Monday, July 02, 2007

Green Street Hooligans

Every once in a while, Dan brings me a movie that he prefaces with "You might find this offensive, but then again, you may like it..." Dogma was one, and it's one of my all-time favourites. Ryan A told me about Boondock Saints and he said he thought about me when he watched it (that Southie thing!)- he told me to ask Dan about it and sure enough, Dan had it. I ended up watching it twice over. Last fall, Dan brought me Green Street Hooligans, which he had got from Netflicks.
Now, you all know I am a relatively peaceful person with a karma will triumph philosophy. But I grew up in a tough place and no one messes with me or my loved ones. I tend to work through the system when there is a problem- but sometimes the system does not work and boy, do I know it.

Elijah Wood could not do a better job of leaving Frodo behind, and the lead role was perfect for him. Green St Hooligans is about a kid who has been wronged, goes to visit a family member to bide some time til he figures out what to do, and ends up part of something much bigger than himself. Football gangs in Europe seem to be a lot more violent than here (although baseball violence is pretty prevalent in my hometown, as witnessed by the riots when the Sox won, and yes, we know Dan was there). British (& European) fans take this to another notch with the formation of "firms" or gangs that basically fight whether their team wins or loses. People get hurt, and people may die, but the "reputation" of the firm stands on whether its participants stand up or back down from a fight. I watched the flick with Dan, and has dreams about it all night that disturbed me greatly. The next morning I watched it thru once more while I processed WHY it bothered me so. The violence is graphic, and repugnant, yet familiar to me in a sense as well.
Now, knowing when to stand up to conflict and when to back down has been a recurrent theme in my life. The hardest part is when it's your child who is being exposed to a conflict bigger than himself. One of my kids had a run with a series of physical assaults secondary to the tough neighborhood and public school system. I remember teaching him to how to throw a punch to make the most damage, and how to grab the assaulter's arm and flip him. He needed to be able to take care of himself when it was time to make a stand, and oddly enough, it was his mom who had the skills to impart. He certainly knows how to stand up for himself now. Watching this movie made me think a lot about him, and the fact that a lead character resembled him physically made it even scarier. I taught my child how to fight, but it disturbs me that sometimes he must. Thinking about GSH made me face the fear that by living where he does, he is in the way of trouble. And I know that I have taught my children to live peacefully, but to stand up for themselves when it's necessary, even when there is risk. But being confident, coolheaded and strong is not enough in volatile situations as many dead victims can tell us.
Now, I can't equate soccer with honour, or reputation. But I understand the need to belong to something in which the sum of all parts is equal to or greater than the power of one. I know the feeling of standing in conflict with someone at my back. I understand brotherhood. I am more apt to walk away and let things ride out; but I know how to stand, and I know how to fight. I also know when- and that is what makes me strong.

The character who disturbed my dreams looked like my child, walked like my child, and showed the same sensitivities my kid has displayed; great with children, quick with a quip, hard-drinking and passionately loyal to friends. The unfamiliar (yet not so unfamiliar to anyone from my town) parts were the thuggish brutality, the cold planning of assaults, and the violence. Yet this same character engaged in a sacrificial act that I could so imagine my kid doing, and every time I see the ending of this movie, I sob.
We all want a world where there is no unfairness and the quick and the clever and the good triumph, and our good guy team wins. The reality is a world where people cheat and lie, and loyalty is just a word, and money always wins (right, Mr Bush?).
But when your brothers stand beside you and back you all the way- for one brief moment solidarity means something.

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