I’m not sure what the founding fathers would’ve thought about some of our modern problems. I’m confident, however, they would find much of it tragic.
Many of us have probably already heard the agonizing story of a 4-year old little girl who got hit by a stray bullet fired into her car. I have a 3-year old daughter myself, and the story just breaks my heart to pieces.
My chief concern, however, is that the father, Alan Garcia, somehow won’t own up to his own culpability in the crime, and that the family will be forced to live the rest of their lives with at least a partial rationalization blaming it all on someone else.
Now, no amount of ugliness deserves or should warrant the taking of a life–we do, after all, have the freedom to express ourselves as we choose and shouldn’t have to reckon with potentially losing our lives or the lives of our loved ones in retaliation.
But lest we forget–or get caught up in the one-sided representation being promulgated in the news–the father had a substantial hand in his own daughters downfall. How?
From all reports, he “gestured” at the killer–a euphemism for any number of crude messages people convey with their hands–with extremely ugly meanings. Then he “swore at him,” or in other accounts, they “exchanged words.” Here again, ugliness perpetuates the rage–on both sides.
In a final effort to be unkind, all because he felt slighted at the driver’s original inconsiderate act, he “tried to run” him off the road, and was “driving crazy.” And this with his own innocent family in the car.
Now, I want to reiterate that there is absolutely no justification (obviously) for firing shots blindly into another vehicle. And it’s clear that this father didn’t know who he was dealing with. For if he had, he would have known not to pursue the ugliness he was feeling. And he would have kept his family safe instead.
This is because the shooter had an aggressive, violent streak and had been found more than once on the wrong side of the law in similar circumstances.
But is this altogether the point of the story? Are we supposed to know about the background of any person we become angry with, before we act? Or should we “just let it go,” as one deputy indicated in the aftermath?
Those in the colonial age knew of and tried to practice a concept known as “Public Virtue.” It’s centers around the idea of being kind to those around us–somewhat akin to the golden rule.
If we were to return to this principle, we’d have fewer people calling one another ‘fools’, idiots’ or ‘jerks’. We’d have more people saying, “My bad,” and less expressing benighted thoughts born of malice.
I know it’s not always easy. Yesterday I was graciously allowed in line at a McDonald’s drive-thru. I thought it was so kind; I had been more than willing to wait my turn. Then someone got out of their car and walked toward mine with angry words for me. I found myself yelling back, not out of anger (at first), but just to explain my own justification over his rising voice.
But in retrospect, I could have let him have his say first. It would have been wiser. Seek first to understand, then to be understood, right?
What I want to say to this poor father is this: “Don’t let your grief and anger overshadow and blind you to your own blameworthy actions. Please don’t do this, or you chance injuring your remaining family anew. And you won’t be doing your beautiful daughter’s memory any justice.
“There were others in that car who saw and heard what you did–how you acted. Who lived the moment with you. If you hide behind the fact that the murderer was evil, and discard or attempt to hide any evidence of your own wrongdoing, you teach others that it’s OK to be ruthless and vicious to our fellow beings, just as long as you’re less so than they are to you.”
An eye for an eye just isn’t the way to live our lives in this day and age (it never was). And behaving so leaves it too difficult to see the road before us…