I’ve been writing and thinking a lot recently about men and violence. A few months ago, my good friend Mr. Blake presented me with this great little paperback book from 1947. It has a passage in it about both male violence and blood-brotherhood–the subject of my most recent book. Since I have yet to finish either of the pieces I’m working on this week, I thought I’d take a moment to re-type it here…
“That is how fighting is,” Jeffords said. “Men moving like sheep against one another. The reasons are forgotten now but the fighting goes on.”
“Men fight,” Cochise said very simply. “Men will always fight. If there were no white men here we would fight other Indians. Or Mexicans. If there were no Indians here your soldiers would find someone else to fight. Everything that lives fights. From the smallest to the largest. That is how it is intended. Each thing lives on what is weaker than himself. By destroying another living thing he makes his own place in the forest safer.”
“The forest is big enough for everyone, maybe.”
“Each always wants just the place the other is standing.”
“And the end?”
Cochise gestured widely with his hands. “The weak always lose. For a long time we were the strong. Now we are the weak. We will lose. We will die. Slowly, on reservations, or swiftly, in battle. But we will die. Then it will be your turn. You will no longer have us to conquer so you will fight others. You have tried, Jeffords, to tell me of this earth. You have told me there are great waters and other lands and other people who speak strange languages. There will always be fighting among all of you. Maybe you will defeat them, maybe they will defeat you. It does not matter. There will be fighting. Everywhere, all around in everything with life, there is always fighting. It is coming to the time of your end. No matter how strong men are there always will be men who are stronger.” Again he embraced his friend. “It was good of you to come here. We still speak to each other with a straight tongue. Listen to me again. I knew of your decison, before you came here. We still stand higher to each other than our people stand to each other.”
“That is true, Cochise,” Jeffords said.
“And now we shall become brothers.”
“We are brothers, Cochise.”
“We shall mix our blood and become brothers.”
“Now? When I leave you to become your enemy?”
“Now, when you are closer to me than my own sons.”
“You are a great man, Cochise,” Jeffords said. “You are a very great man.”
“It is our brotherhood,” Cochise said quietly. “It makes a man greater than himself.”
– Blood Brother, Elliot Arnold
(Later made into the film Broken Arrow)
This struck me as a particularly realistic, masculine understanding of the world. Everything fights. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.
It also follows a theme I’ve seen elsewhere in literature about fighting men; sometimes you respect the man you fight more than anyone else.