Time for Change

Man on the 6:46 train out of Pennsylvania Station tried to push passed me . . .
I suppose he wanted to push through so he could find a better seat. He wanted to get through the train doors before anyone else and have better options of which way to go, like left or right, isle seat or window.
Either way, he would still have a seat and the train would get him home at the same time as everybody else.

I have seen this man on the train before. He does the same thing every time. He comes dressed in a suit and tie. He is somewhat middle-aged and heavyset. He carries a brief case and he is often covered in a dark green overcoat.
His monthly train ticket dangles around his neck from a shoelace-type string and it rests above the man’s tie in a plastic case. This is done so he does not have to respond to the conductors when they pass through the isles and collect fares or train tickets.

I don’t like this man very much. In fact, I don’t like him at all.
I don’t like the way his graying hair parts to the side. I don’t like the way he twists and shakes his hand while extending it outward to allow his Rolex escape the cuff of his shirt and slip down onto his wrist. I don’t like the way he looks at his watch to check the time or the way he opens his newspaper, spreading it wide and passed the width of his round, barrel-shaped body, which does nothing more than explain his overgrown sense of self-entitlement and imposes upon the other passenger around him

I waited on the train’s platform and stood on the yellow box that indicates the location of the train’s doors when it pulls into the station. Standing in a crowd of fellow passengers,  I could see him coming my way. I saw him edge through the other commuters and move towards the doors, but I would not move aside or give way.
(This is how I contributed to ignorance)
I made a decision to stand my ground. When he tried to push passed me, I stiffened my body while continuing to face forward and I refused to let him walk through me.

Maybe he thought he could intimidate me because I am smaller. Perhaps he thought since he was the bigger or maybe older, I would give in or back away and let him pass—but like him, I had a long day too.
I had my own inventory of complaints and arguments that changed the events of my day. Just like him, I have my own pride. I have my own list of character flaws and I have my own sense of self-entitlement.

It became very clear to me that he did not like my resistance. As I walked through the doors, the man pushed me with his arm to send me from the isle and into a row of seats.

“Are you sure you want to push me,” I asked.
“Well, you pushed me first,” he argued.
“No, you were behind me” I answered.
“How can you push somebody when they are behind you?”

I argued, “I just didn’t move out of your way when you tried to push through. But you didn’t like that. Did you?.”

Raising my voice to turn the head of every commuter on the train, I continued.
“So I will ask you again, are you sure you want to push me?”

Before he could say anything, I raised my voice even louder.
“I have the right to defend myself.”
I removed my glasses and placed them on the nearby seat.
At this point, there was an opening around us. The other passengers watched us the way children would gather around in a schoolyard to watch their fellow classmates fight in a circle.

“If you are going to push me, then I am going to defend myself.”
I removed my bag from my shoulder and placed it on another seat. Next, I removed  my jacket to allow him a glimpse that no, I am not small or weak, and no, I am not frightened of him.

“So for the last time,” I shouted,

I responded in a step-by-step manner because I knew the truth. And the truth is this man was not a threat to me. Had he been a threat, then there would have been no words. Had he been a threat, then there would have only been a response. However, bullies often speak loudly until they are silenced by someone that is not afraid.

From the aggressor to the timid, the man changed his approach.
He lifted his manicured hands submissively, in a “Hands-up,” gesture.
He said, “Please,” in a way as if it were me who imposed myself upon him.
“I don’t want any problems.”
Pointing in his face, I charged, “Then you shouldn’t push people! “
Next, he claimed, “Look, I have a bad knee,” as if to say, “Otherwise, I would take you on.”
I told him, “I don’t give a shit about your knee. You’re a grown man. If you can push someone then you can get pushed back.”

He quickly apologized.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to get out of line.”

I have seen this man speak down and argue with other commuters on this very train. So in my mind, it only seemed right that I embarrassed or feminized him in front of these same people. But again, I suggest this is how I contributed to ignorance.

I was no less the problem than he was. True, I took a stand. I gave this man a glimpse of his own weakness. I showed him there is a different side to the word violence and it involves more than threatening words or dirty looks.
I refused to be pushed, and yes, I silenced a bully, but to what avail?
What change did I make, other than disrupt the flood of working commuters who were just looking to board a train and go home? Who am I that I am so important and qualified to teach this man a lesson between right and wrong—especially since I was wrong, myself?

The tension in my city is high . . .
The holiday season tends to heighten the sense of urgency when boarding or exiting the trains or the subways in New York City’s Subway System.

I hear so many people screaming for a change in the way we behave towards each other, but I wonder if anyone really knows where the changes need to begin.

The lessons we are taught have done nothing more than lead us up to this point, and by exposing myself in this story; I admit that I am guilty too, and like many others, I need to change as well.
I could have let the man pass through. There was no reason why I needed to board the train before him. I am no less or more important than he or anyone else on the train. I was just a willing equation that added to the ignorance. I was angry—so I needed something to fight for.

It is easy to give in to this sometimes.
It is easy to let the acid from my anger and resentment burn away at my ability to make better decisions.
However, I am not alone with this mistake.

I live in a city of unrest. Currently, the tensions are high because a large man who, while being placed under arrest by several officers, went down and was killed as an accidental result of force in the line of his duty.

I say “In the line of duty” because yes, he was on the other side of the law.
Yes, his crime was small, but he moved his chess piece in the wrong direction, and like Knight1 to Rook2, he was taken to the ground and died tragically while trying to argue a crime, which was no more threatening than an appearance ticket in court.

For some reason, the color of this man’s skin outweighs the tragic accident of this his death. And for some reason, the opposite skin color of the officers involved have altered the details of this case.
In my opinion, this is not a black and white thing.
This is a society thing.

I read about so many people demanding change . . . but I wonder if they know where the changes need to begin

As a community, I wonder where is our sense of civic reasonability.
What are we doing to clean up our neighborhoods?
Rather than complaining about police activity, what are we doing to eliminate the need for it.
I ask, how many of these so-called activists are truthfully willing to step in, roll up their sleeves, and dirty their hands with the work that needs to be done. Rather than gain momentum in front of a news  reporter’s camera, how man will leave fame and fortune to rest, and organize programs in the communities that need it most?

Are we going to change together as a society?
If so, then how—by staging protests that ends with more violence, arrests, or tragic deaths?
I believe in fighting back too, but to what avail?
I understand the desire to fire when fired upon, but firing back without first taking aim is how innocent people die.

So what are we going to do now?
Are we going to change as a community
Or are we going to stand across from each other like two grown idiots on a train and say something like, “Well, you pushed me first?”

I hope not because I don’t want to be part of this ignorance anymore . . .

Do you?


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