So I’m stopped at a stop light, along with several other vehicles, and in the rear-view mirror I see a guy walking forward down the line of cars behind me. (Well, actually they were mostly pickup trucks, a fact that may be significant.) He exchanged a few words with the guy in the cab of the pickup right behind me. That guy hopped out of his truck, heated words were exchanged, and fists flew. After a couple of blows they toppled over into the bushes on the median strip, still swinging.
All this in the rear-view mirror. In broad daylight, in suburbia. Not the time or place where you expect to see fighting. I have no idea what they were fighting about. Could have been pure road rage between strangers, though it couldn’t have been a fender-bender, as the vehicles were all stationary prior to the incident. Maybe the first guy thought the second guy had stolen his girlfriend and wanted to make a point. Or maybe it was a long-simmering disagreement about drug money. Who knows?
The light turned green, and I drove away. My first impulse was to get out of there, in case either of them had a gun. But other people were getting out of their cars, maybe to get a better view of what was going on in the bushes (understandable — I was curious myself) or maybe to try to separate the combatants.
The latter would have been pointless. The guys were both assholes, by definition. Only assholes get in fistfights in the middle of the street in broad daylight. Well, no, let me generalize a bit more. Only assholes get in fistfights, period. If those two were to beat one another to death, the world would be a nicer place.
I’m reading a book of essays by George Orwell. He was a wonderful, insightful essayist. I usually read while I eat meals. When I got home I made lunch and started reading Orwell on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. And this morning I was listening to a few hip-hop songs on Pandora — the usual nigga boasting, badmouthing bitches, and mouthing off about who they’re going to kill. Pop music has always been juvenile, of course, but hip-hop plumbs new depths of rank immaturity.
Not to belittle the causes of the Spanish Civil War — there were real issues there, and Orwell was on the right side, fighting against the Fascists. But what strikes me is that I’m seeing three facets of the same thing.
Young men fight and kill one another. That’s one of the things young men do. They’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years, if not far longer, and they will never cease to do so. The cause may be righteous or it may be stupid and trivial. The cause hardly matters. It’s all very sad.
I could write about the social forces that may have caused those two boys to feel a need to fight — a terrible economy, hopeless dead-end lives, the incessant glorification of violence in the media, quite likely alcohol and drugs — but we all know that stuff far too well already. And the underlying causes don’t matter much more than the ostensible causes. Young men fight. If no reason presents itself, they’ll fight without a reason. Testosterone triumphs over thought.
Bob Dylan, in “Maggie’s Farm”: “And you ask why I don’t live here? Honey, how come you don’t move?”