This I Believe: We Can Take a Punch
When I was just a kid in the 50’s and the rules of the universe haven’t been applied yet, I knew other kids not so much by name, but by their reputation…
At kid to kid level.
If I said “Oh, that’s Roy”, it meant nothing.
But if I followed it up with, “He bit a guy’s finger off at recess”, it clearly established who I was talking about and to keep your hands in your pockets when you met him on the playground.
Unfortunately, I had a name… Anthony. I hated it for so many reasons and on so many levels.
First of all it was a “good Catholic name”… Saint Anthony, patron saint of yard gnomes.
Then there was the group “Little Anthony and the Imperials”. Nobody could resist calling me Little Anthony.
Other people would assume that I wanted to be called “Tony”. Nobody actually wants to be called “Tony” outside of New Jersey.
We lived in Florida.
So I had a choice. I could let it happen; let my name eventually slide into Tony, open up a Pizza franchise and grow a ridiculous mustache, or….
Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather stand in the shadow of the monkey bars and scream “Oh Yeah” back and forth all recess rather than actually fight.
My Swedish father had made it brilliantly clear to me that I was never to hit anyone first. Remember, this was the 50’s and you could actually make those kinds of rules then.
But my Sicilian mother took me aside and in that low whisper that scared the snot out of me, made it clear to me that once it started, “don’t quit until you’re dead.”
How those two got together I’ll never know. But in my eight year old brain, the sum total of all of this was, if you wanted to start a fight with me, fine, I’ll take the first punch.
But you’d better be ready to kill me right there.
I took a lot of first punches. Enough to eventually be known as the kid who “could take a punch”.
People knew that I would never start a fight, but I would always finish one.
That’s who we used to be. The United States of America… the country that “could take a punch”.
We would never start a fight, but I would always finish one.
But in Iraq, like Vietnam, we ignored my father.
We started it.
And unfortunately, the cost is so painfully high for no damned reason, that we’re doomed to ignore my mother and never finish it.
We’ll come out of Iraq bloody and bruised with the tattooed heat of embarrassment.. We’ll weave and shudder, but we’ll still be standing.
It’s going to take a long time, it’s going to hurt like hell, but we’ll still be here.
Because I believe we can still take a punch.
Take it from me. I’m an expert.
Nobody calls me Anthony anymore.
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