You know, I really loathe this redneck town. Lack of arts, check. Narrow-minded hate speech, check. Ever-present litter, check. Nightly stories of local child abuse (the highest child abuse numbers in the nation), check. But last night took the cake. Not in itself, but as a camel-back-breaking straw. It pointed to the core of the whole problem for me.
It was actually cool out and there with low humidity (and little factory odor, to boot!). Very uncommon. So I had my windows open to take advantage of the evening breezes, and I was fast asleep when CRASH! It was the really loud sound of what seemed to my groggyness a glass hitting the floor—a sound I’ve heard often from the curiosity of my cat. But it sounded like it was next to my head, and I am very careful not to have glasses in my bedroom where she can explore and break them.
I looked out my window. Right below is parked my car, and I saw what looked like a lot of broken glass behind it. But it was dark. And I surmised, from the sound, that somebody had thrown a bottle. I didn’t hear any breakage, but it was a crash and then the sound of glass spinning on the ground. I couldn’t make out anything but shards. Then I had a horrible thought—what if somebody had been aiming for my car? I didn’t see a lot of damage from my window, and I wasn’t but barely awake. I went back to sleep.
This morning I investigated. I was expecting a dent, chipped paint.
Sure enough, the drinking and driving idiot redneck passenger had aimed his bottle at my car. From a moving vehicle, he’d tossed the bottle towards my car’s right taillight and shattered it. That was the scattering of shards I made out last night—tail light plastic (ironically, the very section of my car that was replaced a couple years ago when I was rear-ended—fortunately so, as the shop told me the whole back plastic plate had to be replaced, and it wasn’t easy to come by). And that was why I didn’t hear the sound of breaking glass. The bottle was totally intact.
I called my insurance.
I’m covered all right, under comprehensive, as ‘vandalism.’ But I have a $500 deductible. And that’s certainly not something I can scare up, especially not in summer on a survival-scale research grant. Still, I’ll take my car in for the estimate so I can figure out how to bleed myself for a repair job so I don’t get ticketed. And, of course, because of how it’s made—the whole back light plate will have to be replaced, and I think it ran something along $700, which means I’ll certainly need scare up the whole deductible.
Now here’s the rant. People are evil. People are idiots. Drunks are evil idiots, among the most selfish mongrels defacing wherever they trod with their abuse of the rational capacities God gave them as their essence. Anyone who abuses her rationality—that very thing that makes her human and not like other animals—doesn’t deserve even the respect we give other things in God’s creation. Plants don’t ever deny their plantness. Cats, birds, dogs, horses, inchworms, cicadas never act in ways that deny their essential properties. Only humans can be stupid enough to act inhuman. And by behaving destructively and thoughtlessly—mindless destruction I see daily in the behavior of my next door neighbor’s kid who amuses himself by throwing glass into his back yard to hear it shatter, or the kind next door to him who likes to throw children’s vehicles against the side of the house repeatedly—rationality is not only denied, but constricted.
And the parents of these monsters-in-the-making! One mother must be the most unhappy of creatures I’ve ever seen—rather heard. I hear her much more often than I see her. You see, she’s always screaming at her children. I can hear her when I take out the trash—through their closed doors and across their yard. No rationality-developing discourse, no ‘bring up your child in the way he should go.’ But she’s certainly bringing up her children in the way they will go. The hoodlums are around 14. It’s too late for them; they’re fully trained. They might finish high school, but I see a fast food future for them. Or, if they wind up like whoever trashed my taillight, maybe jail.
And here’s where the blame goes: yes, the parents are responsible for how they raise their children. But no matter how much one tries to deny one’s rational core, no matter how strangled it becomes due to idiotic, reckless, thoughtless choice, it’s still there. The essence of the thing is what makes that thing what it is. Remove that essence, and you’ve got, literally, nothing. In short, something trashed my car last night, so there’s still that essence ghosting about, perhaps barely functional, but present nonetheless. And if there’s any trace of rationality, there’s choice and its partner responsibility. So I blame that individual for his (yes, this seems to me a male crime) choosing to destroy another’s property. And I blame that person for the expenses I now have to pay, the money I most assuredly do not have (I literally have $1.60 in savings). I will have to postpone getting new tires (my current ones are rather rough), postpone groceries in order to repair mindless destruction caused by a selfish thug.
And here’s the interesting irony of language: this idiot is selfish. Yet what is one’s self but whatever it is that makes up one? Sure one’s body, but also one’s thoughts, memories, aspirations, experiences, values, etc. That means that one’s mind, one’s ability to reason as demonstrated by one’s daily thinking and valuing is a part of that self that Joe Savage is guarding. Yet when one is utterly selfish, one is actually denying a key part of oneself! Truly, it seems to me, Aristotle was right that the proper way to be is truly selfish—because then one is in fact focusing on the whole self—fostering and fanning into full flame excellent reasoning, which always has generosity, kindness, justice, and wisdom as consequences. It’s quite similar to what Jesus said when he commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This cretin (sorry for insulting cretins worldwide by affiliation) has lost—no, banished—himself and he is but a shadow, what the Chinese might call a murderer: subhuman, subanimal. Subsisting as nothing but a shadow of an image, like a flicker on the wall of the cave. He’s something other, since choosing to live destructively instead of rationally.
And such is unfortunately common—increasingly so—in this 21st Century new-and-improved world of glorying-in-your-shame viciousness. Vice is status. Cruelty is king. Drunkenness is honor. Recklessness is respectability. Scandal is fame. Lust is love. And I’m a little sick to my stomach.