Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Follow Up to a Dust Up

After being harassed by a small group of kids (late-late teens) doing the usual raising-money-for-our-school-team scam, I was surprised at how potentially violent it almost got - one of the kids actually smacked me. Well, really, it was more a little slap on the back. Which is no big deal on the face of it: people get touched involuntarily all the time in this city.

I have to fight against my tendency to catastrophize incidents. It may be just how I'm wired, but my brain tends to want to connect my experience to larger trends in the world. I had a small epiphany when I realized that my (very small) dustup occurred on the same day that presidential candidate and professional clownshoes Trump cancelled one of his rallies due to his "fear of violence" from protestors. We'll leave aside for the moment that the people most of us are afraid of attend his rally as supporters. Is there a change in the zeitgeist? Is a long suppressed violence rising up to once again pervade our culture? Are the black kids in New York City finally losing their cool over gentrification, inequality and racism, and taking matters into their own hands?

Nonsense. Honestly, that's crazy talk. The world is not becoming inherently more violent. Some days are tough for some people, they might have been going through stuff I don't know about, and if that's the worst thing that happens to me this week, I'm having a great life.

That being said, I was furiously angry, albeit about 5 minutes afterwards. It takes me a minute to realize exactly how I feel about a thing. Regardless, I spent most of the night forgiving them, which is an easy way of saying something very hard to do. The one thing I did think of that made me feel somewhat sympathetic towards them was, "God, kid. Don't touch a white man in public without his permission! What if somebody sees and calls the police? Suddenly you're on the ground in a chokehold and both our nights are ruined, mine because I've got to go down to the station and fill out a report, and yours because you might be dead. Get smart, man!"

I was still mad, but at something entirely different. They were a little hasty, a little stupid, but nobody deserved to go to jail, and for damn sure nobody deserved to end up dead. And yet, that had been a very real possibility for them if things had gone too far south.

It just put some things in perspective, is all.

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