Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Update on the Parking Lot Incident

The police contacted one of the witnesses over the weekend. We know the guy personally, and he's always seemed like the model of conscientiousness. He's beside himself that he froze and left Rhonda alone to handle things. But then, so did two other grown men.

An online buddy, Algernon, questioned a comment I made on the previous post. I tend to value this guy's opinion, even when I disagree with him.

"What's this 'high-minded' and 'low-minded' concept you're carrying around? You can just feel mad at the guy. No one's going to talk you out of having your own feelings about what this man did."

I wrote back, "What it betrays, really, is a bit of self-conflict, as well as a preemptive reaction against a couple of friends who will urge me to put aside my anger and find compassion for the S.O.B. The thing is, I believe in compassion, and I believe that violence too often begets violence. But hey, for the time being, I need to fantasize about repeatedly kicking that so-called 'father' in the scrotum."

"Fair enough," Algernon answered.

I continued, "I still feel disbelief over the whole thing, too, as does Rhonda. That 'dad' didn't react with a momentary flash of anger. No, he gave his helpless son a prolonged beating. Rhonda said it looked as if he wanted to kill his son."

Algernon again: "I would be willing to bet you dinner this man was himself an abused child. In other words, he is ANOTHER abused child. And if his 14-year old son does not get access to therapy, there is an excellent chance he'll grow up to be a domestic abuser as well. This is something we know about domestic violence."

I answered, "No argument from me there. And my God, I hope that fourteen year-old does get therapy. How does one so young process the reality that his own father may have been trying to kill him?"

Algernon: "Throwing him in jail or perhaps doing worse things to him in order to "punish" him satisfies an emotional need for vengeance, because what he did revolts the conscience. We want him to pay for what he did."

I answered, "That's true, and I'll admit that that's part of my motivation. But there's more to it than that. I suspect this 'father' is a genuine threat to society, and may very well be a out-and-out sociopath. He's probably intelligent and willful enough to get through any court-mandated counseling program with his violent tendencies intact. It would be wonderful if he could be 'cured,' but I suspect the only real solution is to put him away for a good while."

I had a little fun with Rhonda a few nights ago while talking to her on the phone. I reminded her of a conversation we had back in '94, when we were getting back together. We'd talked through the night, and at one point, from out of the blue, she said, "I think I'm missing something as a woman." "How's that?" I asked. "Well, I don't think I have maternal instincts."

I started laughing. "What's so damn funny?" I just pointed to her two dogs, surely among the most pampered creatures in northern California.

When Dylan gets older, I suspect he'll find that story funny as can be. Maybe a certain fourteen year-old would as well. And, I'm hopeful that a certain sorry excuse for a father will learn a harsh lesson when he gets slam-dunked in court by my better half's testimony.


Algernon said...

Never mind, Hal, I came to my senses and remembered the link.

I guess what I reacted to in the first place was the idea that a compassionate response to an abusive dad was somehow incompatible with feeling angry over the deed.

On the same point, ideas about compassion are not the same thing as compassion itself. An idea about compassion can become a tool for beating up on oneself.

Anger, on the other hand, is all too often an excuse to view people as not human. I have nothing but scorn for what that man did to the boy. Knowing the cylical nature of abuse and violence, however, my wish is for the cause of suffering to be addressed.

In our culture, we tend to fixate on making enemies, establishing blame, and punishing them. We are not as proficient at the rehabilitation and redemption part.

Hal Johnson said...

"I guess what I reacted to in the first place was the idea that a compassionate response to an abusive dad was somehow incompatible with feeling angry over the deed."

Funny, it's sort of felt incompatable to me until today. Anger, for me, is really a way to mitigate the sorrow I feel for that kid.

I've spent the day traveling home, and I've had a good while to reflect on the incident. Do I feel compassion for the father? Yeah. The guy needs help, unless he's truly an evil person, in which case he needs to be locked away. I feel compassion for him, but I'm more worried about the kid. Plus, I need about another week to fantasizee about using the father's nuts for place-kicking practice before I can get my get my mind around the horror of a parent beating a kid to pulp.

Redlefty said...

Righteous anger has a place, especially in the heat of the moment.

Your reaction is just like Rhonda's, and it's one perfectly suited to enable you to jump in there and do the right thing, with full adrenal juices flowing. Just because you're miles away, and only hearing about it secondhand, doesn't change the reaction.

Good to hear it's shifting over time, though. Nobody needs anger long-term!