The New York Times published a beautiful story by Dick Cavett. I'm not quite as old as Dick, nor quite as young as some of our frequent commenters, but the story really brought me back.
What passed as a fight in those days, even among the big guys, bore no resemblance to a fight now. There were no knives, chains, brass knuckles, blackjacks, saps, clubs . . . none of the current props employed in performing what was once termed, among gentlemen, “fisticuffs.”
And there were no guns. Guns were things you knew from the movies, unless dad was a hunter. I didn’t know anyone who’d ever seen a handgun except on police. In that innocent time, could you even imagine a day when you could get shot dead in a dispute over a parking place?
Comment number 107 by a man named Beer Belly Buddah, really got me thinking.
The situation we find ourselves in now, wanting to arm the teachers, wanting to go around armed ourselves, wanting, I suppose, to be prepared for violence, may have had its genesis in the days described by Mr. Cavett and Mr. Buddah. Back then, and perhaps it even predates the 40s and 50s and 60s, boys were taught to fight back, to defend themselves against bullies. We even heard it from Joe Biden the other night at the Democratic National Convention when he proudly thanked his mother for teaching him these manly lessons.
One thing I'm wondering is where are all these bullies coming from? Are they not a product of these very same lessons? I can understand that our dads taught us to fight back and we taught our sons the same thing, but who are we doing all this fighting against? And when does it end?
Another thing I'm wondering is why has the violence level escalated so much. Dick Cavett said there's "no resemblance." In some of our other discussions we've said that there's no such thing as turning the world safe again because it never was safe. But, we've also said that when some of us were young, like Cavett and Buddah, things were a lot different. Why is that? Did it start back in those simpler days in the school yards of America where boys were taught, "be a man?" I think maybe it did.
I say we teach a different lesson to our kids: violence is not the answer. At best it'll work in the immediate short-range, but over time it begets only more and greater violence. I say, we've got to teach our boy children a different definition of manhood. A man is one who can get along with his neighbors as well as his family members. We teach this first by example. I believe if we teach our boys that it's normal and healthy to be afraid in certain situations we can then teach them that they need not be paralyzed by that fear, that when necessary they can fight back, but only as a last resort. Once those lessons have been grooved, we can say with Mr. Buddha:
The only answer I have ever been able to offer is let no man bully you — but balance your response to the threat at hand.
We'd like to hear your opinion. Feel free to leave a comment.