I have a ~12 mile commute to and from work that takes about 20 minutes depending on traffic. In the last mile or so of that commute today, I almost died four times.
This is because, as I was trying to get off the freeway, four different people tried to get into my lane in the spot that I was already occupying, and I had to either swerve away or slam on my brakes to avoid getting plowed over. This is almost a daily occurrence.
Say what you will about Utah drivers. In my experience it’s all true. Believe me, if Utah’s mass transit system was more widespread and effective, I would not be driving. Mass transit is always the first thing I miss when I come back from traveling out of the country. But that’s not the point.
The point is: I had an epiphany today that the thing that causes drivers to be such idiots is the same thing that causes someone to enter a night club and kill 49 people.
Hear me out.
Was wherever these drivers were going so important that someone else’s life was negligible? Apparently it was. Because they didn’t, in the case of these four drivers today, even look to see if there was another car in their way. They just moved regardless of where anyone else was standing. Why?
Entitlement. Selfishness. Self-righteousness.
Strong words, I know. Words no one likes to hear about themselves. Believe me, you can be a good person and still have moments, days, or lifetimes overshadowed by these vices. The biggest problem with these vices is: it’s really hard to tell that they’re your problem when they’re your problem.
Think about it. When you are driving like a maniac (something I know about all too well) why are you driving that way? “I am going to be late and I just can’t be late.” “I have fun when I drive fast/recklessly.” “I’m a better driver than everyone else so it’s okay for me to drive like this.” Or maybe “I straight up don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway.”
Anyone want to argue that those reasons can’t be linked back to entitlement, selfishness, or self-righteousness? Please, feel free.
Yes, there is a pretty big number of deranged steps between cutting someone off in traffic and murdering scores of innocent people. But they are both fruit borne of the same roots.
To be honest, I don’t even think this is a gun issue. I personally feel very ambivalent about guns. Undeniably, they are an efficient way to end life. I mean, that’s their purpose, right? So they get used for that in inappropriate ways. But what ways are appropriate for ending another person’s (or your own) life?
See, there’s the rub. This is an attitude issue. An attitude of “I know better,” or “I am better,” and that always ends with another person’s worth gets washed up in blood.
I am devastated that this happened to the gay community. I have several gay people in my life that I love inexpressibly, and I keep imagining if any one of them had been in that club that night. They are not worthless. They deserve love; they deserve life.
But it’s also so far beyond that. We all suffer from persecution. In the history of my religion, there is a time when mass murder, rape, and being driven from state to state was the only thing the members of our faith knew. There was even a law passed in Missouri that made it legal to shoot a Mormon on sight. Even if you are in the grace of privileged society and you don’t see your persecution, there are still people that hate you. That is the way of mortality. None of us are perfect, and even if we were, people would hate us even more.
My religion believes that we are all brothers and sisters, children of God, with worth beyond human comprehension. Every. Single. Person. There is no room for prejudice, and all kinds of “-isms” (or “-ites” as our scriptures say) – racism, sexism, classism, religionism – are the product of human folly and failing. Obviously, no matter how hard you try, perfection in treating people without judgment is not totally attainable in mortality, but the point is to try.
If we could all imagine everyone else around us as the direct progeny of God…I think it’d make John Lennon’s songs come true.
And now for C.S. Lewis’s wise words:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
People of Earth, let us be excellent to each other.