The first time the reader meets Pete Turner, the protagonist in THE POISON CUP, he is a prisoner on a chain gang in a remote part of Georgia where due process was not the order of the day. His worst enemy was within. Fear of his uncle, fear of his past were shackles as real as those that kept him a prisoner in the sheriff of Grimley’s jail. Like a scared animal driven into a trap, circumstances conspired against him while he was on the run from his enemies.
At an early age, my mother taught me a lesson about running from my enemies. When I was in the second grade, we moved into a new neighborhood where I first encountered Pattie Vaden. Out skating on the day we moved in, I saw this kid about my age. Hoping to make a new friend, I spoke to her. Pattie Vaden was a freckled-faced girl who liked to act tough, and she told me if I ever said anything to her again, she was going to beat me up. I skated home with my heart racing faster than my skates.
The next week, my first time walking home from my new school, Pattie met me on the path. In the presence of an audience of several others curious spectators, she blocked my way. With hands on her hips and a snarl on her face, she described what she was going to do to me. Backing up like a frightened mouse, I turned around and raced through yards and unfamiliar streets until I managed to find my way home, all the time fearing Pattie Vaden was close on my heels. When I reached the porch all out of breath, I found my mother had locked the front door. In a frustrated rage, I banged and screamed for her to let me in, still looking behind me for Pattie Vaden to appear at any moment.
About the third time I came to the door after school and stood outside screaming that Pattie Vaden was after me, my mother angrily let me inside, but she said if it happened again, she would keep me locked out and let her beat me up. Mother ordered me to stand up to her.
Well, caught between the devil and my mother’s threat, I went to school the next day fearful of ever getting home alive. Sure enough, Pattie met me on the path after school and blocked my way, expecting to send me home crying. At first, I tried to dodge past her, but she shoved me back. Desperate to save myself, my female instinct led me to reach over and grab a handful of her hair. I yanked it with all my strength–and to my amazement and satisfaction–she yelled bloody murder. When I finally let go, she ran off crying.
After that, we became best friends!
While my story is funny, at least to me, I relate it to the much more serious bullies that America faces today with far more serious consequences to our national defense. Yet, maybe the same principles apply to any bullies and the fear that makes us a prey for them. I wonder where people get the idea we can win from a position of weakness over those who proclaim they mean to destroy us. If we pet them, maybe they won’t bite us? Really? Or does showing weakness only embolden them?
Some would call defensive action, aggression. Some fear defensive action will draw us into a full-scale war. That would make defending ourselves against those who threaten us the cause of war rather than a solution. No one wants war, but can we afford peace at any price, enslaved by those who would rule over us without mercy? Did the Jewish people cause the Holocaust because the Nazis chose to send thousands of them to the gas ovens? If we stick our heads in the sand, will our enemies just go away and never carry out their threats. Adolph Hitler made a point worth pondering when he said, “What luck for rulers that people do not think!”
Those among us who call us the aggressors, who abuse our flag and criticize our right to defend ourselves would not have this freedom of life and speech without the price others have paid for it with their lives. And if this country and the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which our Constitutional government was founded is such an anathema to them, they have the freedom to leave and live elsewhere.