When I was a kid, the worst thing I had to worry about was getting punched. If I said or did something that angered another kid, I might have to run away before I got smacked in the jaw. When I was six, my father taught me how to throw a punch in case I had to defend myself, and it came in handy. I was walking home from school shortly after that lesson when a kid who lived on the block and was in my class came running out at me with a dog chain, swinging it at me. I remember ducking once, then smacking him as hard as I could in the mouth. He dropped the chain and ran into his house crying.
The only other time in my life that I have thrown a punch was at a good friend when I thought he was trying to run me over with a car that was not even running at the time. It was a rather lucky strike and yes, alcohol was involved.
But I can remember countless times in my youth where I thought I was going to get punched, whether I deserved it or not, and yet it never happened. However, the prospect of getting clocked with a fist helped me avoid many a distressful situation. In other words, I was a chicken.
I can't imagine what it would be like being an adolescent today, because it doesn't seem like anyone bothers to use a fist anymore.
I read a story in the Tribune a few days ago about two teenagers who were shot to death in an incident that resulted from someone insulting someone else's girlfriend. A guy got angry, left, and came back with a gun. The two teens he killed weren't even involved in the original altercation, they were just visiting with friends there.
And then there was this gem: a tailgate party at North Carolina State turns into a double murder. If you read the article, you find that the victims were not pleased with the way a man was driving his car in the lot where the tailgating was taking place, so they stopped him, got him out of the car, and beat him up. He returned later with a gun, and now the two are dead.
People aren't supposed to kill each other (yes, I am a genius...), but it happens. I seem to remember that murder usually occured over things like drugs, passion, large sums of money, or revenge. When I was a kid, if I heard a story of murder on the news or saw one on television (and man, now that I am grown, I am blown away by the amount of violence that I realized I saw on TV) it was because of something big.
Now it seems like when someone gets angry, they get a gun. There's so much anger involved in these two examples, but if I went back just a year, I could find so many more examples. It's all so insane. Anger just breeds more anger, until it is too late. Look at the tailgate party events; the two men got angry at the driver of the car, angry enough to pull him out of the car and beat him up, which angered the driver enough to arm himself and come back to kill two human beings. The result of uncontrolled anger is two people are gone forever, and one who is going to jail for the rest of his life. Think he won't think about it when he is rotting in a cell for fifty years, that he won't regret not being able to control his rage? I'm sure that if the two dead men knew what was going to happen to them, they'd have controlled their anger as well.
I was walking Wednesday afternoon to get a haircut when there was almost an accident in front of me. A woman was pulling out of an auto repair shop in her SUV and she cut off a pickup truck, who had to slam on his breaks to avoid the collision. From where I was, I could see that she had two small children in the back of her car, and that there were two fairly young men in the pickup truck. I could see that the woman was both horrified that she almost caused an accident and relieved that it did not happen. The driver of the car was enraged. He laid on his horn, then got out of his truck and started screaming obscenities at the woman. She drove away quickly. The driver of the pickup truck got back into his car and started to go after her, but after half a block I saw him turn away.
I'd like to think that cooler heads prevailed, but I am not so sure. I do know that as I saw this incident unfold, I was hoping that this woman would do what she did, drive away, instead of yelling back at him. I don't think I could have just stood there and watch this guy do something to her, I would have had to approach him and try to get him to calm down. These days, the thought of doing something like that makes me nervous. I dealt with so many situations like that when I worked in the city and always had the same goal, to get everyone to calm down before something really bad happened. I was fortunate that nothing ever did happen, but I can tell you that many, many times someone told me that they would be coming back to the store to "get someone." I'd tell them that I reported all threats to the police, and I did. And no one ever came back.
In retrospect, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk to the guy driving this pickup truck. I would have asked him just one question, a question I'd like to ask a lot of people these days:
"Dude, what can you possibly be so angry about?"