Bobo Joins the Gang


I’m sure you will be quite pleased to hear that everything is back to normal here. I have returned to my apartment in Anacostia, and I still have my job in the pet shop, just as before. They even gave me a coming-home party!

Because the muscles in my left leg were still weak and sore, I began taking long walks every evening. My leg was back to normal in no time, but the walks were so pleasant that I continued them. I was walking down Minnesota Avenue the other night, when I saw three teenagers approaching. As they got closer, I recognized them: they were the same three who beat me up! They stopped to talk with someone. One turned and looked in my direction, and I saw the shock of recognition on his face. Glancing quickly at his comrades to make sure his absence would not be noticed, he hurried quietly down the sidewalk to meet me.

“What you doing here?” he whispered. I told him that I had gotten out of the hospital and that I was back at home. He was evidently surprised at my quick recovery. “Why didn’t you fight back?” he asked, “we could’ve hurt you even worse, man!”

By this time I was tired of explaining to people why I didn’t fight back, and I allowed my fatigue to come out in sarcasm. It seems so very clear that responding to violence with violence simply justifies violence as a method of interacting with other people. Fighting back actually makes the problem worse! Tell me Ken, are all Humans so dull? My doctorate in anthropology gives me no special advantage; isn’t it just obvious? We might as well combat nastiness by being nasty to nasty people. That would only increase the nastiness in the universe.

Being violent doesn’t bring peace. Being nasty doesn’t make you nice. Imitating stupidity doesn’t make you clever.

Anyway, he told me his name was Alexander. He was nineteen years old and had already fathered two illegitimate children. His grades were bad in school even though he possessed a great deal of natural intelligence—peer pressure worked against him. His life was dominated by drugs and gang conflicts. We talked over all these things. He needed and wanted a lot of advice, and as we talked, his trust grew. (Now that’s where my profession came in handy!)

Finally, the conversation group at the end of the block broke up and the other two guys walked over to where we were sitting on the curb. One of them had a crowbar in his right hand, and he bounced it threateningly on his left palm. Alexander looked up, startled. He was so absorbed in talking to me that he hadn’t seen them approach. He eyed the crowbar and their threatening posture with sudden terror.

“What you doing?” he demanded.

“This dude is bad news,” they threatened, “we’re going to teach him to leave this town and never ever come back!”

“You leave him alone!” Alexander squealed, “he’s my friend!”

He pushed Alexander aside with the crowbar. The other fellow pushed on both of my shoulders, spat on my chest, and shouted in my face: “This is your friend? He’s a chicken; he don’t fight back!” His breath could wilt flowers at twenty paces! Then staring menacingly into my eyes, he said in a ridiculing tone: “He scared!”

“You want to hurt me again?” I asked, “Then I will stand here and wait. Do it.”

The other two seemed to be caught off guard by this. There is no fun in fighting someone who will not fight back, and they certainly knew this time that I wouldn’t fight back. They were just posturing. I knew this, and so I stood my ground while Alexander argued with them. They really didn’t want a conflict; they just didn’t want to face me at all. I reminded them of what they had done, and it bothered them. They wanted to scare me away so they could resign me to the status of “chicken” and they wouldn’t have to deal with me. I wouldn’t run away. They couldn’t hit me. So they finally decided I was okay.

I’m an honorary member of their band now, and we have long talks in the park. They don’t get into as much trouble as they used to. Alexander is doing better in school. Luther is having some terrible emotional problems. His father left his mother after a series of violent arguments, and his sister Ja-Neen has been missing for several days. I don’t know about Plato. He’s functionally illiterate and his drug habit is tearing him up, and I’m afraid I don’t have the resources to help someone in that much trouble. Perhaps if things go well, and if I get permission, I’ll take them up to Earth Watch Base. No one will believe their story, and the shock might do them some good.

How can I refuse to do kind and necessary deeds? My personal vanity would have me believe that I am changing the course of future Human history. But that isn’t true, of course. My only regret is that I will have no way of knowing if I’m really helping these boys.