There are a lot of bad men out in the world, whether they physically dominate or mentally degrade their wives and children. The smart ones are fiendishly clever in concealment; their masks in public are often adorned with a suit and tie, a quick smile, or an engaging personality. Growing up, I had to endure abuse. A lot of people knew it was happening. Few ever attempted to intervene. I understand the complicated issues at play for their failure. That kind of abuse, however, leaves most people with a shaky faith in their parents, their god, and of their ability to leave such trauma behind.
With that in mind, even though I am a liberal, I have always been drawn to the concept of southern justice. When someone does the right thing, even when the right thing is also terrible. It’s not revenge. It’s taking the light back from someone who isn’t worthy of its possession.
I’m not advocating violence.
I’m advocating action.
Sometimes action yields a terrible consequence yet remains the lesser evil.
Someone I know whose life suffered due to the presence of a human monster sent me this song.
Look what Marilyn and Larry sent me! I guess I know my new role and responsibility for today. I’m wondering if I should WEAR the cape and mask today? Tuesdays need a superhero. I’ll go find some miscreants as soon as I leave the apartment.
Thanks, Marilyn, I got a great laugh – and felt appreciated for this surprise gift.
I’m reluctant to share this one. While my heart was in the right place, I felt a flare of righteous anger. That type of anger feels right at the moment but often sours with consequences. I am not a hero in this story.
About two weeks ago, I was driving about 35 mph in a way that made me feel alive. Music high, smiling. Not in a hurry.
Her green sedan pulled alongside me in the lane to my left.
She held her phone, crying.
Her black hair reached her shoulders.
She tossed her phone in the passenger seat.
And unexpectedly looked toward me.
Tears on her face.
She nodded and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.
I let off the gas, and she raced away.
Five minutes later, I pulled into the lot.
And saw the green sedan there.
Life reminds me there aren’t many coincidences.
As I parked, I noted she was next to the store.
Cigarette in hand, nervous.
I watched a man pull up and exit his truck angrily.
He hissed at her in a way I couldn’t hear.
She flinched and looked down to the ground. Because of my childhood, I saw the backstory written plain. I already knew what her private life was like. This wasn’t the first time, nor the tenth.
The man gesticulated and shook.
Without thinking, I walked toward them.
“How are you?” I asked her.
She looked at me in surprise.
The man interrupted, “Who are you?”
I replied, “I am the man just in time.”
“For what?” He hissed at me.
“To do what I need to.” The anger flared in me.
I prayed he’d move toward me.
I walked to his truck and opened the driver’s door. “Get the eff out of here, sir.” I smiled like a predator. I admit that it felt good. I’m not sure what that says about me.
The woman watched, fearful of what her man might do.
She should have feared what I might do.
A man in Canada filled my head, his volatile narcissism unchecked, his multiple victims attempting to regain normal lives in his wake. The law does nothing to aggressively meet the abuser’s behavior in kind, even though that is what is needed. Another man was using his long familiarity with control and emotional abuse to impoverish his fleeing wife. Both honestly deserve a measured dose of Southern Justice. This might be my surrogate, one to catch my vengeance. I hoped so. Waiting for ‘someone’ to help might lead to never. I’d felt the burn inflaming me for some time.
“Get home in ten or else,” he told the woman.
“She won’t be there in 10. Or 60. Go.”
He paced around me and pretended to lunge as he did. I didn’t flinch. Ninety percent of all aggression fails to materialize. Had the ten percent emerged, Bobby Dean laid in wait, anesthetized against anything except immobilizing pain. I wanted him to lunge and make contact. The law allows us to defend someone else. If it penalizes me for acting on impulse, that’s fair.
He got in the truck, slammed the door, and roared away. He put down his window momentarily and shouted the redneck equivalent of whatever angry, stupid people say. I laughed purposefully and ignored him.
The woman cried again.
“You know what you need to do,” I told her. “Today, before it’s too late. Do you have someone to go to?”
“Go there. And don’t go back to that. Do you need anything?”
“No,” she murmured.
“Go now in case he comes back.”
I didn’t enter the store.
I watched the black-haired woman get in her car and depart.
I saw a green car today and wondered if the woman was safe. And I wondered who the man’s next victim might be. That there will be is a certainty. I hope there’s a future me waiting for him. It’s evident that I will pull the curtain back and summon Bobby Dean.
My idle pacifist hands are anxious in an unexpected way.
Days later, I’m still thinking about how close I had to get to really hurting someone. And how the realization that the same Bobby Dean inside me was as guilty of the same misbehavior as the man was with his wife or girlfriend. He was a chronic abuser; ironically, I can channel that same energy to obliterate my doubts and step in on the other side of the situation.
There are no easy answers. But I do know that sometimes raw anger is appropriate. Sometimes it’s the only way. It’s not right, proper, or even intelligent. A lot of men need to spit blood to learn their lesson. And some men, men like me, ones who earned their abuse badges when younger, probably need to be more willing to violently be the one to administer a reminder.
PS I know that we’re supposed to call the police. But I also know that they constantly fail to protect people. The law exists to inhibit behavior, but it often does not remedy the need for immediacy. A few weeks after my surgery, I got a reminder of how precarious the idea of safety can be. The flare that lit inside me of me hasn’t abated. As I said, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this admission.
If you love someone, you value their peace of mind, happiness, and ability to live their lives freely.
And, in a normal relationship, no matter what the reason, each person maintains the right of silence and distance or any range of contact between the opposites of communication and disengagement. Each gets to set their boundaries.
In a toxic relationship, the other person needs distance to feel safe.
Unfortunately, there are times when we have to resort to our agreed-upon set of laws to insist that a person honor another person’s boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s required in some situations where someone has the mental inability to respect another person’s right to autonomy.
That time has passed.
No means no.
No amount of cleverness will protect you from the inevitable claxon call of justice.
I don’t need to understand the complexities of the legal system where you might be.
I’m reminding you that Southern Justice has its standards.
The subject of my post has no idea whatsoever that I’m writing this.
You are accountable.
I don’t ask twice.
No means no.
Give the person you allege to love the ability to live a full life, absent your presence, words, or influence.
I’ve asked nicely. If you want to know what Bobby Dean has instilled in me, keep playing stupid.
Note: this is a different kind of post. It’s not for everyone. Literally. Wink.
We rely on human nature to protect us. We prefer to think that people are like us. Kind, compassionate and reasonable, behaving as we would. When that fails, we turn to the law to mitigate the behavior of those who are not like us. The law has many shortcomings. Its bureaucracy is flawed with delay and a disregard for the victims asking for remedy and comfort. We created a complex system to protect victims and those wrongfully accused.
Its existence does not preclude a return to the chaos of personal justice that preceded it.
The same clever code words used to avoid the consequences of actions? Those exact words can be turned and used in the same sinister way.
If someone asks for peace of mind and safety, it’s their right. Because I’m familiar with toxic and twisted psychology, I know that there’s something wrong with some people’s brain chemistry. That defect doesn’t disconnect them from the commensurate responsibility of behaving in such a way that they don’t inflict further emotional trauma on someone who’s insisted that they have the fundamental right of peace and the pursuit of happiness.
Those it’s rare, some people don’t honor other people’s right to be free and happy in their lives. Some are simply irredeemable.
We all have an instinctive urge toward fairness.
In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb leans in to the villain Percy Whitmore: “…you mind me now. We’ll also see you beaten within an inch of your life. We know people too. Are you so foolish, you don’t realize that?” Percy had been so confident of his connections and deviousness to protect him, not realizing his cohort of fellow guards subscribed to a higher level of fairness and justice. On their plane of justice, people like Percy are given leeway until they have to face the consequences of their actions. If the Percys of the world don’t listen, they face the same fate as the dog that bit the little boy earlier in the book and movie.
It’s not personal. If the equation requires that the side abusing others be minimized, so be it.
Thinking that the legal system is the only remedy to protect others? That’s foolish.
I’m liberal and kind-hearted. But I have an iron rod of my dad inside me. That rod is premised on the old school belief that if you’ve given someone leeway to stop and they don’t heed the warning, then the precepts of Southern Justice come into play. It is no sin to defend yourself or someone else.
Unlike so many other people, I’ve seen behavior turn from trivial to violent. Many people underestimate its probability. I don’t. That’s why I hypocritically subscribe to the belief that it’s better to act precipitously at times without regard to the potential consequences that might befall me simply because I subscribe to a different sort of justice.
I honor the laws to the best of my ability.
My greatest allegiance is to fairness and justice. That allegiance plays by a different set of rules, especially when the intent of laws is being perverted or subjugated by someone who has demonstrated that he or she feels empowered to victimize others.
If you’ve already violated someone and still persist in harassing, intimidating, or making that person feel unsafe, the long arm of the law will get you. There’s a longer arm at play here, one with compunction to compel you to see the light.
There’s time to reconsider the error of your ways.
Please take the route that ensures that everyone is safe.
Otherwise, you are as unnecessary and unpleasant as a fruitcake without liquor.