Someone else’ shoes

July 10, 2014

When I was growing up, one of the more constant refrains in my household was “how do you suppose that made ___ feel”? Admittedly there were times when we were talking about my brothers that I really didn’t care how it made them feel, and may have hoped that it hurt, at least a little bit. As a general rule, that question was enough to make me stop and think…and often modify my behavior.
There is a distressing trend in our society which seems to ignore the possibility of inflicting unnecessary hurt on others. I’m a prosecutor; I put people in jail and convictions on their records – but this is in response to something that the individual has done which is contrary to our laws. I realize, and am sorry for, the hurt it causes their family and friends; however, there is a consequence to breaking the law. The trend to which I am referring seems to involve causing harm without consideration or compassion for those being injured.
It seems that we have come to live in a selfish world. “Discussion” is a lost art; rather, ideas which do not comport with our own are “stupid” or “ignorant”. The person who dares to voice such heresy is often called worse. The concept that neither side is the owner of ALL the truth, which led to compromises such as the great documents of history, has been buried. The idea that two individuals with differing views can calmly explain them to each other, see the value in the others position and work something out is no longer considered a “good” thing. Henry Clay was known as the “Great Compromiser”, and lest any scoff at the title, Abraham Lincoln considered Clay one of the “greats” of our (then) young nation. Clay, with Daniel Webster and John Calhoun hammered out many treaties and policies which still govern our country today.
Perhaps some of this can be laid at the door of what has been called the dehumanizing of our society. Whether the fault of animated shows, video games or some other factor, at some point it became “funny” to see a person hurt by another. Our specie seems to have always been rather bloodthirsty – the games at the coliseums of the Roman Empire were well attended, as have been blood sports through the ages. At one point in my life, I refereed martial arts. While many may consider that a “blood sport”, it has rules – one of which is that a person who is down is not attacked.
I recently had cause to view a video taken in a public place in Nolan County. In it, a few individuals were attacking another to the laughs and encouragement of those out of the range of the camera. Despite the pleas of the victim, no one said “stop”, or “this is wrong” – and I have to wonder why?
Have headlines and photos of carnage in war made us so insensitive to each other that we cannot hurt anymore? Have we simply become so selfish that if it does not cause us or ours pain, it is either funny or something to ignore? We have read the headlines of the homeless and poor being beaten for sport – what is our reaction? Do we perceive that this is wrong, that, whatever their circumstances, these are human beings with the same inalienable rights as each of us?
Reading the comments on CNN’s website, as well as that of the Abilene Reporter, and even some of the “topix” on the website that seems affiliated with this and the Roscoe papers, reasoned discourse seems lost. Instead of offering ideas or discussion, most degenerate into derogatory name calling.
We live in a society that is comfortable with stating that a person should be killed for actions that are legally a misdemeanor; that a person who has committed a crime should receive the treatment he or she meted out – no matter any illness or provocation. We believe that killing is just fine, if the person dared set foot on the property of another. Is this the world in which we want to live?
Talk of the good old days, the nation that was, the way we were abound. My grandparents lived in Portales in the depression. Granddaddy wasn’t wealthy, by any means, but he believed in the basic goodness of man. A veteran of the first World War, that did not sour him on his fellow humans; rather, it made him more empathetic. When someone didn’t return a smile or wave, he would often comment that no one knows what is in the heart or mind of another; that troubles and concerns are not worn openly.
As I look about our community, those with whom I have the privilege of working, those I see in the store, those in the courtroom – I wonder – what is on their hearts and minds? It may be something wonderful, or heart breaking. When I see a person paying with a government issued card, I wonder what led them there – it isn’t really my place to judge.
Animals show empathy for others. They will fight for some things, but overall work together and peaceably. We consider ourselves above them…so how can we laugh when someone else is being hurt. I know that the video I watched is not typical of the people of this community – and I hope that it never is.

Lisa Peterson is the County Attorney for Nolan County. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to editor@sweetwaterreporter.com.

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