a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, November 2, 2009

Amanda's musings: Put down your dukes

“When kindness has we left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless.” Willa Cather

By Amanda Gillooly

When I was 5, I had a sneaking suspicion that super heroes walked among us in plain clothes. I believed in Super Man because of my cousin.

Fifteen years my senior, I remember him as a young man visiting from Ohio. A weight-lifter, he tossed us cousins around and teased us good-naturedly. Some of my earliest memories are laughing with him as he’d pretend to guess my middle name.

“Wait, I remember now,” he would tell me. “You’re name is Amanda Green. Wait, no. It’s Amanda Orange.”

But as it does, life happened. He got married and started a family. I graduated from high school and then college. These days, we only manage to get together about once a year to celebrate our favorite holiday: Halloween.

And so last weekend, the male members of my family descended on my Neville Island home (as they have done for six years) to watch slasher/supernatural/dark comedy/so-cheesey-it makes you-laugh movies. Titled the Hallowscream Fest, the weekend is about kicking it and having fun.

I never expected to be hit – to be bruised – by the man I’ve always considered my own personal superhero.

But that’s what happened Friday night after I made an offhand comment. Using a string of profanity that would have made me proud had it not been directed at me, he suggested I shut up before he shut me up.

I told him where to shove that sentiment, and then he outright threatened me physically (I would use the actual dialogue, but there may be children reading) and I was flabbergasted. I stood up in disbelief from the kitchen table where he was sitting opposite and said:

“Come on. You’re gonna beat me? I’m your cousin. And a woman.”

And that’s when he charged me, warned me again to shut up as he took both hands and shoved me as hard as he could. Had my other cousin not jumped up and pushed him back, he would have hit me again. He struggled to throw a punch even as three men in my family drove him back into the kitchen and out the back door.

This should have been the part of the story where I called 911. But to my shame and dismay, the first thing I thought was: If I hadn’t stood up, he wouldn’t have hit me. If I would have just shut my mouth, my left shoulder wouldn’t be aching and I wouldn’t have a bruise blossoming on my left calf, where I slammed backward into the chair.

Then I remembered myself. And I remembered all the times I couldn’t really understand how my girlfriends had stayed with a man who beat her so often that she had to go buy new blouses to hide the marks. I remembered not understanding how she thought, as she often did, that somehow she might have deserved it. Or, at best, thought there was something she could have done to prevent it.

After all these generations of growth and learning, we have still not evolved far enough to settle conflicts with words instead of fists. And the point is, nobody deserves it. There is rarely an effective use for violence, and it certainly should be a last-resort method of keeping the peace.

Which leads me to the kicker: After being confronted by one of the more out-spoken women in my family, his mother explained how the incident had happened.

She told her: “Well, Mandy did get in (his) face.”

Yes. We’ve come a long way – as a species and a society. But as long as there is anyone who thinks like that aunt, we still have a long way to go.


Amanda Blu said...

Thanks for posting, Scooter. And thanks for the kind editing. It is so far better than when I e-mailed it to you.

MJ said...

That took a lot of courage to write, Amanda.

Amanda Blu said...

Thanks, Jimmy. I appreciate the kind words.

Anonymous said...

So glad to see you survived the confrontation......but just in case, save the left jab for Miss A.C.