Friday, November 28, 2014

Why People Shoot.

There's quite a lot of stupidity out there, isn't there?  Have you noticed?

A friend of mine just posted another article about some guy "accidentally" shooting himself. And there's a similar story posted in the comments. Lots of people are shooting themselves these days. Accidentally.

Here, read this for yourself... this is from a real newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times:
Emery was upset because he could not find his lighter, police said.
He picked up a revolver and threatened to shoot the dog, pulling back the hammer on the gun to emphasize his threat, police said. Later, as he tried to release the hammer, the gun fired while Emery had it pointed at his face.
Emery has had 34 contacts with Pinellas Park police since 2012
His cigarette lighter. He was upset.

So he did what any reasonable person would do, right? He got his gun and threatened to shoot the dog.

THEN as he is releasing the hammer -- because, yes, he pulled the hammer -- he got the brilliant idea of pointing the gun at his face. It is hard for me to tell which of those words should be in all caps because they are ALL SO STUPID.

And -- raise your hand if you're surprised by this -- he has had contact with the police before. Not traffic citations. 

If this were an isolated case we would say, "Whoo-Boy, that guy is wac-o..." and that would be the end of it. But it's like there's one-a-day of stuff like this.

Here is a story about ANOTHER guy who shot himself in the face while trying to kill a dog.

Obviously, if you're trying to kill a dog then God is going to get you. And that's fine by me. But, really, what's going on?

The first guy was upset.  You know, about his lighter.

The second apparently was irritated about the dog barking. He had 13 dogs. I would expect there to be barking from 13 dogs, but that's just me.

So, let's be generous and say they had their (bad) reasons.

But, take a minute to Google "man shoots self" and you'll get over 18 million hits. EIGHTEEN MILLION! And a fair number of those involve attempted dog killing.

You have probably heard about the Home Depot shopper who was carrying a pistol in his pocket, reached for his wallet and accidentally shot himself in the ass instead. And it wasn't a pellet gun either, that weapon was a .40 caliber Glock.

But, did you know that police sometimes do the same thing?  In this CBS story a state trooper shoots a man who was reaching for his wallet.

So guns and wallets are confusing for some people. I get that. But the reason that the state trooper is justified in the shooting, according to his lawyers, is that he feared for his life.

So, if I am trying to understand these things I can tell that being upset about something like a cigarette lighter, or having a fight with your wife about the dogs, or fearing for your life... even if you are armed and the other person isn't... those are all reasons to shoot.

I don't like that reporter, John Stossel, but I like something he says:

Give me a break.

My FB friend asks: 
Has this sort of carelessness and stupidity unto death been going on in the past, and we haven't been paying attention, or are we seeing an an upsurge in the past few years?
And I think a lot of us are wondering about that.

I do think that since the recent spate of school shootings, the mishandling of firearms is being reported more often. A lot of that, no doubt, is about selling adverts and raising those ratings. That's OK. That's the system we have. But I do think that there is just more of it.

There is more stupidity.

More people are behaving like beasts.

Let me ask you a question? Do you like reading the Psalms? I do. I like the Psalms. When I get to Psalm 73 I think of it as a mini-me Job. These are two touchstones in theodicy: The book of Job, and Psalm 73.

I wrote a short commentary on the book of Job one time and it was about 100 pages long, so I'm not going to ask you to read that. But let's take a look at Psalm 73. It's a Psalm of Asaph.

Now, you know me so you know that I'm going to put this in my own words, ok.  You don't have to like it, it's just how I do...

In the very beginning the writer says, "Hey, look at all those investment bankers and all the stuff they've got... Man, they have everything! They go to a fancy gym and they're all sleek and beautiful. even death doesn't scare them because they can buy the best doctors and ease their way out of here. Lucky bastards. Lucky wicked bastards..."

Do you see what he does there? He starts equating wickedness and prosperity. It may be true... maybe the prosperous are wicked, maybe they are not. But if you can believe that one group of people is wicked on account of their money, then it's pretty easy to start believing that you and your group are righteous on account of your poverty.  And, that 'aint right.

Stay with me now, because I am not trying to override any preferential option for the poor. I am trying to override a theology of them (those wicked/rich people) and us (poor/righteous children of God.) OK.  

In verse 13 the writer talks about how he had been faithful, he is not like those wicked/rich/good looking people.

But, it's a false dichotomy. The only real differences between any of us are the most superficial things.

But in verse 22 he reflects back on this belief, the notion that he is all good and that the rich are all bad and he recognizes that this attitude made him arrogant. He says, "I was upset and bitter. I was stupid and unintelligent. I acted like a beast in the presence of God."

Well, look, we've all been there. Right?

And when it's like that, when you're confused and stupid... like a beast. Well, then you might do something stupid.

I think there is a lot of confusion out there about why things are the way they are.

There are rich people. We see them... In magazines. The affluence, the abundance... NO, the decadance!  It's there. Some people have more than enough.

The rest of us struggle.

People don't understand that. They don't know why they don't have any money; they work, after all. Most work longer and harder than their parents did. They genuinely expected more out of life and they don't understand how they could still be poor.

And, like the psalmist, they are jealous! Sometimes I am too. There have been times in my life when I thought how wonderful it would be to have a day where I wasn't worried about money. Just one day. I didn't envy the jets, and boats, and sleek bodies... just the lack of worry. And I think a lot of you may remember times like that too, or maybe you are living it right now.

Many of the people in my age group will be the first generation in memory who have not done better than our parents. I have some understanding of why that is. But I still find it frustrating. Imagine if I didn't have any understanding? I'd be beastly over it, I imagine.

I think this is especially hard for white men, many of whom do not even understand that they have been on the top of the heap for all recorded time. They do not understand that they will have to yield for others. This is perceived as a real injustice for them. Trust me. I know some of these guys... they feel victimized.  And I think that it is so deep, and so frustrating, that sometimes they shoot themselves in the face.

I wonder a lot about the increasing violence in our society. But, even more than that, I wonder at the increasing stupidity. It's all so beastly. And this Psalm -- Psalm 73 -- it offers an explanaion for me:  When we falsely divide the world into US and THEM it turns us into beasts... stupid beasts. .

One more time, because I've said this before, there is no US and THEM. We are ALL in it together.

But as long as there is no understanding, as long as people set up divisions between the haves and the have nots, then there will be beasts. And they will shoot.

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