Before I start, let me get a couple of things out of the way. First, I did not vote for Mr. Trump. Second, I am not in favor of a “Wall”, either actual or metaphoric, for a variety of reasons. Third, I do not fit comfortably in either the “Conservative” or Liberal” political camp in America. Okay, here we go…
Over the weekend a video has been flying about on social media. The original poster says he was in the community room / common area of his apartment or condo complex and it shows two others, a man and a woman berating him continuously for over ten minutes over his “wall” shirt, and ultimately everything about him.
He keeps his cool. He does a poor job (about what most of us would actually do, given the inevitable stifled emotions) verbally defending himself. He repeatedly asks the female to stop touching him, and asks them both repeatedly to leave him alone. To no avail.
If this had happened to me, I might have kept my composure through the first two or three minutes. Ten minutes of this? No way. Sadly, no way. I’m not proud of this, but, ten minutes of this crap?
I also would have gone silent after less than a minute. I would like to think that I’d have the presence of mind to simply call the landlord’s security team and ask for assistance. If that did not scatter them, I probably would have quietly closed up my computer, packed my stuff, and then drug those two people out of the building, saying simply, “Learn when to shut your mouth”.
Lots of discussion has centered on this episode (typically labeled as Liberals accosting a Conservative in California) with the usual “us vs. them” elements, and most notably, the anticipated “An armed society is a polite society”, assertion.
One discussion I was in on addressed the “Armed society” aspect, albeit poorly. It is this idea which I’d like to comment on.
It has been my experience that parts of the country one might describe as “Western” are often as not in the West, geographically. Yet, one aspect common to these areas, and the people who inhabit them, is a far more refined sense of the line between being neighborly, and butting into someone else’s business.
Like it or not, humans both want to live in social settings, and yet have a large degree of autonomy. When that balance is struck, we do well together. When not, excuses for creating or strengthening institutions like the State, start to gain credibility. To everyone’s detriment.
The episode in the video above comes about when there is an imbalance between the freedom to act and having to experience the consequences of that act. If those two expressed their displeasure at the shirt (even vigorously) and then went on with their lives, it would amount to nothing.
The problem is that they felt free to harangue him without limit. And they were correct in that risk analysis. The risk of experiencing harsh consequences for their verbal assault, then and there, were nill. The law, if present, would quite possibly go after him. At least they would draw moral equivalence between the bullies and their target.
The presence of guns is not the cause of a “polite society”. It is an emblem of one. It says, especially if carried openly, “I am ready and willing to live as a free man or woman, accept the consequences, and refuse to shunt off my responsibilities on others.”
Personally, and socially, the further we stray away from that, the more likely it is that the scales will be balanced with, often over-reaching, violence.