Lines

On the playground we were all warriors.

We played many games, all of them designed to replicate real wars. Move the ball, score on the opponent. Victory and defeat. Triumph or humiliation. Attack and defend.

Sometimes we played Capture the Flag, a game that almost exactly mirrors the activities of war: stealth, death, deceit, guard duty, all the highlights. The entire play area is divided into two territories, and two teams, who each hide a flag or an icon of some sort in the farthest reaches of their territory. The object is to find and steal the flag of the other team, and bring it back to your own territory. Along the way you can be captured and imprisoned, or killed, and if you catch the other team on your ground, you can kill them instead.

Sometimes things would escalate beyond gaming. Someone would get pushed too hard, and get too serious about the offense. The undercurrent was always there. At these times you would try to defuse the situation. The parties involved could not back down, and any intervention could lead to greater tensions, and punches could be thrown, shoves administered. Would-be peacekeepers could get bloody noses.

Eventually someone would draw a line. Step over it, and I’ll break your head. Take it any way you want. There it is. A line. You could go for it, if you were tough enough, or if you thought you had no credible choice. You could ridicule the concept as a way of not ignoring it but not having to brave the possible consequences. Some of your playmates might see it your way, and not think you a hopeless chicken.

But one thing was sure: When it got to that point, when the line was drawn, it was too late for intervention. It was past the point of no return. Someone was going to get hurt, physically or psychologically.

What were we doing, with our lines and our threats, and our posturing? Readying ourselves, instinctively, for the Game of Life that we were headed for, a game where the winners take what they want and to hell with everyone else, where you draw a line around your territory and warn all who pass, step over this at your peril, where you penetrate the territory of others, steal their stuff and race with your spoils back to your homeland. Welcome to the Big Game of deception, betrayal and death.

Like children, power mad and run amok, we have marked the whole world with lines, an elaborate system of borders, and we have warned each other in the harshest possible ways do not step over our line. We no longer remember why the lines are there, but we will kill the trespasser, and the killers shall wear medals, and we will honor them and they shall be known as heroes.

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14 Replies to “Lines”

  1. When people want to take things from you, you have to draw the line. Bullies don’t understand anything except the line and the consequences for crossing it.

    It’s just too bad that we have the greedy bullies in the world. For them, it’s not about having enough, but about the taking.

    And once they take, they get a taste for it. They keep going, keep taking.

  2. L,
    what your stance on pacificism? not that the absurdity of this nonwar (offically over some long time ago)really relates to the idea of being a pacificist or not.
    but in other wars, the ones KP references, what do you think? are there times to bare arms?

  3. Brent — Well, tetherball, of course. The object is to smack the other person in the chops with the ball at about 150 miles per hour, right?

    j — My stance on pacifism? Geez, man, I’m at work. Here’s the short version: My models are Maverick, as played by James Garner on the original TV series, and the police captain in Casablanca, as played by Claude Rains in the 1942 movie. Further discussion will only lead to many qualifications and disclaimers, best left for a late night at Ship’s in Westwood.

    Steph — Shut up. This is Serious Talk. (Just kidding. But when is the blessed event?)

  4. The trouble with being a pacifist is that people will hurt you or worse because they can.

    As for leaning toward pacifism (like I do), after you have drawn you’re line, had it crossed, and taken your stand and are the winner, you will feel guilt, but at least you’re not in the Emergency Room or dead.

    The hardest choice is to decide to draw the line. What’s at stake? If it’s someone’s life or health, I say the pacifism gets dropped to the side and you take the man/entity down – hard. But if it’s something like name-calling or your pride (insert nationalism here), forget it.

    The difference between bullies and protectors is that protectors don’t like hurting people/entities/organizations. Bullies most certainly do.

  5. Kung Pow Pig — It’s true: If you want to be peaceful, the cost can be high. Thus my half-pacifist position. I won’t start anything, and if I have to cause injury (figuratively or literally) I’ll feel terrible about it.

  6. Larry – We should have a Kung Fu (the TV series from the 70s) marathon.

    Jericmiller – I try not to eat animal flesh when I can, to the point that people ask if I’m a vegeterian. But I’m not a full-on vegeterian.

    What can I say: I’m weak.

  7. kp, what can any of us say? we’re all weak.
    the important thing is that we try. we take steps.
    there are monks who appreciate life so thoroughly, they wear maks over their mouths so as to not suck in and extinguish micoroscopic bug life.
    i don’t do that.
    i do what i do.
    you do what you do.
    we try, and that’s good.
    and if we’re careful enough, we’ll bring more light to the world than darkness. even if in the end, it is just a little more light than darkness. still, it makes our existences worthy.

  8. Nice post and great discussion.

    I happen to be fond of the masking tape method of defining territory (used across the land when siblings share a bedroom, and also on the Brady Bunch, as I recall). Many never mastered the beauty of reapplication when agreements are renegotiated — like, “give me the window and you can use the door to go to the bathroom”.

    Maybe things have to be said in the most absurd language in order to be heard. “Mr. & Mrs. Smith, your daughter died because that guy won’t move the masking tape. However, her sacrifice may have made it possible for us to have access to the bathroom door some day”.

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