Violence is like tuna fish
I think that if two people or bodies come to physical violence, then their relationship has already irreparably broken down and they have crossed a point of no return. It is useless to talk of “mending” the relationship. Talk like that is off the mark, because it does not recognize things for what they really are. In many contemporary cultures it is common to hear people talk about “getting over” things in order to “move forward.” It frequently translates into betraying one’s professed principles in the service of some perceived greater principle - including simple pragmatism. I remember former U.S. President Bill Clinton often talked like that. But as I have written before, I think that if things have come to violence, then all the gloves are off, baby! A line has been crossed, and there is no going back like a dog to sniff its own vomit.
Violence is not like a box of cereal that you can open and pour out to taste the sweet, frosted flakes inside, and then close up again until the next time you want some. Instead, violence is more liked canned goods. Once you open the can you have to use/eat it all quickly. You get the whole can, not just a portion. Or, rather, the portion is the whole thing. And violence permeates its participants and its environment like the stink of tuna fish. It gets everywhere and affects everything. The smell of tobacco is like that, too. So I think it is impossible to pick and choose what kind(s) of violence one wants to engage in and how much of it you want. And I think it is inappropriate to talk about violence as if you could. Again, my position is that if you open that can then you get the whole thing, regardless of whether you have second thoughts about it afterwards.
Now here’s the thing that happened to me. On the canoe dock at the lake an acquaintance said, “Hey, Grant, let’s wrestle.” He was just joking around, of course. That person thinks I am too stiff and was playfully trying to test my reaction to an offer to loosen up. My reaction was something akin to a Cheshire cat smile, which is what he expected and what he wanted to test. I stood there looking at him with that vacant stare I have perfected, waiting to hear what was coming next out of his mouth. He did not ask me a direct question that I could answer, after all. Then he continued, “Oh, come on, Grant. What you need is a good wrestle. What would you do if I didwrestle you now and knocked you into the water?”
“Nothing. I would go back to my cabin and change into dry clothes. Then later tonight, when you are asleep, I would come to you with a kitchen knife and stab you about 69 times. Then I would kill your rabbit and your dog, and throw your bicycle into the canal. After that I would burn down your apartment building. And, on my next trip back to Canada I would search for your parents and burn their house to the ground with them in it. Plus, if I can learn the E-mail addresses of your friends I would send them threatening hate E-mails. It’s only appropriate, I think. If you want to wrestle I can’t win and you can take me. But if violence is what you want then I can give you the whole enchilada.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.”
I did not add that I only said so out of profound respect and Christian brotherly love for his sovereign individuality. Ask and it shall be given (Mt. 7:7). Engage in violence and reap the whirlwind. It’s a hell of a toboggan ride.
It’s a good thing, really. To be honest with oneself, to be individually responsible, to recognize violence for what it is and treat it accordingly, to preserve your principles and remain morally intact, total destruction is the only option. That’s why human existence is chronically balanced on a razor’s edge, on the eve of destruction. But it is morally wholesome to protect oneself and to preserve one’s own DNA for posterity even at the expense of others.
Or, maybe not.