Monday, March 31, 2008

Violently Ill

I'm so sick of violence I want to hit someone.

I'm having one of those moments when it feels like the amount of violence in the world is just plain overwhelming. But if I respond by tuning out the news, I'll have nothing to write about but my own life, and that could lead readers to violence.

The radio tells me the ceasefire in Iraq is in shards. It seems like the violence in that country won't end until every Iraqi is dead or Dick Cheney gets a conscience, whichever comes first.

The newspapers make me no happier. In Between The Lines, Michigan's gay paper, a transgender activist ticks off a list of recent gender-variant murder victims, from the well-known case of Lawrence King in California to the barely known cases of Ashley Sweeney in Detroit and Adolphus Simmons in South Carolina.

Murder coast to coast. While it would be nice for this country to unite on something, the desire to kill transgender people is not a suitable choice.

I take a break from the present and delve into the past. Mistake. I wind up reading how some German teenagers in the Hitler Youth were told to bring a favorite pet to a meeting. There the boy had to kill his pet. This taught the future soldiers to kill without remorse, and to believe their service to Hitler mattered more than anything else in their lives.

For a second, today looks civilized.

But violence has been with us since the beginning of everything. Probably the second human to swing out of the trees landed on the first and a fight broke out.

Violence, or the capacity for it, is in us all. Kind of like the appendix, it stubbornly refuses to evolve away. How do we overcome our biology and psychology? Will we survive long enough to find out?

Yanked back to the present, I see that Between The Lines also carries a lovely picture of a man with a shiner, sustained when he told a big guy in a bar to quit calling him and his friends "faggots." In a story on the trials of a high school gay-straight alliance, one teenager admits she fears being the next Lawrence King. "I live with that fear every day," she says.

Violence, violence, violence, with fear of violence thrown in for variety.

And then there's the long letter on the op-ed page, written to Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern by a high school senior from Oklahoma City named Tucker. Kern, in case you missed it, delivered an anti-gay diatribe, announcing America has more to fear from gays than terrorists.

Tucker, who's straight, spells out for the politician the error of her ways and means. "Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared," he writes.

"I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has gone by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone."

Is Tucker some young, naïve, violence-abhorring, pseudo-pansy peacenik? No, he's a guy who knows the effects of violence and hate unspeakably well. His mother died in the Oklahoma City bombing when he was five years old.

He has reason to hate. But Tucker is instead taking a stand against someone inciting hate and violence. If he can manage that, then perhaps I can do something more constructive about violence than whining. Even if I am so good at it.