Pulling Punches by ProQuest


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									             The last Word

             Pulling Punches
             Christopher Duncan

                  took a long look at my ten-year-old son
                  yesterday. By most measures, he’s turn-
                  ing out just fine. Lean and muscular,
                  he eats well, plays hard, reads beyond
             his grade level, and is a whiz at math. He
             has as much compassion for others as any
             boy his age. He’s funny and thoughtful, and
             has great friends. He knows he is loved.
                 And yet as I contemplated the young man he is becoming, I              I think about what such stories teach. Like our father before us,
             worried about one thing he does not do or know, because I have          my brothers and I learned that real men didn’t seek out violence—
             not taught him. I have not taught my son how to fight. And I            but didn’t walk away from it, either. When trouble presented itself,
             wonder whether I should.                                                you’d better be ready to do what men sometimes had to do. We
                 I grew up in Detroit during the 1960s and ’70s. While I did not     learned that strength and bravado tended to preempt victimization,
             come up “hard,” as they used to say, I did come up tough. Boys          while weakness and passivity encouraged it. Over time, physical
             in my world were expected to be able to handle themselves if            combat begot intellectual combat, and our competitiveness and
             trouble came along. In truth, once people understood you were           discipline allowed us to be fairly successful in the world. We grew
             willing to fight and weren’t afraid of being hit, most confrontations   up confident, assertive, and comfortable in just about any room
             ended short of violence. So while I had a few good fights, what I       we entered. Would we have turned out the same without the
             remember mostly is a boyhood of perpetual competition, sporadic         fighting? My fear is that we might not have.
             verbal assaults, and a strange sort of détente with other boys.            Which brings me back to my dilemma regarding my own son.
                 At an early age, my two brothers and I learned to box, in a         In refraining from teaching him to fight, I am breaking a pattern
             makeshift ring our father set up in the basement. He loved the          that worked pretty well. I understand that there’s less tolerance of
             sport, and when we were little, he boxed with us on his knees.          fighting in society today, and especially in suburban, upper-middle-
             Later, we three boxed against each other. Little mercy was shown        class precincts like the one my family lives in. On a more principled
             in those matches. Each encounter was treated like a heavyweight         note, I am a Catholic who takes the call to be a peacemaker
             title fight. Blood was drawn, tears were shed. Outside our ring, we     much more serious
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