A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
Until the next incident, the latest outcropping of violence at Mayfair Mall has this community--and others, thanks to the viral progression of online video--abuzz.
If you've been in a coma and haven't heard about it, a bunch of young guys, all or nearly all of them black, got in a heated argument and brawl while doing after-Christmas shopping (or mall-lingering) on December 26. The bone of contention? Basketball. Their fist-fighting rolled into a nearby store, Wet Seal, and seriously messed up the merchandise. A lot of people who saw it were, of course, frightened and upset. The police came, three of those involved were arrested, and fines or tickets were issued. At least one of the participants expressed remorse while explaining that he was trying to protect a friend.
Now continues the endless postgame replays and analysis. To me, these guys don't sound very different from the "Greasers" of my youth, working class guys, mostly Italian, whose testosterone-induced excesses thrilled and scared us -- and made us fear for their futures. But for most of them, jobs, apprenticeships, college, and age turned them into. . . us, or people "like us."
Over in the Tosa Town Square, you can read other opinions in the meandering thread Here we go again at Mayfair.
If you're like me, you'll be embarrassed to hear some of your friends and neighbors such as one jackm (whose name seems to describe the role he sees for himself there) saying things like;
Put a sign at Mayfair that reads "Blacks are not allowed here". Then, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can march around Mayfair for a day and say they are boycotting the mall and others should too.
Then the black thugs stay home and beat eachother up. Problem solved.
Yes, I said it and I have no problem saying it.
Or you may be one of those who agree with jackm. It's about black people behaving badly, and if it weren't for them, life would be peaceful and safe and we'd all be back in the halcyon times before all those annoying desegregation laws mucked things up.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane points to a small glimmer of light in this latest event: no weapons were used, and it looks like the people involved understand that what they did was wrong. "The only real solution," he writes, "has to come from a change in the behavior of the very same young black men who are making each other obsolete. Someone has to teach them how to heal themselves."
Who would that be, I wonder. First, we'd have to heal ourselves.
We'd have to learn that we can't just eliminate or remove people who make us uncomfortable: we have to stay with them in discomfort and conversation, in life, until we understand each other and work out ways to live together. That's what we do in marriage, in family, in community.
Parker Palmer said, "Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. At the end of my second year (of living in a Quaker community), I came up with a corollary. When that person moves away, someone else arises immediately to take his or her place. . .Community is not opposed to conflict. On the contrary, community is precisely that place where an arena for creative conflict is protected by the compassionate fabric of human caring itself."
As long as there are other human beings whose ideas and wishes aren't the same as ours, there is no freedom from conflict in life. The images of relationships, times, and places that are free from friction are fiction. I could live in isolation on a desert island and still have conflict within myself, I'm pretty sure.
I don't think people can heal themselves, at least not completely. It's one of those "pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" ideas that makes no sense unless you've got really long and tough bootstraps to begin with. Other people need to help.
I wonder what it would be like if, instead of banishing young males like many other animals do (in an attempt to keep all the goodies for themselves), the healthy grown males in Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, and beyond would keep them close by, in an apprenticeship of living with others in community.
We all have a role in that, but for the healing to take place, it comes down to the men to show them how. I don't know how to be a man. But we could start with the gender-neutral rule:
1. Clean up the messes you've made. I guess in guy talk, that would be "be accountable." The brawlers should have to do community "time" for Wet Seal.
If Kane is right, there's an opportunity here. The question is, are we men--and women--enough to take it?