A History of Violence

Recently and accidentally I got in contact on the web with a scholar in England who had written an article on the depiction of white trash in horror films.  I had noticed the connection myself.  I am fond of horror films and think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a masterpiece of its kind, featuring of course white trash cannibalizing people unfortunate enough to stop in their area.  We traded, the scholar and I, a few more academic and theoretical emails.  Then I wrote that, while of course the horror films exaggerate the violence of the white trash household, that violence did occur in such households.  I went on to describe the various attempted homicides that had occurred in my family.

 I never heard from the scholar again.  What did she think: that I was going to go across the Atlantic and cannibalize here.  Obviously, another dilettante academic who really has no idea what she is writing about.

 Note first: the homicides were “attempted,” none proved successful, as of yet.  One was even sort of an accident; Thad my brother killed my father he might have been tried for reckless endangerment, but that’s about it.  Throwing a screw driver in the direction of a person’s head in a moment of rage could suggest reckless endangerment.  But the screw driver missed and (twang!) stuck in the garage door next to my father’s head…just like in the movies.

 Another attempt was mostly just a threat.  My father was out front of the house trying to remove some side mirrors he had rented so that he could see around the trailer they had pulled on their vacation.  But he was having trouble getting them off and flying into a rage began to strike the mirrors with a two pound hammer quite vigorously.  When he began to strike the truck my mother went out and interposed her body between the truck and the hammer.  Whereupon, my father said, get out of the way bitch or I will kill you.  My mother must have believed it because she ran into the house and locked herself in my brother’s bedroom, so he might afford her protection if necessary.

 When my father turned demented, he became more overtly and publically violent.  He went around hitting people with his cane.  He hit my brother’s father-in-law with it.  My brother picked up my father and had him upon against the fence that separated the old man from a 30 foot fall onto rocks.  Perhaps this too constitutes an attempt.  In any case, my brother had to be restrained.

 So I was worried a bit about my mother.  Elders could I knew abuse each other, so I called to ask if she was afraid at all of my father’s behavior.  Oh no, she said, he is afraid of me and went on to tell of the time she had gotten a large kitchen knife, gone into the bedroom where he was napping and attempted to plunge the knife into his chest.  But at the last instant my father flung out his arm; the knife hit the arm bone and its tip broke off.  Another botched attempt, though penetration had been effected and there was a good deal of blood.  “Funny,” she said, “he wrapped up his arm and never said a word about it.”

 Apparently, according to my very unreliable mother, another brother who has spent more time tending to the elders’ needs that anybody, very recently attempted to kill her.  I didn’t ask about the details.  But it seemed to involve having been nearly strangulated by some band of material that is used to stabilize a person in his or her wheelchair but had in this instance gotten up around her neck somehow.

 I think this is an outright lie.

 I wonder has anybody ever killed anybody simply because that person annoyed one to death?

You’re Invisible!

About a year after we arrived in San Diego, we started attending Trinity Presbyterian Church.  Set jutting from the hillside, the bottom of the church, under the part that jutted, housed the Sunday school, and on top of that the Church proper.  An A-Frame structure, somewhat futuristic looking, in a Disney Land way.

GodMore troubling than the non-traditional architecture were the sermons.  While I can’t say I understood the sermons delivered in Ora, S.C., I had the feeling they were generally gloomy and featured Calvinistic ruminations on grace and damnation.  But in California, we received, as I slowly came to understand it, heaping dollops of Sweetness and Light.  This was the pap upon which Sunday Morning Christians Suckled.

God was no Yahweh bent upon retribution for sliding from the path; he was instead the God of Forgiveness.  In fact, He would forgive almost anything.  He was not I felt a God John Wayne could respect.  His Son moreover loved everybody.  Nobody need feel unloved as long as He was around.

 This whole sickly conglomeration was mixed up with grotesque and macabre events featuring persons rising from the grave and being tortured to death.. The whole business was distasteful, even vulgar; I couldn’t make any sense of it either.  I could find no connection between the macabre events and the meanings assigned to them by the Bible as interpreted by our Minister.

How did getting strung up on a cross when one could have easily left town equal “dying for our sins.”  How did dying and then rising from the dead equal “dying.”  Deadness by definition is infinite.  At best the Son spent a brief three days in the other place.  And what was the big deal about a God becoming human.  Was it so awful being us?  Had God humiliated himself by assuming the form of what he had supposedly created?  And to top it off, he returned for a while to this earth as a ghost.  I am probably wrong; lots of odd things happen in the Old Testament but I don’t remember any ghosts.

I would sit at the sermons trying to understand but feeling more and more repulsed.  How could the Minister use such word as “but” or “therefore” or “however”—those precious logical connectors—to create an edifice of unreason?  I tried to understand.  But that was difficult, not only because of the subject matter, but because the year before while a sophomore in high school, I had decided, not that I did not believe in God, but that He had not ever existed, for to say I did not believe still implied a disjunctive relation to Him.

I don’t recollect having been in any particular way upset that Sunday morning, but rather than get ready for Church I continued to read my novel.  When my mother asked why wasn’t I getting ready, I replied calmly that I was an atheist and that going to Church struck me as hypocritical and a waste of my time.  Perhaps I suffered a temporary lapse of sanity or maybe it was something like hope.

 In any case, I should have known what would happen.  My mother reported that I had become an atheist to my father.  She then fell to weeping and wondering aloud what she had done to deserve such a son.  He, having stopped striking me directly sometime before, thundered around the house, slamming doors, and cursing up a storm.  Whereupon my youngest brother who was 14 years younger than I and about two years old began to cry at all the racket.  The din was unbelievable.  I was then informed by another brother that nobody would be going to church that day unless I went and we would all accordingly go to hell together because of my action.

 I put on my church clothes, went to the car and waited; they all came out and got in the car, as if nothing had happened; the incident was never brought up again, nor did they ever ask me if I had changed my mind or why I had become an atheist or what my reasoning was if any.  Really, they were not in the least concerned with what I felt or thought only with how I “behaved.”