I’m reluctant to tell you about this because it’s no credit to anyone, but it isn’t fair to pretend insight comes easily. You know that scene in Philadelphia Story where Mike is explaining to Tracy why he didn’t have sex with her when they were drunk? “But you also were a little the worse — or the better — for wine, and there are rules about that.” There are rules about that. There are rules about theft and misrepresentation. There’s a lot of grey in the application of morality, in our treatment of one another. There are ancient rules about the way you behave when you are a guest in someone’s home.
So, when this douchebag decided to interrupt a conversation among friends at a garden party, to smirk and impose in his entitled way, it was really all I could do not to break his nose. I could actually see it. The moment I stepped forward, and knocked that drunken grin off his face. He’s probably stronger than I am, but I have 8 inches on him, was sober, and I loathe him. He’s a man without honor. For a moment, I weighed it. The act of hitting him. Could I hit him hard enough to end the exchange with one single blow? Probably. And if I didn’t, would I be willing to strike him again, or be struck in return? Probably. Would Mary be upset? Yes. Would the hosts and other guests be upset? Yes. Would I feel better if I hit him? I suspect not. I suspect I would have been ashamed of myself. I’m not terribly pleased to report how much I wanted to hit him. How firmly I had to turn away to keep from being cruel.
Why? Why did I have to keep from being cruel? After all, he’s a man without honor. But I’m not. And honor is not simple. It’s a choice you make over and over. Who am I to strike him? Justice? Vengeance? When did I take on those mantles? I don’t have to like him. I don’t have to be polite or friendly. But that’s not the same thing as striking him. I am not payback for his crimes. I am not retribution. We have rules to govern our instincts. To remind us we are part of a society. The rules don’t change because I want them to change, because it would serve my agenda to act as I will. In fact, the service of my agenda is the antithesis of honor. I guess I’m glad I didn’t hit him.