It WAS a Sunday night. I was home early from my weekend job, so I had a chance to sit back, relax and watch my main man, Sean Connery, in "Outland." Or so I thought.
At about 9:30 my son came storming into the house. "Dad!" he shouted, "That man down the street hit me!"
"What man?" I asked.
(Al is not the real name of the boy whose father hit my son. It has been changed to spare the lad the embarrassGregory P.Kanement of having large numbers of people know his father is an idiot.)
Al's father had, apparently, not had a good day. Perhaps he had not consumed his daily quota of raw meat. At any rate, he was upset with my son because of a set-to his son had had with mine earlier in the day. Punches were thrown. Names were called. My son allegedly threatened to have Al shot. It was this alleged threat that caused Al's father to become unhinged.
He didn't come to my house, four doors down the street, and say, "Mr. Kane, your son and my son have some problems, not the least of which is that your son threatened to have my son shot. What say we get the lads together, have them talk it out and then have them bury the old metaphorical hatchet?"
No, that would have been the logical, rational approach. Why use reason and logic when you can use the "macho stupidity" approach? The macho stupidity approach is a tried and true method. It increases ill will. It heightens tension. It inevitably leads to violence and often results in injury, incarceration or death. Al's father, a black man obviously brought up in a tradition of macho stupidity, eschewed "logical and rational" and heeded the screeching of his hormones.
He threatened my son, assaulted him by striking him in the face with the heels of both hands and then chased him down the street. When I confronted Al's father, he was still threatening my son. When I suggested -- in a tone that was perhaps a bit hostile -- that I would tolerate no further threats against my son, the man then threatened me. The ruckus ended with no clear winner and no fisticuffs.
Why didn't I fight Al's father? The reasons are several. First, the man was obviously a tough guy. He threatened and attacked a 14-year-old boy half his size. That must make him pretty tough. I don't fool with tough guys. I let the police handle them. Second, the pugilistic sciences would not have been advanced one iota by our coming to blows. Third, I'm a peaceful man by nature -- I quit my high school chess team because I felt the game was too violent. Last, it would have sent the worst possible message at the worst possible time.
Black American men have the highest homicide rate in the world. is caused, I contend, by a surplus of macho stupidity. Al's father sent a message to every black boy on the block that night. His words and actions said that it's acceptable to resolve problems violently and to fly into a fit of rage and lose control.
If at some later time one of the young men who witnessed his disgusting performance kills someone or is killed in a violent confrontation, Al's father will be at least partly to blame.
There are too many "Al's fathers" in the nation's black communities. There are too many "bad ass" attitudes and too many chips attached to too many shoulders. Ten days after my brush with Al's father, Roeman Dixon was stabbed to death on a West Baltimore street. Apparently, he had aroused the ire of someone who, walking backward down the street, had stumbled into Dixon's two young children.
Last year, Booker T. Jones was accused of murdering two teen-agers in Anne Arundel County. After he was shot to death by police, many blacks charged police brutality. Let us not delude ourselves. Macho stupidity killed Booker T. Jones. It is the only thing that killed him.
When I was not quite 12, my oldest sister had a boyfriend named Bernard. He was 16 when his life ended in the 900 block of Bennett Place in West Baltimore. He honestly felt his switchblade was a match for the handgun of the youth who shot him to death. That was my first experience in seeing the results of macho stupidity in action.
It was not, unfortunately, my last.
Gregory P. Kane writes from Baltimore.