Why Dueling Should Be Reinstated
From long before Revolutionary times through the Code of the West there was a simple method of resolving conflicts. Men backed their actions and words with public apologies, sometimes humiliating, or defended them with their lives when others did not agree. Alexander Hamilton used it several times, and only lost once.
That could definitely give one pause for thought. What is worth risking dying for? Not hasty, ill-thought-out words. Not starting a squabble over someone whipping into a parking place you had first claim to. Not rancorous accusations to injure a political opponent.
Dueling obliges men to be courteous. Duels reduced crimes of passion and cowardly attacks. Drive-by shootings, assault and battery, arsenic in the soup, and hiring hit men should remain illegal, but restoring dueling would be a simple means to obtain redress for grievances which did not require lawyers and would ensure decorum.
One cause of senseless violence is the inability to combat the true causes of ire, justified or not. (Consider the enormous spike in the incidence of battered women on Super Bowl Sunday.) No more would the annoyed have to content themselves with demonstrating that they still had their bow fingers in a gesture that goes back to Agincourt or blustering obscenities; a simple warning of lifting a cautionary right index finger an inch upwards quietly would convey no insult or aggressive intent, simply an indication that one was prepared to back words with deeds. It would calm tempers and foster courtesy.
There was once clear recourse to an assault on one’s honor, and never mind that I don’t think ladies ever fought duels. This is the 21st century; those who are so inclined should certainly be allowed to participate. Last March I was insulted egregiously and brutally. There were no extenuating circumstances.
I regained my sense of humor by flicking a yellowing kid glove contemptuously across the lout’s face mentally and sneering, “You, sirrah, are a coward, a boor, and a liar. In the unlikely event you can find a gentleman to act for you, my seconds are…” The officious oaf might have felt better had he been able to suggest a bout of fisticuffs, since he felt I had wronged him, but our society does not allow men to strike females; I felt better thinking of meeting him on equal terms, thus allowing him true freedom of expression. He would have my permission to say anything he dared in a world where I could call him out over his words.
I then worked off my frustrations and righteous fury writing this essay (which I am sending Gary in the hope that he will find it similarly salubrious. I hope that you, dear reader, will find it assuages a bit of the outrage we felt over the unconscionable insult to Gary Gibson recently.), after which I solved the “problem” quietly and calmly, by informing the lowlife scum, through a third party, that I had not been offered and would not have accepted an honorary office he had been and did, which isn’t much of an explanation but all you need to know.
Duels are not about violence but to promote kindness, dulcet tones, and careful courtesy. Insult or injure another at your peril knowing that if you do not retract after several opportunities you will face the consequences. Most duels were not killing matters.
A public challenge is resolution attempt number one. My assailant could decide that he preferred to apologize, and custom would oblige me to accept. My honor would be cleansed, and he would think before erring again.
Having demonstrated his lack of sense and manners already, in due course the oaf would find two others to act for him, and they would call upon my seconds with the laudable object of seeing if they could induce the pair of us to calm down. The first duty of seconds is to settle the conflict without anyone having to get up at dawn followed by blood under the dueling oaks. He might retract his words, and I would be stymied although lusting for retribution. The rules are the rules. The challenged party has only two choices: fight, or apologize. The offended party must be satisfied with a public apology if one is proffered. No brawls, punctilio, and a cooling off period.
Having exhausted peace efforts, the seconds set up a time and place, allowing the principles to reflect again. The challenged party has the right to name the weapons. One would not necessarily have to be a lily-livered poltroon to question the wisdom of facing another at twenty paces with pistols, closer up with cold steel (Hey, I had a few fencing lessons back about 1960, I’m game.), or even the Ivanhoe thing of “I bear mace and chain this day!” Even a brave man might realize that the little lady is really, really upset, and perhaps an apology is in order.
Whoops of laughter, but I think I could take him with raw steel or a .22. Shades of ERB, Sir Walter Scott, and Anthony Hope, “NO man calls me a ___and lives!” Nobody calls me a foul name with impunity even if I am not allowed to demand satisfaction. By glory, I’ll make his name a hissing and a byword, that I will. Me Irish dander is up, laddies, and no man insults me honor, me man, and me butler, uh, Scot free. (Put it this way: he started with the names Carrie Prejean has been called and proceeded to my appearance, character, and lifestyle! I don’t suppose I have ever been so astounded or outraged in my life. His was a splendidly vindictive e-mail in terms of vituperation, although unwise, destructive, and devoid of facts.)
All should find it sobering to ponder whether they can shoot faster and straighter than another. Cold smile. I have a framed target that could make a braver man consider saying publicly, “Dear lady, I apologize profoundly for my ungentlemanly conduct.”
I was outraged enough to chance taking a slug for the pleasure of shooting at him were it possible. I know just how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr felt! No, I would not “delope,” or fire into the air, tacit admission that my cause was not just or that I was at fault…and he might be uncertain that I would accept the implicit apology if he did so. The rules still give me my one shot at him if he does! No need to kill him…kneecapping would have been just barely on the wrong side of “excessive”…a clean, painful wound through the thigh, perhaps…
There are other benefits to Hamilton’s solution. If I dispatched the villain or gave him a singular distaste for dueling he would never insult another, and he would remain a good object lesson for the benefits of courtly behavior and reasoned words. If not…he might find himself challenged by several, starting with my seconds, both of whom he insulted in his attempt to hurt me. I doubt he wanted to vent his frustrations enough to have to defend his behavior thrice upon the field of honor, and if he did, I would have been at his service first had it been legal. That is not a privilege I would yield to big, strong, protective men. I would have first call on his liver and his lights in a civilized world.
We would even solve part of the economic crisis, as abandoned bowling alleys became dueling centers. Install a doc in the box, put a mortuary next door, and open a string of “Honor Satisfied! Arbitration Centers.” In time we would reduce the surplus population of hotheads, fools, and vulgarians, and the brandy concession would thrive.
There ARE things worth fighting and dying for, and I submit that this issue comes under States’ Rights. The Liberals will never understand, but those from Texas to Virginny will.
Linda Brady Traynham
May 13, 2009