He Had it Coming

Is that a good enough reason to break the law?

I was riding in a friend’s car on our way to some place now forgotten, and as we tooled along, a car raced up from behind us, careened into the adjacent lane, and then slid inches in front of us as we continued driving down the highway.

My friend, normally a calm sort but prone to an occasional invective or two, spoke up.

“Someday, when the doctor has told me I have two weeks to live, and I have nothing to lose, I’m going to slam right into that guy’s car. And when he gets out and starts yelling at me, I’m going to tell him he had it coming.

“And then I’m going to get back in my car and do it all over again to the next car that cuts me off.”

There wasn’t a lot I could add to those comments because even though he was obviously wrong, he was also right.

There have been plenty of times over the years I’ve felt the same way, although most of my bad-driver fantasies involve me driving a big truck with a snowplow so that when I slam into the idiotic driver, my vehicle isn’t damaged but his or hers is totaled.

I know, I know. There’s nothing to be proud of here. Clearly, neither my friend nor I should be doing anything like this to anyone at any time; taking the law into our own hands and acting like a bully to someone who already is a bully isn’t going to solve anything.

But it sure would feel good from time to time, wouldn’t it?

There seem to be plenty of times these days when taking the law into our own hands seems — if only for a fleeting moment — to be a really good idea.

And people express their opinions on everything from international topics to local issues instantly and loudly on social media — it’s not uncommon to see “suspects” convicted and sentenced online by peers long before they’re ever charged in court these days.

I even led a Sunday school lesson awhile ago where that was the theme — sometimes, you have to do “what’s right,” even if it means breaking the law.

Of course, the lesson was more of a theoretical exercise, and during the ensuing discussion, it was easy to see why.

I asked the class this question: If I’m attending a movie and the plot turns out to be sacrilegious (at least in my opinion), what should I do?

Should I walk out? Should I complain to the manager? Or should I just sit through it and be quiet?

The class was divided. Some said to forget it. Some said ask for my money back. One person suggested something more along the lines of my snowplow idea: Stand up and start yelling to everyone in the theater that the movie isn’t worth seeing and we all need to walk out right now.

And therein lies the problem in terms of taking “the law” into our own hands. Who’s to say I’m right about the movie and that it’s OK for me to disrupt the good time of the guy sitting next to me? Who’s to say I’m the good driver and the other guy is the idiot? Both likely have their own perspective, and both are likely much different from mine.

It’s easy to mouth-off online, where decisions are instantaneous and implications often don’t come into play. It’s harder to do it in person, because every decision has immediate and personal consequences.

Ultimately, that’s what laws and regulations do: They keep individual perspective on the sidelines for the most part and force us to live every day with the expectation that we will be here tomorrow to suffer the consequences of our actions.

Because more than likely, we will. And for the sake of our overall sanity, it’s probably best that we continue to think and act that way.


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