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A Journal of Haibun & Tanka Prose
Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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Richard Grahn

Damn the Rituals

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
                                            ~ Mahatma Gandhi

When I went to school, there was a practice called paddling. The event was announced on the public address system for all to hear and was carried out in the school hallway in front of students who gathered to watch. Three whacks with a substantial paddle, wielded by the principal, was the standard measure – five for egregious offenses. The offender was made to grab their ankles and wait for the blows to fall. The girls would giggle and the boys would taunt “don’t cry.” You would be called a baby if you did.

cackling hens . . .
the crunch of eggshells

Today, swatting a child is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions. I say many jurisdictions because, in some countries, public flogging is still a means of enforcement. In most of the world though, we like to think of ourselves as more “civilized” now. Still, we wrangle over the question of whether to “hang” or “house” a convicted serial killer. We’re still at odds over the issue of punishment.

As the old generations die away, our perspective is slowly changing. I’m very grateful to my grandmother though, for her non-violent approach to discipline. Her remedy was to sit us down in a chair to watch the clock tick away an hour of our playtime. Looking back, I cherish the memories of those hours sitting in the kitchen watching Grandma deep-fry doughnuts, but I’m also convinced the principal was a sadist.

blood-stained hands . . .
the rose has bloomed
but the thorns remain