Doing Evil While Trying To Do Good
We all know great evil when we come across it. But sometimes we stumble across Evil while trying to do the right thing in our every day life. Sometimes Evil is not so easy to see. Sometimes it’s very hard to see. And we have to be vigilant at all times because in our attempt to do Good we might be doing Evil.
I stepped out of my apartment building not long ago and bumped into another tenant coming in. We smile at each other in that vague New York sort of way. I knew he lived in the building but I didn’t know him, even thought I had seen him for at least eight years. I held the door for him. He was with his son and it appeared they were returning from a Baseball game. I was wearing a Yankee cap. The little boy said, “Take that hat off. I hate the Yankees.” He was pissed. They were wearing Red Sox’s caps.
“Sorry, he’s an avid fan.” Said the father apologizing.
“Wow. How old is he?”
“Going on six.”, he said smiling.
“I know. He just loves them.”
A very proud father. But he didn’t get what was incredible to me. What was incredible and amazing to me was that at the tender age of five, the boy already knew how to hate. I’m sure the father was trying to be a good father, teaching the boy team loyalty and how to be competitive: skills that we absolutely need in life. But in the process he had taught the child how to hate as well. I’ve never hated a sports team in my life. Some would say that’s because I’m never been a true fan of a sports team, and that’s probably true. But I’ve played almost every sport through high school and the one thing I learn early on was that you can be intense competitors without being enemies.
That is a lesson some religious folks may want to explore as well. I have some close friends who happen to be of the Muslim faith. Some of my Christian friends get awfully upset about the fact that they’re Muslims. They say we’re at war. Sometimes while teaching others about our religion we not only teach them to love our religion we teach them to hate others who may not agree with us. We teach them to hate because we love our God.
My brother is gay. Well, he’s not my real brother. He’s more like a step-brother. When we were kids he was a friend of my sister in junior high. At a very early age he knew he was gay. He says he always knew, even before he knew about sex, that he was supposed to be a girl. One day he came home with my sister. That day he had told his parents he was gay and his parents being good Christians could not accept or condone such overt sin against God, so they kicked their 13 year old son out on the streets. My mother said he could stay with us until his parents calmed down. She thought his parents would take him back in a couple of days. His parents never calmed down. Even after several visits from my mother and pleads from my grandmother, they couldn’t accept it. To accept he was gay would be to condone it and if they condoned it they too would be sinning. He staid in my sister’s room. Being four brothers and one sister, my sister had her own room. When he moved in we called it the girl’s room. We were kids so we teased him a lot and we never let him into our room. We pushed him around too, if we tell the truth. We wanted to make it clear that we were not gay. For the most part he staid in the girl’s room.
About a month after he had moved in one of my brothers and I were walking home from school when we saw a fight happening in front of our building. We started screaming, “Fight, Fight!” and ran to watch. James (not his name) was being beaten by four neighborhood boys. My brother and I looked at each other and jumped in. Between the three of us we stumped on those punks so bad two of them had broken bones. That was the day James became our brother. After that he was just one of us. No one teased him or bothered him again, not even us. My mother put him through high school and he got scholarships and went to college. When he was about to graduate he got it in his head to invite his parents. We were all there, my mother, my brothers, my sister. He kept looking around, looking for his parents. No one told him what every one knew. They weren’t coming. I knew from the beginning they weren’t coming. I understood them. They were good, solid religious people. To them life was a test. They were fighting for their faith. They were trying to save their soul. They couldn’t condone a gay son.
My basic training platoon was assembled in NY. Major Koch swore us in. Our Senior Drill instructor was from the South and he hated every one of us. His first words to us were, “You Yankees should know. I’m still pissed about the Civil War.” I was in Paris Island 3rd battalion, platoon 3057. We were all from NY. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Alphabet City, Bushwick, we were all tough, so we thought. After the second day some of those tough kids from the block had tears down their faces crying to go home. I was embarrassed for them. I was ashamed of them. I promised I would never quit, no matter what they did or made me do.
The DI’s would PT us (punished us with training) for no infraction at all. They would look for any excuse at all to PT us, they kept pushing and pushing and pushing. And men kept dropping and dropping. By the 4th week we were only 65 out of 123. There were seven Rodriguez’s in the platoon. Rodriguez N (me), Rodriguez S, Rodriguez G, Rodriguez M, Rodriguez P, Rodriguez P, and Rodriguez J. Whenever one of us messed up the DI would start calling out Rodriguez’s.
“Rodriguez P, Rodriguez M, I mean J. Fu*k it, the whole F**king family get up here.”
I was a squad leader by then so they would call to me.
“Papa Rodriguez bring your whole F**king family, the whole
family.” And they would PT us until somebody puked. And for a while
that’s how it went. Those of us who
didn’t get better dropped off. Except
for Rodriguez S. He was a mess. He still couldn’t do one pull up. Not one.
He couldn’t get dressed in the morning or make his rack on time or tight
enough. He was dropping off the morning
run, and would drop his rifle during drill.
I was his squad leader so they gave him to me. I hated that guy. He’s the only person I’ve ever hated in my
life. He moved to my top rack. In the morning we had 4 minutes to S**t,
Shower and Shave, get dressed, make our rack and be on line. Now I had to do all that and make sure he did
it too. I would get up like a mad
man. Rushing to the Head (bathroom)
dragging him by the hand, pushing him to the shower, helping him shave,
dragging him to the rack to help him dress and making both of our racks. At night he would cry like a girl, with
deep slobbering sounds. I would kick the
underside of his rack, my foot full of hate as I cursed him. If he didn’t finish his push- ups I had to do
it for him, if he didn’t finish his run I had to run what was left for him to finish. When we humped, after two miles I had to
carry his pack and his rifle along with my pack and my rifle. In the morning it started all over again. And at night he would cry some more. He would cry all night. Oh how I hated him.
One night the platoon went to sleep same as always. But the air felt different. I saw a leg slide off a rack then another and another. I knew what was about to happen. All I could hear was Rodriguez S’s sobs. The young Marines had already learned how to stalk, how to approach their prey without making noise. It was like watching ghosts move in the night.
They pulled him off the top rack and his head made a sickening thug against the concrete floor by the side of my rack. The punches and kicks fell upon him like a meteor shower from the sky. As I laid on my rack Rodriguez S. cried out for me to help him. He cried out to God, but no one could help him these were United States Marines recruits in the middle of training. Jones, the squad leader of the second squad, grabbed him by his skivvies and punched Rodriguez S. so hard on the face that a spray of blood splashed my face and chest. They beat him some more. Everyone took turns as I waited for it to finish and prayed that Rodriguez S. would pass out. But he didn’t pass out. He cried out loud all night long. Dogs somewhere heard him and barked at him. The drill instructor’s office was within the barracks, a mere 20 feet away from my rack. Rodriguez S.’s grabbed me from the floor, but I pulled my arm away and tried to close my ears to his yells. I couldn’t stand his cries.
The next day we got up at reveille. Rodriguez S. ran to the shower, by the time I got back to my rack he had already finished his, was dressed and was standing on line. The drill instructor called him out and looked him over. His face was totally swollen. I was sure his jaw was broken and his eyes were black and one of them was red instead of white. The drill instructor asked him if he wanted to go to sickbay, he said, “Negative Sir.”. The drill instructor sent him anyway. He was gone for about a week. Rodriguez S. never said a word about that night. When he came back he was a model Marine, never out of step, never dropped out of a run, he helped others get through the obstacle course. By the time we finished boot camp he was the squad leader of the 4th squad. I know I did the right thing by letting them straighten Rodriguez S. out. I also know I could have stopped it. I was faster than most, more aggressive than most and people feared me. If I had jumped in they would have stopped. I no longer hate him, but as I lay on my bed, these twenty something years later, seldom is the night that I don’t look back with regret as I think of Rodriguez S.