Oh, how we complicate our own lives!
On the one hand we have some teenagers in a car enjoying their rap
music with their radio turned up very loud; on the other hand, we have
a man who was at that same place in time, agitated and annoyed by that
Following that scenario, we have the event that led to one teenager in
that car being killed and the man who shot him being tried for his
murder as well as for the attempted murder of his three companions.
I did not watch the trial — so many trials, so little time — but I can
imagine what did NOT get brought out during the trial’s proceedings.
There are two opposing “forces” that surfaced during this episode: (1)
In the first camp, we have the teenagers who felt it was perfectly
okay to play their music very loud regardless of how it would be
received by anyone within hearing range; the “We can do what we want
and nobody can tell us different” camp. (2) In the second camp, we
have an adult who not only did not like the loudness of the music, but
was (ostensibly) put off by the rap words and felt that both the
loudness and the content of the song needed to be addressed and
stopped in that public place; the “Somebody has to be brave enough to
tell those kids that THAT music was not welcome in that public place,
especially at that level of loudness. That gives us the “Leave us
alone and don’t tell us what to do” camp, and the “Act appropriately
in public or else…” camp. The “or else…” could have meant that the
police would be called.
I certainly was not there; and I certainly cannot speak for the
teenagers or for Michael Dunn, but I can share some experiences I’ve
had that relate to this scenario.
As a bus-rider, I’m often on the street either walking toward or
standing at a bus stop. BusLand seems to be a place for bringing out
certain aspects of a person’s personality or hidden feelings. What a
person may not do elsewhere, he or she seems to feel free to do in
BusLand. Examples of that would be throwing down all manner of trash
from burger wrappers to drink cups to cigarette butts to chewing gum
right there, in front of the bus bench, even when the trash can is
just inches away; cursing out loud using every form of profanity in
one’s vocabulary, flinging about accusations and threats like they
were confetti; playing one’s music as loud as possible, maybe even
rapping right along, including rap-dancing, regardless of space
considerations for any others at the bus stop, who might be elderly
and not able to quickly jump out of the way if such need should arise,
not to mention what they are being subjected to hearing; and riding
one’s skateboard or bicycle on the sidewalk right past those waiting
for the bus without so much as a warning sound that they are coming
through, missing the would-be bus passengers by hair-split seconds or
hair-breadth inches as they whizz on by.
This is just ordinary stuff in the life of those who live, work, or
play in BusLand. Because it IS ordinary (and sadly so), most people
would not choose to give “offenders” a lesson in either BusLand
etiquette or good manners in general.
And so such examples of how things are in BusLand can be applied to
life in general “out there,” at any gas station, any fast food
restaurant, or at any traffic stop in Anytown, U.S.A. In other words,
there are always people around us, or those who show up now and then,
who either were not taught the ways of polite society or who just
choose to rebel in some way and truly do not give a thought to or
simply do not care about those around them, those who might be
offended, or those who might even get hurt: they are the “We will say
and do what we want to and no one better try to stop us!” people of
our community and our nation.
So imagine this scenario if you will: Someone comes bopping over to
the bus stop playing his music as loud as it can go. The words that
can be heard all the way to the next corner have something to do with
violent acts toward certain women, f*ing this and f*ing that, to say
nothing of other words that I won’t even suggest here (use your
imagination or your memory), and then imagine some person confronting
this bus stop rapper to turn off his music, since he’s in public. Can
you imagine that all of a sudden that would-be rapper is going to have
an awareness of what he is doing and say, “Oh, excuse me! I forgot
that it might be too loud (or too offensive or inappropriate) for
playing out in public! Of course I will turn it off! Please forgive
me!” Does that sound even remotely likely? (Wouldn’t it be more likely
that if such a person had that music on in the first place that he was
going for having it heard, going for being identified with it and
showing “his public” who he is and what he is about?)
Quite frankly, most people would be somewhat afraid of such a
confrontation, since if the person likes that music, and relates to it
(after all, he’s not only playing it, but playing it for all to hear
and then some), the words that you are hearing can tell you something
about the person playing that music. In your sanest of moments, would
you confront a person who is advocating violence and abuse and
possibly even murder?
People shouldn’t need to be reminded that common sense and one’s own
sense of safety always need to come before one’s personal sense of
comfort and propriety out in public. NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE likes
their ears assaulted with what they don’t want to hear. Some would
take offense at hearing Mozart, Chopin, or even the Mormon Tabernacle
Choir played at such decibels! (To say nothing of the inevitable
hearing loss that will occur from such ear-deafening volume. Someday
the volume-advocates will wish they had better hearing and maybe even
wish they knew better when they could have done something to avoid
their own hearing damage.) But if the party wielding the offensive
music device is ALREADY offending and quite deliberately and
uncaringly at that might not that same individual then turn to his own
defense with words to make the complainer back off? Might not that
same person, in something resembling what he views as verbal
self-defense, speak to the complainer (well, “speak” is hardly the way
it would come out) in a way that would be in keeping with such a one
who enjoys that music at that volume, regardless of who is around or
where he is?
What I am suggesting is that just as a person who deliberately cuts
you off in traffic is already in what he feels is either an aggressive
mode or a self-defense mode, if you let his (or it could be her)
actions engage your desire to respond in kind, you are setting your
own self up for heaven-only-knows-what will be the result of your
“self-righteous” road rage.
There are 1,001 things that can annoy us as we go about our daily life
if we choose to be so annoyed. The world does not revolve around us,
keeping its perfect distance and going at its perfect speed so as not
to rattle us in any way. People do what they do. Not everyone was
taught better, and some simply want to show off, impress their
friends, try out a new sense of power or machismo, or annoy the “man,”
the “enemy,” the members of polite society, or just whoever happens to
be around. And some might just be downright nasty and not even need an
“official” reason, spewing their own brand of anti-peace and
anti-brotherhood wherever they go.
Michael Dunn, it was suggested, “lost it” because he was “disrespected
by a mouthy teenager.” That may be the case. It seems obvious that he
did lose it, considering what actually transpired, but chances are we
won’t be hearing any apologies from the parents for the “mouthiness,”
the triggering words that may or may not have been spoken by the
victim, Jordon Davis, the “F**k you, motherf***er; I’m gonna kill
you.” Yet, even should they have been spoken, did they deserve the
death sentence? There are times we need to ignore the instigator of
our annoyance, and this was definitely one of them.
Davis’ mother apparently said she will pray for Dunn because, “It’s
sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in the sense
of torment.” That is a good and Christian kind of thing to do. But
what if she discovers her son DID SAY those menacing, triggering
words? Or gave the impression he did have a weapon? What if she
wonders if he’d still be alive if he weren’t out there annoying others
with that rap music? Yet as others might ponder the situation, they
might wonder why one shot to scare them wouldn’t have been enough, if
indeed Dunn did feel the need to shoot at all. And why would Dunn want
to inflame those boys further with his own words? And then not report
what had happened?
Davis’ father mentioned that “Teenagers shouldn’t have to worry about
walking around, worrying about if someone has a problem with them.”
One wonders if Mr. Davis could see the difference between the child
and his behavior. One wonders if Mr. Davis would really approve of
such loud music if played in the family living room, or outside their
church. Would he accuse the next-door neighbors or the church pastor
of having a problem with his son if they asked him to turn down (or
turn off) the loud music? or would he totally realize it was his son’s
behavior of not caring about what he was doing, and where he was doing
So on the one hand, we have a dead teenager. On the other hand, we
have a man who had no intention to kill anyone when he set out that
day, although he did have a gun which meant the possibility was there.
What we ended up with was a teenager who was playing the role of “I
can do what I want,” and a man who had apparently had enough of that
kind of anti-social behavior and would not let it pass this time.
We cannot change the outcome of that situation, but what we can do is
use it for the teaching moment it is, for both sides.
For children of any age, we must teach them how to behave
appropriately in society, in public, telling them what is acceptable
and what isn’t, and why, perhaps even telling them about such
consequences as those before us; as for the adults, we need to
remember that we ARE the adults and the “should know better”
individuals in any confrontation with children or teenagers in this
sort of situation, and that our practicing self-control (self-mastery,
actually) is the lesson we must teach, starting with our own behavior,
to avoid the kind of outcomes that this sad event has once more put
before our eyes.
Caring about each other is simply following the Golden Rule and that
is never a Dunn Deal!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, how we complicate our own lives!