Friend Jaime asked via email a question of her friends: "how do you get to be a man unless you learn how to fight?" This question was originally posed by a professor of hers who believes there would be fewer problems with road rage if people considered it normal to pull over by the side of the road and duke it out.
I was reminded to write a response to the question because we watched a documentary about an Iraqi family grieving the loss of their brother/son in the war. My response to the question is based mostly in my personal experience. The idea of hitting someone is very different from the reality of it. Bloodthirsty rage, as I have experienced it, feels self-satisfied in its own righteousness and potency--it feels like a glorious and even noble thing--the impulse to destroy "evil." I can think of two instances wherein I actually did intentionally physically hurt someone.
There was one time when I was about 12, and trying to get my, then probably 5 year old sister to do her share of cleaning the room. After hours of using every persuasive technique I could imagine, I was beyond frustrated. She preferred to sit on the floor doing *nothing* rather than put away her clothes. I finally got so fed up, I was just about weeping, grabbed her and shook her by the shoulders--just once--but hard. I find it difficult to describe the black, acidic, abyss that immediately began to eat away the inside of my soul. I felt awful. And my sister didn't even make a noise. She silently curled up in a ball and cried. I was so terrified by the horror of what I'd done, I got up without a word and left the room.
The other time I committed a violent act was when I slapped Brandon across the face for something. He deserved it, and I didn't hit him very hard, but it did *not* feel glorious and noble the way my original *desire* to hit him had made it out to be.
I think this is just the way of violence. It *sounds* like a good idea, but the reality of it is just plain awful.
As for how you become a man without resorting to violence: what ought really to be considered "manly" virtues are things like courage and unswerving devotion to justice. These virtues are much better expemplified in the lives of iconic people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi--as opposed to, say the detestable Brad Pitt character in Fight Club. (Incidentally, I probably just hate that character because Brad Pitt often annoys the heck out of me.)
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