A Slap is A Punch is A Murder is An Invasion

Posted on March 29, 2022


Life in the Boomer Lane hopes she isn’t beating a dead horse. Dead horses have been beaten far too much lately.

We know that we live in a violent world. We live in a world in which human life is valued only until it gets in the way of what someone wants. We watch the latest atrocities splayed across our TV screens, showing cities crumbling and countless people dying. It is happening solely because one man who already has unlimited money and power believes that he was meant to have more. It is atrocity in the name of national will.

We know that we live in a violent country. We Americans have raised murder to a high art. Every time a person dies of gun violence, the only result is that more guns are sold. We already own more guns than any other country on the planet. It is happening because one industry, already making countless profit, believes that by raising the Second Amendment to the level of Holy Grail of American independence, believes it can make more. It is happening because one political party believes that, by promoting gun ownership to be the One and Only True American Way, it’s most ardent followers will not put their attention elsewhere and perhaps see that guns can’t feed them or keep them healthy or that the party that promotes the guns continues to marginalize them.

Our popular media and our video games are filled with gratuitous violence. Our social media is evidence, less of people disagreeing with each other, than of believing that whatever they say is correct and whatever else should be eliminated. Elected politicians speak openly and proudly of using violence upon those with whom they disagree.

No surprise, here, that incidents of anti-Semitism have skyrocketed, that incidents of violence against flight personnel have risen steadily, as have incidents of violence in stores, at school, on public transportation, on playgrounds, in restaurants, on highways, and in homes. We have become a people who react to everything, because doing anything else takes too much effort.

Will Smith counts himself among the dozen most popular actors we now have. In Hollywood terms, that means he has huge power at the box office. He has huge power in the movies he chooses and he gets huge amounts of money for the roles he accepts. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, is an actress. His two children are media darlings. Their family is often promoted in magazines as Hollywood royalty.

Two nights ago, on stage at the Academy Awards ceremony, Chris Rock, a popular comedian and one of the hosts of the show, made an inappropriate joke about Smith’s wife Jada, who suffers from alopecia (hair loss.) Jada has now shaved her head. Reacting to that, Smith rose from his seat, came up to the stage, then returned to his seat and hurled obscenities at Rock. Later, he explained that “love sometimes makes you do crazy things.”

LBL, neither accomplished nor wealthy, begs to differ. Love doesn’t make people do crazy things. Love is perhaps the opposite of crazy. Love should never be used as an excuse for violent behavior. Smith believes he was being protective of his wife. LBL understands this. Love is protective. There are few parents who would avoid using violence if the lives of their children were at stake.

Smith’s wife was not at physical risk. She was the butt of a joke that was, by anyone’s reckoning, in poor taste. That is terrible. But physical violence was not necessary. Instead, the world got to watch yet one more incidence of unnecessary violence in a world that has violence pouring from its seams.

That one slap, for LBL, represented punching a flight attendant because a drink was denied. Grabbing a person’s face mask off in a public place. Plowing a car into a defenseless young woman who was demonstrating for human dignity. Screaming threats about killing the Vice President of the United States because he didn’t change the outcome of a valid election. Steamrolling into a neighboring country because it seemed ripe for the taking.

Smith didn’t kill Rock. He didn’t harm him significantly. He didn’t even cause him a lot of discomfort. What he did was to reinforce the idea that violence is somehow the appropriate answer to what offends us, whether it be the gender expression of another person, the politics of another person, the religion or race or nationality of another person, or the way another person chooses to protect himself from a deadly virus. It’s all the same. The difference is degree.

The dead horse has been waiting patiently to make his entrance. Here, finally, it is time: Violence is unacceptable when perpetrated by some ordinary person. When perpetrated by someone who wields either political or popular power, it also reinforces the belief that violence is the logical answer to whatever we disagree with or whatever offends us in any way. The result is that every act of violence is an act against us.

We all got slapped on that stage the other night.

Posted in: commentary