This column is a letter to some troubled people in our community.
My wife thinks this column will give you the attention you crave. But I’m writing it anyway, because the community needs to know you’re out there.
You, who yelled an obscenity and a slur at me from your car as I walked across 305 at Lincoln. You, who drove past my coworker on Big Valley Road at a high rate of speed, then turned around and flipped her off as you drove by her again. You, who made a rude comment about another co-worker’s hotness because you wanted that parking space at Home Depot.
Now, I’m a little older and wiser than you. So, let me tell you how your behavior is going to play out.
One, someday you’ll yell an obscenity or a slur or flash that middle finger at someone or insult someone’s spouse, and the response is not going to be a newspaper column. Violence, whether verbal or physical, begets violence. Look around you — the world is filled with violence that started with a word.
Two, I’ve written a lot of crime briefs, stories and, yes, obituaries, about people who didn’t think a rash act or offensive word or reckless driving would result in such consequences — a retaliation, an injury, a death. I’m going to assume you have people in your life that you care about and that care about you. Think about how they will be affected by your actions.
Three, you live among people who want a safer, tolerant community. They want to feel safe and they want their loved ones to feel safe walking across an intersection, driving, working, shopping, existing. That’s why we have laws to protect against hate and harassment and road rage. Those laws are designed to protect you and your family too.
Combine a slur and an injury, and you’re going to prison for a hate crime. Flip someone off while speeding past them, and you’re going to pay a penalty for road rage. Hopefully, that price won’t be the ultimate. According to the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, an average of 1,500 people are killed or injured each year as a result of aggressive driving.
Speaking of family, these were your targets in the above-mentioned incidents: A wife and mom. A wife, daughter, sister and aunt. A husband, father, son and uncle. A veteran and soon-to-be grandfather. I’m sure there are people like that in your life and I hope, and I’m sure you hope, they are never the targets of abuse or threats.
Four, you live among people who desire a better community and a better world. That’s why they wear military or public safety uniforms, contribute to local causes, volunteer on weekends, help their neighbors. You could be like that. Take that energy and creativity of yours — which you currently use to exercise your middle finger and devise harassment schemes — and channel it toward something good. You will do great things. And those who care about you will treasure that positive news story about you more than they will the clipping from the Police Calls column.
Finally, you’re fortunate to live in a caring community. I care enough that I wrote this column. And I hope someday we’ll meet — for a story about you that will make your family and community proud, and not a story that involves handcuffs or grief.
— Richard Walker is editor of the North Kitsap Herald. Contact him at 779-4464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.