I was almost arrested this past week. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration as the police weren’t even called, but it was a close thing. I’d like to say it would have been a mutual combatant type of charge, but the truth is it could well have been manslaughter.
Everyone who knows me knows I am not a violent person. I don’t generally even think in terms of doing physical harm. I know I can do more harm, inflict more damage with words than I ever could with my fists. That is the simple truth, though I try to tell myself my aversion to physical violence is because I am an evolved person, in control of my baser emotions. That higher, nobler view of myself was put to the test this past week, as I came closer to punching someone in the face than I ever have in my life. Part of my brain was aware how stupid and crazy, how completely out of character my reaction was, but part of me also knew that if I raised my hands I would not have stopped until the other person was unconscious. If I even stopped then. Looking back, I actually scared myself.
I’ll give the particulars of the situation, in the hopes that the persons involved read this and understand how close they came to a trip to the emergency room, if they aren’t smart enough to have gotten that hint at the time. I truly doubt they are smart enough, evidenced by their actions.
I was getting a manicure, something I do about once a month. I always go to the same place, and have for years, so I know the people there and they know me. While getting buffed and shined, a story came on the TV they have going for the entertainment of their patrons about the fact that more service members die from suicide than from enemy action. This wasn’t news to me, as it is a topic I’ve been researching and planning on writing about for “Red Fridays." The girl doing my nails knows I write about military issues, so she asked me why there are so many military suicides.
Sitting next to me were a girl and her boyfriend. She was getting her nails done and he was chatting with her and waiting to get his done as well. They both appeared to be about 19 or 20 years old, and were dressed as my kids like to say as “The Emo Couple” all in black, complete with hair dyed black and black eyeliner. The look is not Goth, but is definitely an affectation, right down to being as thin and pale as the vampires in "Twilight" the emo crowd emulates. Until the question from the girl doing my nails, they did their level best to ignore me. Too bad they didn’t continue to do so.
The boy, though with identical hair, clothes and makeup it was hard to tell which was which, chose to answer the question directed at me. He said “they should kill themselves after what they've done. One less crazy, psycho murderer. Hope all the rest of them kill themselves too.”
As I said, the people here know me, and both my technician and the girl dealing with this couple looked at me and froze. The emo boy noted their reaction and turned to me directly and said, “oh, are you one of those fools who believe this war is just and soldiers are anything but psycho killers?”
I’m going to stop here for a moment and say that I sincerely hope that when this child grows up and throws out the black eyeliner, he is as embarrassed about his attitude and his audacity to say something like that to a complete stranger as he surely will be by his make-up wearing and dyed black hair. I sincerely hope that the impulse to speak like that is not a part of his core personality. I sincerely hope he has parents that would be as horrified by this behavior as he hopes they are by his wardrobe choices. I am choosing to, now that I have some distance and time to emotionally disconnect from the moment, believe that under all the black there is a soul of a different color.
Had the boy only made his first comment, had he not turned to me and made it personal by attempting to engage and shock me, I wouldn’t have said a thing. The moment would have passed with an uncomfortable silence, but it would have passed. But, when he turned to me, thinking he was going to offend or bully me, or perhaps he was just trying to impress his girlfriend with this bit of Occupy regurgitated wit, he got more than he bargained for.
After staring at him like he was a disgusting, nasty pile of excrement for a good thirty seconds, I asked him if he had a brain and if he engaged it before he opened his mouth or if it was just something that kept his skull from caving in. I also complimented him on his wardrobe, and said something about how considerate it was of him to provide his parents, if he had any, with both a son and a daughter in the same package.
My response was not what he expected, and after a moment experiencing the shock he wanted to inflict on me, he tried to recover his veneer of cool superiority and said, “Whatever."
At this point, I could have and should have let it go, and I would have, too. But emo boy wasn’t done. He actually got indignant and said, “you can’t talk to me like that”.
So, I informed him that not only could I, I just did. I reminded him that one of the perks of being in this country was freedom of speech, and that if he wanted to exercise his right, he needed to be prepared for others to do the same. I told him that those soldiers he is wishing dead are the reason both he and I have that right. By then, he was turning a quite unbecoming shade of purple, which definitely ruined his emo look and clashed with his eyeliner. Then he did the dumbest thing of all. He stood up and towered over me, thinking he would intimidate me.
I have to say that by now, the 15 or so people in the shop had all frozen and were looking a little panicked. While this boy child was literally standing over me, panting in rage, I calmly pushed back my chair and stood up; he was no more than a few inches taller than me, which means he is pretty short as I’m all of five foot three inches.
In a very quiet voice I told him he needed to think long and hard before he said or did anything else. I informed him that while I may appear to be a middle aged suburban housewife, he had no idea who I was or what I could do. I told him it is always a mistake to underestimate people and that someday his mouth was going to write a check for more than his butt could cover. I then asked him if he was still on his parent’s insurance policy.
In the moments it took for this exchange to happen, the man who owns the shop and two of the other workers came rushing up and grabbed the kid and pulled him back and away from me, yelling about not having any trouble, to not do this here, and other things I simply did not catch. All my attention was on emo boy, so I saw the moment when his brain engaged and he blinked.
Things then happened very fast, with the owners and the other employees hustling the boy and his girlfriend (whose nails were half done) out the door, telling them not to come back, saying they will call the police if they do. The girl protested a bit at the state of her nails, to which she was told “No charge, just leave.”
I wrote the above on Thursday morning in preparation for publication on Friday. I was having second thoughts on the both the content and the tone of this piece, and was debating on going in a different direction. At that point, I had some errands to run so I left it as it appears above, intending on coming back to it later.
While out running around I had time to think about it and made the decision to change the direction of this piece. I wanted to focus on the issue of military suicide, how the numbers are climbing and put some information out there on why I think there are more and more of these cases. When I originally thought of this topic, I did lots of research and wanted to present some of my findings, as well as my opinions. The entire episode at the nail salon was one of those serendipitous moments in life, coming as it did when I had been immersed in the issue. I am a firm believer in coincidences happening for a reason, and I felt telling the story of that confrontation would be an effective way of relating how little understood, where it is even on people’s radar, military and veteran suicide is. Then, I second guessed myself. My thinking then became that the response of one misguided and obviously emotionally immature kid didn’t warrant an entire piece. After all, such an asinine and outrageous opinion could only exist in the fevered brains of the lunatic fringe of the extreme left or in a child out to thumb his nose at as much of society as he possibly can.
Once back home and at my desk, resolved to rewrite the piece, I started pulling up the websites and articles I was going to link to about the issue. I also turned on the TV to catch the news while I wrote. Suddenly, it was my turn to freeze. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seems Ted Turner, in an interview with Piers Morgan, channeled the emo boy I dealt with last week, expressing nearly word for word the same idea that it is a good thing soldiers are killing themselves. Ted even echoed the thought that he too wishes more would do the same. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
The article I intended to write, the one about how both society and the military are failing our soldiers and veterans is still there, in my head. I will write it once I get over my shock that what I took to be the outburst of a confused boy who is obviously trying to figure out how and against whom to rebel is a thought shared by other, seemingly sane, successful people. At this point, I can only hope that the backlash that is sure to come from Ted Turner’s insane comments helps bring this issue into focus. I hope there will now be discussion on why so many, too many of our men and women in uniform are killing themselves, and what we need to do to save the lives of those who have risked their lives for us all.