Saturday, March 6, 2004

On greetings…
Those that know me, know that I like to walk for fitness and for a time of solitude. Walking gives you a time to be alone with yourself and to explore some of your innermost feelings. And since we don’t live in a vacuum, we seem to interact with others in small ways, even during a solitary walk at an early hour. So I have made it a habit to greet all of those that I meet while walking and I have found their responses interesting.

I always say “Good morning.” and I can usually tell, even before I speak, what the response will be. At an early hour, say around 6:00 AM, most will answer with a “Good morning.” But, at a later hour, the more common response is a blank look, an averted gaze or even a glare. Why is that?

My initial thought was that the early greeters were doing it because of the hour. Because it is dark at 6:00 AM and it's a form of self defense. If I greet you, then I acknowledge your existence. This makes us more "equal" . And you won’t attack an equal…will you? And then I explored the thought that perhaps the early morning greeters were simply a more personable lot. I liked that idea, as that allowed me to include myself in that friendly group. Those who avoided my greetings at an early hour, I simply dismissed. They must be from the second group and accidentally got up a little too early.

The second group, the non-greeters, what is their problem? Do they represent the decline in civility that seems almost epidemic? What motivates their non-response? Perhaps, and this is probably true in 10 percent of the cases, they simply want to be alone. After all, that’s why they went walking. And I am intruding on their solitude with my cheerful “Good morning.” As for the remaining 90 percent? I don’t know, but I continue to greet them anyway. I enjoy the look of discomfort that it sometimes causes...

On the law…
I like to pride myself on my law abiding habits. I haven’t had a ticket for any kind of traffic violation in over 15 years and have a total of 3 violations during my 47+ years of driving. I have never been charged with a crime of any kind. Not even a misdemeanor. My library book return record is the only blemish on a near perfect record!

In that first paragraph I spoke of my law abiding as if I had never broken the law. What I should have said was that I had not been caught breaking the law very often. So the near perfect record that I spoke of is due to only one thing…luck! Can you say the same thing? Are you willing to admit that you also break the law on an almost regular basis? Does 35 MPH mean 35 or does it not? You can’t have flexible laws and expect people to respect them. OK, so we know that the 35 MPH sign indicates a law, a rigid and inflexible law, yet we still violate it. Why do we do it? Because, and this is important, we know that we won’t get caught. Very simple. When I decide to go a little bit faster, or when I decide to make a U-turn where it’s not allowed, I am making that decision based on the assumption that I will not be caught. I didn’t approach that decision thinking that I was about to break a law, no, that was already accomplished in my mind. I was simply gambling on the outcome of my law breaking. And based on my knowledge of statistics and personal observations, it’s almost always a safe bet. A $200 dollar fine for that violation? It never entered my mind and I would bet that you never think of the possible punishment at the exact moment that you commit the crime.

Now let’s take that a little further. Maybe a lot further. How about murder? And the punishment for that is what? Death, is what a lot of people would say and it’s the punishment prescribed by law in many cases. And the supporters of this form of punishment say that it deters crime. Well, I say that it doesn’t and that the same thought processes are used when running a red light or murdering another human being. The thought of punishment never crosses our minds. Our only thought is that we won’t be caught. This is elemental thought. Simple. Primitive.

And that brings me to my final thought…if it isn’t a punishment that deters, then it’s simply vengeance. Vengeance exists to make you and me feel better. It has no place in law. And vengeance demeans me as a human being.