Once you read this, close your eyes. Do your genuine best to suspend disbelief and breathe life and purpose into the monster I’m about to describe. By conservative estimates, it probably weighs about 1,500 pounds. It has 36 arms and legs, 180 claws, and as many as 288 teeth. It has nine different vocalizations, each one powerful in its own distinct way. It is highly territorial and finds refuge in the very same den that has sheltered its ancestors for generations. It also has at least 13 offspring to protect, and some of them have growing nests of their own.
Between its sheer physical might and its psychological motivation, surely such a creature could never be defeated. Surely nothing could infiltrate its den with the slightest hint of hostility and live to tell about it. No beast. No predator. And certainly no 90-pound pipsqueak with a pop gun. And yet, here we are. Each voice silenced, every limb laid waste. Nine families are disemboweled, and a storied force of culture and history is decapitated — all by a bigot with a bowl cut.
An incredulous cynic once asked me, “So if someone stuck a gun in your face, you would actually fight back? Why not just give him what he wants and move on with life?” Make no mistake: I’m not one of those gun people who bash the “compliance approach.” I acknowledge that “just give him what he wants” is one potentially viable option in some cases. And I don’t begrudge those who go that route. But for these nine worshippers, compliance wasn’t an option. The assailant’s demand was whiteness, and they couldn’t have given him that, even if they wanted to.
As for me, I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well. I have a sense of how I might fare after even momentarily having my human autonomy usurped by a self-seeking ravager. Even if I escaped with a beating heart, I know that a vital part of my soul would be lost. As much as I might hope to “move on with life” afterwards, there wouldn’t be much of a life awaiting me.
I have no little ones at home to inspire me. Nor do my limbs number in the dozens (and the few that I’ve got aren’t in optimal shape right now). I don’t for one instant pretend to be a model of might or courage, so who knows how I would actually react to a sudden deadly threat. But at least in my mental preparation, I’ve decided that I’d rather take my chances with resistance. And I don’t mean some tentative flinch, but a nuclear explosion of flailing kicks and scratches and flying chairs and teeth and spit and ink pens and scissors and bullets and shrieks, if necessary. I would hope to defend my life with an unshakable singularity of purpose, the likes of which are beyond my ability to articulate in the English language. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway. And if I die in that process, I guess I’m cool with that.
7 comments on “Monster”
Like you Tiff, I decided long ago that I was where someone was taking lives; I’d have to act, otherwise I’d not be able to look myself in the mirror again. And if I died in the attempt, I’d consider it a good and honorable death. I don’t know who said it is better to die on one’s feet than one’s knees but I believe it true.
And as a Southern country boy who grew up in the 60s, racism is something I’ve never understood. I never heard anyone in my family or community use the “N” word or saw anyone treat blacks as anything but another person. To me, hating someone because of the color of their skin is no different than hating based on where someone lives or their religion; its crazy.
I agree! I also think you’re a lucky one indeed to have been spared any exposure to that garbage… especially in the 60s in the south. Lucky you. My parents had a very different experience… :-/
In a way, kind of strange when you think about it since we live in the state separated by only a few hundred miles. But on second look, East Tennessee was heavily Republican and continued to send representatives to Washington for the duration of the war, as well as fielding several Union regiments from Eastern TN and Western NC (my great great grandpappy fought for the 4th TN Inf (US)and 3rd NC Mounted Inf (US). The middle and western parts of the state were, on the other hand very pro Confederate. The states voting patterns reflected this split for most of the next 140 years. I think that you’re in the West and I’m in the East has much to do with it.
In a total ADD moment of arbitrary topic shifting, I will tell you that “grandpappy” is one of those words that make my smile and feel all warm and fuzzy (even though I never really knew either of mine).
The most profound, and hard hitting, commentary I’ve read on this. Kudos. I’m sharing.
Wow! Thanks! Actually, much of this is classic Tom Givens. Just one of the many new perspectives I learned from him. So I’ll toss the kudos over his way. 🙂
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