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Sez Who?

Cartoon sketch of an angry-looking baby with a pacifier in its mouth, sitting in a stroller, glancing off to the right. Cartoon by Earle Levenstein

When I was a kid, lots of big talk.

Dares. Chicken if you don't. Threats; Touch me and you'll be sorry. Most of the time, nothing fatal; just being big-time; tough; movie gangster talk. Occasionally, a scuffle. Rarely, an out-and-out slugfest. More shouting and pushing and shoving and then wiser heads—a neighbor? somebody's brother?—telling everyone to break it up.

Nobody gets killed. Umm; Pretty much. Little qualifier.

On the other hand, there are the so-called adults. Just one, "Oh, yeah?" leads to another and then masculinity is on the line. Fists, at the least. Weapons quite possible. Can't back down; if you do, there goes your rep; and rep's gone that's it, kid; you're through. I mean, respect? Fageddaboutit.

Makes me wonder, when I consider the increasingly terrifying violence we're all exposed to wherever we look.

When I was a kid, it was games; I'm a cowboy you're an Indian—Indians always bad; cowboys good; what did we know?—toy guns or just pretending; fingers pointing; Bang! Bang! gotcha! Movies filled with action; galloping horses, fights; and sometimes; gangsters; cops and robbers; occasionally shooting; dramatic final scene; dying bad guy.

Later more elaborate films; soldiers; armies; bombs; lots of death; explosions; ships sinking; then hand-to-hand combat; bayonets; and more and more and now we're in outer space; invasions; battles; weapons we haven't even developed yet, already in use.

Mass murders.

What's going on here?

Nightmare material.

Wars. Deaths piled upon deaths; real. No pretend.

Millions killed in battles; from the beginning of recorded history; scenes painted on walls; carved in stones; recorded in ancient scrolls. Non-stop. Always going on somewhere.

Weapons that can end it all.

When you get right down to it; seems everybody's angry at somebody. Blood boiling; can hear the bubbling. Movies didn't start it. Biblical scrolls didn't start it. They're just recording the scene; right there; see? That guy? Hear that? Look at that. It's all of them. It's him. He said it; not me. Threaten me? You think I don't know what you're up to?

Cowboys and Indians.

Good guys and bad guys.

Born bad. Born good.

Just plain born.

Universal flaw.

Piece missing.

What to do?

Smile at everyone.

But don't look weird.

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