fighting words

“Dem’s fighting words!”

… said everywhere from Bug Bunny to the New York Times’ crossword puzzle. Note the following iconic exchange between Bugs and Yosemite Sam:

Yosemite Sam: “Now, you dog-blasted, ornery, no-account, long-eared varmint!”

Bugs: “Hey, just a minute, you! Dem’s fightin’ woids!”

Yosemite Sam: “Yeah, dem’s fightin’ words!”

Bugs: “I dash ya to step across dis line.”
[traces line along edge of diving board] 

Yosemite Sam: “I’m a-stepping.”
[Sam steps across line and falls off board; rises up] 

Yosemite Sam: “I hate you.”
[falls back down] 

Witness the clear progression from fighting words to hate. One person offers an emotionally -charged insult. The next labels the insult as “fighting words.” There are then back-and-forth threats, having justified the fight. And all of a sudden persons who have more in common than they wish to realize, declare their hatred for one another.

Dare I humbly suggest, the fighting quickly runs out of control.

The current cultural fighting seems to be out of control in areas where previously there was none.

Note even the NBA game Monday night between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. The game featured the return of longtime Clippers’ star, Chris Paul, yet this time, he was an identified member of the opposition.

It was a game — a competition, if you will. Only one team could win. Things got heated. All sorts of emotions were flying. Insults accompanied the emotion.

As ESPN reported, “The final minutes of the game were filled with technical fouls, ejections, swearing, bumping — and that was just the beginning.”

After the game was over, four Rockets’ players — including former Clipper, Paul — took a back hallway that Paul knew connected with the visiting locker room with that of the home team. In an incident investigated for multiple days by league officials, the Clippers were then stunned when these professionals burst into their locker room. They were stunned, too, that the men had “come calling for them.”

Said more by the entertainment sports network, “For a few fleeting moments, several Clippers dared the Rockets to come farther into the room, sources said. Security and team officials soon converged on the Rockets, pushing them out the door and back toward the visiting locker room.”

Hence, “On a night that the Clippers organization played a video montage to honor Paul’s six seasons here, the fractured relationships that led to his departure in June percolated in the raucous fallout of the night.”

And thus, with all the emotions resulting from two teams with similar goals in perceived competition with one another, someone, somewhere concluded, “Dem’s fighting words!”

Once we conclude that the other has utilized “fighting words,” we are lured into justifying hatred. Once we justify hatred, we fail to see the more we have in common with another…

… regardless of the court.