Bright (on Netflix) is a creative movie that focuses on the relationship between two cops: Ward, a human played by Will Smith (he’s never made a bad movie), and Jakoby, an Orc (think Shrek), played by Joel Edgerton. The movie parallels some of what society is wrestling with today: bad cops and racial divide. 

The Orcs continue to suffer the results of 2,000 years of division from the ruling class, the Elves, and the balance of society, the humans. In the movie, Ward is faced with pressure to turn on his partner, Jakoby, who is the nation’s first ever Orc cop. Within the Orc society, Jakoby is seen as a traitor and one who has never been “Blooded” or accepted into the Orc society. Jakoby is a coward to his people, a “Round Tooth,” someone in the Orc community that files his two protruding canines in an attempt to blend in with humans and elves. To be blooded, Jakoby will have to face and complete an excessive feat of bravery. 

The redo of West Side Story is another Hollywood drama, again romancing society’s division of people and the ways of violence used to settle scores. Tragedy dominates the West Side Story in which two warring groups, the Whites, and the Latinos, both children of God, can’t deal with the chasm between them. They choose violence instead of peace when peace is a better and more lasting choice. Even in sports today, we are reminded of this modern-day Romeo and Juliet drama when the San Jose Sharks take on the Winnipeg Jets in a battle of dominance on the ice. If blooded, you draw a four-minute minor. 

My boys asked me if I ever had any trouble with gangs when I was young growing up.. My twin brother Steve and I were fishing in the creek down in an area of Pittsburgh called “The Flats.” Steve and I knew that there was a gang in that area that was led by a kid named “Cuppy.” We weren’t particularly afraid of the Flats Gang because we regularly played them in Street Hockey, which is a huge deal in Pittsburgh. In hockey, the gang culture was abandoned while the games were played regardless of where they were played. We played Cuppy in The Flats, as well as in our part of town. 

As Steve and I were fishing that day, Cuppy and his gang came out of nowhere and completely surrounded us like they do in an old Western film where attackers line up on the horizon. Again, Steve and I weren’t scared because we knew Cuppy, and we played his team in hockey all the time (we always beat them, by the way). Quietly and quickly, my brother and I jumped into my dad’s station wagon and attempted to drive away. Not interested in driving over and hurting people, I rolled the window down as Cuppy approached the driver’s door, thinking we could talk this out since he knew us. 

Before I knew it, Cuppy slugged me in the mouth drawing my teeth through my upper lip. No longer caring about hurting anyone, I gunned it and like the Red Sea, the line parted. I was fine, it was a superficial wound, and I received the message loud and clear: Respect borders. Cuppy probably didn’t even want to hit me, but he had to, he had no choice. Blooded.

Our indoctrination to turf wars and division happened a few years earlier. In seventh grade, the country was experiencing school integration and my walk to school became a bus ride to Etna where the Dave Miller gang ruled the show, even in seventh grade. An entire high school filled with seventh graders being bused from all over the area, was chaos at best, and not a year of education, but a year of survival. 

We only had to do one year in Etna before heading back to our school the following years. The issues with the gang showed up early with threats and harassment. The only way I thought I could make it through the year was through shock and awe. So, because I wasn’t stupid, I waited ‘til their weakest player messed with me and didn’t have his whole collection of thugs with him. It happened on the third-floor stairway one morning. 

This kid took a swing at me, and I immediately caught him by surprise and had him hanging over the railing from the third-floor begging for mercy. The teachers took him to the office (probably had to have his mom bring him new underwear) and let me free with a wink indicating…Nice Job. Problem solved. I was Blooded. 

Not all battles include fists. Recently, an old colleague of mine was heading to a meeting that he knew was going to be ugly and filled with vitriol. He called me from his car as he was driving to the meeting and said, “If I were to be anyone I knew walking into this meeting, who would I want to be?” He said, “It’s Jeff Pinyot.” He recalled a meeting in the past that we both attended where I was verbally attacked by a client, remained calm and wasn’t shaken nor retaliatory…Blooded. He asked how I did it. I said, just walk in an disarm them by admitting your part in the problem before they attack you. I then prayed with him over the phone, and he called me later to tell me that while it wasn’t perfect, it was far better than it could have been and what he expected. 

Last weekend, on my way to the hospital where my son was being taken by ambulance, I encountered a drunk driver in the parking lot looking for trouble. This man was focusing on me and erratically driving over the curbs and blocking me. Rather than attacking this man who was clearly looking for trouble, I left my car and we met in the parking lot. 

I immediately searched for the root of his problem. His mother was dying in the hospital. Everyone makes mistakes and still deserves respect. I know that personally, as I recently disrespected one of our best clients in a bid the other day. Knowing my mistake, I apologized. This man didn’t know that four of our people were out with Covid, and I was left with completing his bid along with many others, and that caused me to be a bit short with him. What defines us shouldn’t be our mistakes, but our humility and character. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t contrast the right and wrong way to deal with conflict. Hollywood loves violence. Sacrifice and Humility, while less sexy, are undeniably the best way to draw people together. Dying to oneself isn’t simply a New Year’s Pledge, it should be a Life Goal. The story of this birthday is only the beginning of a life that was Blooded for all of us. 

Article contributed by:
Jeff Pinyot
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