I wanted a Choc Taco yesterday. It was a hot day and I was experiencing some post-operative blues. A delicious ice cream snack from the makers of Klondike bars seemed to be the perfect short-term solution to my problems. With my mission objective thus clearly defined, I got into my car and headed for the nearest 7-Eleven.
I parked near the entrance and walked slowly to the door. (A surgical complication has left me with effectively one functional lung for a while so I can’t walk fast.) I entered, and with my shortness of breath in mind stopped just inside the door to visually scan the interior for the location of the ice cream case. I quickly saw there was a Dippin Dots case a few feet away. I started to move toward it, but hesitated, thinking, “There are probably only Dippin Dots in there…”
My ruminations were interrupted by a man exiting the store. In a condescending tone he said, “Excuse me!” and brushed by me out the door. As he passed by I heard him mutter, “F---ing idiot!” under his breath.
Shocked, I turned around and looked at the man. He did have the appearance of an elitist. Bearded and seemingly in his early 40’s, he wore a plain white t-shirt and carried a skateboard. He looked back at me with obvious disdain, shook his head in disgust, dropped his board and skated away.
As I watched him go I thought, “Did that just happen?” My essential worth as a human being had just been dismissed by a middle-aged skater boy solely because I blocked the exit of a convenience store for a few seconds. My years of education, successful medical practice, work in ethics, and volunteering in church, not to mention my roles as husband, father and grandfather, were not only unknown, but irrelevant to this stranger. None of those things mattered. All he needed to know in order to pass judgment on my human value was that he wanted to walk out of a store and I was in the way. No additional data was needed for him to reach the conclusion that I was below the most basic level of courtesy and kindness. I was not a person, I was a F---ing Idiot.
As I made my way to the ice cream case and retrieved my Choco Taco (which was indeed delicious) I reflected on the way in which Mr. Skateboard illustrates the world in which we live. His hate was easily roused and rapidly dispensed. For him, the fact that he was forced to make an eighteen-inch detour was enough to render me subhuman and deserving of abuse. This is the way of the world today. Hatred is just one political opinion, one religious belief, one lane change or one offensive comment away from rearing its head. When hate arrives, evil can follow.
Recently we have seen the havoc wrought when a society ceases to believe that people have inherent value- People in Wal-Mart shot because of their ethnicity. Men working for ICE shot for doing the jobs they were hired to do. Police officers attacked and mocked by the citizens they were trying to protect. Others killed seemingly on a whim at a nightclub or county fair.
There has been much debate and philosophizing regarding the root causes of the violence that plagues us. Fingers have been pointed at video games, politicians and guns. Those who point to these things are overlooking an important truth. When a person believes that all people are created in the image of God and worthy of love, kindness and respect, no video game, politician or weapon can incite them to violence. When a person loses this belief, violence can be triggered by almost anything.
Even a man just looking for a Choco Taco.