Orange City, Fla. The Gun

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A few days ago I came across this news item in an Associated Press release.

In Orange City, Fla, while in traffic, a woman driving her vehicle taps a man riding his motorcycle. By his own description there was no damage to him or his bike. But the woman didn’t stop and instead flees the scene.

The man and two witnesses chase her.

She drives to her home, the man and witnesses in tow. She goes inside her home, pulls out a gun and confronts the three men.

The man that had driven the motorbike quickly draws his concealed weapon and kills the woman on the spot.

Just like that. One less person in this world.

Don’t know anything about the woman except that she was in her mid thirties.

Don’t know anything about the man, either, other than his being dexterous with his weapon.

Afterwards he was quoted as saying that he was sorry, but that the woman had pointed a gun at him.

End of story? No.

What’s missing?

A call to the police.

The woman was likely frightened. Surely the motorcyclist and the two witnesses, in following, were able to get the tag of the vehicle. And they could have simply called the police, presented the details and see you in court.

But the right to have the gun on him – concealed – emboldened the motorcyclist. He could take the law into his own hands. With the gun at his side and being skilled at using it – having spent all those hours at the range practicing – he could do it.

What the man didn’t do was spend a few moments thinking of the frailty of human beings, including his.

What the man didn’t do was think of how easily some people can get scared, including himself.

And that the men and women in blue could have been there to mediate and avoid a tragedy.

The woman should have stopped immediately after tapping the man and his bike but she didn’t. Who knows why. And that simple mistake cost her her life.

The story is both scary and sad.

What is it that we are so desperate to defend by owning a concealed weapon?

Surely every person has an answer. But that woman’s mistake didn’t deserve her fate.

The shooter may wish to atone for what he did, for ignoring the complexities of the human being he killed and his own, and for not consulting with the police who could have interceded.

But it’s up to him and his conscience.

And while he debates the matter, I suggest he log on to Gunviolencearchive.org to refresh his ideas. To take a breath and meditate. If only for 5 minutes. That’s all.

In 2020 there were 19,411 willful, malicious or accidental deaths in the US – 39,492 gun related injuries – over 20 thousand suicides.

It’s Americans bleeding. We have to stop this.

Oscarvaldes.net   also available in anchor.fm, apple and google podcasts and buzzsprout.

Money and Freedom. The Price to Pay

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Money doesn’t guarantee freedom.

We have examples of people who, having money, go on to surrender their lives to absurd causes.

To mind come two wealthy people, one a man, another a woman, who went on to let sexual perversions destroy their lives. They used their ample means to corrupt others as they indulged their perversions.

I think, too, of a man who’d made a fortune in internet security and then went off to commit a series of acts that diminished his existence.

Years ago, a friend told me the story of a person who was not doing much with his life, waiting for his father – a famous writer – to die so he would inherit the wealth. Was he benefitting from the promise of wealth? No. He was wasting his life by not exploring his personal possibilities.

And in the last few days, the case of a real estate heir has been in the news, after being found guilty of the murder of a former friend. Money didn’t improve his judgment.

The examples abound.

Money is a wonderful source of solace and comfort and a strong incentive to action and creation, but when an inner compass is lacking, then money may magnify the person’s flaws.

The inner compass which helps guide a person cannot be bequeathed. Cannot be handed over like a book. Each person has to acquire it, earn it by the discovery and understanding of what feelings and thoughts form our psychic universe.

Some wealthy people have known this.

Years ago, I read that the American oil tycoon, JP Getty, had bequeathed a certain amount of his money to his children and no more. The bulk of his wealth was to go to the support of the arts – and so it did, over the years multiplying and enlightening the minds of many.

One of our present richest investors, early on apportioned some of his wealth to his children, the rest to be given to philanthropy. From what I read in a book written by one of his children, the investor had made clear to his heirs that the amounts he was distributing would be all they would be getting, ‘so get out there and find a way to make a life for yourselves’.

Something about the struggle to affirm oneself is sidestepped when the reward is given freely.

Such struggle for personal affirmation is eminently personal, different for each one of us.

The person may have had wonderful parents, supportive or indifferent parents, no parents at all or abusive ones, but still the battle has to be fought, for it is the battle for our sense of personal worth, which when well fought reveals us the answers.

What is my power?

Where does it come from?

How do I nurture it so I may enlarge it?

To not accept the challenge is an act of emotional and intellectual self betrayal.

Each one of us has a certain power – the one that nature has endowed us with. Recognizing and pursuing it is every person’s task. In some instances such power shines brightly from the start and so the path is clear. But in many cases it is not easily detected and one has to choose from affinities or leanings and try each one out in the effort to find which one works best.

The process may be tricky, often consuming, sometimes taking us down the wrong road. But it is all part of the essential exploration of the self in the never ending task to answer the question, ‘what makes us stronger and wiser?’

If you find an answer to that question, you have found a key to a good life. I say ‘a’ key and not ‘the’ key because even with that key we can end up wasting our time.

Whatever we wish to try in earnest we need to devote time to. Sustained effort is the necessary ingredient. Which implies defying a measure of uncertainty, as well as recognizing that others will have more than we have and so be it. 

But we can live with that notion, so long as we never give up on improving ourselves.

Can money improve our ability to relate to others? No.

It can, however, buy us distance from others which may translate into comfort. But such distance has time limited benefits and can be illusory. Nothing ought to spare us the struggle to find out who we really are.

That knowledge comes from relentless self inquiry and testing ourselves in the world.

If money, whether acquired by our own efforts or inherited, is getting us into a bubble, then we must step out of it.

Not long ago a famous movie industry person was found guilty of repeatedly abusing women. Whatever his demons, he had ceased to confront them. The bubble, which wealth had facilitated for him, kept him from seeing himself in the mirror of life, then kept him from seeing how his freedom was escaping his grasp. Intoxicated with his authority, he repeatedly missed that those who came to him were doing so in search of their own power. With each failure to acknowledge others, freedom left him.

And he lost it all.

He had thought that his money shielded him, and that the struggle for his existence was over. It never is.

Every day, we ought to keep saying to ourselves, ‘this is my power, I have this, and I commit to furthering its growth through my sustained efforts. And my own power is enhanced by recognizing and respecting that of others.’

Powers so found are not selfish powers but generous instead, fully aware of all that has gone into recognizing, nurturing and growing them.

In sharing them, such powers are enlarged.

The sum of individual powers creates enormous collective powers.

We need only look around us to remind ourselves that the foundations upon which we stand are the result of the collective effort of mankind. The computer on which I write this. The home I inhabit. The clothes I wear. The blood test I had the other day. The miracle of CoVid vaccines. The train I ride.

Every day life challenges our sense of personal freedom. And it is up to us to avoid or confront, to evade or affirm, to grow or regress. 

Every day.

When we confront life’s challenges, we expand ourselves, when we retreat we contract.  

A few days ago I read of a man in a subway train attempting to rape a woman as others stood by without intervening.

How could that be?

Perhaps the assailant was very strong and the witnesses feared the man would turn on them and injure or kill them. But they forgot what powers they did have. They forgot that if an individual effort might not be deemed sufficient by itself, then the sum of the efforts of all witnessing the act may well be. But fear had paralyzed them. And they stood by as the man continued to injure the woman.

What could have been done by the frightened and shocked bystanders?

Affirm their individual powers and hope it engaged that of the others.

Speak! Shout! Scream in anger and fury at what is happening. Those are all expressions of power. Look the assailant in the eye and say ‘Stop! Stop now! You are hurting another human being and you must stop!’

And perhaps such action might have stopped the assailant, or if not then sparked the rage of the witnesses who could then collectively have devised other actions to stop the harm being done.

Anything but silence.

Would each of those who stood quietly, not have preferred that witnesses screamed in their behalf if they, in turn, had been the victims?

Of course.

Anything but silence.

Each person’s voice matters.

Everyone has some power.

Freedom has a price.

We must be willing to pay it every day for it is always being challenged.

Every day.

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net. 

94 y/o Woman is Stabbed in San Francisco

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In the news report from United Press International, the family expressed ‘concerns about the indifference the victim encountered after the attack’.

And rightly so. 

She was stabbed on Wednesday morning a little past 10 am according to a security camera that captured the scene. The victim was walking down the sidewalk when the man went up to her and started stabbing her.

The attacker, a 35 year old man, was arrested. He had a history of prior arrests for burglary and a homicide charge from 2016 that was dismissed in 2019 for lack of evidence.

The lady is recovering at San Francisco General Hospital.

It is not difficult to imagine how anyone of us can be either a victim or a witness.

If a victim and there are witnesses, it stands to reason that one would expect some assistance from those nearby. 

But that is not assured, is it?

Judging from this attack, and similar ones reported recently, it is quite possible that one will be left to fend by oneself if assaulted, the witnesses preferring to not step in and put themselves at risk.

Understandable, right?

Sure. But is it the right thing to do?

There is always something a witness can do.

You may not wish to tackle the assailant and take the knife out of his hands, for fear you will turn into their victim, but anyone of us can certainly shout loudly to the attacker to stop hurting the other person. 

Anyone of us can certainly attempt to summon others for help or try and pull the victim away from the attacker.

We don’t have to get in front of the knife, unless we feel we have to power to do so and disarm the person, but we owe something to each other, a minimum of civility, a minimum of consideration to not let the assailant keep doing harm to the person while undisturbed.

A witness ought to make some effort to intercede.

Some effort to distract the assailant, something to stop the cowardly act.

If we don’t, then how do we live with ourselves?

It can happen to anyone of us. Today, tomorrow, anytime.

Fear paralyzes the will and it may have paralyzed us before as I, myself, have been. But we cannot simply surrender without an effort. 

We have to do something. Something. Something that says we are alive and will not let fear rule our lives.

Oscarvaldes.net    Oscar Valdes

Mr Wright is Shot Dead. Age 20

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On the afternoon of April 11th, in Minneapolis, with the trial of officer Chauvin under way for the death of George Floyd, Daunte Wright is stopped by police while driving his car accompanied by his girlfriend.

He’s commanded to step out of the vehicle and does so. Three officers are present. Two African American males and a White woman.

Officers determined that there was an outstanding warrant for Mr Wright’s arrest.

Mr Wright exits his car as he’s asked to do and an officer begins to apply handcuffs but has difficulty.

Then Mr Wright, inexplicably, pulls away, gets back in his vehicle attempting to leave the scene.

In the tussle that follows a gun is pointed at him as the word Taser! Taser! is shouted. The video shows the gun held steady. Then a shot is fired. Mr Wright drives off anyway but is able to travel only a short distance before he dies from the gunshot.

The police department reviewed the video and concluded the shooting was a mistake. The lady officer had pulled out the wrong weapon when she had meant to use the Taser instead.

Pause.

Anything is possible.

Pause.

But I don’t get that a seasoned officer – the lady has been an officer for 26 years – would get confused which side she carried the Taser on and which side she carried the gun that kills people.

I don’t get that an officer would not have been responsible enough to double and triple check each time they came on duty, which side is the Taser on, which is the gun that kills people.

I don’t get that an officer would forget to do that, knowing that, in the heat of the moment, things happen very quickly and thus you will not have time to ask, ‘Now, where is it that I carry my Taser?’

I didn’t understand, either, why the cuffing of Mr Wright was so difficult and could not be completed. And why the Black officer wasn’t talking to Mr Wright as he did so. Simple talk. Like, ‘Hey man, don’t do anything crazy, we have to take you in, we have a warrant for your arrest, be cool, okay?’

Mr Wright could have been the officer’s younger brother.

Is this asking too much of the officer? Maybe. But not far away the trial of officer Chauvin was under way for the death of George Floyd. And during that horrific scene, there was at least one Black officer present, one Black officer who did not go right up to officer Chauvin and say, ‘there’s no need for the knee, let up. The man is down, he is handcuffed and no threat to anyone. Get your knee off.’

Back to Mr Wright. As he got back in the car and the gun is drawn, no one asked, ‘Is that the Taser or a gun?’

Too much to ask?

No.

In the lockers of every officer back at the station, a sign should be posted so that every time they open it they read, ‘Do you know which side is your Taser, which side is your gun?’

Too late for Mr Wright but others will benefit.

Now, to the role Mr Wright played in his death.

Why did he pull away from the arresting officer?

Why would anyone want to do that when you have officers – with guns that kill – trying to handcuff and arrest you for an outstanding warrant?

Was Mr Wright trying to prove something?

He won’t be here to tell us but it is madness.

Why would anyone want to do something like that?

Is Mr Wright an isolated case of reckless defiance in dealing with the police, or is it part of a trend? A right of passage? ‘To assert myself I have to defy a gun pointed straight at me?’

Something is wrong here.

I have not heard African American leadership calling for all their brothers and sisters, children and parents, to be cautious in dealing with the police.

But maybe I missed it. If I did, the call wasn’t loud enough or persistent enough, so try again. Please.

Try again and remind all Blacks and all of us that, yes, there is much work to be done to achieve equality of opportunity in this land but there is now, as we speak, at the helm of this country, people who are working very hard to act responsibly.

Let us all join in the effort.

Oscarvaldes.net