The Guy in Our Neighborhood Who’s Beating His Wife

I’m taking a little break from writing about the Haight-Ashbury in 1965 this morning. My blogging pal, Spoke, up in Alberta, sent me an email expressing his anger and frustration about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and encouraging me to publicize Amnesty International’s excellent site Eyes On Darfur, which I hereby publicize. Worth checking out.

I’m frustrated too. So many world crises and all so intractable and what can we really do? I just bought an electric lawn mower because it emits less CO2 than a gas one. Did that help?

Maybe we could change human nature?

Actually, that might work. I can’t think of anything else at the moment, but it’s hard to do.

So, in my frustration, I get silly and write foolish poems and pretend they’re by some famous author you never heard of and I open the memory vaults to share other times and places I’ve known.

But, back to Darfur — if I can stay on track for one minute. Imagine a nice peaceful neighborhood in a small city like the one I live in. The neighbors have an uncomfortable feeling there’s something wrong in that little house across the street. It’s the screams and the thuds. In fact, they suspect Bill Jones is beating his wife black and blue every night, sexually abusing his daughters and kicking his boys to death.

So the neighborhood holds a meeting. We can’t let this go on! What should we do?

They decide to form a delegation to talk to Mr. Jones and tell him he has to stop. Mr. Jones greets them with a big smile and says oh no he’s not beating his wife and abusing his children. That’s just the TV on really loud. You know these kids!

But the neighbors keep noticing Mr. Jones out in his backyard at night digging long holes and filling them up again. So they hold another meeting.

“I know. Let’s see if Mr. Jones will let us send our own sons over to his house to sit in his rooms and keep watch on everything. That way he’ll be too embarrassed to do anything bad.”

So after a long time and much talk Mr. Jones agrees to allow the scrawniest, most nearsighted twelve year old in the neighborhood to come over and watch TV in his living room for an hour every night. Now the beating sounds and screams come from the kitchen and the bedrooms, but the living room is peaceful as a church for one hour a day.

Meanwhile, the neighbors are putting up signs in their front yards that say “Stop Mr. Jones Beating His Wife! Now!”. Mr. Jones retaliates with his own sign, “My neighbors’ comments are unfair. I am only a firm but just disciplinarian.” And, to be fair, Mr. Jones sons do need some discipline. At least from Mr. Jones’ perspective. They can imagine nothing better than kicking the old man out so they can run the house the way they want. Which may very possibly include beating up their mother and raping their sisters.

The neighbors decide to get videotape of Mr. Jones beating his wife. Then they’d really have something. So husbands start sneaking around at night videotaping through Mr. Jones’ windows. And guess what? They get video of Mr. Jones beating his wife and raping his daughters and killing his sons. And you know what happens? Mr. Jones says, “Ha ha ha, it’s for their own good. I will manage my affairs as I see fit.”

So finally the neighbors go to the biggest, strongest, richest guy on the block and say, “George, You do something! You need to take that guy out!”

George, who is already involved in some wars of his own so to speak, is reluctant to take on yet another battle, even though he is big and strong. So instead he calls everybody to say he’s going to reduce the business he does with Mr. Jones’ company (which, unfortunately, isn’t very much to start with). Maybe that’ll stop him! The local newspaper ran a little story about George’s economic sanctions. You can see it here and decide for yourself how effective they will be.

What are the possible ways to bring peace and love to Darfur Street? They can’t call the police because there are no police. It’s up to the neighbors. What’s their next response?

So far the best they can think of is…call another meeting.

And, you know what? I can’t think of anything else either. Maybe if all the businesses in town got together and refused to buy noodles from Mr. Jones’ noodle factory? But, trouble is, there’s a very popular Chinese restaurant in town – all the neighbors eat there nearly every night – and the restaurant really needs those noodles. And the neighbors really like eating there.

You got any ideas?


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