So, I was going to post about how much I’m loving Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. (That woman is funny as hell and brilliant.) And I will circle back to her at some point, because I have some great quotes to share.
But this morning I woke up and was thinking about violence and how it is NOT an appropriate answer. If you’re a grown ass adult, you should not be laying hands on another person. (And, obviously, we’re not talking about cops here or bouncers or others whose job it is to protect people when some asshat can’t behave.)
I decided to blog about this because of three things: the recent attack on Pam van Hylckama, a story a friend told me this week, and watching a reality TV show last night.
So, the quick rundown on the PvH incident. She was in her car when someone broke off the side mirror. She rolled down the window to complain and the man bashed her head into the steering wheel. Fortunately, she had her dogs with her and one of them bit him and he ran off. Early news was that it was a rejected author, but in the Book Goggles update PvH is saying it could just be a random incident.
Regardless, as part of this incident more than one agent or editor has discussed the fact that it’s part and parcel of the job to receive “fuck off and die” type e-mails. See this post by Jennifer Uden. (And thanks QQ for all the links.) So, for the purposes of this post, let’s assume that the attack against PvH was personally motivated and not a random car jacking.
The second incident that triggered all this for me was a friend’s story about a confrontation she had with her adult brother. He’s in his early 30’s. They had some sort of disagreement and he wanted the keys to her car. So, he grabbed her arm, twisted it around and shoved her face into the ground, and kept twisting it until she gave him the keys.
The final incident is more just general bad behavior that we see modeled on TV too often. A couple of contestants disagreed about something (don’t they always) and the contestants were in each other’s faces. No one got hit, but about half of the adults who witnessed it thought someone should get hit. And that reminds me of the other show I watched the other night where the woman did hit the man. (She was a homeless drug addict, but still. It’s there on TV.)
Here’s the deal. Violence is not appropriate. (And, again, we’re leaving out situations where your life is threatened. Words are powerful shit, but they’re not that kind of threat. And, yes, if someone attacked me physically, I would fight back. I am no Gandhi.)
I have a zero tolerance policy in my life for violence. This means that if someone ever lays hands on me or I see them lay hands on someone else, they are not welcome in my world. I don’t care if they were drunk. I don’t care if they just found out that the person cheated on them. I don’t care if that’s how they were raised. I DON’T CARE. It’s not what I want in my life.
And unless someone is so mentally disconnected that they should spend their life in a padded cell, a person who engages in violence can, at some point, identify their issues and take steps to correct them.
What I mean by this, is that a violent drunk probably isn’t capable of reacting differently in the moment. Someone with poor impulse control who flies of the handle probably can’t stop themselves from doing so at the time. But either of those people can decide to change and can seek help outside of that moment.
There are medications out there that help with anger issues. I have a close friend who takes them and it has helped that friend improve their life. Their marriage is better, their health is better. They’re not carrying around a ball of anger inside that’s just waiting to burst out.
There’s also counseling. That same person long ago learned not to hurt others. They’d get mad and they’d clean or go for a walk. But they wouldn’t hurt people. So, to me, violence is not excusable.
If you can punch someone, you can punch the wall next to them. (I still don’t want to be around you. I really have a zero tolerance policy on this shit.)
So, that’s my rant. And, yes, I’m not someone who has struggled with these anger and impulse control issues, so maybe I don’t know how hard it is. But we live in a society where we constantly interact with other people. In order for that to work we each need to take a little responsibility for how our actions affect others.
If you can’t handle those interactions, then find a way to avoid them. Move to a smaller town. Drink at home. Listen to music that calms those impulses rather than fuels them. Find outlets for that energy that are non-violent. (Take up mountain biking not martial arts.) Do what you have to do to be a decent person to be around.
And if you’re a writer and you can’t handle being rejected – maybe even in an unpleasant way (who wants to see their query mocked on-line) – then don’t submit your stuff. Self-publish. Don’t ask someone for something that you don’t have any particular right to and then attack them for not giving it to you. (And that would go for the whole violence against women issue, too. If you get a “no,” walk away. Don’t insult the person. Don’t try to take what you want. Just walk away.)