Friday, December 2, 2011

A Fight for Honor

Honor doesn’t seem to carry the same weight nowadays as it did in history’s past. Honor was so sacred, so precious, that there were rules set in place when honor was broken, bruised, or challenged, especially when it came to restoring the honor of a woman. Gentlemen would gather in open fields in secluded and isolated places with swords and dueling pistols to settle debts of honor. If honor was grossly maligned, only the act of all out war would be sufficient enough to sate the restoration of one’s honor.

In contrast, honor seems to be sorely lacking in today’s society. We only need to look at our leaders, politicians, and most recently, coaches to see that. These men and woman are supposed to set moral examples and be individuals that ourselves and our children can look up to and strive to be like. Instead, far too often, we are gravely disappointed in their actions, words, and lack of honor. That’s not to say that honor is lost in them all. There are many that do strive and are successful at upholding honor and inspire many others to do the same. Unfortunately, with the advent of instant and worldwide communication, our hearts and minds are constantly being tainted with the foul acts of individuals that not only disgrace the meaning of honor but violate it until it’s beyond repair.

My delve into the topic on honor stems from an event that happened to me more than 15 years ago where I found myself in a situation where the honor of a loved one was desecrated and I was faced with the choice to either stand by and do nothing, or spring into action so that justice and honor could be served. 

It was the mid 1990’s and I had flown back to the sleepy town of Pikeville, TN to spend time with my family for Thanksgiving. My sister Janet and I were sitting on the couch watching TV late one evening with her boyfriend, when suddenly my niece walked in the door. She was crying and visibly shaking, and had the look of terror in her eyes. I knew something terrible must had happened to bring her to tears, because Yolanda has always been a physically and mentally strong person. My first thought was that something happened to her daughter Jaclyn, who was only a toddler at the time.

I sprung from the couch and asked her what was wrong, and she proceeded to describe a terrifying scene. She had been at JJ’s Market, one of several convenience stores in that small town, and when she was walking back to her car a man approached her. He started making lewd comments to her, even as she carried her little girl in her arms. He followed her to her car, and as she was trying to buckle her daughter in her car seat, he continued to make vulgar comments and even started touching her. At one point he had her pinned against the car and was forcing himself on her and wouldn’t let her go even with her pleading for him to stop.

As she recanted what had happened, rage began to boil up inside me. I asked her for details of the man’s description and she gave them, including his name. She didn’t know him, but knew of him, which didn’t surprise me. In a small town like Pikeville, everyone knew everyone.

So I asked Janet’s boyfriend (we'll call him Glen) to drive me around town to see if we could track this perpetrator down. He was an ambulance driver, so he knew the town better than anyone. We hopped in his car, and without even a thought as to what I would do or say to the man if we found him, we were off scouring the town. Pikeville was a small, one stop-light town, so if he had stayed in town we would likely find him, and find him we did.

After much due diligence, checking the obvious spots and the locations that unsavory characters typically gather, we had struck out and were on our way back home when we spotted two cars with their lights on in the dirt and gravel parking lot of an old church. Sure enough, one of them contained the violator. We drove up close to them and I got out and approached the perp who was sitting in the passenger side of a large late model sedan. The other car belonged to Yolanda’s boyfriend who had ideas of his own to restore honor and had found him first.

As I approached the vehicle, I could see the perp was already in an agitated state. His eyes were wild and his mannerisms conveyed someone who was no stranger to confrontations. I asked if his name was whom my niece had named, and he confirmed. I proceeded to interrogate the man as to why he had done what he had done, but the conversation had barely started, when he was out of the car and on his feet.

There we were, face to face, like so many other duelers of history’s past, hell bent to restore honor no matter the cost. He was measurably taller, leaner, and more muscular than I; though I had good twenty or thirty pounds on him.

“Oh I see, this is a black thing,” he shouted and raised his fists towards me. It was obvious at this point that talking was not going to resolve honor; his or mine.

In truth, I don’t recall if it had even registered to me that in her descriptions that my niece described her assailant being black, other than it was going to make him easier to find in a small town predominately made of white people. I had already made up my mind that honor was going to be restored regardless of size, color, or race.  

“No,” I replied. “This has nothing to do with you being black and everything to do with your actions.”

That fact didn’t seem to quench his anger none-the-least. He took the first swing. He was fast, dangerously fast. It was a slapping motion that grazed my temple and knocked my glasses to the ground. Without my glasses, my vision was poor at best, even in broad daylight, but at night it was considerably worse.

There was no way I was going to be able to go toe to toe with this guy, not for long. He was younger, stronger, faster, and in better shape than I was. Not to mention he had the advantage of the full use of his corneas, which wasn’t helping my situation any. I knew I had to get him in close – he had reach on me too – close enough to grapple. Even though he held the physical edge, my wrestling training had taught me that those physical strengths could be turned into my favor if I could somehow control my anger and the situation.

With the weight of my nieces honor held in the balance, I did what any other sensible person would do. I called his manhood into question by, in so many explicit words, informing him that he hit like a girl. That did it. He lunged towards me with a wild swing, and with that, I step forward, grabbed his arm, and proceeded to perform a picture perfect head-and-arm throw.

Coach Niebuhr would have been so proud.

In the flash of an eye, we both landed on the hard ground with a thud, the weight of my body on top of his. While he was stunned by the impact, my wrestling instincts kicked in and I situated myself in a superior position. I straddled his waist, effectively bypassing his guard, and pinned his wrists to the ground. He had nowhere to go, and all of his strengths were effectively neutralized. Even though I held a clear advantage, I still tried to reason with the man, but he would have nothing of it. He continued to mouth off and wouldn’t listen to a word I said.

So again I did what any other reasonable person would have done in my situation and head-butted him in the nose, then pinned his arms underneath him and then held them in place with my knees. I had him dead to rights. I could have pummeled the life out of him and nothing could have stopped me. The thought of how he violated my niece’s honor fueled my rage and every ounce of me wanted to make him eat fist pie, but for some reason I didn’t. Till this day I don’t know why I held back, but I’m glad I did. Otherwise I might have been telling this story from the memoirs of a convicted criminal inside a jail cell.

“Listen a%^h&le,” I shouted at him. “I could beat the living daylights out of you right now, and by every right I should, but I’m not going to. I didn’t come here to fight you.” (that may not have been entirely true) “I came here to get an apology from you, and tell you to stay away from my niece.” He laid there silent. Finally, reason had taken hold. “But if you ever come near my niece again, I promise you I WILL finish this.”

With that, I stood up and walked away.

The perp got up and got into his car, and the two men drove off. I never saw them again, and more importantly, neither did my niece. As I got back into our car Glen had a grim look on his face, and he said, “Do you know who those guys were?”

I didn’t.

“The driver was just released from prison for armed robbery last week, and the guy you beat up has been in trouble with the law all his life and usually carries a gun. They deal in drugs a lot too.”

“Well that would explain the wild look in his eyes,” I replied.

“But don’t worry, I had my gun ready just in case,” he added, as if that was going to make me feel any better.

Why that information wasn't divulged to me beforehand I’ll never know. I was lucky. Damn lucky that night that neither one of them had guns, or if they had, didn’t draw them. There assuredly would have been a far different ending to this story if they had. I’ve often wondered since that night if I would have still gone out looking for the guy had I known his lurid past with the law.

In the end, was justice served? Was honor restored? I don’t know. My niece is the only one who could answer that question. I don’t think the horrid memories of that night could have been so easily erased even if I had pummeled his face into the ground. Certainly, if I had been shot or killed in the process it would have only made matters worse.

The smart thing would have been to call the police. Still, even though it might have been a foolish and brash thing to do, I feel good knowing that I did the right thing. Maybe it’s my old world ancestry talking, but sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes you have to put your life on the line for things you strongly believe in, and for the people you love. Just like back in the days when having honor and defending it meant something.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination 

Have your ever found yourself in a similar situation? What did you do? Do you think honor was restored? I want to hear your thoughts.

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