Caption: Anyone can provoke a snapping turtle, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
Years ago, El Cabrero used to work in a place that was sometimes frequented by disturbed and scary individuals.
It was part of my job at times to persuade them that they wanted to leave.
(It wasn't a bar, by the way--it was a public library.)
The trick to dealing with people like that, as a co-worker put it, was "Never corner a crazy person." He explained that if you back a potentially dangerous person into a corner, he or she (usually he) is likely to think there is no recourse but to attack.
(Note: the term "crazy" is not intended to refer to people with mental disorders.)
Since that time, I've tried to make "Never corner a crazy person" a regular practice. I've added two corollaries:
*We're all crazy from time to time; and
*Groups are even crazier than individuals.
The basic premises behind this idea are pretty simple: while we may not be able to improve a situation and/or make a friend, we are always able to make a situation worse and/or make an enemy.
Admittedly, in this sinful and fallen world, some people or groups may respond aggressively, irrationally, or destructively no matter what we do--and we should be prepared to deal with situations like that. But there is never an excuse for creating more problems than we already have.
And, to add a basic idea from the martial arts, one should never do anything which makes a potential opponent more powerful and/or more dangeorus than they already are.
That's not a good idea even from a hawkish point of view. But don't take my word for it--take Machiavelli's, who wrote in his Discourses that:
I hold it to be a sign of great prudence in men to refrain alike from threats and from the use of insulting language, for neither of these things deprives the enemy of his power, but the first puts him more on his guard, while the other intensifies his hatred of you and makes him more industrious in devising means to harm you.
This was another life lesson lost on the Bush administration. In the wake of the horrific Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rather than rallying the powerful wave of sympathy for the U.S. and concentrating on those who attacked us, Presdient Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech verbally attacked the "Axis of evil"--Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Whatever one can say about any of those regimes, none of them was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And this gratuitous slap has come back to haunt us.
The unnecessary war in Iraq has cost tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. And the belligerance of the administration has escalated the explosive potential of an already dangerous international situation in the cases of Iran and North Korea. That's the theme of this article from the Washington Post.
The saddest part is this: no matter what anyone does, it will be very hard to undo the damage.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED