Way back in the stone age, when middle school was known as junior high, it was not uncommon for two adolescent young lads to disagree on a very important matter, usually having to do with, of course, a female student who appealed to both of them. Loudly proclaimed insults in the hallways or lunchroom often ended with a challenge to duke it out right after classes on land just across the street from the school where neither teachers nor administration personnel had any jurisdiction.

Once the gauntlet had been thrown down, it didn’t take long for the entire student body to know what was going to happen. And when the final bell of the day clanged, the usual scenario was for a crowd to gather at the pre-determined location and form a circle around the combatants while they warily eyed each other. Most of these fights ended quickly because one of the boys somehow landed a blow that bloodied the nose of the other or, as was usually the case, at least one of the brawlers and most of the crowd had to get on their school busses to go home.

At my school, a kid named Danny was many times in the thick of the battle. When I saw how “good” he was with his fists, I decided to make friends with Danny. Not that I was ever a participant in such a duel, but more as a precaution in case I ever needed some muscle for whatever reason.

Rarely, but more than just occasionally, the pugilists involved in these bruhahas were girls. Most of the time, battles featuring young ladies (and I use the term loosely) were somewhat akin to a flashmob event and usually happened somewhere within the school. A crowd would quickly gather to watch significant hair-pulling, wild swings, and many utterances of colorful language usually reserved for locker rooms. Teachers almost always quickly restored order.

Those long-ago skirmishes in and across the street from Van Buren Junior High were brought back to mind very recently. While fisticuffs didn’t quite ensue these past few days in Congress, verbal words of war certainly did. And although the taunts were not about members of the opposite sex, the remarks were very personal.

Just in case you missed it, during a committee hearing related to Attorney General Merrick Garland, it seems a certain firebrand Congresswoman tried to introduce a topic that had little, if anything, to do with the issue at hand. At which point, another firebrand Congresswoman from the other side of the political aisle got a bit exasperated and demanded of the first representative, “Do you know what we’re here for?” To which the initial firebrand responded, “I don’t think YOU know what we’re here for. I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.”

Oh, my.

Very quickly, the Committee Chairman called for order. But then the Representative with the eyelashes raised a query as to what was acceptable. To quote: “If someone on this Committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach-blond, bad-built butch body, then that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?”

That did very little to help the situation.

If that weren’t enough, in between all this back-and-forth, another firebrand Congresswoman chimed in to rebuke firebrand number one. To which number one responded, “Are your feelings hurt?” Amazingly, that did not go over well either, and further “lunchroom” discussions ensued. And it all was written down as part of the official business of the Congress of the United States of America.

I suppose We the People should be glad this era isn’t the way it was in the mid-1850s. It seems back then it was rather common for congressmen (which they all were then) to carry pistols or bowie knives on the congressional floor. And you may remember from history class the story about Representative Preston Brooks walking into the Senate Chamber and bashing Senator Charles Sumner over the head with his cane and then rendering him unconscious. After which, Brooks exited the Chamber without being stopped.

Alas, 170 years ago, such actions were apparently not unusual. Tempers regularly flared before the Civil War, as the country was very divided mainly, over the slavery issue. Brawls, duels, and general haranguing of the opposition was the norm.

Fortunately, we’re much more accommodating now to those with whom we disagree, right? Uh-huh. Hopefully, sometime soon sanity will rule the day. But I’m not holding my breath. It doesn’t seem as if much has changed since junior high. Hmmm. If only I could track down my friend Danny; he could help the situation.

©MMXXIV. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer