Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Wonderful Story by Dick Cavett About Fighting

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.


  1. You know my stories from past posts. I've never shot anyone yet, though I'd have been legally justified in doing so on multiple occasions, and I've thrown only the punches I absolutely had to throw. That's the way I was raised.

    Grew up where everybody was armed and yet the arms never came out and fights, when they happened, were still settled by fists.

    "Treat others as you wish to be treated but if they attack you make sure you WIN."

    I think the problem is that today's kids can't tell the difference between Grand Theft Auto and REAL LIFE.

    Once again:

  2. More grist for the brain mill.

  3. Mike,

    I am not sure how old you are, I'm in my mid-40s. I grew up a military brat, so my perspective may be a little different then the others.

    Because of several issues, I grew up fighting but most of the fights were school yard bouts. There was some pushing and shoving, but fists flew quite often. Guns and knives weren't ever a part of the fights, until high school in the 80s.
    It wasn't because there weren't any guns or knives, everyone carried a knife in those days. Everyone's dad had a least 1 firearm, often a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle or more. We knew it wasn't worth our lives to touch them. No matter what.

    I think the trend I've seen is that we don't have dads, grand dads, uncles, etc teaching what it means to stand up for yourself. So, kids learn from TV, from the hoodlums down the street. When we fought, there was a parent there to ask why. If we didn't have a good reason; protecting sister, being bullied, etc; not only did we get in trouble with the school but our parents. We learned what reasons are worth fighting for, from our parents mostly the male folks.

    I was the skinny, white, new guy with a speech impediment. Trust me, we've always had bullies. We will always have bullies. The bullies didn't learn the important lesson "might doesn't make right". I never got in trouble for fighting if, IF I was fighting for the right reason. Bullies learned that others would knuckle under if threatened or beaten and no one discouraged that. Several fights, in school resulted in no discipline for me because I stood up to bullies. Can you imagine the same thing in today's schools?
    Both kids are suspended, both kids are reported to the police - usually called a school resource officer and often charges filed. What lesson do kids learn when they are charged with assault for standing up to a bully?

    I agree with your sentiment about teaching our youths (by the way, check out how many girl fights and how vicious). Of course, that teaching requires parents that have learned it, doesn't it?

    I see way too many kids who think they have to fight if anyone disses them or doesn't show the proper respect. Read the accounts of why most gang killings happen.

    Of course, I can't let it go without some pro-gun sentiment :)
    I agree with
    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.

    That I agree, I want to have the option of balancing my response to the threat....since many threats are now days armed, shouldn't everyone be able to carry if they choose?

  4. As the young'un of the group (Maybe somebody is younger than 29 here) I grew up in the "Zero Tolerance" (Read: Zero Intelligence) School system. There were still fights, and the School did almost nothing to enforce the rules. There were no "Weapons" allowed (a small Swiss army knife was enough to get you suspended) still there were plenty of weapons around, one of my friends kept a trench-style knife hidden in his backpack...not for a weapon, but just because it was cool...he also brought a cheap Katana in his bag once. He wasn't a trouble-maker as much as a rebel who wanted to push the rules.

    I've heard people who are closer to your age talk about the days of fighting, or of kids my age from more rural schools slower to adopt the news regulations. Honestly I don't see a huge difference. One just had more bloody noses, neither had shootings or murder. Also none prevent the small kid with mental problems from going off the deep end, as he can't do anything different if he's allowed to throw a punch or not, as he's weaker.

    So that's probably where I learned my non-violent stance on life. I learned I could win a LOT more "Fights" with my mind than my fists, and get in virtually no trouble for it (and better yet, get THEM in trouble if I could get a guy to hit me in front of a teacher).

    Of course I'm non-violent, but I'm far from a pacifist. An old saying goes "Never Pick a fight with an old man. He can't win in a fight, so he'll just kill you."

    That may not make sense at first, but its a great adage. The bottom line is I don't have a desire to fight, and I really haven't bothered much to hone the skills of it. I do my best to avoid physical confrontation, but if confrontation comes to me and I can't avoid it I will strike a quick and decisive blow.

    I could give two shits if some knuckle dragger wants to call me names. I could care less if they think I'm a coward for walking away from a machismo challenge. But if I'm under an attack I can't easily fend off, then the gloves are off and I will strike with my all until the threat is gone.

    So a nice article, but I don't agree with the scope of it.

  5. Mike,

    I've talked before about why I want to carry. Here is a great example

    NEW YORK --
    A man has been arrested in Queens, facing charges he killed another man by punching him in the face with extreme force.

    The 66-year-old victim, Nick Nowillo, was allegedly escorting a neighborhood woman home on Cresent Avenue in Long Island City late Wednesday. The woman told police she had asked for the help because the suspect, who has not been identified, was seen in the street acting strangely.

    At some point Nowillo was confronted by his accused attacker and was hit several times, including with a powerful punch to the face, police said. He collapsed to the ground and died at Astoria General Hospital a short time later.

    Charges are pending against the suspect.

    Neighbors describe Nowillo as a leader in the area.

    It's not the odds of something like this happening, its the stakes if it does.

  6. 'It's not the odds of something like this happening, its the stakes if it does."

    +1 to that! It takes 3 mins longer into my morning routine to load up my gun and stick it in my pocket. The old joke: "Its not that life is too short, its that you're dead for so long!"

    This is the report that comes to my mind when thinking about this:

    5 WOMEN, shot at a Lane Bryant! (A store for plus-sized women for those abroad) in the middle of the day, and in Chicago where guns are essentially banned.

    That spearheads it whenever I think: "Well it isn't dangerous here"

    Honestly most places aren't dangerous...but for a short moment ANYPLACE can become VERY dangerous, and if you aren't prepared the consequences can be grave.