Be Peace

Saturday afternoon, I’d gone to the 70th birthday party for a dear, dear F/friend, hosted by her dear, dear husband. Reluctantly. Jet-lagged after a wonderful trip to LA, overwhelmed by my ever-growing To Do List, and, most critically, horrified by the news from Pittsburgh, I wasn’t sure I was up to spending a rainy and chilly afternoon chitchatting.

But there are some friends who are so wonderful, so amazing, you just have to show up for them, right? So I did. And was immediately glad. Her two adult children, who’d gone to First Day School (Quaker-style Sunday School) with mine had come; it was wonderful to see them, again, and to hear about their intriguing, fulfilled lives. The food was plentiful and delicious. I caught up with other good friends. It was a wonderful party. Until . . .

I’d gone into the kitchen to get something to drink and there I met—let’s call him “Bob,” a grey-haired, older man and, like the rest of us, in New England fall weather garb. A neighbor of my F/friends, I’m guessing. And, I’m also guessing, had either been drinking or, sadly, as is the case with some of us over seventy, might have had “cognitive issues”?

Because here’s our conversation went: “You a Quaker?” I nodded. “You look like a Quaker.” And without pausing: “You know what I like about Quakers? I can beat the shit out of [our host] and he wouldn’t fight back.”

“Why would you want to beat the shit out of him?”

“Don’t analyze it!” he scolded.

“Why not?” I retorted. Sharply. “You tell me you want to beat the shit out of someone, I want to know why!”

But apparently Bob, besotted by his presumed freedom to beat the shit out of someone without resistance, wasn’t interested in engaging in meaningful dialogue! At least not with a woman he’d just met and who’d just challenged him. (And, yes, Dear Reader, it did briefly occur to me that Bob may very well be another aging, cis, white male perpetually bewildered and threatened by women like me who, you know, want to smash the patriarchy!) Shrugging, I filled my glass and left.

Here’s the thing: I may look like a Quaker, Dear Reader, but that doesn’t mean that in the moment I’m automatically able to do or say The Right Thing. I may want to “Be Peace” as my license plate holder enjoins. But, sometimes I don’t know how.

What might I have said, instead? A couple of ideas came to me the next day, during silent worship, as we collectively mourned the eleven elderly Jews murdered while they had been in worship.

How about “[Your host] is your friend, yes? What else do you like about him?”

How about: “There is so much violence and hatred in the world. Like what just happened this morning in Pittsburgh. I think lots of people, not just Quakers, are looking for ways to not keep adding to it. Don’t you?”

How about “Been drinking, Bob? Off your meds, maybe?” (Okay, so sometimes snarky things come to me, too.)

Here’s the other thing: While I am chagrined I couldn’t be peace, I couldn’t find a way to move the conversation into something enlightened and transformative and nice, I’m not going to feel bad about what I said, either. Because this patriarchy isn’t going to smash itself!



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  1. Dear Patricia~ I was in the room when Bob started on you. I’ve know him a long time. He doesn’t usually get drunk. But he was out of hand. Later in the evening has roaring drunk, as I’ve never seen him. He is usually amusing, sarcastic and thoughtful.
    No excuses. I was puzzled. His wife was away. I will ask Jane about this incident. Sorry you had to deal with this. Glad you and David were here and better interactions with other folks.
    be well, David

  2. Greetings and salutations to YOU and FOR VERY ESPECIALLY FOR YOU and TO YOU my darling, awesome soul sistahfriend Christian Quaker woman FOR ALWAYS, Patricia!!!!! AWWWWW, oh, how I’veso longedfor, yearning for, wanting to respond much sooner than this to this beautiful,brilliantly beautiful blog post article but my silly physical disabilities and other flaring nagging physical medical stuff have prevented me from doing so the way I so love to do! I’d much rather do a longer, more thorough and detailed response and that is such a sheer and immense joy and blessing for me and such grandly great fun for me, too! I didn’t want to go on any longer not writing anything to your awesome blog just bursting with such delightfully eager anticipation in order to do so and doing instead a shorter summary. How awesome and fun for all of you at this grand party! My very heart and spirit have been heavy and aching as well over the darling persons who were so viciously murdered with such vile, antisemitic hate and oppression!!!!!! I so, so very much love and cherish super Jewish people and this made me so, so very sad and livid, sistah Patricia!!!!!! Sistahfriend, I so appreciate YOU and your awkward confrontation with “Bob.” I can so relate an I’d have to really bite my to gue hard on that one-YOU did superbly well in how powerfully you handled that, my very empowering sistahfriend, Patricia!!!!! We must very much indeed smash the patriarchy and as all women and girls together as sisters in the great unity of the spirit and Spirit never ever lose heart, never ever lose spirit, and never ever lose Spirit in resisting, persisting, and interrupting, my precious friend, Patricia!!!!!!! Patricia, YOU ARE a so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful soul sistahfriend white woman FOR ALWAYS!!!!!!! 😊❤!!!!!!! GOD LOVES YOU AND CHERISHES YOU SO, SO VERY MUCH A WHOLE LOT AND WHOLE BUNCH FOR ALWAYS AND SO DO I, TOO, LOVE AND CHERISH YOU SO,SO VERY MUCH A WHOLE LOT AND A WHOLE BUNCH FOR ALWAYS, Patricia!!!!! 😊❤!!!!! YOURS FOR ALWAYS MY AWESOMELY SPECIAL AND DEARLY PRECIOUS FOR ALWAYS SOUL SISTAHFRIEND CHRISTIAN QUAKER WHITE WOMAN, PATRICIA, WHO YOU’RE FOR ALWAYS SO,SO VERY MUCH, YOUR SOUL SISTAHFRIEND CHRISTIAN BLACK WOMAN, SHERRY GORDON IN IOWA CITY, IOWA 😊❤!!!!!!!

  3. I am so sorry to learn of your recent failure-ups, Sherry, but never fear, you, your steadfast support, your abiding love are always with me. You are always *present*. Always.

  4. You’re not responsible for a guest’s behavior; you have nothing to be sorry about. Clearly, Bob was going through something. I wish I’d been able to be both firm yet gentle with him.

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