My pal and fellow songwriter, Ryan Morgan, sent a thoughtful response to my last post. I know Ryan from the Big City Folk scene in New York. He is a great songwriter (and conversationalist). You can, and should, listen to his music here.
The thing is, your memories of when you wish you could go back and be violent are all in response to some injustice or another - arbitrariness on the playground, mistaken identity at the football game, homophobia in the parking lot. And in all cases, you’re in effect being targeted for something that isn’t your fault. So the rage is, in a sense, just. At least a response to injustice.
It’s an interesting venue for something like anger and violence, which are normally so visceral and instinctive. I’m thinking of violence as catharsis. Or as defensiveness. Or, anyway, as something less pure than what you’re describing. We are, after all, talking about hurting someone. You’re talking about hurting people who deserve it, like a vigilante, once principles or authority have refused to dole out appropriate punishment. I find that really interesting, because it’s an appropriation of a very carnal desire to what is in effect a very civilized end. Like the death penalty, or drone attacks.
Do you really wish you would have hit those people? The offender in the second story is the kid who really did say nigger and then slunk from your side when you were falsely accused. Shouldn’t he, rather than the black kid who knocked you out of the air, be the target of your nostalgic fury?
Anyway, when I was younger, I used to punch holes in walls, and I smashed the first three guitars I owned to bits. As an adult, I took on the habit of shooting handguns at paper targets, but it was always more for sport than catharsis. Still, yes, I think there is in me some desire to see bad people hurt. But I recognize that it is, at heart, a deeply uncivilized notion. Art may just be the best place to put that shit.