December 29, 2009

In defense of the fistfight

By: Sonny Bunch

I’m still sorting through almost 1,000 blog posts, so it might be a few hours before I weigh in on the pressing issues of the day: Iran, airplane terrorism, the oncoming Favre Fail, etc. But one thing I did want to get out there: If we had more fist fights, we’d be a far more polite society.

I was reminded of that Esquire piece by Erik’s recent travails at the multiplex. Attempting to get a couple to move one seat to the left or to the right so he and his wife could sit together, he’s met with blustery anger:

I continue to stare.  No witty rebuttals leap to mind.  A woman behind the couple offers me the seat next to her. I politely decline. We need two seats. People all around are murmuring and shaking their heads.  The dude is pretty loud and belligerent this whole time.  Putting on a show. Not what you expect when you go to the movies. Stupid teenagers throwing popcorn (and worse) at each other, sure, but not adults acting like petulant children. I figure at this point I’ve become part of the problem, and turn to leave.

“Un-fucking-real,” I say, instantly regretting it when I notice kids seated a few rows down.  They’ve heard worse, of course, but then I realize again that this sort of thing only adds to everyone’s discomfort.

Behind me I hear the guy say, “You want me to kick your ass?  You don’t talk to me like that!” And then, mimicking me,  ”Un-fucking-real…” at which point my wife bursts out laughing.  I chuckle, too, as I glance back at the guy.  Laughter is contagious.  He’s half out of his seat by now, but only half.  My wife’s laughter has shaken him I can tell.  There’s a bit of a nervous look about him now.  He doesn’t know that I’m a pacifist. Maybe he thinks my wife is laughing because I’m more dangerous than he thought. Maybe he’s suddenly wondering if he made a mistake.

Two things spring to mind. The first is Walter Sobchak’s immortal take on pacificism: “Look at our current situation with that camel fucker over in Iraq. Pacifism is not something to hide behind.”

The second is that if people were afraid of actually getting into fights instead of living in a lawsuit-happy, police-induced bubble of invulnerability that nurtures their ability to act like giant pricks to anyone they like without fear of retribution, then we’d see far, far less of this nonesense. As the author of “In Defense of the Fistfight” writes,

Everybody thinks they’re above being edited. And the saddest part is, the Jerichos are right to feel bulletproof. Somewhere along the way, we’ve evolved into a culture without consequence, taught so much hokum about the bigger man walking away. Yet to appease us, we’ve also been told that what goes around comes around. What kind of contradictory horseshit is that — that one day, accounts will be settled, but by the universe? I like karma as much as the next guy, but lately, watching my city behave more and more like an Internet comments thread in the midst of a flame war, I’ve grown tired of waiting for the planets to balance the ledger. It’s like we’ve started playing hockey without the enforcers, and all the scrubs are tripping up the skaters with impunity. You know why Wayne Gretzky could be Wayne Gretzky? Because everybody knew that Dave “Cementhead” Semenko would fill you in if you fucked with his friend.

More fistfights, please. I mean, I myself dabbled in pacificism once (not in ‘Nam, of course), but c’mon. These things have to have a limit.