Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life is beautiful all the time.
Back about 25 years ago, when the world was young and it was a Soviet Empire, not a Muslim Empire that was our nemesis, we lived next to Irvington, NJ, which was next to Newark, NJ.
It was a mixed neighborhood where the residents were more “working class” or newly arrived in their corporate jobs and therefore less financially stable.
Next door to us lived a very nice older black couple who had been there for at least 25 years. He was retired from the merchant marines. On the other side lived a very white Catholic family. He had a landscaping business and was not very friendly towards my Jewish family. Across the street were immigrants from England where the husband was newly employed as… a guy who created the chemical formulas for flavors in food… or something like that. And, behind us was an Orthodox Jewish Lubavitch family who father worked in the financial world.
Most of our other neighbors were either immigrant families, white and black, or “ethnic” white folk who were a tad less educated or cultured than to that which we were accustomed.
One day, when my eldest (Jewish) son was not home, two of the (very “Christian”) neighborhood boys stopped by to see if they could “play” with him. These were cousins, I believe 6 and 7 years old, respectively.
When they were informed that our son was not home, they responded rudely and began riding their little bikes around in our driveway, swearing like little sailors, using rather foul language as to why our son wasn't home.
I was both shocked and bemused, not comprehending how they could possibly be upset or why they would express themselves in this way.
From my back porch I asked them to stop and to leave. They ignored me.
Back in days of yore, I was not so even tempered and sweet as I am today (well, at least that is how I see myself now; others might differ).
I strode down off of my back porch, onto my driveway, and literally grabbed each child by the scruff of his neck, stopping them and making them dismount from their bicycles.
I then began to march them out of my driveway, while they held onto their bikes, telling them that I was taking them to their own houses to talk to their parents.
It so happened that by the time I got to the end of my driveway, the mother of the younger of the two was walking by. I told her what had happened and she, appropriately, scolded her child and took him home while telling her nephew to go home to his father.
And, all was well with the world.
My wife’s mother was visiting with us at the time. Some time later, my wife and her mother were sitting on the front porch when they sent my son to get me. He told me that the 7 year old's father was out front and wanted to talk to me. My mother in law and my wife both appeared rather nervous. When I went outside to talk to this man, I understood why.
The father was a strapping young man with a close haircut, wearing what I believe is commonly called a “wife beater” sleeveless t shirt, showing off his impressively muscular physique. He was about 6’ 2” and he was not happy.
I, on the other hand, was about 6’, overweight, slightly balding, and not a particularly impressive specimen of manhood. Apparently, my wife and mother in law were afraid that this guy was going to beat the bejeesus out me.
His son was with him, still on his bicycle.
I walked up to him as he stood on the sidewalk outside of my house, curious but unafraid.
“Hi,” I said, “I understand that you want to talk to me.”
“Did you put your hands on my son’s neck?!!” he inquired with obvious anger.
“Yes, I did,” I replied, intending to continue...
“How dare you touch my son!” he yelled at me, stepping closer and getting menacingly “in my face.”
“Whoa,” I replied, more astonished than fearful. “Your son and his cousin were riding around in my driveway, swearing, using extremely bad language and would not leave. Are you okay with that?”
He took a step backward and repeated, “Don’t you ever touch my son again. I’ll sue you for everything you've got!”
“What?” I replied truly confused. “You are angry with me for not letting your 7 year old son swear at me in my driveway? And you want your son to stand here listening to you threaten me and tell me that his behavior is acceptable. Really?!”
My antagonist was momentarily disconcerted and brusquely told his son - “Go home.”
His son pedaled off. He had been smirking thus far during our brief conversation but, he looked a bit put out himself as he left. I don’t think he understood why his father was letting this “old fat guy” send him away…
His father continued to threaten me with lawsuits and angry rhetoric.
And, I continued to try and ask him why he thought it was okay for his son to do this.
Each time I would ask him something like: “You really want to bring your son up this way?,” he would take a step backwards.
I did not step forwards but, with every comment or admonition I made, he would jerk backwards almost like I was punching him. He probably took about five steps backwards to my comments, retorting each time about how he was going to sue me, until he finally turned and left.
I was totally amazed. I also had a “fight or flight” adrenaline rush as I only then realized that my body, if not my mind, had fully expected him to pummel me into the ground.
It was an extraordinary experience.
That whole enterprise was brought to mind via the contemplation of a new perspective I have picked up recently called – a false narrative.
A false narrative is one where the whole premise upon which it is based, is a lie. It is an invented story to explain whatever point of view the author wishes to justify.
The boy’s father in question based his false narrative on the idea that I was criminally wrong to place my hand upon his son’s neck and escort him off of my property.
My questions did nothing to dispel his belief in this false narrative; however, my questions did confuse him enough to back away and go away.
(And, no, he did not sue me. I never saw him again.)
Today, we live in a world of false narratives…
Many of us blithely accept these narratives as true and thereby do a great of damage to our own integrity and our relationship to truth.
We know Right from Wrong.
If we choose to not question that which is Wrong, and instead worry about being “sensitive” or “poetically correct,” then we are supporting what is wrong. We are supporting a false narrative; a lie.
I learned a little bit from my experience that G-d supports us, even in peculiar circumstances, when we support truth.

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