Tuesday, October 21, 2008

female fury: a fairer song than peace?

I do moderate work here and there--not enough--to determine for myself when pacifism amounts to provincialism, to rethink my alignment with the irresponsible, ignorant, commercial feel-good isolationism of some factions of peace activists, and to suss out by extension what it means to live a life committed to peaceful nonviolence with eyes wide open. I feel anyone earnestly interested in peace is responsible to determine just when a globally informed citizen's stance becomes less about nonviolent disengagement and more about blind-eye complicity to violence.

Living in the community I do forces me to decide hypothetically every day when I walk my dog to what extent I'd commit acts of aggression to protect those I love. And I then begin to ask the obvious, more abstract (to me, anyway) questions: what lines might I draw when it comes to police or military intervention in response to local battery, abuse, or endangerment, and on larger scales, civil strife and genocide. These are the most difficult questions for me to answer.

What should, by contrast, be easy to answer, is blood sport. It seems like just so much wanton violence and sadism for the glory of the ego, right? And it's silly to pay money to watch people beat on each other. But as my three-times-a-week jog got more frequent and longer and the sports more varied and taxing, I ceased to see the bright line between pleasure and pain; I'd done a number of endurance events and part of the pleasure was definitely in the power of my mind over my body, the fact that I could continue through mile 24, 25, 26 simply because I had decided that I would.

And let's face it, ring sports bring with them the floodlit spectacle of competition. When I back a competitor, I participate viscerally. And this is where we leave the hypothetical violence behind. I just bought a ticket to watch my first boxing match. Muay thai, to be specific. And it's women doing the fighting, not men. Considering one of my favorite movies--it's true; I can't help it--is Rocky, I suppose I should be less surprised just how excited I am to attend this event.

In fact, it marks a real departure from the frame of my consciousness just a few years ago--forgive what seems the non sequitur here for just a sec--when reality TV made its debut with Survivor, I dismissed it disparagingly as a new incarnation of the Roman Coliseum.

And now I find myself poised to sit in the coliseum bleachers, up for the cheering and jeering. Clearly something has changed. I could say I am attending Female Fury simply because someone I hold very dear fights with Pacific Ring Sports, one of the participating gyms. And I am supporting her passion, just like she has when I've signed on for various races. But if honesty is a virtue and we're on this hike to find our way back to that hollowed ground of virtue and grace, then I confess there is extraordinary appeal to orchestrated violence, the prospect of a thrown punch, the visceral thrill of a good kick to the head, the anticipation of the physical maneuvers that I will commit to memory and replay.

My grandfather was a boxer. He believed in a good fight. But he also believed in a good war. And a good country. All unapologetically. The hitch is, of course, by extension, he also believed in real-life heroes, villains, nations of good people, and well, those nations that the good people fought. Me, I've never enjoyed the clarity he did. I dwell in ambiguity and I think I'm pretty glad about that.

All I know is I am looking forward to this and though the sweetest, gentlest voices in my head are shrieking in dismay, I'm afraid I can't hear them over the drumbeats right now.