Friday, August 22, 2014


About once or twice a week I go to a Wendy’s in Kent to eat and compose, but this past Wednesday I found it roped-off by police. According to news reports, a black Cadillac Escalade drove up to the adjacent convenience store gas pump station in a “haphazard” fashion that blocked other motorists from accessing the pumps. All four doors were thrown open and rap music was blasting its foul message forth. According to a witness, the occupants were “mean-mugging” everyone and apparently looking for a fight. The driver of the car threatened the witness against taking down his license plate number. He and his passenger also engaged in argument with other customers. The convenience store clerk came out to confront the passenger of the car, and an altercation occurred. 

The store manager then came out to break up the fight. The driver of the car pulled out a hand gun and starting firing, eight to ten shots; both the manager and the clerk died at the scene, while the Escalade drove away. KOMO News—always thirsting for crime and blood—apparently had their news van parked in the lot at least 12 hours after the shooting occurred. The shooter was eventually apprehended in Burien, about ten miles away. Odd how all of those cameras the police posted on the site to snoop on people were of no use in preventing this horrible crime.

Why did this happen? Why were these two looking for a fight? Why was the driver so eager to shoot someone? Was it “righteous vengeance” over the incident in Ferguson, in another state? No, the shooter, Leland Russell, claims that he had felt “disrespected” by road construction workers who supposedly addressed him with racial (not “ethnic”) slurs. He apparently felt a lack of “respect” for his person, and decided to “take it out” on the next person who displayed a lack of “respect.”


“Respect” is often a difficult concept to acquire or provide; we can see this in something as “innocuous” as someone who urinates all over a toilet seat, to cold-blooded murder for no apparent reason that even remotely justifies it. When I was in the Army, a first sergeant informed me that he “respected no man”—apparently not even the company commander. What was his rationalization for such a statement? It went against the commandment “Thou shalt not worship false gods before me.” I’m not sure that was the intent of the commandment, but I suppose that in some way it makes sense—insofar as the kind of people you meet who seem to demand your “respect” when you are loath to give it.

This feeling occurs to me every time I go to the Kent Public Library, one of the worst of its kind that I ever had the displeasure to encounter. I remember when they closed it down for “reconstruction”; Instead of tearing the whole place down or moving to a new, bigger location, they kept the former shell intact and merely re-arranged the interior. In the end, it was the same old crummy library, cramped and virtually impossible to spend any length of time doing quiet work. There you can find all the rude, disrespectful people you don’t want to meet. 

For example, I’m sitting at a table reading and writing, just hoping to have two hours of quiet time, and this barrel-chested eastern European type plops himself at my table and pulls out his laptop computer, and proceeds to engage in a long-distance conversation with someone back in his home country—loudly and boisterously. Does this person have any “respect” for the rights of other people? Am I supposed to “respect” his “right” to bother people in a library who are trying to work? What about the librarians? I asked one of them if this was allowed, and she just smirked at me and asked me what the “problem” is.

In another example of how hard it is to “respect” a person, a tattooed male walked in and parked his fundament in the table next to mine, apparently trying to get the attention of a female who was reading a book. He was trying to be friendly-like, but I could tell he was bothering her. I turned his way and told him that this was a “quiet” area, which caused him to turn to me with eyes lit-up like a stereotypical crazed person in an insane asylum, asking me what my “problem” was. I could tell that this was deliberate pose to “intimidate” me, but that kind of thing seldom moves me, unless common sense tells me otherwise.  Of course, he then wanted to take this discussion “outside,” but I wasn’t that stupid. In any case, he wasn’t getting anywhere with the female reading the book who just gave terse responses to his affected gregariousness, and so he left on his own accord. 

I have to admit that I also find bike riders on sidewalks extremely rude and disrespectful. The other day I was walking down a sidewalk when some 6-2 guy riding a 10-year-old’s bicycle nearly ran me over from behind. I commented on his rudeness and disrespect for my person, upon which he stopped his bike and turned around and gave that at intimidating “stare.” Oh, he didn’t like being told that he was a rude, disrespectful bastard? I encounter a lot of people who show something less than respect for people (and not just to those for whom sidewalks were actually built for), and then are “shocked” to be called out for their personal limitations.

Incidents like this always cause me to wonder about the nature of “respect.” Shouldn’t you give “respect” before someone expects to receive it? I encounter many people—particularly those who possess a violent streak simmering just beneath the surface—who demand “respect.” One should respect another’s human rights, such their person and property. It is not “respectful” to deprive them of either. The individual engaging in such may believe that he or she is doing this because another person or society doesn’t “respect” him or her, and thus it is their way of “earning” that “respect.” Of course, the reality is that this usually has the opposite effect. In such circles, “respect” is “earned” through crime and violence, or just being “tougher”—or rather, more thuggish—than the next guy. 

On the other hand, it is hard to “respect” even an outwardly “respectable” person—one who dresses or speaks well, and makes a good living because of it—when you perceive they don’t “respect” your own existence. I personally see no more than a person who is the same common clay as anyone else, who will eventually die like everyone else, probably leaving nothing behind of lasting value, except maybe some old family photographs to remember them by. As far as people with the Nazi in them, history has already judged their level of “respectability.”

One can’t go about life dwelling on such things, however. You don’t need the “respect” of every person to live a “respectable” life or to justify your existence. Being perpetually angry at the world because of the way you perceive it treats you and allowing it to govern your every action is not a life, but a kind of living death. If “good” can’t be found in society, then find it in its creations, or that of nature—the wonders of which are truly deserving “respect.”
And perhaps in the end, “respect” is only “earned” by humans through good deeds, in selfless manner. I have to confess that even I find this a tough standard to meet.

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