Early in our relationship, Dave and I had a little disagreement, and I got mad and punched him in the arm. No chance, I figured, I could do the big guy any harm, but it was not a playful punch, either. Just before I could get a second punch in, his hand stopped my fist cold in mid-air, and he carefully lowered it, and he said “We don’t hit.”
Oh, I remember thinking, That’s another possibility.
There’s been no hitting since. It takes a while, when you’re still basically children, to learn how to disagree efficiently and with the least amount of emotional shrapnel. I have no idea why I did this shameful thing, although there surely was alcohol involved. I certainly never witnessed anything like that in my family. No one in my life has ever hit me, either. I think, to tell you the truth, that I saw it on TV, and that at the time of the argument it suggested itself as the thing to do. It was, as they say, “modeled” for me.
This embarrassing admission is brought to you by news of recent event at a local middle school. Boys are slapping girls on the ass in the hallways on what they call “Slap-Ass Fridays.” Girls are speaking up and walking out. And for some reason, fights are breaking out all over the school. Lots of them. Nobody seems able to stop it. Innocent kids are being thrown around. It’s chaos. They’re bringing in the police. We’re talking twelve-year-olds.
What the hell is going on?
I guess there were fights when I was going to school–grudges settled under the bleachers, that sort of thing. You always figured some kids just had it rough at home. Except for a couple boys brawling at the school bus stop once, which utterly terrified me–I ran away with my hands over my ears–I never witnessed any of it.
So this seems ominous. What is being modeled now?
Well, for one thing, all across the nation adults are storming school board meetings and town halls, bellowing and flailing like quarter-ton toddlers, complete with spittle. Grown men and women are surrounding private houses of duly-elected officials in gangs, with the specific intent to terrify. Profane death threats are piling up in the inboxes of anyone with the audacity to serve in government. Hit lists are being drawn up.
People are showing up in the public square bristling with arms. Like little Kyle Rittenhouse, they’re looking for trouble, and they’re finding it, proving to themselves they are right and righteous, even if they had to manufacture their trouble themselves. They’re hauntingly oblivious of their part in the play. Everyone’s on their own side.
And this is mostly a right-wing phenomenon. Sorry, that’s just a fact. There is a small but deliberately provocative contingent of black-clad elements on the left, the challengers, the dumpster-burners, with a minor tally of victims, and an outsized reputation among those stoking right-wing resentments, but all are unwittingly in the same family: the family of the enraged. And all fight with rage and succeed only in making more and more rage.
Civility is now considered quaint and weak to the players on all the edges. But civility is not the same as acquiescence. Civility is the bare minimum of courtesy in the social contract that allows us to coexist. Civility is what gets us from here to there, and in its absence, hearts harden up, and we get nowhere, ankle-deep in casualties. We need to start pulling our punches.
My fear is it's going to get considerably worse before it gets better.
I believe we're witnessing a complete breakdown of society.
Can you imagine how bad it would be if these people KNEW we are all doomed?
In Sociology 101, at the dawning of The Age of The Pill, we learned that human overpopulation would strain the social fabric to unraveling, largely due to “excessive demand on resources.” Air, water, cobalt, vaccines, civility, hope. I hate this comment.
Which is why we're doomed. Like too many rats in too little space in a biology class, who keep breeding until disease (!) and starvation kills them off.
Exactly! The Malthusian Theory! Resources grow arithmetically, but population grows exponentially. Malthus predicted long ago that we would overpopulate the planet. I remember hearing/reading about overpopulation A LOT back in my formative years. But now? Not a peep. Because we are no longer citizens; we are consumers. (You know what else consumes things? Cancer. That is really what we are on this planet. Sorry for the downer. But I am SO anxious and depressed these days when I look around me.)
I don't like what is going on right now. It would be easy to blame Trump, but he may be just a symptom of something deeper.
There is deliberate provocation from those who want only to profit from it.
Excellent piece, Murr. To be honest, I'm still pretty shell-shocked over that Rittenhouse verdict yesterday. What did the jury know that the rest of us didn't? Anything? Please?
I've been on a lot of juries and sometimes you have to go a certain way because of what the judge has allowed. Or, could be those jurors had decided before they heard anything.
Actually, it's what they DIDN'T know. Apparently he had met with some "Proud Boys" earlier, but that was not disclosed to the jury as it may have influenced the, Ya think? Of course, I read this in the newspaper, which everyone KNOWS is "fake news." Shit. What a time period to live in.
High school teacher here. I'm in the South, where we've been in school since September of 2020, so it's not that kids haven't been in school. In 28 years I've never seen behavior like this, and I'm in a really good district. They are *still* messing up bathrooms, sometimes twice in one day. In essence, they are destroying government property, which is what they saw on January 6th, when you think about it. In addition, good kids are answering back instead of complying with basic rules, there is profanity everywhere, and the level of apathy regarding learning is at an all-time low. None of these things are the reason that I'm retiring three years early, but they didn't help. You're right — I don't know what is going on, but it's not good.
Man, that's depressing. Best wishes for your retirement.
You are so right – adults acting like toddlers, and their kids taking it all in and spitting it back out. I despair.
I used to think I'd check out before everything went to hell but I was wrong.
It's happening everywhere, not at all new here in Australia, although not widespread, but those kids really go all put to do some harm. One girl was set upon in a fast food place and so badly beaten she lost teeth and ended up in hospital. One of the perpetrators (all girls) swore she would track her down and do it again once she got out of the remand center. Many of the fights involve knives too. It all scares the life out of me and you are right, we do need to start pulling our punches. Particularly the adults, because that is where the kids are learning it.
What's going on? Oh, I think humans have always gotten mad. There are a lot more of them now. What is being modeled? It's a lot easier to find bad role models now. I get mad when my expectations are not met, but enjoyed having a physical outlet for my frustrations. Thanks for always playing softball with us when needed!
This piece is excellent, Murr, My growing fear is that the US is moving ever further toward social chaos and, perhaps, eventual civil war. Certainly the animus among Americans has never been worse since the other Civil War. Not even in the Civil Right Era, which witnessed horrible violence, sorrow and injustice, but also the emergence of a sense of hope and social accomplishment. Running counter to that is the bleakness of the pre-, post-, and perhaps pre-again Trump Era, in which there has undeniably been a sinister and concerted effort to turn what was once a shining example of pluralism and democracy into a dictatorial, one-party, cult of personality. What you describe, then, is a top-down phenomenon. And, unfortunately, I am seeing nothing on either side of the aisle to make me think that saner minds will, in the end, put democracy and the rule of law above immediate election results, since the handful of politicians who have tried, far from garnering universal admiration, for their effort, have been sidelined. This blog entry is a parable that demonstrates clearly how it begins…and how it ends.
Sometimes I am glad to be old as I despair of the current social climate. I cannot think of a remedy. I remember the old psych studies on rat communities where they overloaded the population and it fell apart.
The celebration of violence in this nation is sickening. Parents storming school boards and making themselves utter disgraces is a sad, heartbreaking development. Kids grow up believing what they're taught.
Trump and his enablers have proved that being a belligerent abuser of others gets him up there with Yertle the Turtle, ruler of all that he sees, and to hell with all those who are being crushed and starved beneath his cruelty and his big, fat, disgusting ass.
Yertle ended up being a despised, dethroned King of the Mud. Trump and his enablers will, too. In time.