An eye for an eye? Or turn the other cheek?

We already had the two men headed for the front door.

“Did you hear what he said?” asked the man closest to me.

“I did not,” I said, because in instances of physical violence what someone said really isn’t relevant. What is relevant is what they did. And since there had already been some pushing and shoving, the “who said what” no longer mattered.

 “Why are you asking me to leave?” asked either the pusher or the pushed.

 “You are both leaving,” said the other bartender. Just as we opened the front door, the man in front suddenly turned around and punched the man closest to me solidly in the face.

It was a sucker punch if I’ve ever seen one. Sucker punches are defined by two things. The first is always the same. It is hitting someone with full force when they aren’t expecting it. The second always depends on what happens with the first punch. If it renders the punched person unable to defend themselves, the attack usually continues. If the attacked person isn’t rendered defenseless, the attacker then either runs away, or pleads for mercy, or even tries to solicit aid from any spectator available. Having seen more than my share of bar fights I can report that this behavior is remarkably consistent.

And it was in this case. After wrestling the puncher to the ground, he started to complain loudly.

“Why are you attacking me?”

“Because you just punched that guy in the face.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I saw you do it.”

“He hit me first.”

“No, he didn’t.”

This didn’t go on for long, because the guy who had been punched was now wildly trying to get at the guy who had done the punching. And the other bartender and myself now found ourselves in the unenviable position of protecting someone who had just done something reprehensible.

“Don’t let him hurt me!” said the sucker puncher.

I call it the Sucker Punch Syndrome. And this behavior seems to be more prevalent in our society these days. You see it in the service business, you see it in politics, and sometimes you see it just walking down the street.

Some people want to scream at people without them being able to scream back. They want to go on and on about their rights, while caring very little for the rights of others. They demand the “right” to complain about you, but surely do not want you to be able to defend yourself or complain about them. And the most egregious example might be those that want to injure someone else, physically, emotionally or psychologically, but want to make sure that they can’t be injured back. Think of how many videos we’ve seen of grocery store clerks being berated for nothing, or a politician screaming bloody murder about any slight while simultaneously slighting everyone else. Or the people who assault, or even kill someone, and then demand to be protected at all costs.

“Stop him!” said the sucker puncher cowering and covering his face.

“Don’t let him hit me!”

Which was an odd thing for someone who had just hit someone else to say. It now took the both of us bartenders to subdue the guy who had been punched. He was understandably angry. As much as the notion of turning the other cheek is admirable, an eye for an eye more often seems to be the case. But in a litigious environment, the only remedy is usually the former.

“I’ll sue if you don’t stop him!” shouted the sucker puncher, as would be expected in just such circumstances.

After a few minutes of struggling, we managed to get the punched person under control. He responded to reason, and just enough force. Businesses are private property, and as such are usually responsible for everything that happens in them, whether fully in their power to control, or only nominally. Just ask any attorney.

With our attention focused on the angrier of the two men, the cowering sucker puncher suddenly jumped up and attempted to reenter the fray. Or more to the point, he attempted to sucker punch the same guy again.

This time our reaction to the punch was quicker, however, our reaction to the puncher’s defense might not have been.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-If your idea of a fight is one where you don’t get hurt. Then you are not thinking about fighting, you are thinking about beating somebody up. And that is a very different thing.

-Only cowards and bullies attack the defeneless.

-Strangely, the very same book contains both the notions of an “eye for an eye” and “turn the other cheek.”

Life usually occurs somewhere in between our lofty aspirations and our just desserts.