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King: Can we always tell 'good guys' from ‘bad guys?’

POSTED: March 25, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Confession time: These days I read my horoscope, printed on page 2 of this paper. It’s all nonsense, of course, but sometimes it can be downright spooky.

A week ago last Friday, it said that I’ve been struggling with a series of “demands” that are wearing me out. It said I should, “seek serenity ... (and) avoid chaos in all forms, including the media. Especially the media”

What kind of advice is this for a columnist who writes about politics and social change? In the past six months, I’ve lost my husband of 58 years and been hospitalized twice for an as-yet undiagnosed illness. I have an estate to settle and an 18-year-old grandchild to get into college. I have a house to keep up and family property to oversee.

Yes, I’ve had a few demands on my time, but everyone has problems. It’s called Life.

However the problems that disturb me most are the things I see in the paper. I’m not as upset by Ukraine, corruption in Washington and the ultimate fate of the earth as I am by the meanness and crazy behavior I see and hear in the media every day.

Brutal hazing; the Florida A&M case is back in the paper. A 14-year old boy charged in a double murder. A general throwing away his career because he can’t control his libido. Senseless killing of innocents, stupid lies ... what happened to these people? What made them do the unforgivable?

Were they all bad seeds, individuals destined to do evil, or were they ordinary people who got caught up in a highly emotional situation and stumbled? I don’t know for sure, but I lean toward the latter. All too many of us have experienced an occasion when a slightly different response on our part could have resulted in unimaginable grief.

What I do know for sure is that adding a gun to a highly volatile situation is a formula for disaster. However, the political climate today is very much pro-firearms, and the gun lobby is hard at work, doing all it can to fan people’s fears.

Candidates for public office oblige by campaigning on the right of self-defense even though they must know — because the police tell them — that a glut of guns means a glut of shootings.

There’s a lot of insecurity going around these days, fear of strangers, fear of psychos, fear of conspirators who want to take over the government. And despite facts to the contrary, many people feel more secure if they have a weapon in their home or car.

The thing that worries me the most about an armed populous is the idea that there are good people and bad people. The good people are us; the bad people are the other guy.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but that good guy with a gun turns into a bad guy when he shoots his child or a neighbor because he mistakes him for an intruder.

Furthermore, the “stand your ground” laws popular in the South and Midwest allow gun-bearing individuals to shoot just about anybody they can convincingly describe as “threatening.”

Follow the logic here: You think the unexplained stranger in your yard or standing by your car is a “bad guy.” You know, of course, that you’re the “good guy.” Now you can kill the other individual and have a very good chance of going free.

A recent Tampa Bay Times investigation found nearly 200 “stand your ground” incidents where someone was killed or injured by a “good guy,” and the defense was, “I felt threatened.” Some 70 percent of the time, the accused was acquitted.

I wonder what happens to these “good guys” after they’ve killed someone. Do they experience remorse or do they rationalize: “I simply rid society of a ‘bad guy.’”

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.


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