Summer 2012 : Fight
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Summer 2012 : Fight
Oregon Humanities: Summer 2012
I hate this class, I hate everything about it.” Angry, profane Brittany was shouting in my algebra class. Like a raw nerve, she reacted to everything with equal intensity. If a thought came into her head, it came out her mouth. Calling home didn’t do much good. Her father was in prison and her mother couldn’t take care of her. She lived off and on with one of her father’s ex-girlfriends.
She was fragile and aching one day, angry and hostile the next. She stopped my class with random outbursts so many times I dreaded seeing her walk through the door. A big girl with a street-wise swagger, she struggled with math but refused my help. “I can do it. I don’t need you coming over here sitting down by me,” she said. “Go away.”
Tara, on the other hand, didn’t need help. She was smart, and not just in math. She knew how to hurt people with her sarcasm. She’d mock and harass until she found a weakness and then she wouldn’t let up. Usually she got away with her taunts, but one day she crossed the line.
School had just let out when I heard yelling outside my door. I got out to the hall just in time to see Brittany push Tara, who weighed less than one hundred pounds, down on the floor and start kicking her in the head. As I tried to distract Brittany, the teacher from next door stepped between them, and Brittany finally stopped kicking.
Long after the fight was over, the image of Tara, curled up in a ball, her arms wrapped around her head, trying to protect herself, stayed with me. Brittany hadn’t left an imprint of her shoe on my forehead like she did on Tara’s, but she fought my help as ruthlessly as she had fought Tara’s insults. That’s when I knew Tara and I were the targets of her rage, not the cause.
Brittany lashed out at cutting remarks and confusing instruction because the only time she felt in control was when she was fighting. Faced with a world filled with confusion, chaos, and pain, her answer was to embrace anger and keep on fighting.
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Oregon Humanities magazine examines topics of broad public interest from a variety of perspectives and approaches. Recent issues of this publication have focused on stuff, nostalgia, and civility. Through good and thoughtful writing, Oregon Humanities magazine enriches our understanding of important subjects and stimulates conversation and reflection among readers, their friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors.
For more than a decade Camas Davis has been a magazine editor and writer for national magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Saveur, and local publications such as Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, and Mix. In 2009, she traveled to France to study butchery. Upon her return, she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a traveling butchery school.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
J. David Santen Jr. has written about books, business, the environment, and communities for the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and other publications. He lives in Portland.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books, where interviewing authors is the most interesting part of her job. She’s originally from the South but has lived in Oregon for eleven years and is here to stay.
Photographer Jim Lommasson received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms. Previous publications include Oaks Park Pentimento. His photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries.
John Frohnmayer is chair of the Oregon Humanities board of directors.
Margot Minardi is an assistant professor of history and humanities at Reed College, and the author of Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts (2010). She is currently working on a history of the nineteenth-century American peace movement.