The recent trials of Curtis Reeves and Michael Dunn are sure to add fuel to the arguments for the increased need for more gun regulations. Reeves is on trial for the murder of Chad Oulson. Reeves had repeatedly asked Oulson to quit texting during the previews for the movie, Lone Survivor. He even went so far as to report the texting to the theater manager. Oulson, tired of being harassed by Reeves, picked up Reeves popcorn and threw it at him. Reeves then lost his cool, or panicked, or both, then took out his gun and shot Oulson.
Michael Dunn, is on trial for killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn was at a gas station in Jacksonville, FL and asked a group of teens in an SUV to turn down their music. After the teens castigated Dunn with a barrage of threats and profanities, Dunn claims he saw a weapon in the SUV (no evidence of which was ever found) so he fired several rounds at the vehicle, presumably in self-defense.
It is easy to blame these murders on an angry racist subset of society, with too easy access to firearms. But that only gives us an excuse not to look deeper. The uncomfortable truth, one that most of us are guilty of, is that as a society, we have lost our sense of civility. We have forgotten that good manners are not something that we demand to be bestowed upon us, but rather something we bestow upon other people. It used to be an automatic attitude, drilled into us as children, that in order to live peaceably with others we sometimes had to endure some inconvenience and discomfort. We took our unruly children outside the restaurant or theater; we made our calls and answered our beepers outside or in the lobby. Even though we might be tired, we offered our seats to the elderly and handicapped. We didn’t push to the front of lines, or cuss out store clerks. As children we were taught to respect our elders and those in authority. We said please, thank you and excuse me, because it was how people with a good upbringing behaved. Not because they were “magic” words we could use to get our way. We recognized that driving was a privilege not a right. We didn’t tailgate, cut people off, run red lights, or poach parking spaces on purpose.
We were also taught how to control our temper. We learned early that a tantrum would not get us toys or candy, but it might get us a spanking. Punching walls throwing things or otherwise destroying property wasn’t tolerated either. We were taught to try to find polite solutions to the people or activities that irritated us and if no polite solution was found, to remove ourselves from them.
Our homes, our schools, our churches and even the TV shows we watched, all taught us that everyone had rights. No one’s rights were more important than anyone else’s and those rights were to be respected. Sadly, not anymore.
Today’s gadget driven society feeds our egocentricity. We can be out in public without actually interacting with anyone. We have superficial conversations with friends, family, and even complete strangers, while ignoring the people right in front of us. We can hide in the apparent anonymity of a Face Book post or Twitter feed, and never have to really see the results of our words. We can blame guns, we can blame racism, we can buy into the ideal that we need more laws and stronger laws to protect us from each other. What we really need to do is some soul-searching, both individually and as a society. We need to ask ourselves how many more people have to die a senseless death before we recognize that our society is morally sick. It’s the kind of sickness that happens when people ignore the needs of their souls. It’s a sickness that no law, no government program can fix. It’s something we must recognize and heal ourselves.