight. And speaking of fights there was always this one guy wandering around the stadium, crew in tow, looking for someone to fight. During this era, there was at least two diverse groups of kids. One group was called the “greasers” and the other group the “frats”. I guess we all thought the greasers were destined for the trades after high school and the frats were destined for college and the big bucks blowing in the wind.
I don’t remember this particular guys name, but it seemed like he was always around football night and rumor had it that he had been kicked out of school a few years prior to my seeing him around. He was very handsome in a James Dean sort of way and kept a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his tea shirt sleeve. I remember that he had several scars on his rugged face and that the girls really seemed fond of him.
What I most remember thinking was that he seemed destined to end up someplace bad and that he also seemed to be locked into being something that his posse wanted him to be. It was almost like they pushed him into acting like the bad guy and their taste for violence was what motivated him and them. The rest of this historical story is kind of blurry but I hope you get my point. I moved to a different school and lost track of the rest.
Modern day examples of violence are typified by the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world who take advantage of women and men and seem to think they have earned the right to abuse and damage whomever they please. Just as I can’t fully comprehend violent people, I can’t imagine taking something from someone that is not freely given to me.
And though I hate to mention it, some of the modern day church has it’s own issues with control, manipulation and domination (forms of violence), not to mention sexual scandal.
I am not a pacifist by any means. I believe that there are just wars, etc. and would not hesitate to protect my family by whatever means necessary. I hope that never happens and really can’t say how I would react in that moment anyway. I remember that just before shooting my first deer, gun in hand and doe in sight, asking my self the very simple question as to whether or not I was capable of pulling the trigger and ending this animals life. It was a moment of hesitation that I will remember the rest of my life. As the animal hit the ground, I was thankful that it had provided my family with lots of meat. And as a friend of mine would later explain, the goal of conservation is to create a healthy environment for our wildlife to flourish and not overpopulate to their detriment.
At this point I can’t really recall what prompted this flight of words. More memories turned into stories I guess. And perhaps it is a ride that we can all relate to in some way.