Tag Archives: violence

Evil And Existence Post Paris

Like 9/11, confronting the horror of the 11/13 Paris attacks requires us to recognize the inherent fragility of our lives. We live in an ordered society. We’re lucky like that in the West. Sometimes terror shatters that order. We can confront this evil in a number of ways. We can employ whatever philosophy or belief system we use to give us comfort. We can get angry. We can despair. Or we can ignore it. Some combination of these aforementioned coping mechanisms can work too.

This is not an easy topic to build a book list about, but I am including titles that ponder the nature of evil and violence. I hope that at least one of them might supply some succor.
Violence-covChallenge-covRegarding-covNon-violence-cov

The Challenge Of Things:  Thinking Through Troubled Times / A.C. Grayling

Freedom:  Stories Celebrating The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights / anthology

Non-Violence:  Challenges And Prospects / Bidyut Chakrabarty

Regarding The Pain Of Others / Susan Sontag

Violence:  Six Sideways Reflections / Slavoj Žižek

How we react as individuals and as a nation to senseless acts of violence defines us. I suspect that striking a balance between the closed fist of vengeance and the open hand of peace will go a long way toward deciding how we write the next chapter.

–Scott P.

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Lovers and Fighters

“If you can’t take the punches, it don’t mean a thing.” —Warren Zevon

I don’t remember much about the day Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini visited my school. My dad wasn’t a huge boxing fan, so I didn’t really understand why the fighter was famous–just that he was, and that he cared enough about his hometown to do things like talk to kids at pep assemblies. I sat in a wooden folding chair in the gym, surrounded by cheering classmates who were obviously much more sports-savvy than I was; I don’t remember anything Mancini said, either–any wisdom he might have had for me was drowned out by pre-teen adulation. The only detail I recall clearly was that one of the eighth grade girls presented Mancini with a bouquet of flowers, and that the boxer gallantly gave her a peck on the cheek. The girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, and the audience collectively roared its approval.

“Boom Boom’s” visit made an impression on me, though. How could it not?  Mancini’s presence was meant to be an example of what we, too, could accomplish, if we worked hard. We could be contenders.  We could be somebody. Maybe not in the ring, but somehow. All you had to do was pay your dues and have faith, and somehow everything would turn out okay. Maybe I missed out on the details of that particular sermon, but the underlying message–reinforcing, as it did, everything else I’d been brought up to believe–rang out like a bell, an insistent sound rippling down to the bone.

Nobody talked to us about what happened later. We were, perhaps, too young to learn we could do our best to rise, and still fall.

When Mark Kriegel’s biography of Mancini, The Good Son, came up on my radar, I knew I was going to read it. Mancini’s story was our story too, those of us who grew up in the shadow of Black Monday, and even though you can’t go home again, home never really leaves you. I wanted to see how the story turned out, and I was not disappointed.

Equal parts love song and hero’s journey, The Good Son is a guided tour of Ray Mancini’s desire to win a world boxing championship, something his father, the original “Boom” Mancini, was denied after a WWII injury cut his own career short. Like a modern-day Hercules, the young Mancini stubbornly plows through the obstacles in his path and achieves his dream. Fame and further opportunities follow, but nothing gold can stay, and “Boom Boom” ultimately meets the psychological test of his life in his fight with Duk Koo Kim, and its tragic aftermath.

This was, for me, the most interesting part of the book: how do you go on living when your world is blown apart? Kriegel shows, with great compassion, Mancini’s struggles to find meaning in life, and a life after boxing. The journey to redemption, one that, in the hands of clumsier writers suffers from hyperbole and cliche, becomes, in Kriegel’s hands, a tale that could (and can, and does) happen to anyone. Best of all, readers who like happy endings will get one…though it may not come wrapped in the trappings they have come to expect from “happy.”

I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but I can assure you, there’s something in The Good Son for a variety of readers, even if the namedropping of specific neighborhoods and local politicos doesn’t make you mist up a little, the  way I did. For the sports fans, there’s a ripping good yarn about the bloodier days of boxing, before Howard Cosell lost his temper about it. For those who lived during the boom and bust of the steel industry, there are slices of living history, bittersweet pieces of pie you can wash down with your coffee (or maybe a shot and a beer). And for those who still believe–or want to believe–in heroes, here there are lovers and fighters, families and rivals, the human condition writ large, Shakespeare for groundlings, poetry in motion.

If the name of the game really is “be hit and hit back,” The Good Son wins, by unanimous decision. Try it and see.

–Leigh Anne

who, after all those years, finally got the message

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The Disappeared

Last year there was a brief article about people who have “disappeared” (re: been kidnapped and murdered) in Brazil since 2007.  The number, 9000, is staggering, and the cause is largely narcotics traffickers and police “working” after hours.

The article got me thinking about the military juntas and dictatorships in place in many Latin American countries in the 1970s and 80s.  During those years many people “disappeared” as well, but instead of mostly random people off the street, these were political dissidents opposed to their oppressive governments.  

There are a number of films that depict various aspects of these dirty histories (in Argentina, the time period is actually referred to as the Dirty War).  One of the best known, and the first I ever saw, is The Official Story (1985) from Argentina.  Based on actual events, it tells the story of a woman who discovers that her adopted daughter is the child of a disappeared couple. The film does a great job of showing how people allow themselves to remain ignorant of the extent of violence and corruption around them. 

A good follow-up to The Official Story is Cautiva (2007). This time the perspective is that of a young girl, Cristina, who is suddenly taken from her school and told she is actually Sofia, the daughter of a disappeared couple. Cristina struggles with her feelings of loyalty to the parents she has always known and loved, and the betrayal she feels at discovering she is not really their daughter.  

Imagining Argentina (2003) is based on the novel by Lawrence Thornton. Following the disappearance of his dissident journalist wife, a children’s theatre director discovers he has the ability to “see” the whereabouts and events happening in the lives of disappeared people. Not for the faint of heart, this film, and the novel, reflect the horrific realities of the treatment of the disappeared.

For a slight change in geography, check out Machuca (2004) and Missing (1982), both about the Pinochet years in Chile.  And to come full circle back to Brazil, try The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2006), a film that juxtaposes the horror of the political situation in 1970 Brazil with the energy and excitement felt throughout the country as Pele leads their soccer team to victory in the World Cup, the first to be transmitted live via satellite. 

For a couple of films that depict the kind of violence taking place in Brazil today check out City of God (2002) and Manda Bala (Send a Bullet, 2007), a documentary examining the current practice of kidnapping in Brazil.

                    

– Sarah

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