A Tough Neighborhood

I grew up on The South Side; spent my whole childhood there. But as a young man I lived on The East Side for a few years. I mentioned in passing I was from The South Side and somebody said:

“That’s a tough neighborhood.”

Time passed and I moved from The East Side to The North Side and the subject came up and I mentioned I’d been living on The East Side and somebody said:

“That’s a tough neighborhood.”

After living on The North Side for a little while I moved on to The West Side and once again I mentioned the fact I’d previously been living on The North Side and somebody said:

“That’s a tough neighborhood.”

By that time I was telling people a neighborhood is only as tough as you make it. When I first arrived on The West Side I found myself watching a parade. It was just a normal sunny day. My eyes began hurting. I stood there squinting and trying to figure out why my eyes were hurting. It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t seen that many white people in one place at the same time in all of twenty years. It was the glare of light off that sea of white faces on the people lining the street that caused my eyes to hurt. But I don’t want to give the impression that The West Side was any different than any other neighborhood. It was about as tough as the others. So allow me to reiterate: a neighborhood is only as tough as you make it.

After a time I moved from The West Side back over to The South Side, and wouldn’t you know it, when I mentioned I’d been living on The West Side somebody said:

“That’s a tough neighborhood.”

 

If you’re looking for trouble you’re likely to find it. As a child I learned something-something about “turning the other cheek” but I was also advised to avoid fighting as much as possible, and the best way to avoid a fight is to never throw the first punch. If you strike the first blow you’ve started a fight and, once started you’re expected to finish it – which sometimes doesn’t end the way you’d imagined it would.

Most people don’t know the difference between an argument and a fight anyway. You can’t win a logical argument by fighting. A heated argument can escalate into a fight but a fight never de-escalates into an argument, much less a logical one.

Don’t fool yourself. Winning a fist fight doesn’t mean you’ve won the argument.

(Unless, of course, the argument was about who was the better street fighter.)

You couldn’t convert me even at sword-point.

“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea” — Medgar Evers

Furthermore, killing a man teaches him nothing.

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About The Twentieth Man

Age 68
This entry was posted in Expository Writing, Observations, Personal History, Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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