As a former and thoroughly humiliated college debater who quit after one practice, I have some thoughts about articulate conflict.
1. Throughout a very happy marriage to my wife Eileen, we have had relatively few arguments. The worst one, though — by far — was not long after we moved into our present home.
We bought a giant bookshelf at Ikea and set about assembling it. What started out as a happy weekend project quickly went south.
A. I can barely operate a screwdriver.
B. “Written instructions” that come with any toy, appliance, “kit,” piece of furniture, rocket or whatever requiring assemblage are by law impossible to understand or read. The bookshelf instructions, translated from the Swedish, were more cruel than the title character in Pär Lagerkvist’s “The Dwarf,” which, come to think about it, the novelist might have written in despair after trying to put together an Ikea bunk bed.
C. Though not at all mad at each other — but rather increasingly frustrated at our inability to “Please to insert Peg A into cleft 13-K at Juncture Where North Star Lines Up with New Moon; apply Secret Stockholm Sticky Sauce to allow adhere-ness …” — we were soon screaming at each other. Only after consuming every drop of alcohol in the house were we able to calm down and finish the task.
D. There is no Lagerkvist allowed in the bookshelf.
2. Back in my glorious band days of the early 1980s, Monday evenings were reliably “nights off” as few clubs had live music. Desperate for cheap entertainment, we sometimes went to the Sportatorium in Dallas, a great tin barn on the bad side of downtown, for professional wrestling bouts.
This was WAY before pro wrestling became an international success with household-name superstars filling arenas. The grapplers were often old and beat-up, probably part-time refrigerator delivery men, but the built-in and scripted sense of theater and the good/bad Morality Play storylines were certainly in play. And in north Texas, we certainly had local heroes on the circuit.
That’s how I came to be at the Sportatorium one Monday night with a few musician pals when handsome Kerry Von Erich (of the Von Erich clan, early wrestling royalty) went up against Pak Song Nam, a Frankensteinian villain also known as “The Korean Assassin.”
It was a grim battle for the ages, and we in the bleachers screamed ourselves hoarse with excitement and rage and drank more beer.
Umm … I forget who won.
3. In the Ingmar Bergman film “The Seventh Seal,” a medieval knight gets into a fight with a chicken over an expired restaurant coupon. It’s incredibly well-choreographed and violent and lasts over five minutes.
4. And who can forget the episode of “The Family Guy” where Peter plays chess with Death? It’s notable as the first time Death ever employed the Nimzo-Indian strategy with the Hübner Variation in an an event sanctioned by the International Chess Federation.
In light of all this, and thinking about Tuesday’s first of three proposed debates between President Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden, we can all take a deep breath and be glad that:
1. Pak Song Nam is not president.
2. Neither Trump nor Biden know the Nimzo-Indian defense.
3. Biden and Trump don’t have to sit down together and build an Ikea bookshelf.