Our lives are busy and, being a social species, we regularly come to intersections of comings and goings with others. Every encounter presents an opportunity for reflection, is a chance encounter with some part of ourselves.
A blue SUV from the northbound lanes transitions into the right turn lane and is now facing east. Almost simultaneously a black sedan slips from a southbound lane into the left turn lane and is now also facing east. So, two drivers from opposing points are choosing to go in the same direction. There are three common lanes of separation between them.
From the perspective of myself and other patrons of a bistro patio, the sedan is crossing over two of the nearest lanes, clearly aiming to broadside the SUV, who is proceeding along the nearest right lane. The sedan has chosen to morph into righteously indignant. And, as we’ve witnessed all too often, righteous indignation means a distorted perspective – an entitlement to become aggressive.
The rest of us get the fallout. Having selfishly made a point (I have the right of way and all of these lanes are mine), the sedan swerves its nose eastward into the middle lane, accelerates and cuts just ahead of the SUV (forcing the SUV to slam on the brakes) and thus forces the SUV to go 15 mph in a 45 mph zone. Righteously indignant has followed an unnecessary act of aggression with bullying and has meted out punishment for a simple act of turning into the nearest lane, which was free of any oncoming traffic.
Here’s my perspective: there’s nothing “righteous” about unnecessary aggression – verbal or physical. There’s nothing that justifies deliberately aiming a car at another. Once on the road, we’ve all made a choice to take part in a communal act along communally owned paths. No one’s fooled when an overly pampered ego is clothed in a supposedly “righteous” act of teaching another driver “a lesson”.
The SUV chose not to escalate in its encounter with random violence. From that perspective, it’s a blessing that no gun was fired. No actual contact was made that necessitated police or medical intervention. Perhaps the perspective of the children in the car was never even switched from an unaware state. I prefer to think it wasn’t.
We bystanders thank the SUV. Late on a Sunday morning, “righteous” left us with an ugly reminder that violence is everywhere; that any one of us can be targeted at any point along our way. SUV, however, demonstrated that we can all choose a perspective that shows true strength (an inner restraint, rather than an outward show of power through aggression). Every day, with every action we take, we choose our perspective. We can support, protect and strengthen one another. We can choose a perspective of peace.
There’s still hope for our species.