When I came out of my front door with Lucy a few moments ago for a walk, I saw a car coming down the street, so we waited for it to pass. Instead, it stopped at a house across the street.
As Lucy and I stepped into the street to start our walk, the doors of the car sprang open — and the angry screaming of a man and woman hit us full force.
I haven’t heard this sort of angry confrontation in years. The vicious words and repeated profanity seemed even more jarring because the street was otherwise quiet and still and beautiful in the warm night air.
He kept calling her a “hoe” and said whatever she had allegedly done was the same thing she had done to someone else. She screamed right back at him. He was throwing her belonging out of the car into the street and yard — as he kept hurling vicious insults and profane words.
As Lucy and I walked in the other direction, I kept asking myself, “Why do we humans have to keep hurting each other like this?”
I felt sick at my stomach.
Why is it that the most advanced life form on this planet — those with the greatest achievements of technology and art — also have to intentionally tear one another apart? Why can’t we just walk away from one another in peace when it’s time? What motivates us to hurt and destroy?
I don’t have the answers to any of that. I doubt anybody does.
I think of all the ugly confrontations I’ve seen witnessed and all the ugly stories people have told me about what’s been done to them.
— There was the husband of an ex-girlfriend’s mother who used to become enraged while they were driving in a car — and he would threaten to “wrap this car around that tree” because he was so angry. I expected him to do it.
— There was the woman whose boyfriend used to tie her to a bed frame while he beat her and burned her with cigarettes — while screaming how much he loved her and that she couldn’t leave him.
— There was the woman who was so distraught at her boyfriend breaking up with her that she tried to set his house on fire. She poured gasoline around the front and back porches and lit matches, yelling at him that if she couldn’t have him, nobody would.
Those might seem like extreme examples, but when humans are angry and hurt, they do extreme things. Even the less-extreme things seem inexplicable to me.
Why can’t we just love each other while the love is there? And then when the love is gone — and when trust has been broken — why can’t we walk away from each other without trying to hurt someone we claim to love?
I don’t have an answer, but the question haunts me.
We seem eager to pass along these ugly patterns to our children. We are so ingrained in this ugly way of having relationships that we seem determined to teach our young boys and girls that this is the way adults behave.
I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know why it’s so common. I don’t know why people in relationships and marriages are so likely to kill each other. I don’t know how to change any of this.
But as I sit here in the post-midnight quiet of my neighborhood — now that the shouting people have left in separate cars — I’m left again to ponder how we’ve survived this long. And I’m left to wonder whether we really deserve to have dominion over this creation that’s been given to us.
I don’t want to live that way. I assume you don’t want to live that way. How can humans get rid of this ugly and hateful pattern that makes life less than the joy it should be?