With the exception of both “Kill Bill’s,” “The Dark Knight,” and that time my parents rented “Ghostbusters” and I got so excited that I broke out in hives (Apparently, randomly strange six year olds do turn out to be randomly strange adults), I can’t think of another movie I’ve anticipated more than Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “Django Unchained.”
I mentioned this fact to a friend (“John”) a week or so ago, and after a passive-aggressively condescending debate about whether Tarantino is overrated, the subject shifted to slavery.
“Man, I would have escaped, or they would have had to kill me,” he stated. “I barely tolerate taking orders from the executive VP at work. What I look like being another man’s slave?”
“You just bought a juicer,” I jokingly reminded him. “No way your post-racial ass would have navigated the Underground Railroad.”
The conversation shifted again soon after that, but the quickness and sheer certainty of John’s reply when stating that he’d never allow anyone to enslave him stayed with me. It reminded me of the time I used Maus in an 12th grade English class I taught, and how many of the students remarked that they either would have escaped the concentration camps or died trying. It also harkened back to the time shortly after 9/11 when people started to question how planes full of dozens of people allowed a couple guys with beards and box cutters to hijack, kidnap, and eventually murder everyone on board.
And, whenever I hear people making those types of statements, the same thought goes through my head:
“You have no f*cking idea what you would have done”
Not wanting to start an argument about something that can never actually be proven, I usually keep that thought to myself. But, the fact remains that unless you’ve actually been in a life or death situation before, you really have no idea how you’d react. You think you know and you want to believe your fight instinct would override your flight, but unless they’ve felt actual pressure, none of us know exactly how strong our pipes actually are.
So, while the rest of the country has gone in on Jamie Rohrs, the guy who left his girlfriend, her four year old daughter, and their infant son behind while he escaped the shooting at the “Dark Night Rises” premiere in Aurora, Colorado, I’m (somewhat) sympathetic towards him.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that he deserves every bit of criticism coming his way — and I also believe his fiancee must have drank a potent glass of “Shit, this guy is the best I can do” juice in order to accept his marriage proposal. Leaving your girl, your girl’s kid, and your own freakin infant to somehow protect themselves from a crazed gunman is about as bitch-ass as a person can get.
(Seriously, can you imagine how bad their sex is going to be from now on? I can totally see him saying something like “Whose p*ssy is this?” and her responding “Go hide in a closet you scary motherf*cker”)
But, I wonder how many of us would have responded in the same way, and my sympathy comes from the fact that he has to live the rest of his life knowing that when life gave him a lemon, he truly did say “F*ck the lemons” and bailed.
Obviously — as the men who died in that theater while shielding loved ones proves — there are many of us who’d do the noble thing, the heroic thing if placed in that situation. I believe that I would have too. I believe that I’d sacrifice my own life to save a loved one. I believe that I would have attempted to stop the 9/11 hijackers, that I wouldn’t have allowed the Germans to take my family to Auschwitz, and that if I were in Joe Paterno’s shoes in 1998, I wouldn’t have hesitated in alerting the police to my pedophile colleague and close friend.
But, do I know, with 100% certainty, how I would have reacted if placed in any of those situations? No, and I hope to never find out.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)
***If you’re in the DC area this Thursday, make sure to come out to “Myth or Maybe” — a relationship-related discussion hosted by Panama and the homie Rahiel from Urban Cusp***