What The H*ll Is Going On?
This is going to be an unusual post. Not only do I not have a picture to discuss, but the topic runs deeper in me, closer to the bone, than most things that I write about.
One evening, about a week or so ago, I drove to other side of our town to pick up my sons after an event. On our way back home we were nearly forced off the Interstate by an erratic, reckless driver. Flashing my lights and honking my horn to avoid a collision caused the driver of the vehicle to smash on his brakes and weave in and out of traffic, all clearly in an effort to force me to a stop and, presumably, off the road.
When I exited the Interstate, the reckless driver exited in front me, being sure to block the lane that I was using. The first traffic light after we exited was unfortunately red, and the aggressive driver screeched his vehicle to a stop.
From the passenger-side of the stopped four-door Hyundai sedan a youngish man, perhaps in his late twenties, emerged. He was nothing but rage, so much so that he was barely able to control himself, screaming (among other unintelligible invectives) “I’ll f***ing kill you!” as he pounded towards my vehicle with myself and my two sons in it.
I am, unfortunately, no stranger to violence or violent people. My father was savagely violent with my mother, my siblings and me, going so far as trying to kill my mother twice: once by beating her with a telephone and the other by stabbing her with a large kitchen knife. Fistfights in the neighborhoods and school yards where I grew up were common, and there was even the occasional knife or razor fight.
As an adult, working in places like earthquake-ravaged Haiti, on the borders of the war-weary Democratic Republic of Congo and in ISIS-scorched Syria, I have also had a number of close-calls and near misses with chaotic, violent situations and people.
In short, as this man leapt from the car in front of me, I recognized in his voice, his face and his body a rage that I had seen before.
I will admit that my first instinct was an unwise one: To get out of my vehicle and meet the threat head-on. As I began to open my door, both of my sons yelled for me to stop, to please close the door and stay with them. A good call on their part.
Seeing that I was not going to get out of my vehicle and “fight him like a man” (whatever that means) made our attacker angrier, so much so that he charged forward and, in a full-fisted fury, punched (not hit or slammed) the hood of my vehicle, leaving a deep, four-knuckled dent. Just as he was moving from the hood towards my locked door, the driver of the Hyundai stepped out and, letting loose a profanity-laced tirade, convinced him to get back in their car.
The whole episode, from stopping our cars to the Hyundai driving away, took less than a minute. This too I know from experience that violence, horrible events that maim and ruin lives, often happen in second – not minutes, hours or days.
The next thing I did was call the police, giving them the Hyundai’s licence plate number and a description of the passenger. Within an hour the police asked me to look at a mugshot of a suspect, the same young man who had attacked my vehicle.
When one of the officers mentioned that the suspect was wanted for violent, criminal behavior throughout the middle part of our state, the next thing that I did was purchase a 9mm pistol to conceal and carry.
The whole episode, from dealing with the guy’s road-rage to now carrying a weapon, makes me sick.
This is not because I am a passive, non-physical person. As a large and physically fit man, there are few things that I fear. As a father and a husband I have often told my family that I would do anything, including laying down my life, to protect them and our home.
It is also not because I dislike or am not familiar with guns. I grew-up in a gun culture where hunting, handling and carrying guns (including in public) was common. I have taken my sons to the shooting range, teaching them what guns are for (only killing, really) as well as how to handle them.
No, I am left with a sick, unsettled feeling in my stomach because I have seen for myself that after several decades of allowing each other, even encouraging one another, to let our passion “run free,” we have let a terrible, terrible jinn out of the bottle, and I am not sure how we put it back.
I do not think that it is hyperbole to say that when we, as a society, celebrate any emotion, any perversion, any sticking of ourselves or our body parts into anything or anyone that we want, we also give license to the destructive and violent among us. When lies like “hands up, don’t shoot!” become national truths, when relativism replaces reason it is inevitable that those (however few) who go through life “expressing themselves” with their fists, knives and guns will demand that they too be allowed to join the party. And once violence is set into motion, it is impossible to predict where it will go and who it will damage.
Not long after I began carrying my concealed weapon I had a sit-down with my priest and asked for his permission to conceal-carry at Mass. Unfortunately, a concealed weapon is like an insurance policy or a parachute: If you do not already have one, when it is time to use one, it is too late to get one.
As we talked, I was surprised and saddened at his response: He said that given the church shooting in Texas, a number of parishioners had already asked to form a committee and start talking about how to prepare for a similar, horrible event at our church. Suggestions had been made, he noted, about everything from metal detectors to designated parishioners who concealed-carried guns.
As a Catholic man and as someone who is all-too familiar with violence, I do not want to conceal-carry a weapon, but henceforth, I will. I don’t want to change my wardrobe in order to conceal-carry a weapon, but I will. Although I have nothing against avid shooters or gun collectors, I do not want to immerse myself in concealed-carry jargon such as “printing,” “backstops,” “IWB or OWB holsters” and so on, but I will. I will do everything that I need to do to safely, legally and effectively carry (and, God forbid, use) a concealed weapon.
My concealed weapon is not a solution to the violence and mayhem that I can see, even feel, growing underneath all of our feet. No, concealing and carrying a gun is nothing more than my response to a symptom of a much, much larger problem – a problem that goes far deeper than a guy attacking my vehicle.
While talking to perhaps my closest friend about what had happened to me and what I was doing about it, I faltered, and at a loss for words, I blurted out, “I just don’t know what in the hell is going on!” His response was succinct and, I believe, wise: “Hell,” he said, “is exactly the point.”