On March 13th, 2012, police in Richmond California were trying to track down the gunman who opened fire on a family driving home who happened to inadvertently cut him off while changing lanes. This madman shot off at least 10 rounds into this family’s car, hitting their 8-year old son. This is insanity!
I’d like to think that this man is unstable due to the severity of his actions and the fact that normal people don’t do this. However, as an anger management therapist I often have clients talking about their anger triggers in session, and road rage is chief among them. More and more people act like madmen when they feel disrespected or triggered-choosing extreme and thoughtless actions rather than responsibility for one’s own behavior and self-soothing.
A few years ago I had a similar situation in San Francisco when I changed lanes approaching the Golden Gate Bridge and another car perceived that I cut them off. The other car thankfully chose not to shoot me but intimidated the hell out of me by swerving into me in and out of traffic for miles and threw a heavy metal object at my car leaving a dent. It doesn’t matter whether I cut them off or not, it’s how they experienced this perceived insult and wanted to teach me a lesson - evident from the pleasure they took in intimidating me.
Sure, not everyone opens fire on those that cut them off, but I believe the pendulum measuring the barometer of what normal is, is swinging wildly out of control. People often measure themselves against the “norm”, or what most of the people do most of the time. Aggressive violence to this magnitude should never be considered the norm, yet I will argue that it increasingly is.
In depressed socio-economic areas all over the U.S and troubled nations across the globe, violence is considered the norm probably due to the levels of desperation inherent in their survival. Kids and families become desensitized to violence and it’s effects out of survival. We are not built as a species to withstand chronic levels of stress or terror, and our psyches are equipped to help us through regressive memory, desensitization and justification. All natural defense mechanisms against seeing something for what it really is: truly disturbing and painful.
In places like Compton, Oakland, Detroit and certainly Richmond, violence is an everyday occurrence and therefore the residents eventually accept it as something that cannot change. And not unlike Darfur or Afghanistan, we the observers ween ourselves from the cause of fighting back out of our own desensitization and exhaustion of fighting a battle that never ends.
Take steps to educate your kids about violence and anything else that is inappropriate to their well being. They are the next group to take up the mantle of what is considered acceptable and expected within their society and what they are willing to tolerate.
No one should have to tolerate violence of any kind (yes, perhaps Utopian) but least of all a parent who instead of driving home drives to the ER to address his son’s bullet wound because he didn’t see clearly when he changed lanes.