I have an ongoing, perverse fascination with rage and violence. The motivation, the dynamics, the deeds. I’ve always been interested in what drives some people toward extreme aggression, but my curiosity has been intensified recently by the media — both real-life events in the news and fiction.
I am fortunate to never have been the victim of physical violence. Not really. Once, a long-term boyfriend 20 years ago grabbed me by the collarbone during a heated argument and left a bruise, but if I am being honest, he was just protecting himself from a rabid girlfriend.
We were so broken by that point, neither of us could see straight. Our fights about infidelity and betrayal (on both sides) had escalated to the point of absurdity. Our fear of letting go had not yet overridden the pain of staying in the relationship. Our love had morphed into loathing.
That day, in a gas station parking lot, I was belligerent and completely off the chain. I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget the moment I went too far.
During the incident, I was never scared of my boyfriend — it did not occur to me that he would take things any further than that firm hand on my shoulder. I was actually pissed he had the gall to try and hold me back. We broke up soon thereafter. There were no winners; we were both at fault.
That was the beginning of a time in my life when the only emotion that felt comfortable to me was anger. It stemmed from self-hatred and troubles of my own making, but I often directed it outward. Fortunately, it came out only one other time in the form of physical violence. I wanted to hit a certain person, but I ended up smashing the hell out of a door instead. I am not proud of it, but I carry it as a reminder of the inner demons I have to to keep in check.
Fast-forwarding a bit — my ex-husband was very intimidating and manipulative, but my fear of him was more of about what he could take from me that what he could do to me. There were some hurts he inflicted that were so emotionally excruciating, I often thought it would have been easier to take a punch. But I never had to.
This Ray Rice thing has gotten me to thinking about my own near-misses with domestic violence, and the line a person crosses to get from threat to anger to action. Clearly, I have skirted that line myself but never gone all the way to the other side, thank God.
(Side note: Since I found 12-step recovery — as corny as it sounds — I have found a true sense of inner peace. I haven’t felt a surge of fury toward myself or anyone else in a long, long time. For that, I am grateful.)
Rage can be a powerful drug. I can almost understand how its brain-clouding mania can trigger violence, but it’s only a reason and not an excuse.
I think violence in the context of intimate and familial relationships is about power — who has it and who doesn’t. When a physically strong person strikes a weaker one, male or female, that’s immoral. But I also don’t think a weaker person should be allowed to beat on a stronger one and expect that person to just stand there. That’s not OK either.
Here’s my two cents on the whole Rice dealio: I’m glad people are talking about the problem of domestic violence again. Lest we forget Chris Brown, Mike Tyson and all the non-celebrity douchebags who beat women, it’s been a while since the issue has received such widespread public scrutiny.
Any man who beats down a woman should be punished and shamed. But Rice’s relationship with his wife is nobody’s business. If she chooses to stay with him, that is her decision. I hope the spotlight on her now will influence her to reach out for help soon, and ultimately get the hell away from that psychotic son of a bitch.
Regardless of all that noise, though, the bottom line for me about the situation is the freaking VIDEO of him knocking her out. Hello? That is evidence of an assault. If there’s video of a bank robbery with the suspect clearly visible and identified, the police don’t wait for the bank manager to press charges, the jackass gets arrested. He did, and I hope he gets the maximum sentence.
Ray Rice in the news is one reason I’ve been pondering the facets of violence lately. The other is my new obsession with fictional outlaw bikers.
Thanks to the recommendation of my teen-age son, I started watching “Sons of Anarchy” on Netflix a few weeks ago, completely unprepared to become so emotionally invested in the show. He thought I would like it because some of my favorite movies are in the action genre — the bloodier, the better.
In case you haven’t seen "Sons," it’s about a group of “mechanics and Harley enthusiasts” who, in truth, run guns and drugs, and kill anyone who gets in their way.
The plot centers around the Teller family and its protagonist, Jax Teller, and it resonates of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s extremely well-written, acted and executed. I binged six full seasons, watching up to four episodes a night. I was often so jacked up after a binge session that I couldn’t fall asleep. When I finally did drift off, I had more than one brutal dream either about or inspired by acts I had seen in the show.
The characters and the story have burrowed into my brain like the Ceti eel in “Star Trek II.” The carnage is incredibly disturbing to me, yet I find myself cheering for the SoA crew every time they exact revenge on their enemies. I was legitimately overjoyed when Jax finally offed his stepfather, Clay.
Never have I been so enthralled with a TV show that upset me on such a visceral level, and yet I cannot stop watching it. What the hell is wrong with me, and where is all this coming from?
My best guess goes back to the inner demons I mentioned earlier. Fiction is safe, and it's an escape from reality, plain and simple. I will never raise a hand or a gun to anyone in real life, but there are times when it is very satisfying to fantasize about doing it in my head.
Also, there is something comforting about seeing problems solved with black and white solutions — an eye for an eye and all that jazz. The real world has a lot of fucking gray in it, which I often find difficult to navigate. I have to admit that I get an adrenaline rush from seeing a bad person get what they deserve.
It’s been said that love is a mirror image of hate, and that’s another theme this show explores. The depth of the characters’ relationships with each other is incredibly compelling, on both sides of the coin. Nearly every plotline underscores the thin line between affection and revulsion, and the sensitive tripwire that lies between them.
And dammit, the show’s creators knew what the hell they were doing when they cast a dude as incredibly hot as Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax. Oh me, oh my. I have written before about my propensity toward Alpha male types, and Jax more than qualifies. I also tend to be attracted to deeply flawed people, because I am one myself. He is a true tragic hero, and I adore him.
(A therapist could pay off two mortgages just by delving into the dank corners of my warped psyche, I know. But I digress.)
I think I’m equal parts enthralled and appalled by violence mostly because I don’t have any direct experience with it. I hope I never do.
That, and I know I have to periodically acknowledge the world’s darkness to keep the light in my own happy, serene little life shining brightly.
Time to get started on Season 7.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.