Sunday, April 24, 2005

Senseless Tragedy

A few days ago here in Sacramento a man got into a fistfight with two other men, took a punch to the side of the head, fell to the ground, and died a couple of days later. His organs were harvested for transplantation. He was 39 years old. He was a banking executive with a long, full life ahead of him. He left behind a 12-year-old son.

The other men involved in this tragedy left the scene after the victim collapsed onto the pavement, and they turned themselves in the next day after learning that the man was mortally injured and that police were looking for them. The police declined to arrest them because it was tentatively decided that this was a case of “mutual combat” which, according to witnesses, the victim instigated by pulling his car over, jumping out, and launching the first punch.

I don’t understand why these men weren’t arrested for at least fleeing the scene after their victim fell to the ground unconscious, but the DA may still press charges after reviewing the case. I don’t understand why a young man with a young son and so much promise had to die such a senseless death. Some witnesses said he was very loud and obnoxious during the professional basketball game he attended before the incident and that he later, intentionally or not, aggressively cut off while leaving the arena parking lot the vehicle containing the men who killed him. On the other hand, his friends and family said he was a calm and good-hearted man who never raised his voice in anger, did his job well, was a loving and devoted father to his son, and coached a boy’s soccer team.

I suspect that there was truth in all these accounts. He probably was an essentially good man who was nevertheless intensely competitive and liked to blow off steam at sporting events and drive aggressively in his luxury sedan and who didn’t take any crap from anyone. Now he’s dead because he and the other two men got reflexively caught up in an escalating chain of testosterone-fueled overreactions.

Life has probably always been precarious, but it seems even more so now in some ways as more and more people and cars crowd into tight spaces and hurry through the day at an ever more feverish pace and pitch to ‘perform’ and ‘produce’, and all around them, in real life and on so-called ‘reality’ television, people disrespect, distrust, deride, and destroy their ‘competition’ to win the big game or the big money or simply survive to see and perform and compete another day.

If only people would slow down, calm down, relax, and live mindful lives of respectful loving-kindness to themselves and others. But, you say, they can’t afford to in this fast-paced era that demands more and more from us in less and less time! Yet, it seems to me that we can’t afford not to. If we continue living the way we do now, life will become less and less worth living, and more and more lives will end prematurely in pointless, violent tragedy the way Mark Leidheisl’s did on a pleasant spring evening on a Sacramento street.

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