The Whipping Man


Photo by Cgoodwin

Things happen at times that challenge us.   Sometimes they force us to recognize where we’ve been lacking and cause us to make an adjustment either in our way of doing or in our way of thinking.  So, you know how I talked about that teaching moment…

I was walking to the store and saw a guy on his front stoop; nothing suspect in that except I heard him before I saw him, the recognizable crack-pop.  In his hand was a bullwhip and he was swinging it like Charles Bronson swinging his sock full of coins in Death Wish.

Now a man in the hood with a deadly weapon isn’t that unusual but the type of weapon this guy was wielding wasn’t your everyday Saturday night special.  And all the while he’s swinging it, he’s talking to himself.  I kept my eyes on him as I walked by and spoke.

Me: How’s the brother?

Him: I’m good.  I’m getting ready to flip the script on ‘em. Crack-pop!

Me: Unh-huh.  Well, be careful with that.

Him: That’s right, I’m gonna change things.  Just wait.  Crack-pop, crack-pop!!

Me: Well, let’s not revisit stuff, you know.  Let’s avoid that…

Him:  Right, right.   I’ll flip it.  Come here pick up that broom, white boy! Crack-pop!

Me:  Well like I said, let’s avoid going back. Be good…

Him: I’ll flip it, you watch.  Crack-pop!

I walked on around the corner, made my purchase and returned home another way; wanting to avoid him as most rational people would.  But doing so didn’t make me feel good about myself.  I thought of that damn teaching moment I so readily promote.

I thought that these are the types of surreptitious instances that can occur and test every man or woman.  It’s almost like a bump in the road of humanity that God puts in your way to see if you’ve got the fortitude to smooth it out for your fellowmen. It becomes a question of right versus wrong and fear versus courage.  It’s that way because honestly, it may get dicey when you’re prompted to provide that opposing and enlightening opinion.

It’s possibly concern for personal safety, even on a subconscious level, that prevents us from challenging too deeply someone presenting ideas overtly extreme.  In the case of strangers on the street, one’s mind is probably saying to agree so you can get as far away from this troubled soul as quickly as you can.  It was what urged me past this whipping man without too much intellectual probing.

Yet, in doing so I thought I had failed somehow.  He’s an irrational man in my community speaking an extreme viewpoint, not four doors from my house; not to mention that some of my friends in the neighborhood were white and they travel right by that house on their way to the stores just like I did.

Sadly, I haven’t seen nor heard him since that Saturday a few weeks ago but recent events brought him to mind again.  I don’t know, I guess I’m hoping for another shot at the title, so to speak; one more opportunity to be one force for change.  Truthfully though, there’s no need to hope for another shot.

Today’s uber-emotional world seems to readily avail itself to the prospect that at any given moment every man, woman and child could have the opportunity to interject a difference.  Problems of bullying, race, economics, gender, orientation and terror are all par for our human course in today’s unruly times.  The question becomes will we, each of us, recognize them and be ready to offer an opposing opinion…next time.

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