I came across this story this morning and felt compelled to write about it. It’s the story of two boys, both of whom had completely different role models, both of whom were raised differently, and you can see how it plays out in their life. Both boys made choices relating to violence and their relationship with it.
While no good parent would want their son to be faced with an edged weapon attack or the possibility of fighting several attackers, what parent would not want their son to have the courage to stand by their convictions and stand up for the helpless? While perhaps not on this scale, life eventually confronts us all with situations where we must choose between our safety, whether that be financial, moral, or physical, and the safety of someone else.
So here we have two boys. In the one nicknamed “Angel”, we see the perfect archetype of the bully. He is large, and accompanied by friends. Yet despite these two advantages in his favor, he feels the need to stack the deck by attacking a smaller boy, who has mental disabilities. There is no sense of fairness, no honor, no moral compass in his actions. Then, when defeated and restrained by another child, he retreats, only to return with a large kitchen knife, and the encouragement of his mother to stab another child.
The reality is that Angel was weak on the inside. He had the natural advantage of size and cognitition, but picked an easy target for his bullying, a smaller child with mental disabilities. Despite his size, he felt the need to look to an external source of power, a weapon, in order to prove he was a better person than Roman Rodriquez, the boy who defended the young child. It is most telling that his mother encouraged Angel to use the knife on Roman.
This is a mother who could have raised her son to understand that the weak should be protected, not abused. This is a mother who could have encouraged her son to find a productive outlet for his size and strength. This was a mother who could have taught her son that weapons are tools to defend and protect, not abuse and murder. She could have taught her son to avoid violence, but instead she instigated it.
Then we have Roman’s father, a career martial artist and instructor. He raised Roman in the martial arts. Yes, he taught his son how to fight, because that is what the martial arts are, but more importantly, he taught his son why to fight, when to fight, and when not to. Roman didn’t brutally beat Angel, he restrained him, despite being struck by a larger attacker. He took the disabled child and sought out help from an adult as soon as possible. I have never met nor trained with Roman’s father, Ricardo Rodriguez, so I do not know the particulars of what he teaches, but in Roman’s actions, I see Ricardo echoing the same lessons we teach in the children’s martials arts classes here in Odenton, Maryland at the Maryland Jeet Kune Do Academy. Where Angel was weak on the inside, and encouraged by his mother to justify himself through violence, Roman was strong on the inside, taught by his father to avoid violence at all costs, and when he must fight, to do so with discretion, in defense of another, and with only as much force as the situation requires.
As a parent, what messages are you sending your child? Which of these two boys would you be proud to call son? Which parents do you want to be? No one wants their child to have to face violence, certainly not on this scale. Yet I know that I would be hope that my son or daughter had the courage to do the right thing when faced with a similar situation, and I hope that I can impart the lessons and tools they would need to do so.