University of Chicago
Tommy has convinced Rafe to go to a frat party to meet girls -- Tommy's assessment is that Rafe's kind of girls might be found there. As it happens, what is found there is beer, and, yes, loose women. Amid the riot of emotions, Rafe observes a guy getting handsy with an attractive blonde who seems not to be into it. As Rafe pushes his way over there, the equally attractive redhead with her intervenes, harsh words leading to the redhead punching the guy in the face.
The guy and his two friends seem to find this beyond the pale and an excuse to abandon whatever drunken excuse for chivalry they might have had, and go after the redhead.
Rafe grabs one of the guys from behind, dragging his upper torso backward to leave him unbalanced, and punches him in the face.
Holly is no longer flanked on both sides and side kicks the other flanker, driving him back. A general brawl ensues; from Rafe's point of view, it's Rafe and Holly vs. the fraternity.
Outside, over the DJ, Tommy hears sounds of breakage from inside. Via comms Tommy asks Rafe, "Is that you?"
Rafe growls back, "About forty percent of it."
Tommy sends, "All right, I'm on the way." He heads back inside, against the flow.
Dawn knocks a full, unopened keg onto one of the boys Rafe has taken off his feet.
Holly and Rafe are back to back; for the moment, they're out of foes. "Hi. I'm Holly."
Rafe says, "Rafe," then calls out sardonically, "Well? Surely you won't let a little resistance put you off," taunting the partygoers who have had the gall to stand up for the harassers.
Holly smiles at him. A couple of the boys pick themselves up and rush the couple; Holly throws a low kick and a punch as they go by, setting them up for Rafe to finish them off.
Rafe chops them to the ground and stamp-kicks them in the elbows.
Holly nods to the blonde. "My sister Dawn."
Rafe says, "Hi."
Dawn waves. "Hi. We should go, before you get arrested."
Holly says, "Doesn't look like they're going to be fun any more."
Rafe snarls, though his heart's not completely in it with most of the mob down and hurting, "Good."
Holly asks Rafe, "Want to get a cup of coffee?"
Rafe says, "Sure. Let's grab my brother, though. I thought he was on the way in ..."
Rafe heads out, pausing to deliver a brutal kick to the guy who started it. "Creep."
Holly observes to Dawn with a smile, "He has a brother."
Dawn rolls her eyes but doesn't seem to find the idea totally horrid.
Rafe waves to Tommy. "Come on; there's no more fun here, and the keg got broken."
Dawn seems to find the brother idea much improved, seeing Tommy. So does Holly.
Tommy is rather less formally dressed than Rafe, but still in high-quality stuff. He's wearing jeans and a leather jacket over a plain shirt. Rafe, on the other hand, thinks not wearing a tie with his Savile Row-style suits is casual.
Dawn is in tight jeans and a blouse; Holly is wearing a little black dress that shows off some nice legs.
Rafe says, "Tommy, these are Holly and Dawn."
Tommy says, "Pleased to meet you both."
Dawn says, "Hi. We're fleeing. Want to flee?"
Tommy says, "Might as well. I hear there's nothing to be gained here anymore."
Dawn takes Tommy's arm.
Tommy smiles. "So, what happened?"
Dawn says, "Holly found out why my ex is my ex."
Holly says, "And we met two hot guys."
Rafe exclaims, "That was your ex?"
Dawn says, "See why?"
Rafe says with complete disgust, "Yes."
Tommy says, "So, for those of us trying to play along at home?"
Dawn says, "Somehow, 'Yes, I'm dumping you' didn't sink in. So he decided to 'win me back' by getting physical."
Rafe says, "He was a creep."
Dawn says, "True. So Holly punched him, which was not necessary, and mayhem ensued."
Holly says, "Maybe not necessary, but well-deserved."
Rafe says to Holly, "She's right. It wasn't necessary; I was about to punch him."
Holly grins. "Gotta be quick to get ahead of me."
Tommy chuckles at Holly.
Dawn says, "I could've handled it."
Tommy says, "Sounds like he should have been having people take numbers."
Holly says, "So enough about Punchable... aren't you in my econ class, Rafe?"
Rafe says, "I think so."
The four arrive and get some comfy chairs.
Dawn says, "Business major?"
Rafe nods. "Trying to get up to date on it."
Dawn says, "Up to date?"
Rafe says, "New ideas, new laws ..."
Dawn says, "Falconieri?"
Tommy smiles. "Ah, you heard."
Holly says, "I heard your cousin on Answer the Question! Cool! -- Cousin, right?"
Tommy nods. "And our eldest brother."
Dawn says, "What's a few years at your age?"
Holly says, "Says the sister who stands on a few minutes..."
Rafe snorts. "Twins?"
Dawn says, "Fraternal."
Rafe says, "Our second-youngest brother makes a point of those few minutes, too."
Dawn says seriously, "It's very important to maturity," then laughs.
Tommy chuckles. "So I hear," he says, from his lofty height of Third Eldest.
Holly says, "I hadn't realized you guys were going to school with us, though."
Tommy says, "Rafe and I are. We've been trying to get Matteo to go, but ..."
Dawn looks quizzical.
Rafe says, "He doesn't think he could do it."
Dawn says, "Ah."
Holly says, "What're you taking, Tommy?"
Tommy replies, "My brother's education by proxy." It could have been bitter, but doesn't seem to be. "It wasn't my idea, though the prospects are looking up," he finishes, with a smile at the twins.
Holly says, "So what're you interested in?"
Tommy shrugs. "I'm not really an academic guy. I like animals, athletics, and the Internet." He decides it's a bit early to mention hunting.
Holly says, "Do sports?"
Dawn says, "Animals?"
Tommy nods to both. "I thought about becoming a vet, but medical school is hard."
Dawn says, "I tend to think most things worth doing are. If it's not hard, you're not challenging yourself."
Tommy says, "Challenging myself is one thing. Spending a pile of my family's money to become a bad vet ..."
Dawn says, "So don't be bad at it."
Tommy says, "Easy to say," and turns the question back on her. "What about you? What are you in for?"
Dawn says, "Political science, though I might change to social work. I want to save the world, I guess."
Tommy says, "Really?"
Dawn shrugs, a little embarrassed.
Holly says, "You're just going to make it worse like that."
Tommy says, "No, I didn't mean it that way. That's cool."
Dawn says, "Holly doesn't believe in the system."
Holly says, "Holly doesn't believe making people dependent helps them."
Rafe shrugs. "Depends. If they're starving as you watch, or something, make them dependent first, then wean them off."
Dawn says, "Exactly. Everyone needs help every now and then."
Holly says, "And if you have an institution dedicated to providing that help, and justifying its existence by doing so, it will make sure someone always needs help."
Tommy says, "Is it necessarily bad to keep raising the standard and keep helping the worst off?"
Holly says, "But that's not what we do. We tear down the heights to build up the lows, only we don't raise people up, we just sustain them. We teach them to be helpless because we actually incentivize it."
Dawn says, "That just means we're doing it wrong."
Holly says, "Nobody's ever demonstrated that it can be 'done right.'"
Rafe says, "It can be, I'm convinced. It just takes extraordinary measures."
Holly says, "As soon as it becomes someone's job, and not an act of charity, they'll act to preserve their job."
Dawn says, "You are such a cynic."
Tommy says, "She's not wrong. Most people who can figure out they're doing themselves out of a job ... don't."
Dawn says, "So we construct the rules so that doesn't happen."
Tommy says, "Do they actually have the power to keep people poor while giving them aid?"
Holly says, "They can give them fish instead of teaching them to fish. One puts them in the fish distribution business perpetually."
Tommy says, "Maybe it needs to be attacked from the other end. Teach people to demand skills, to be unsatisfied with themselves on the dole."
Rafe says, "Being a recipient of charity got de-stigmatized -- probably when charity somehow became the government's job."
Tommy says, "We were there for that."
Dawn says, "Isn't it bad enough to be down on your luck without having everyone shame you for it?"
Rafe says, "Yes, but the alternative is that people start to see help as a right instead of a gift."
Dawn says, "It is a right. People have a right to basic dignity. Food, shelter, clothing, health care..."
Tommy shrugs. "Maybe they do, but who likes to be told they're on the hook for it? The other side of it is that those who could give freely and generously are being told they must, and that they're doing no more than their obligation when they do. It doesn't lead to a generous spirit."
Holly says, "It's not charity when you have to do it."
Tommy says, "Exactly. So requiring it is killing charity."
Dawn says, "They're just being asked to do their fair share to help out those less fortunate. They shouldn't resent that."
Tommy says, "There's some room between resenting it and being glad to do it. Haven't you damaged something important when people are no longer glad to give?"
Dawn says, "I think most people are. It's just a few on the fringe, espcially the very greedy, that have a problem with it."
Rafe starts to say something, but Tommy talks over it. "That's the other thing. There are two different versions of reality. Neither side seems prepared to believe that anyone on the other possesses the least bit of intelligence or good-will."
Dawn says, "I'm pretty sure Holly's not evil or dumb."
Holly says, "Gee, thanks! I didn't realize!"
Tommy asks Dawn, "If it's just a fringe not happy, why isn't it being done your way?"
Dawn says, "Because they're among the richest and most powerful, and they duped a bunch of people into voting against their own best interests out of fear."
Holly says, "Here we go again with the people are stupid."
Rafe says, "Well, they are."
Dawn says, "No, they were manipulated. And we didn't do enough to stop it."
Rafe says, with a quelling look at Tommy, "You'll have to count me with the greedy, then." He does look the part.
Dawn says, "Seems to me like you stepped in to help when someone needed it."
Rafe says, "But I don't like being told I owe. I want to do the right thing, and I will, but I can't say I much like the people trying to tell me it's so much its own reward that they don't even owe me gratitude."
Dawn says, "You can't demand people be grateful."
Holly says, "You can't demand they be grateful for the 'opportunity' to give up their own hard-earned money either."
Rafe says, "I can't demand people be grateful, but I can try to create a culture in which gratitude, rather than a sense of entitlement, is the natural response to being helped. Money takes work. Why is my work worthless? Why are other people entitled to it?"
Dawn says, "Not all wealth comes from hard work. Sometimes it's just good luck, or taking the benefit of other people's work."
Holly says, "I couldn't get her to take econ with me."
Dawn says, "What? Jeff Bezos doesn't ship all those packages -- other people do."
Rafe says, "Somehow, we've decided that what he does is worth a lot more than what they do. It might be a holdover from times when it not only needed to be done, but it was impossible to do it without hundreds of times the wealth of the peasant. Is one knight worth as much as a hundred peasants? It doesn't matter; if you need a knight, it costs that much, and more, to get him."
Dawn says, "That's a real problem. Even if his work is worth more, which I doubt, we treat it like he's worth more. Like people who work in warehouses or make coffee aren't as important as venture capitalists or dotcom billionaires. We devalue their humanity."
Rafe says, "I don't think we devalue their humanity itself when we admit that some people would be missed by the economy a lot more than others would."
Dawn says, "You don't see that?"
Rafe says, "I admit that the janitor has a family that loves him. Maybe there are kids he tells stories to who would miss him, too. But it's easy to replace a good janitor, and hard to replace a good manager."
Dawn says, "So that's the only measure of a person's worth? In dollars? That's horrible! Economics should be in service to human dignity, not something we sacrifice humanity to maintain."
Rafe rolls his eyes. "Let me know when you're done arguing with what someone else said. That's not what I said."
Dawn says, "You said it was easier to replace a janitor than a manager. Which is a purely business economic calculation, not a human one."
Rafe says, "Yes. I also said the janitor would be missed less by the economy. He has a value outside that, but it's not one I can quantify, and I'm not convinced it should factor back into the economy except inasmuch as we should consider not letting him starve."
Dawn says, "That's because our economy is stuck in this capitalist model where all that matters about anyone is their value as a labor input. We need to break out of that, and value people for all the things they do, all the things they are to other people. Let's make that our measure, not dollars."
Rafe says, "We do. We just don't value it with money."
Tommy says, "And when we try to, we get all kinds of perverse effects. People will do for free, for instance, things they'd be insulted to take ten dollars for."
Dawn says, "How about for a hug? We don't get from here to there quickly, but we have to decide to stop going the other way -- stop dehumanizing people -- before we can make any real progress."
Tommy says, "Hugs are great, but you don't seem to want to set up the Bureau of Hugs."
Holly says, "Hug-based economy?"
Rafe says, "Pass."
Dawn stops what she was going to say to give Rafe's arm a non-intrusive squeeze.
Rafe looks surprised.
Tommy tenses, then relaxes when Rafe doesn't react badly.
Holly gives Rafe a hug too, more comradely than intimate, just a brief arm around his shoulders.
Tommy laughs ruefully. "I should have played harder to get."
Holly laughs too and gives Tommy a more intimate hug.
Dawn says, "See! We can do it!"
Rafe says, "Nice as that was, it did not do the job of allocating resources in an environment of scarcity."
Dawn says, "Made you happier, right?"
Rafe grudgingly allows, "It wasn't as annoying as I expected."
Dawn says, "Now how much would you pay?"
Rafe says, "I might pay for the coffee, though, technically, you invited me."
Holly says, "I think technically, she suggested we flee before we got arrested."
Rafe waves a dismissive hand. "It suited my purposes. We have excellent lawyers."
Tommy shakes his head ruefully.
Holly says, "I think 'he's a creep' should be all the defense we need."
Rafe says, "Agreed."
Tommy says, "Vinnie'd just make sure he was actually a creep first."
Holly says, "I was sure. He was actually a creep. And really, it's an educational institution. He paid to be taught; we gave it to him for free. Not even for a hug."
Rafe says, "I did grab him. That could count as a hug."
Tommy says, "I didn't mean you didn't investigate enough before attacking. Just that Vinnie would make sure you were reasonably fair and honest about it."
Tommy says, "And then 'He's a creep' would stand for a defense."
Holly says, "I'm saying more like a self-defense argument. 'You beat him up.' 'He deserved it.' 'Court agrees, case dismissed.'"
Tommy says, "Right. The question would be, 'Did he actually deserve it?'"
Holly says, "He did."
Dawn says, "Even I'd probably acquit her this time."
Tommy shrugs, giving up. He hadn't been trying to criticize Holly and Rafe's handling of the creep, but just to make a point about reasonable authority figures.
Holly says, "You didn't meet him. Be happy."
Dawn says, "I don't know, I don't think he'd have the confidence to hit on Tommy."
Tommy laughs. "Thanks?"
Holly gives Tommy's hand a squeeze.
Dawn says, "And Rafe would just intimidate him."
Rafe says, "I'm intimidating?"
Dawn nods. "You're visibly wealthy, prettier than me, and yet you make it masculine."
Rafe says, "I owe my brother a hug, then."
Holly says, "Why?"
Rafe says, "He designed the clothes."
Holly says, "Cool!"
Dawn says, "I would've thought you paid a small fortune for them."
Rafe shakes his head. "Made them myself."
Dawn says, "Handsome and talented."
Rafe blushes fiercely.
Dawn says, "And he blushes."
Rafe blushes even more fiercely.
Holly laughs, not unkindly.
Tommy turns to Holly. "So, Dawn's going to save the world with politics or social work -- what are you studying? Are you an Economics major?"
Holly says, "I'm not decided yet. That or history probably."
Tommy says, "History?"
Holly nods. "How do we know what not to do if we don't know what didn't work in the past? And what did?"
Holly says, "Besides, it's interesting. So's business, though. Haven't decided."
Rafe says, "Do both -- business for a living, and history as a hobby. You could try the other way around if you don't like money, though."
Holly says, "Probably won't end up doing either for a living. I'm not an office work kind of girl."
Rafe shrugs. "Business with a side of thuggery works for me."
Holly says, "I'm thinking law enforcement, maybe military. Not sure I'm good enough with rules to go military."
Tommy says, "Or law enforcement?"
Holly says, "You have more discretion with law enforcement. Smaller units, more moment-to-moment decision-making."
Tommy chuckles. "I have to admit, I kind of hope not."
Holly says, "Why?"
Tommy says, "My family doesn't have a great relationship with law enforcement as a principle. At least not other people's law enforcement."
Holly cocks her head.
Tommy looks surprised.
Rafe says, "Falconieri?"
Holly says, "Is this an Italian stereotype thing?"
Rafe says, "No, you're not supposed to assume we're in the Mob because we have an Italian last name. You're supposed to recognize the Italian last name we have. Do you know who Nicky the Roman is?"
Dawn says, "No?"
Rafe grimaces. "Then I can't tell you."
Holly says, "You're saying you're in the Mafia, only you're not, because Omertà."
Rafe says, "No. I'm not saying that. It's not even true."
Holly says, "Good, 'cause it'd be ridiculous. And not sexy."
Rafe says, "I'm twenty-two. I'm not in the Mafia."
Dawn says, "That's just a vicious stereotype anyway."
Rafe looks at Dawn blankly, trying to figure out whether she's joking.
Dawn says, "Italian-Americans are some of the most law-abiding people in America. The stereotype of them -- you -- as gangsters is just offensive."
Holly says, "Except for the mob guys."
Rafe agrees, "The idea that all Italian-Americans are in the Mob is offensive. The idea that particular Italian-Americans are in the Mob is simply correct."
Holly says, "Right."
Dawn says, "That's what I said."
Rafe says, "Oh. It sounded like you were saying the Mob was some sort of racist myth like the Blood Libel." He mutters, "Usually, people say what they mean." Usually, people think it loudly enough that he thinks they said it.
Dawn says, "It is. People see that as what the Italian-American community is like, with everyone either in the mob or connected or whatever, but it's not, and that's offensive."
Rafe says, "It's what some communities are like. It's even what some people want the community to be like."
Holly says, "Maybe like The Godfather mob. Nobody wants to have Fat Lou come around and break your fingers if you don't give him all your profits."
Tommy says, "Fair enough. Lou's the only one who likes that arrangement."
Rafe says, "How is it you know who Lou is, but you don't know who Nicky is?"
Holly says, "Who's Lou?"
Rafe says, "You just mentioned him!"
Holly says, "I just made that up. Is that a real guy?"
Rafe looks disbelievingly at Holly. "That's a real guy."
Holly says, "I was gonna say Fat Vinnie then I remembered you have a cousin Vinnie, who I hope is not a lawyer."
Rafe says, "No, he's not a lawyer. He's also not fat. He also breaks relatively few fingers."
Holly says, "Good, because having your cousin Vinnie be a lawyer would be too funny."
Tommy says, "He gets that a lot."
Dawn says, "I don't get why anyone likes that movie."
Holly says, "It's hillarious!"
Dawn says, "It's just poking fun at stereotypes."
Rafe says, "I might have to watch it just to annoy Vinnie."
Holly says, "It's great. So you guys live on campus?"
Rafe says, "No, but close."
Tommy says, "We walk here, which saves some trouble."
Dawn says, "Yeah, as long as you're not going home late at night. And agirl."
Holly says, "Oh come on, we've never been mugged."
Holly: . o O ( Successfully )
Rafe's eyes narrow. "There's a problem?"
Dawn says, "South of campus is where the affordable student housing is, but it's also a low-income neighborhood."
Holly says, "And Chicago's notorious for street violence. Hasn't been a problem for us though."
Rafe says, "Girls are getting attacked?"
Holly says, "Some people think we're easier targets. I mean, purses are easier to snatch than wallets."
Rafe says, "Where?"
Dawn says, "It's the South Side. Anywhere that isn't Hyde Park, really."
Rafe says, "I didn't know. They shouldn't be doing that." His tone suggests more that it's against the laws of Nature than that it's against the laws of Man.
Holly says, "Hence, law enforcement."
Rafe snorts. "Not likely."
Holly says, "Wouldn't happen on my beat."
Rafe says, "And it shouldn't be happening on this one. Do you have any facts?"
Holly says, "The newspapers cover it, but it's back-page stuff now. You could Google it."
Rafe says, "I guess I could."
Tommy looks amused.
Rafe says, "They should stick to selling drugs."
Tommy says, "Oh, come on. Even I can tell you they can't all sell drugs."
Holly says, "True -- some of them have to use them."
Dawn says, "They should do something constructive with their lives."
Rafe says, "I don't think that was in the cards at any point."
Dawn says, "That's a failing of society. There's no opportunity for them, either in the hug or dollar economies."
Rafe says, "There are opportunities in the bullet economy."
Tommy says, "That's ... a novel phrase."
Dawn says, "Shooting one another? They're doing that already. Have you seen the murder rate in this city? It's tragic."
Rafe says, "It's not an excuse, though."
Dawn says, "No, it's horrible. That's what I want to try to help fix."
Holly says, "Me too. We just disagree on how. I think they should be deterred, and taught some discipline."
Rafe shakes his head. "Lack of discipline's their big weakness. Things would be a lot worse if they were more coordinated."
Holly says, "Proper discipline would put all that energy to work on something constructive. I knew some gang-bangers growing up -- well, former gang-bangers. Marines now."
Dawn says, "She had such a crush..."
Holly says, "I did not! All right, not only a crush."
Holly says, "Uncle Top taught me how to fight, and when to fight."
Rafe says, "I suppose it would be nice to avoid an open war."
Dawn says, "Somebody tell the White House."
Rafe says, "I meant against the Chicago gang nations."
Holly says, "It's going to have to be done, sooner or later. Just a question of how many people get caught in the crossfire before then."
Dawn says, "I still think we can solve this without violence. With outreach, and opportunity. Nobody wants to be in a gang."
Rafe looks disbelievingly at Dawn.
Holly says, "Except all the ones who do."
Tommy nods. "Lots of people want to be in gangs."
Dawn says, "Be poor and die violently?"
Tommy says, "Be acknowledged as someone who matters, at least locally."
Dawn says, "Through terror? If you want to matter, build something, don't tear things down."
Tommy says, "My brother is the best builder I know of, and he wants to be in the Outfit -- not exactly the same as a gang, but I can see the principles applying more broadly."
Dawn says, "Because it can help him build, or because he likes violence?"
Dawn is speaking to Tommy but addressing Rafe.
Rafe says, "Neither. He wants to be acknowledged as a man to be feared. He tends to see actual violence as a bit of a waste of his time."
Dawn says, "I don't understand why anyone would rather be feared than loved."
Holly says, "Some people aren't lovable."
Tommy says, "Some people give up early on being loved, even if they are lovable to better people."
Dawn says, "That's something else we should fix, then. Everyone should feel they can be loved."
Rafe says, "And some people prefer hard power to soft power, which reads as not power at all to them."
Rafe says, "I think it depends on what kinds of power have usually been available. In our culture, people who solve their problems non-violently are carefully scrutinized for possible weakness. It's a bit unmanly to avoid violence."
Dawn says, "So much macho bullshit."
Tommy says, "Some people would dearly love to be let into the macho nonsense."
Dawn says, "The power struggles for the sake of power cause so much harm. I'd rather see people reason together more and fight over who gets the corner office less."
Rafe says, "People who have power find it easy to be annoyed with the power-seeking behavior of those who don't."
Dawn says, "I'm not bothered by people seeking power who have goals for it. I'm bothered by people seeking power for no other reason than they want to lord it over people. I have no respect for someone who'd resort to violence just to avoid seeming unmanly -- that's the worst kind of failure of masculinity."
Rafe shakes his head. "Do you know what happens when the people who care about whether all the men are manly think you aren't?"
Dawn says, "Why be manly?"
Rafe says, "Because your alternative is to be bruised and hungry after contributing your lunch money to the ones who are?"
Dawn says, "No, that's why not to be weak. Look, I wish you and Holly hadn't fought to defend me back there, but I recognize that you had a morally sound motive to do so. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about guys who will strike someone weaker to prove how strong they are. That's in no way admirable, do you agree?"
Rafe says, "Certainly."
Dawn says, "Guys try to be manly for one reason, at the root: To attract girls. Procreation. Demonstrate that you're the superior potential father."
Rafe says, "No, some of them really think they have no chance whatsoever with any girl, but would still like not to be beaten up today. They're seeing a choice between being a victim and being a victimizer, and choosing the latter of two contemptible fates."
Dawn says, "And beating up people weaker than them helps with this how?"
Rafe shrugs. "That's not what I said."
Tommy says, "Though it does. It helps them identify with the strong ones, and so feel better about themselves. It potentially provides them extra resources with which to propitiate those who are stronger than they. By demonstrating that someone is weaker than they, they protect themselves by showing that there are persons even less use to the tribe who should be pushed out first."
Dawn considers for a moment. "I still think there's a difference between demonstrating strength and demonstrating manliness. And the fact that someone can be physically bullied is a pretty poor measure of their social value."
Tommy says, "Oh, we agree. But that's not the way it works."
Holly says, "It can, if they're brought up right. Or trained right."
Tommy says, "Things are changing. But they aren't changed yet. You can't expect people to act as though they are when being wrong is going to get them pulped."
Holly says, "Someone has to go first, and lead. Pulp the bad actors and show the rest what they should be doing."
Tommy says, "That would be ideal, yes, but in the meantime, not everyone who seeks power seeks it because he's just a bully."
Dawn says, "That's not what I said. I said I didn't like people who seek it for its own sake. As opposed to trying to effect positive change."
Tommy says, "It gets to be hard to tell power for its own sake from power for one's own sake."
Holly says, "I'm okay with being a bully for good."
Tommy grins at Holly before turning more serious again. "Who would rather be feared than loved? Someone to whom the so-called power of love has never meant anything but the gilding on a very small cage indeed."
Rafe shakes his head. "It's not like that. I thought you understood."
Dawn asks gently, "What's it like, then?"
Rafe says, "Not as relevant as Tommy thinks, but now I see where he was going with it."
Dawn says, "Too personal for a first date?"
Rafe says, "No, just too irrelevant."
Tommy says, "What does it take to be a good person? Is it worth anything simply to not be a bad one?"
Dawn says, "I'd say it's worth negative hugs to be a bad person, and positive to be a good person, and zero to be neither. You don't owe any hugs."
Tommy considers this. "Let's say that there are people whose problems haven't been solved by love. Fear starts to seem like it might work. Is it necessarily bad to control with fear those who otherwise would harm you?"
Dawn says, "I don't accept your premise."
Tommy says, "What do you mean? Which premise?"
Dawn says, "That there are problems that can only be solved by violence and intimidation."
Holly says, "That's not what he said. He asked if it's okay to scare off bullies."
Dawn says, "I don't think it's necessary, but it's not wrong."
Tommy says, "If other things haven't worked, isn't it also necessary, at least if we also don't accept the premise that it's better to be a victim than to use violence or the fear of it?"
Dawn says, "That some other things have not worked does not mean you've tried all possible things. 'Oh, I offered to smile if he'd do what I wanted and he refused, so I'm justified in beating him up.' Not cool. Self-defense is a right. But if you're the one intitiating the violence, it's not self-defense."
Tommy says, "I'm asking how much responsibility a heretofore innocent has to accept violence rather than respond with it, simply because he or she has not yet tried all other things."
Dawn says, "If the other party initiates violence, the victim is morally justified in defending themselves."
Tommy says, "In general, when you defend yourself with violence, if you don't kill the other guy, you're using the fear of future violence to control him."
Dawn says, "I see that."
Tommy says, "In some of these situations, you might be unwilling to offer the hope of love instead."
Dawn says, "So you earn no hugs."
Tommy says, "That would be exactly the point."
Dawn says, "But when you pursue the person past the point of having deterred them -- if they retreat and you pursue -- you're no longer defending yourself. You're now the aggressor."
Tommy says, "How do you know when you've deterred them?"
Dawn says, "When they withdraw."
Holly says, "Leaving an enemy no avenue of retreat is poor tactics as well as not happy-loving."
Tommy says, "But that's when you've stopped them. That doesn't mean they won't come back when they think you're napping."
Dawn says, "It also doesn't mean people you've never met won't sneak into your house and attack you. You take reasonable precautions that hurt no one who's not doing anything to hurt you."
Rafe says, "I'm prepared to agree that it's not reasonable to rig the public street to explode because that's the way attackers might come."
Dawn says, "Exactly."
Holly says, "It is in a war zone."
Rafe says, "That's stretching the definition of 'public,' at least as far as I meant it."
Holly says, "Just saying."
Rafe says, "Also agreed, then."
Dawn says, "So you're entitled to defend yourself. But not attack other people. Defending others is much trickier, and prone to abuse as a justification, but I'm reluctantly willing to accept it. 'Pre-emptive defense' is going too far."
Rafe says, "What if someone has said he's going to attack me, but hasn't done it yet?"
Dawn says, "Tell him if he does, you'll defend yourself. I can see why practically you might do more, but I think your moral justification would be shaky. And I realize I sound entirely ungrateful for you guys jumping to my defense, and I'm not. You took a risk to help me. I appreciate that you did that, even though I wish you'd done it some other way."
Holly says, "Nah, I just wanted to puch him in his smug face."
Dawn smiles. "I wasn't talking to you."
Rafe says, "I didn't actually expect gratitude, either. He annoyed me. I could see what he was trying to do, and it bothered me."
Dawn says, "That speaks well of you."
Dawn says, "See, this girl finds things like that manly."
Rafe says, "Shouldn't that be something any person would aspire to?"
Holly says, "It's called honor."
Rafe blushes more. "I did not mean that as egotistically as it sounded."
Dawn says, "I get it. And yes. I have a problem with your methods, not your motive. And not such a problem that I'm not enjoying discussing it with you, because the motive is a lot more important."
Holly says, "She'd have to disown me if she had that big a problem with punching people."
Dawn says, "What sister?"
Rafe chuckles. "I don't think we should go around killing people who might, one day, start wanting to get in our way. I do, however, think that I have all the justification I need, and more than I want, in killing someone who says he's going to kill me. Not that this has actually come up."
Dawn says, "I don't agree, but I understand why you think so."
Rafe says, "I don't see why I would be morally obligated to assume he's lying."
Holly says, "You're not. Tragically overestimating his chances, maybe."
Dawn says, "You should take measures short of violence to stop him. Report him to the police, for example."
Dawn says, "And if he tries to carry out his threat, and you kill him, that will be less tragic than him killing you."
Rafe says, "I wouldn't expect any use at all to come of reporting it to the police, except that at my trial -- if I live -- I can point to the report as proof that I at least didn't make up the threat after I killed him."
Holly says, "If I were the cop, you could expect some help."
Dawn says, "It was an example. You understand my point?"
Rafe says, "I'm not sure. You seem to be saying that I'm obligated to do the minimum necessary to deter, and to err -- because I'll get that minimum wrong sometimes -- on the side of doing less than necessary."
Dawn nods. "Not obligated, but that's the best thing to do. Nobody said the moral was always practical."
Rafe says, "I don't agree it's moral, because I think he gives up all his rights to any defense against me when he threatens my life."
Dawn says, "That's where we differ. I don't think he does until he acts on that threat."
Rafe says, "I'm not sure why that would be, unless you assume he's lying."
Dawn says, "Because the consequences of words are not the same as actions. If I declare my intent to rob a bank, it's not the same as actually robbing the bank. I might change my mind, or be deterred by the security, or whatever. When I act on the intent, then I've done something wrong."
Rafe says, "That's true, but I think the person who contemplated wrongdoing to the point of announcing his intention should bear the burden of the difference, not me."
Dawn says, "So any time someone says, 'I'm gonna kill you,' they should be tried for murder?"
Holly says, "I'm doomed."
Rafe chuckles at Holly, then replies to Dawn, "Sounds like a waste of time to me. But if I believe them, they're not going to be around to be tried."
Dawn says, "How can we tell if they're just being hyperbolic, like Holly, or joking, or serious, or drunk and will be insincere in the morning? We can't. We can only judge their actions."
Rafe says, "A lot of this is about deciding who's going to bear the burden of mistakes. American law has a philosophy here: innocent until proven guilty. American law has decided it's more comfortable with the potential cost of letting the guilty go free than with the cost of harming the innocent accused."
Dawn says, "Also, I think a violent action, even when properly motivated, is inherently a bad thing. It's justified only when the consequence of not taking it would be worse, and you should use the minimum violence because violence is, itself. bad."
Rafe blinks. "Why?"
Dawn says, "Because it by definition harms people, who have worth."
Rafe says, "There are lots of harms. Why is a particular form of physical harm worse than the rest?"
Dawn says, "All forms are to be avoided if possible. We're talking about physical harm. Don't hurt people. It's bad."
Holly says, "Dawn's Law."
Rafe says, "I think 'Don't be the first to offer harm' is a better rule."
Dawn says, "I'd rather not hurt someone even if they try to hurt me. I can justify it, but I don't like it. It's better if I can stop them without hurting them."
Rafe says, "I don't care if I hurt people, as long as they deserve it."
Holly says, "Hear, hear."
Dawn says, "I do. I wish my ex would get over me and go on and have a happy life. I don't want to be mean to him. I just don't want to be with him any more."
Holly says, "He's a slug who deserved to get punched in the face, and his frat-boy friends, too, for trying to defend him."
Rafe says, "I'm with her," he says, gesturing at Holly. "I don't feel a need to keep punching him, so I suppose it's all right with me if he goes on and has a happy life. As long as that happy life doesn't still include the idea that other people's bodies are there for whatever he wants to do with them."
Dawn says, "We're together on that, just differing on means of getting him there. I really hope I don't come over as condemning."
Rafe says, "I don't have the impression you want to have the police come and re-educate me until I do it your way. It seems more like it's just your way. I couldn't live like that, but as long as I don't have to ..."
Dawn says, "I'd like it to be everybody's way, but coercing people into agreeing with me would defeat the point, wouldn't it?"
Rafe says, "Pretty much. I also don't have the impression you think I'm going to Hell, or that you think I need to be told stridently about it if I am."
Dawn says, "No. I think God cares why we do things as much as what we do, and you did it for good reasons."
Rafe looks surprised. "You believe in him?"
Dawn says, "Sure. I'm not a Bible-thumper or anything, but yeah."
Rafe says, "I'm surprised. I guess I assumed someone as liberal as you would be an atheist, which is pretty stupid, actually."
Rafe looks amused.
Holly says, "Do you?"
Rafe says, "Yes and no."
Holly looks quizzical.
Rafe says, "My father thought he had some evidence indicating a power of that nature. There are entities who seem to be of another order who testify that he exists."
Holly says, "Yeah, if God's not looking out for us, then I don't think the world would still be here."
Dawn says, "Your father had proof of God?"
Rafe says, "I don't think so. Just indications. He thought it was likelier that there was such an entity than that there was not. He hadn't really decided what that ought to mean, if anything, in terms of moral behavior."
Holly says, "Ah."
Dawn says, "Yeah, I don't believe in the beareded old man who sent White Jesus to die for our sins, but I believe there's a higher power that loves us and wants us to do the right thing."
Rafe says, "I can't say I've seen much indication of his affection."
Holly says, "The sun went out. It came back. Stuff like that."
Tommy says, "The lightbulb in my room burned out, so I changed it. I didn't do it for the dust mites."
Holly cracks up. Dawn laughs too.
Holly says, "Okay, so maybe he couldn't find the moon. I'm gonna believe Tommy likes us even if he is just looking for his shoes."
Tommy grins. "At last, you ladies have grasped my true importance and power."
Holly says, "And the full scope of your modesty."
Rafe says, "But Tommy's got a good metaphor. We generally have trouble imagining that an entity with the power and nature ascribed to him could be anything but far too alien to have any meaningful emotional relationship to us."
Dawn says, "I used to have a goldfish. I loved him."
Rafe says, "And maybe it imagined that you felt the same sorts of things about it that it felt about you."
Holly says, "I think they're trying to close up. Walk us home?"
Tommy glances around. "Oh." He looks embarrassed. "Of course."
Dawn starts to say something but Holly pokes her. "That'd be great," Dawn says instead.
Rafe and Tommy get up, and Rafe pays the tab.
Holly says, "I get it next time."
Rafe shrugs. "All right, if there's to be a next time, I suppose I can let you pay."
Tommy explains, "He meant that as a bargain."
Rafe reviews what he said and blushes. "Right."
Holly says, "I hope so."
Dawn says, "This was fun."
Rafe blushes again.
Tommy says, "We enjoyed it, too."
Holly takes Tommy's arm and a Sharpie and writes a phone number on it.
Dawn just tells the boys hers.
Tommy pulls out his phone and puts the numbers in. Rafe does likewise, grabbing Tommy's arm and turning it so he can read it.
Tommy says, "I think I've been vandalized."
Holly says, "Tagged."
Tommy snorts. "Going to join a gang?"
Holly says, "Just marking my territory."
Tommy laughs. "Oh, all right, then."
Dawn rolls her eyes.