“I don’t get mad, I get even!”
“Payback’s a b!+&#!”
“Revenge is sweet.”
I know you have heard, probably said, one or all of the above. Revenge feels good. Retaliation rocks. It’s an adrenaline rush that releases the frustration of being threatened, attacked or hurt, whether physically or mentally. Feels good….
…for the moment…
Then the pain comes back, bringing with it a side order of “head-on-a-swivel,” because now that you got yours, somebody is coming after you. That’s how it works.
Somebody once said, “When you dig someone else’s grave, make sure you dig two…because one is for you.” Revenge only feels good for a little while, but it doesn’t really change anything.
When I was locked up, there was a guy on our block who made his own set of weights, using uniform tops filled with water and broom sticks. He lifted vigorously everyday. The CO’s would come and confiscate his homemade weights, and he’d make another set, and lift. He had one goal in mind: “I’m gonna f*** up my brother-in-law for being the snitch that got me in here!”
One day, dude came back to the unit from his work release job at McDonald’s. He was beaming. “My kids came by the shop today, and I got to give them some free hamburgers. I miss them.” One of the other guys on the block said, “Yo, you really gonna miss them if you f*** up your brother-in-law when you get home.”
Yeah, taking care of his brother-in-law would be sweet…until he’d eventually get picked up and do serious time for that. And miss out even more on his kids in a far off state facility instead of county jail. “I ain’t even think about that,” said dude. I wonder what he chose?
We live in a culture of revenge. Don’t think for a minute that when candidates call for “law and order” they ain’t really saying, “I want revenge on folk who break the law.” When a politician says we have to “bring them to justice,” he ain’t doin’ nothin’ but singin’ James Brown lyrics: “Get ready you mother’, for the big Payback!” A lot of this presidential election is about revenge: revenge on immigrants, revenge on Muslims, revenge on Black people, revenge on Obama. But the politicians forget that the sweetness is short-lived, and pain will return with that same “head-swivel” side, only now its supersized.
There’s a program out there called “CureViolence.” It has a simple philosophy: violence is an epidemic, spread by revenge. If you peacefully settle the first beef, it won’t escalate into twenty more. It works, only powerful people don’t like to support it because it saves too many Black and Brown lives that would otherwise get chewed and churned, and keeps too many of us out of prison because it de-escalates violence.
So there are haters on TV every day now trying to get elected. The Republicans held a whole day at their convention to “Make America Safe (from you) Again.” They lift revenge to a cultural art form. Who will break the cycle?
We need you on the front line. We need you home to be part of the movement that rebuilds our communities, families and neighborhoods. We need you mentally healthy and to stay woke in the struggle. We need you to show the next generation that there are alternatives to violence and payback. And we need you to vote or mobilize the vote to stop the coronation of revenge as national policy. Is losing all that worth a short moment of sweet revenge?