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I’ve found the enemy, it’s us

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By Meaghan Downs

Bending paperclips calms me.
Fragile metal contorted into shepherd’s hooks or misshapen cranes lay inert beneath computer paper shrouds.
Their broken limbs of snapped, twisted metal litter my desk.
They are the leftovers of trying to wield control in an uncontrollable world.
Destroying something that can’t ever be made whole again relieves stress.  
It always has.
When I was a child, usually sitting in the left outfield wearing my baseball mitt as a hat, my fingers happily found grass to destroy.  
The grass was perfect for tearing and ripping until each blade could be scattered to the spring wind.
In the years since, water bottle wrappers met their untimely end, shredded to confetti.
Dying dandelions plucked clean of their fluffy, white seeds.
Now paperclips are the new victims in my hands, twisting and turning so they can snap before I do.
Maybe that’s why we go to shooting ranges and boxing rings: to destroy inanimate objects before we resort to inflicting pain on others.
I recently had the misfortune of watching the short trailer for the upcoming horror flick “The Purge,” scheduled for a national release in May.  
And as with every other horror movie I’ve ever seen (I have a photographic memory only for the things that will terrify me for nightmares to come), I cannot erase the premise out of my head.
The plot follows the dark, dystopian trend of popular television, movies and literature in recent memory: a future America boasts a shockingly low unemployment rate.
Crime is nonexistent.
That’s thanks to “The Purge,” one night a year in which all crime is legal, a night in which Americans can shoot, beat and murder to release the pent-up violence inside them.
Hospitals will be closed. The police will not respond to calls for help.
The violence in the movie, undoubtedly, will be frightening and disturbing.
Far-fetched? Probably. This movie is coming to you from The Art House That Made the Transformers Movies.
But the film will be scary, I’d argue, not due to the violence, but because “The Purge” exploits something humans have always desperately feared.
Ourselves.
I admire and read many newspaper columnists, but if you don’t read anything else this week (other than The Anderson News, of course), read Dan Barry’s latest column “Payment for an Act of Kindness: 2 Days in a Car Trunk at Age 89.”
An 89-year-old woman from Delaware went into a convenience store to get a butter pecan ice cream cone. She decided to give a ride to two teenage girls, ages 14 and 15.
She spent the next two days locked in a trunk. After being deprived of food, water and medicine, the woman crawled on her hands and knees to seek help after being left for dead in a cemetery. You know this because Barry tells you. And there are photos.
Still riveted by Barry’s words, I wonder what darkness exists inside of those teenagers who kidnapped that woman, if something caused them to snap like so many paperclips.
Why likely thousands of people will sit in plush theater seats in dark theater this summer, watching “The Purge” and eating buttery bucket popcorn without thinking.
Why, without thinking, I will continue to write and talk and snap paperclips and throw them away.
Always managing to find new ones to fill their place.

Staff writer Meaghan Downs posts breaking news alerts, stories about Anderson County pre-K through 12th education and city government, and the misadventures of her Jack Russell terrier Stanley on Twitter at @ANewsMDowns. Reach her by e-mail at mdowns@theandersonnews.com.