If I punched you in the face, what would you do? Here I am, standing over you as you struggle to your feet; your nose is dripping blood and your face is screaming in pain. You gonna hit me back? Or at least do what you must to keep me from hitting you again? What if I shoved your wife down an escalator? You gonna go on your merry way as she tumbles head over ass towards the lower level of the mall? What if I grab you, and demand my wallet back, the wallet I say you stole from me, the wallet you wouldn’t even know the existence of if I wasn’t squeezing the piss out of your neck?
These are some terrifying situations I think most persons would react to. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an ass out of you and me by assuming most WordPress readers and bloggers are generally non-violent people. Probably. But I think even the most tame of us would defend ourselves one way or another in the face of aggressive threats such as I described above. Who wouldn’t muster at least the most basic of defense in these situations?
Now, let’s say we’re in, oh, I don’t know, let’s say Florida for the heck of it. Let’s say we’re in Florida cuz the sun is warm down there (so they tell me). And it’s in Florida we met this crazy S.O.B. who has assaulted us for some unknown maniacal reason. And we instinctively push back, just a little. Maybe we throw our arms up to block any further punches. Or we instinctively move towards the fellow who assisted our wife down the escalator. We shove the guy choking our brains out as he demands his wallet back (as if WordPress users pick-pocket!). My goodness! He probably feels threatened now! We’ve attacked him and now he feels threatened. He shoots us dead, and our version of events dies with us. Onlookers, if there are any, only so very recently became interested in our situation, and they don’t know how we ended up dead on the ground. He says we attacked him and he had to defend himself. We say…, well maybe we can still gurgle our blood around in our throats for a while, but we don’t say much to contribute to our defense.
I’ve exaggerated and dramatized quite a bit. Let’s return to our youth. I know most of you WordPress users lived through the eighties and nineties and remember the situations going on in the cities back then. You may have been a child, teenager, or young adult, but many of you lived through the violence of those years and have memories of being attacked or being threatened with a beating by some roving thugs. I know I had some close calls. Nobody wants to go back to those days. There are some places where it is still those days, sadly enough. I can empathize with wanting to live in a safe place. But I cannot condone being more of the problem than of the solution.
I was in a neighborhood watch when I was about eighteen years old. The watch was started and run by a very motivated individual who cared very deeply about his vision for the neighborhood. That vision did not included homeless persons or troublemakers of any sort. The trouble always started when he didn’t take the time to determine who was a troublemaker and who was just passing by. Why should he take the time? You know who the troublemakers are, was his thinking. It suffices to say he caused more trouble than he prevented. He made enemies and burned valuable community bridges. He enraged the police, who became accustomed to getting calls to break up fights he started, who became all to used to responding to trouble calls originating from the group that was supposed to be stopping trouble, not starting it.
To cut to the chase, my problem with laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” law is that someone can instigate a situation, then claim when, or even if, the situation gets beyond their ability to control it, they feel threatened and justified to use deadly force, leaving theirs the only remaining version of events. To return to my ridiculous melodramatizations (if I may), I can pick a fight with you – maybe you’re the wrong color, sexual orientation, heritage, etc, maybe I just don’t like your looks, etc etc – then claim self defense when you defend yourself. Now that I’m threatened, I can kill you.
It just ain’t right. I can understand where the lawmakers were coming from in justifying force in defense of one’s self, but the doors laws like this one open must be opened with the utmost caution. These are not doors beyond which lies the unknown, these are doors behind which hides an all to familiar enemy, an enemy which refuses to die, no matter how much blood it sheds.
I don’t know that a repeal of the law in question would solve anything. The problem, as I see it, is immaturity coupled with idealism married to fear and ignorance. We all want to make the world a better place, but we sometimes forget the basics. When we act out of fear (and the loathing and hatred associated with it) we are never contributing to a better world. Only love (and the understanding and wisdom that accompany it) can make things better.