Everybody’s Got to Take a Side. Right?

REMY: I mean, the father’s got him in this crack den, subsisting on twinkies and ass-whippings, and this little boy just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing a good job. You’re worried what’s Catholic? I mean, kids forgive. Kids don’t judge. Kids turn the other cheek. What do they get for it? So I went back out there, I put an ounce of heroin on the living room floor, and I sent the father on a ride, seven to life.

PATRICK: That was the right thing?

REMY: [yelling]  Fucking A! You gotta take a side. You molest a child, you beat a child, you’re not on my side. If you see me coming, you better run, because I am gonna lay you the fuck down! Easy.

Gone Baby Gone (Affleck, 2007)

Sooner or later, with pleasure or with pain, for a big thing or a small, “you gotta take a side.” Right?

If you ask most people which part of that sentence is the most important, and they will likely tell you it’s the “side.” It’s simple: to most people, what matters is not the subtleties of why you’re on a particular side, or what exactly that side really stands for.

People like feeling that they’re part of the herd. And so all that matters to most is whether or not you’re on their side. If you are, they’ll treat you well. If you’re not, they’ll hold you at arm’s length.

I don’t see it like that, though. For me, the question of which particular side you choose is not nearly as important as that you pick one deliberately. And in that spirit, I find the most important word to be “take.”

Anybody can claim to be on this side or that, choosing whichever one fits the spirit of the times like a hairstyle. Anybody can say with their words that they’re for or against whatever gives them a fuzzy feeling about themselves. Or allows them to feel they’re part of a group.

But all that talk is not the same thing as taking a side. Not if there’s no skin in the game, no risk. Until you actually take a risk in one direction or another – as Detective Remy Bressant did, planting an ounce of smack on some degenerate’s living room floor, for what he saw as the “greater good” – you haven’t “taken” a side at all. You’ve merely moved your lips and teeth.

To take a side is an active choice, and should not be frittered away on things that do not matter. The glory of life is that you get to decide what you’re going to take a stand on, and what you’re going to leave alone. Just make sure that if you find something you care enough about to take a side on, that you’re actually taking a side – which always involves a risk – as opposed to just chattering about it.

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