Short takes from my week.
The past week or so has been a blur of too much to do and not enough time. I mean I sparred with Lennox last Saturday (make that Saturday — a week ago) and think of it as having occurred months ago!
Casting back, however, I can truly say it was a fabulous four rounds of me getting popped in the head — a lot — ’cause I can’t seem to stay out-of-the-way of Len’s left hooks to my right side, but meanwhile I did manage to get one really sweet shot to Len’s nose that seemed to make up for it all.
Suffice to say, every time one gets in the ring there’s a moment or two of truth and mine was figuring out that I really did like landing that punch. I mean really liked it, which reminded me that in spite of what of my general “nice person” demeanor, at the heart of it I will go for the jugular if given the opportunity.
So knowing all of that, I learned a tougher lesson two nights ago walking around the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn. It was around 7:00 PM and very crowded. As I walked through, I became aware of child crying and yelling loudly. At some point, coming into the main area near the entranceway (I had walked into the space from the LIRR side entrance), I saw a woman beating her four or five-year-old son with a belt. There were people seated, standing and walking all around her and the child, and no one, and I mean no one said a word. It was as if there was this women, her belt and the boy, and the rest of the world as two separate spheres.
Taking this all in, I screamed out, “stop beating that child” and seeing no effect, I yelled it out much louder. The woman momentary stopped and shouted back at me, “I’ll beat your ass too.” So, what happened next? Did the crowd take up my denunciation? Did they come to the aid of her child? Give up?
Right. They yelled at me for “interfering.” Well. I didn’t give up and kept yelling while looking for a police officer or a security cop. None were to be found and meanwhile, the woman got tired of whaling her poor kid and left after nonchalantly putting her belt back on. The whole thing made me feel sick — and I realized that the killer instincts that I had in the ring sparring with Len were not the killer instincts I expressed at the mall. Yes, I had expressed my outrage, loudly, but I had not put myself into the sphere of her seeming protected space. In reflecting on it, I know that I was in shock at the surreal nature of what I saw — to the point of experiencing a sort of cognitive dissonance. I also remember having a dialogue with myself, wondering if anyone else was going to interfere, how many people were with this woman (there were at least three other people with her), what the odds were that I would get into a huge physical altercation with her, what the crowd of seemingly disinterested people would do if I waded in. In the calculus of those questions, I opted for calling attention to the acts in the hopes of getting the crowd to turn against her. When that didn’t work, my tactical retreat was to find some sort of assistance to help me wade through. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to call 911 which was likely the best course because, really, if this woman felt that she could just beat this kid with impunity in the middle of a mall (which she did except for my shouts), what was she going to do to him at home.
Just as I learned something from sparring with Lennox, in my confrontation at the Atlantic Mall I learned that in the realm of real combat, my instincts are for the preservation of myself first and foremost. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that yet. I remember in a first responder “first aid” course I took once, the instructor kept saying that our first duty was to see to our own safety before jumping in to render aid. Perhaps that was my instinct in a crowded space of uncertain people. I still don’t feel good about it though — and even though my voice was the only voice speaking up for the child being beaten, the truth is, my voice wasn’t loud enough or definitive enough. I guess I’m going to have to work on that too.