Will Smith Reminds Us Violence is an Option

In our enlightened world, we pretend not to condone violence. But the truth is a little more nuanced.

Benjamin Sledge
7 min readMar 31, 2022

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Will Smith slapping Chris Rock
Image practically posted everywhere online, meme generator sites, and on social media

When I was a middle school student, I came to class sporting fresh stitches above my right eyebrow. A day earlier, I got sucker punched by a neighbor when I went over to his house to play basketball. He’d gotten involved in the wrong crowd and local gangs, and heard a rumor that I’d made fun of some girl I didn’t even know. He tossed me the basketball then haymakered my face.

Confused, I stumbled backward, touched my face, and laughed. “What was that for?” I asked.

A few years earlier, I’d gotten involved in martial arts because I’d been picked on relentlessly in my tweens, so I could take a punch. But when the crimson streak on my hand and warm gushing sensation on my face registered, I ran off crying. My parents would take me to get stitches, and the following day I wandered the halls, head down and ashamed as word spread throughout my school.

That event forced me to become much more serious in training, and by my senior year in high school, I was competing in bare-fisted, full contact tournaments. Once I turned 18, I joined the military. I learned how to use rifles, pistols, knives, and explosives to render a man nothing more than tiny bits of viscera and flesh. In college, I studied Brazilian Ju Jitsu after losing a match to a roommate whose father was an All American wrestler. Then I went to war. Not once, but twice. Around me, I saw violence as an ever looming option. The question I always wrestled with was “when?” When should I step into the fray and enact violence?

Which brings us to Will Smith.

For the unaware — though it’s been plastered everywhere online in recent days — actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars. Rock made a joke, a staple during the awards ceremony, about Smith’s wife looking like she was auditioning for GI Jane 2. Smith’s wife has a hair loss condition known as alopecia, and he took it as a personal offense, leaving his seat, marching on stage, and slapping the comedian.

People were uncertain whether it was staged until the camera cut to commercial. The aftermath flooded the…

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Benjamin Sledge

Multi-award winning author | Combat wounded veteran | Mental health specialist | Former geopolitical intel | Graphic designer | https://benjaminsledge.com