June 29, 2011

"Encounter" by John Ciardi


"We," said my radical young neighbor, smashing my window,
"speak the essential conscience of mankind."

"If it comes to no more than small breakage," I said, "speak away.
But tell me, isn't smashing some fun for its own sake."

"We will not be dismissed as frivolous," he said,
grabbing my crowbar and starting to climb the roof.

"You are seriously taken," I said, raising my shotgun.
"Please weigh seriously how close the range is."

"Fascist!" he said, climbing down. "Or are you a liberal
trying to fake me with no shells in that thing?"

"I'm a lamb at windows, a lion at roofs," I told him.
"You'll more or less have to guess for yourself what's loaded

until you decide to call what may be a bluff.
Meanwhile, you are also my neighbor's son:

If you'll drop that crowbar and help me pick up this glass,
I could squeeze a ham-on-rye from my tax structure,

and coffee to wash it down while we sit and talk
about my need of windows and yours to smash them."

"Not with a lumpen-liberal pseudo-fascist!"
he sneered, and jumped the fence to his own yard.

There's this about essential consciences:
given young legs, they have no trouble at fences.

-John Ciardi

Written by Ciardi, I note, in 1974 when the feelings of many were a lot more ambiguous towards thugs than they are today. Today I imagine we are not so slowly approaching that moment when the guns are loaded and the life of a no-consequences-ever urban rioter/thug abruptly comes to an end.

Today the question, "Are you a liberal / trying to fake me with no shells in that thing?" Has only one answer. As a friend of mine once said when asked "Is it loaded?," "It better be loaded. If it's not it's just an expensive club."

Meanwhile, this came in right after that poem from Doug Ross:Violent, urban flash mobs: the delightful product of the Democrats' unbounded welfare state and gun control. Strange how "gun control" always ends in guns, isn't it?

HT: Cameron Wood

Posted by Vanderleun at June 29, 2011 8:52 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"Or are you a liberal trying to fake me with no shells in that thing?"

Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Posted by: Fat Man at June 29, 2011 10:25 PM

There is a question I sometimes put to myself, or others, about Muslims, which also can be asked about Leftists--if, through the work of some vague, undefined process, we ended up after a period of time with half as many as we started out with, or 1/4, or even 10%, would this be a better world in which to live?

Posted by: Mike James at June 30, 2011 5:59 AM

The problem with Watts was rebuilding it. Leaving that problem to those that did it keeps them busy; idle hands sort of thing.

Rodney King riots, the Korean grocers and other store owners shot back. They were left alone. Object lessons are strong lessons.

These flash mob robberies occur in states where the citizenry is disarmed. Well, they voted for that condition, they must like it.

Posted by: Peccable at June 30, 2011 7:06 AM

As a 10 year old, living about 4 miles west of Watts in '65, I remember clearly columns of smoke and troops in military vehicles moving around. I also remember my mom seemed very unmoved by whole thing, placing no restrictions on my movements. My friends and I still rode our bikes around wherever we wanted. I remember going to a theater on a hot summer Saturday during riots. Theater was on Imperial, just off Crenshaw, a neighborhood that could today arguably be considered part of Watts. They still showed two movies in those days. They were Flight of the Phoenix, with Jimmy Stewart, and She, with Ursula Andress. Both awesome flicks. My mom drove me and two friends to theater. We were the only people there. Three 10 year old boys had whole theater to ourselves, except for employees, who still ran the projectors and snack bar. After that air conditioned holiday, we went back outside in the heat, and waited for my mom to pick us up. Traffic was a little lighter, but streets were not deserted, and then we went home.
BTW, I now live in Lancaster CA, where FZ went to high school.

Posted by: stephen b at June 30, 2011 7:40 AM

There is a mental soliloquy in Zhivago where Yavgrev the policeman first observes his brother Zhivago pulling boards out of a fence to burn for heat, and thinks that one man doing it is pathetic, a whole city doing it is anarchy. At the end of the scene he ponders that Zhivago is a better man than he, but he has shot better men with a small pistol.

Having spent my formative years as a Marine infantry officer, the knowledge in my ripe old middle age that another man's blood on my spirit is sure to create a lifetimes worth of cognitive dissonance. Still, I know that at the moment of decision thinking is the last thing that is required. Survival is one hell of a motivator. That's why I keep an M1 with bayonet. If that sight won't scare someone off, they probably need to be killed.

Posted by: Casca at June 30, 2011 8:03 AM

They engage in this behavior because our enlightened betters have removed negative consequences.

In an earlier, less enlightened time, one would get shot or seriously ass-kicked for this.

In a way, I almost look forward to the crash and hard re-set. Yeah, it's gonna suck, but the looks on their faces will gladden my hardened obsidian heart.

Posted by: BUTCH at June 30, 2011 8:07 AM

The Frank Zappa riff brings back memories.
Right out of basic training in 1967 I was assigned to the security police squadron at Edwards AFB in California. Before any other training commenced we were trained in riot control tactics; formations and movements essentially unchanged since Roman times, with fixed bayonets rather than spears. It was apparent to me that the authorities were on the verge of suspending the Possee Comatatus act, which forbids active duty military to interfere with civilian law enforcement activity. In other words If the riots were to break out again the authorities were planning to invoke martial law.

Posted by: stuart at June 30, 2011 8:51 AM

The evil which men suffer patiently as inevitable seem insupportable as soon as they conceive the idea of escape from it--Tocqueville

No such ideas have occurred within our candidate class, but how could they? You are not going to go through the arduous democratic process of competing to become cheerleader and be an advocate of the elimination of the football program at the same time.

The entire system could be stood on its head, where it would finally re-discover its roots. It could be done. But a candidate is a natural joiner, whatever his persona.

We've a good enough supply of odd men out, but no odd men in. The system has had eighty years to perfect its defenses.

Posted by: james wilson at June 30, 2011 10:33 AM

The next time rioters burn down their own neighborhoods, they should be left to stew in their own rubble, and rebuild the best they can with what they have left. No outside aid or subsidies.

Posted by: rickl at June 30, 2011 6:12 PM

Actually, "Trouble Every Day" is about the MSM as much or even more than the Watts riots:

And if another woman driver
Gets machine-gunned from her seat
We'll send some joker with a Brownie
And you'll see it all complete

Posted by: rickl at June 30, 2011 6:21 PM