Sunday, April 06, 2003

I've heard strange, violent stories today.

When my mother was a little kid, her older brother tried to chop off her thumb with a hatchet for taking one of his biscuits. Another time, he shot her in the head with a bb gun. For fun, I assume, that time.

When my brother Brett was a kid, my other brother Tony used to beat him up with a whiffle bat, among other things. Once Tony even picked Brett up when he was only a toddler or so, and launched him across the kitchen. It ended in Brett's head getting sliced, in a scar you can still see today, on a sharp protruding piece of metal on the dish washer.

The fights between my sister Denise and brother Tony are legendary. In one story, my sister actually got my brother down on the floor, and took his head and repeatedly smashed it against an ajar sort of door. Blood was everywhere.

There's a story about the time my sister Denise didn't tell mom she got in trouble at school and needed her detention slip signed until right before the bus arrived the next morning. Denise had expected mom to let her off the hook because of the late hour. But instead my mom chased her out the door with a belt, and Denise caught it in front of a whole busload of kids.

My nephew and niece Robbie and Jessie talk in their sleep incessantly. Their dad is the epitome of asshole. So one night, when they were still quite small, he heard the kids talking in their sleep and assumed they were up messing around. So he took a belt in, jerked them out of their sleep, and whaled the hell out of them for not going to bed.

When my Grandpa Moses was a little boy, my great-grandfather Jerry smashed him the head with a hammer for not handing him a nail fast enough.

Only last Summer, my niece Brianne's father slammed her head through a wall, in a drunken rage.

I don't know why I'm fixating on these stories tonight. They're so desperately violent. And they're such a part of me. I remember when Robbie and I were little, we picked switches off the willow tree, and would chase each other around with them. I remember being afraid to hit him very hard, but he never shared my concern. The pain of being smacked with one of those nasty branches mattered less to him, than the joy of laying a good hit down on me. I didn't understand it at the time; but the memory has bothered me for years. Pain has always meant something different to me than to almost anyone else in my family.

I don't believe in spanking children. I've shot disapproving looks at friends who I've seen spank their kids/cousins/nephews and nieces in front of me. They laugh at me for it. But I can't help but fear violence, having seen everything in life that I've seen. A "tap" they say. But I've heard my nephew and niece's father justify his use of the belt that way. I can hear grandpa Jerry explaining that a boy needs discipline in response to any claim that he beat my grandfather. I know there's a difference between a literal tap, and a beating. But it seems that sometimes the lines get blurred; and there's no reason to try to tightrope walk a blurry line in my view.

Though I'm near pacifistic myself in practicality, it gives me some odd welling up of pride to be able to say that I've never lost a fight I've been in, and I've been in a few. I remember when my nephew Jimmy was maybe three, and I was four, I beat him at a game of PacMan and the kid lost it. He charged at me. And my mind went so oddly clear. It was if I had all the time in the world to make a plan of action. I saw him moving almost as if in slow motion, and I clearly and calmly reasoned to my four year old self, that I needed to use his momentum against him, though in simpler words. I could almost hear a voice in my head say: "Take his head, and slam it down against your knee." And as I saw him coming at me, I did just that. And he bled. And I was very pleased with myself, even as I stood in the corner as punishment for beating the child up. Which was unfair, considering that he attacked me.

And when I was in third grade, I got in a fight with a boy called Joey. He claimed credit for an idea that was mine, and I was mad over it. He made fun of me, and I got up in arms. As we stood by the monkey bars arguing, I heard the whole line of swings cheering. All of the boys were cheering for Joey; all of the girls, and my good friend Bill, cheered for me. A boy called Tim tried to intervene, and keep us apart, but I got a right hook in, that smacked Joey's head back into the monkey bars. He cried and ran away. I was insanely proud until the fear of getting in trouble for it set in.

As I write those words, I can't help but be proud of them. Even as a little girl, I managed to beat up boys. I could always hold my own, and that made me proud. But I fear violence, and I dislike it, and sincerely, I think it's a corrupting influence that can ruin lives. So I don't know how I manage to reconcile in myself that blood lust, and that joy over the spilling of blood, and my hatred of inflicting pain. Somehow I do.

I see it in the war now. I can't stand to hurt anyone; I don't even kill flies. And yet I can support a war that I know will end in military as well as civilian casualties. It seems we must fight; and yet, I can think of nothing so odious as fighting. It's desperation I think. Because nothing could be worse than the mass genocide which has already happened, and is happening.

I'm tired. Rambling. Fixated on violence.