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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Weaver

Broadaxes, Duels and the Real Pandemic

It’s been three years since the pandemic began, and I have come to the conclusion that idiocy and immaturity are longterm side effects of the WuFlu.

Many people apparently forgot basic manners during the course of the lockdowns (which were not constitutional, I might add). Perhaps many alleged grownups became entirely too comfortable not having to worry about being punched in the nose for being rude. Not that I endorse or condone violence, you understand. But rudeness seems to have spread far faster than any engineered germ ever could.

I was in a department store the other day picking up one or two little things when I witnessed this endemic rudeness firsthand.

The checkout line is kind of confined, and a fellow stepped between two displays and cut the line in front of a woman pushing one basket and pulling another. He had maybe three small things in his arms.

Jefferson Weaver

Now, personally, I wouldn’t have done it, but I could see why someone would cut the line like that. If I had been in a hurry and his shoes, I might have asked, but I likely would have just waited. I generally don’t mind waiting a minute or two in line, since it gives a good chance for me to remember the things I forgot on my shopping list. Indeed, if I get to a counter at the same time as someone else, I’ll often let them go ahead. It’s just polite.

The lady in question may have been having a bad day. Maybe her circadian rhythm was messed up from the time change. Maybe her reaction was genetic. I really don’t know.

She lit into the line breaker, who was a good twenty years older, with the ferocity of a ferret in a feeding frenzy. She screamed, cursed, shook her fist, yelled at the clerk, and made a baby behind her start crying. Had there been a puppy handy, I am confident she would have kicked it.

Out of deference to my own standards, as well as the values of most of my beloved readers, I’ll paraphrase.

“You applecore! If we were back in New Honking York, I’d show you something, and you wouldn’t honking like it, you pearbottomed monkeyhonking sugarbiscuit!” There were several more references to the Empire State, all of which were comparisons that made me wonder why she had left such an Eliysian Utopia. Indeed, the transgressor noted that he, too, was from New York, and that he also had a loud voice, a low opinion of his current locale, and a lower opinion of the female customer. There were also a few references by both opponents to the maternal lineage, marital status of their respective parents, and multiple promises to propel each other’s applecore across the parking lot using a foot.

You get the idea. Neither of them were nice people.

Just a few minutes later, I saw a guy burst through the doors of the convenience store where I was buying gas.

“It’s on!” He shouted, and urgently headed for his car. I had np choice but go into the store, and sure enough, as I opened the door, I discovered that “it” was indeed “on.”

The clerk was involved in a shouting match with a female customer. Once again, questions of lineage, legitimacy and logic were tossed about as if two rival knights were meeting between the lines on a medieval battlefield. I was amused at how many times both women used the word “stupid” as a modifier for various terms that would make the proverbial sailor leave a Quentin Tarantino movie out of embarrassment.

There have been several other such outbursts that I have seen since March 2020, including threats directed to me, in person, that were so specific I was dialing 911 and reaching for my everyday handgun when the individual in question finally stormed out of my office. Most of the punches I’ve seen are thrown from the safety of social media, but more and more people seem to be more willing to behave like schoolyard bullies.

Since folks everywhere have decided to start throwing insults and threats at random strangers in checkout lines as well as on the national stage, I think we should bring back dueling.

Once upon a time, men settled their otherwise un-settleable differences with a civilized fight. There were uncivilized fights as well, of course, but the civilized fight with agreed-upon rules was the last resort for an aggrieved party. Swords, sabres, so-called Bowie knives, and specially made pistols were the weapons of choice. Dueling became illegal around the time society decided it needed more lawyers, so that should be an indication of when we began a downturn as a society.

Duels may not have been as prominent in our state’s history as they ere in other parts of the nation — like, for instance, New York, Honking or otherwise — but duels played a major role in several historical shifts in the Old North State.

The Spaight-Stanly duel in 1802, for instance, was tailormade for most elections. Stanly began spreading misinformation about Spaight through handbills and gossip — kind of Jeffersonian-era Twitter and Facebook, if you will. The governor responded in kind. Things kept building until the two agreed to meet and have it out with pistols. Speight died, and Stanly only escaped prosecution for murder through political connections and an appeal that dueling was, indeed, a legal course of relief.

Another prominent political fight could have turned into a duel, had not the challenged party been smarter than the average bear.

The 1830s were a tumultuous time in North Carolina. Gov. John Owen was a skilled politician, but hotheaded and with a sense of privilege. When he lost a senatorial election, he went home to Bladen County to sulk and plan a run for a state senate seat. Enter Robert Melvin, a farmer, planter and self-made man who was popular throughout the area. Melvin handily defeated Owen, and as Owen had done when he lost the race for U.S. Senate, he challenged the victorious candidate to a duel.

Melvin was no fool. He had no intentions of getting involved in a shooting or sword fighting match with the rich and powerful Owen. As the recipient of a challenge, Melvin had the choice of weapons, and chose something he knew intimately: a broad axe of the kind use for felling two-foot thick pine trees and hewing them into planks.Owen wisely withdrew his challenge.

Perhaps if we brought back dueling, some of the rude behavior so prominent in today’s society would dissipate.

Then again, since dueling was based on manners and honesty, I have my sincere doubts that any of the keyboard- or checkout-line- warriors would have the intestinal fortitude or the sense of honor to actually try to have a reasonable debate or work out differences like grownups — ever mind acting like they even have the manners and upbringing as the average line-cutting applecore from New Honking York.

There are multiple vaccines and boosters for the WuFlu nowadays; whether they work or not if up for debate.

I think, however, that the only cure for the true pandemic of rude behavior would be a return to civilized standoffs between aggrieved parties.

I won’t be issuing a challenge to anyone, since I prefer to get along, but if someone insists, well — I’ll take the broad axe.

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