I had an interesting conversation with a couple of students yesterday. For some unknown reason, the server for our reading program was down temporarily, so I dismissed all but two of my students back to the pod. The remaining students are working on a technology course we created that fulfills the practical arts credit required for graduation and also familiarizes them with several Microsoft products, so it’s a win-win. They didn’t need the server to be up, so they stayed.
Anyway, these two guys were chatting with me and with one another, and one of them mentioned that he was facing 10 years in prison with a 4 year cap. I was curious, so I asked him what that meant, and he said that his sentence would be 10 years, but he would only serve 4, and if he screwed up once he was released, he would have to return and serve the entire 10 years.
Now, I normally don’t do this, but I did ask him what he was in for, and he said DV (domestic violence). The other guy pipes in, “Yeah, I’m in for DV, too.” I figured the first guy had to do something pretty heinous to get 10 years for DV, so I sort of prodded him a bit. “Shit, man, New Mexico doesn’t fuck around with DV, but I’m not gonna lie, I beat the shit out of that crazy bitch!” One thing led to another, and the guy ended up telling me about how his girlfriend had already been married 6 times, how she once tried to cut off his testicles, how she was actually in jail right now on trafficking charges, and how if he had known his plea was going to go south, he never would have taken it in the first place. So I’m thinking to myself, ‘she sounds like a real catch!’
Both guys were really playing up the victim card, “Man, I grew up around a lot of violence. Murder and shit. Plus, I was fucked up at the time, so I wasn’t really in control of my actions.”
I said, “Listen, I would never attempt to play down the circumstances of your childhood, and I’m sure you have a heavy burden to bear, but on the other hand, at some point you have to ask yourself if you’re going to allow those circumstances to run your life, or if you’re going to act in spite of them.”
Then it hit me. The “teachable moment.” What popped into my head? Romeo and Juliet!
“You know. It’s like Romeo and Juliet. From the very beginning of that play, you know they are going to die. Their relationship is ‘star-crossed.’ It’s ill-fated, but Romeo and Juliet let their passions drive them, and in spite of the circumstances of their births, they marry, and guess what happens? They die, along with several other characters, so it’s a lose-lose for Romeo and Juliet and their families. But hey, they were just a couple of stupid, horny kids. What’s your excuse?”
Both of them looked at me like I was a lunatic!
Then, I start thinking about Friar Lawrence’s soliloquy at the beginning of Act II Scene 3 when he’s talking about how plants have healing and killing powers, so I give them a brief synopsis, and I tell them, “It’s like some plants work great with other plants or by themselves, but when you make the wrong combination, you end up with ‘the canker death’!”
“You know, ‘For nought so vile that on the earth doth live/But to the earth some special good doth give,/Nor aught so good but strain’d from that fair use/Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.’ Have you ever thought that the combination of you and your girlfriends is just a toxic potion?”
“Damn, that makes sense.”
“Yeah, it does. You should think about it.”
Do I really think Shakespeare is going to change their lives? I don’t know, but I printed the soliloquy off and gave it to them.
What do you think?