I witnessed something I found very disturbing recently. More on that later, for now I’m going to take you on a little visit to the tiny beach community of Posada…
This little seaside oasis is primarily a retirement community, home to snowbirds escaping the winter. At 44 and 36, the Prez and I have been the “babies” since we arrived here. Fine by us, the “old fogies” of Posada are far more active than most people we know of our own age. Being a small community, everyone knows each other and there is, for the most part, a neighbourly spirit sadly missing from most North American suburbs and cities. We play tennis, there are camping trips and cribbage games, bocce ball and poker, fishing, kayaking, hiking, a variety of parties, not to mention charity organizations like “Friends of Los Niño’s” which helps support one of the schools in town. Yes, there is a lot to love about Posada.
I often think of this little dot in the desert as a microcosm for the larger world and so, like the larger world, Posada also has a dark side.
Isolation, a small number of residents, and physical proximity of the residents who have huge quantities of leisure time, combine to create the perfect environment for gossip & petty feuds. Also, there is the fact that the people you live with here come from all walks of life, that is to say, people who would not ordinarily reside together. I have watched with fascination (and sometimes disgust) the miniature dramas that have unfolded here over the years. Unlike the big city where your personal life gets lost among the multitudes of people, here in Posada your business is everyone’s business.
Colourful characters abound in Baja. Names like: Mission Jim, Killer Cain, Tequila Johnny, Corona Dave (not related to Tequila Johnny), Pancho, Little Jan and, my new favorite, All-in-Jim, are common. (Oh, did I forget ClubFred and the Princess?). One of Posada’s resident characters goes by the moniker of “Dangerous Doug” although he is also known, in some circles, as Mr.Clampett. I have some strong feelings about this guy and his character but it’s just my opinion and he’s not here to defend himself so I’ll keep zipped on that subject.
Not too long ago Dangerous Doug got into a little spat with a neighbour. It was over something fairly trivial, something that could have been worked out logically between two reasonable adults. Well, the spat turned to hard words. Next thing you know, Dangerous is throwing punches at his rather rattled neighbour, who, wisely, retreats into his house. It is not the first time there have been fisticuffs in the park, sad to report.
I don’t get it. I really, truly don’t. Is there anything that goes on here, in paradise, that’s worth hitting another human being over? What ever happened to simply walking away?
The Prez and I have a very simple philosophy about conflict, both here and in the larger world – we avoid it whenever possible. When conflict is unavoidable, or necessary, we do our utmost to be rational, logical beings. We like almost everyone in the park. Yes there are many folks that we don’t actually do things with because we have little in common, but we still like them. Honestly, there are only a very few people that we dislike. With the few we do dislike, we keep our distance, limiting our contact to a friendly nod or a hello. And in all our years here, we have had only two confrontations, both of which were quick and ended peacefully. That’s not to say that we could not physically attack, or defend ourselves from, another person, only that it is inconceivable that we would need to do so in this place.
So now, let’s pull back the viewfinder from Posada, to all of Baja, to the Americas, and the entire globe. There are conflicts large and small, violent and terrible, raging across the planet. It is so and always has been so. Man just cannot seem to rise above his urge to throw punches. Whether the battles are noble or brutal, whether it is a battle between good and evil or a senseless feud, it is all, in the big picture, humans hurting other humans. And it goes on, and on, and on.
Each side in a battle believes they are right, believes their cause is just. Did Dangerous really believe that punching his neighbour was the right thing to do? I’m guessing he’d answer “yes” to that question.
I have heard a plethora of arguments both for and against the “war” in Iraq. I know that each side has their mind firmly made up and I’m not even going to begin to try to sway anyone in my direction. My feelings about this war and the situation in the Middle East in general, are complicated – I don’t think anyone wants to spend the next eight hours reading this Chronicle (no matter how fabulous it is). So I’m going to say, for the sake of argument, that this war in Iraq is a necessary war. If it is necessary, so be it. Do what needs to be done and go home.
But all conflicts seem to inspire side-taking, cheerleading, and, in the case of war, rampant, blind patriotism.
Now about the disturbing incident…
Not too long ago, the Prez and I were over at Ray’s, a little restaurant on the beach, palapa style with a crushed shell floor. On weekends Ray has a DJ and folks come to drink and dance their cares away. It’s a fun little place with an equally fun crowd, and usually I would be among the throng of swiveling hips and waving arms but I was not feeling so bueno this evening so I sat and watched with the Prez. The DJ stopped between songs and announced that he was about to play a song that he always played, a tradition of sorts. On came a country song I’d never heard before, it was about American Patriotism and the conflict as a result of 9/11. The lyrics didn’t bother me so much, I’ve heard much worse; it was the reaction of the crowd that I found so disturbing. Fists pumping, singing along with “we’ll put a boot in your ass ‘cause that’s the American way”, the dancers, good people, people who would likely not dream of hurting another human being, celebrated the power and the glory of their great nation. Yet the scene was hauntingly reminiscent of the footage you see of fanatical extremists celebrating a successful car bomb or hijacking. I saw the smiles on their faces and at the same time I saw the wounded and the dead, the widowed and grieving, on both sides of the war. Not much cause for celebration, as far as I’m concerned. It gave me the creeps.
One of the military characters in Tolstoy’s epic novel, “War and Peace” has a great little speech during the height of a long and bloody battle. He espouses that war should be less civilized, that if we removed the niceties and protocols, took it down to it’s most savage form, people would be less willing to engage in it. I would add that we should stop singing celebratory songs about it too. If it is necessary, if we must wound, maim and kill, let us do so with the seriousness and solemnity the act deserves. Let us not celebrate the worst part of ourselves.
“War is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves” – Leo Tolstoy
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy and lovin’ life.