I got in a fist fight at the Erykah Badu show on Monday night. I could tell the story and make the other girl sound bad, make myself sound hard. I could tell you that she poured a whole beer on me while I was apologizing for spilling on her in a very crowded room which was almost certainly 100 degrees. I could tell you that I got a few good shots in and she got none until she snuck back after it was over and kicked me in the face while I looked for the necklace she'd pulled off my neck. The necklace that Rob gave me for Christmas, the present most cherished. But telling you that doesn't erase the shame I feel, doesn't touch the fact that I didn't act the way I've asked my students to act. I won the fight but I lost something of myself. I lost the moral ground I thought I stood on. I learned what it is to loose control.
I'm supposed to be a pacifist. That's what I believe is right in my heart. I don't believe violence leads to anything but more violence. I remember a conversation I had with an 18 year old student in a residential facility. He was burning to beat the crap out of this other kid who probably deserved it at least a little. "I don't blame you for wanting to hit him, but you just can't do that." I'd argued. I'd said that he would be hitting a minor, someone with a low IQ and that he was 18 now and would be treated as an adult hitting a child. Beside the fact that its just not a good way to handle it. While that 18 year old would not have believed me, the reality was that the kid he wanted to hurt, in truth would have beat the crap out of him. If my 18 year old would have hit him, it would have turned into an all out brawl.
I've had endless discussions about fights with kids where I've said consistently that it is still not the right thing to do. They'd bring up an example of a time they think a person MUST resort to violence and consistently I'd tell them another way to handle it. And I believe in these other ways. Yet, when it came to my turn to turn the other cheek, to walk away, I did not do that. I could have shrugged it off, after all I'd just been thinking how good it would fill to dump a drink over my head since it was so freakin hot. (I'd also been thinking it would be nice to take my jeans off and hang out in my panties for the rest of the show.) But I didn't; I hit her... hard.
The rest of the show I thought of how I should have acted differently. How if I hadn't hit her, hadn't thrown a drink on her, I would still be wet but who cares. How I would not have embarrassed myself in front of people I'd just met. How I'd know that in the face of a meaningless stranger, I could control myself. I'd know I'd done the right thing. Rob said, "Well, I know it wasn't the right thing, but I'm not sure it was the wrong thing either."
The thing is I believe that the energy you put out in the world tends to come back to you. I had spent the last hour + being annoyed with the crowd, thinking how I'd like to hit someone. I'd been thinking when she tried to wriggle past me in the crowd, "It'd serve her right if she got beer spilled on her." I hadn't made a lot of effort to move out of her way other than to hold up the drinks in my hands (which really meant that when I did spill on her it was on her head.) And in general, I'd spent the last week or so annoyed with the world and wanting to crush parts of it. The fact is my own destructive energies came back to me, and I didn't stop them. I let violence beget violence. I failed.
And the shame lingers on...