Parents argue, children bicker, families fight, and clans feud. However, one bedrock certainty is the ability of a family or a clan to close ranks when threatened by an outsider.
In the 1970s I did my postgraduate medical training at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.
It is located close to Columbia University and is adjacent to Morningside Park, which serves as a marginal buffer against the wild streets of Harlem. But generally speaking it sits in a mixed neighborhood of college students, Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. Some of those neighborhoods were on the verge of renovated upward mobility, some were rough and tumble; while others truly qualified as being hard-core dilapidated ghettos.
A local precinct cop once told me that the call he most dreaded was “Respond to domestic violence.” He said in these scenarios it was more likely for the battling spouses to suddenly turn non-domestic violence toward the person who was interceding to stop the brawl, than it was for them to continue beating and maiming each other.
A confirmation of this closed rank loyalty was illustrated by the case of a black woman who presented to the Emergency Department one night when I was on duty.
Her husband had shot her five times point blank toward the chest with a small caliber pistol.
Miraculously she walked in without assistance and as none of the wounds were lethal; her survival truly defied all ordinary odds. An X-ray of the chest revealed two bullets benignly lodged somewhere in the torso without having caused serious organ or vascular damage. The rest of the shots must have missed or caused only flesh wounds.
She only wanted medical treatment, and much to the chagrin of the police categorically declined to press charges, stating that she did not want her husband to get into trouble.
When the cops asked why he had done it to her she simply replied:
- He didn’t say, so I don’t hardly know. I guess he musta been mad at me for something I did. And I know if I presses charges, next time he might really hurt me.
Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?
Goin’ out to shoot my lady.
You know I caught her messin’ round with another man.
(Hey Joe: Billy Roberts or Dino Valente)