On November 1st, 2003 I was involved in a drinking and driving accident. I had drunkenly drove a white, Econoline, work van into a pre-existing accident on Highway 54 in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a horror show, devastating, a living nightmare. My decision to drive while intoxicated that night cost 6 people their lives. I managed to hit nine people altogether. Two of them were seriously injured. I spent most of my thirties in a state prison; they could have locked me up forever. There was really just nothing that I could say.
That was a long time ago and I still think about it every day. I always will. When I laugh, which is often, I wonder if I have earned the right to feel joy. When I hurt, sometimes I simply think that I deserve it. I always will.
The thing that I have found most baffling however has been other people’s reactions. For the most part people have been kind, and forgiving and understanding. I’ve heard people confess to me more times than I could possible count, that it could have easily been them driving that evening. And that’s true. The people that have caused me the most confusion however, have been the ones who were outraged by my decision that night. They pretend at being shocked that ANYONE would ever drive while intoxicated.
My wife and I have had this conversation frequently. We understand that while we as a culture can pretend that we won’t tolerate drunk drivers, the reality of this is very different. That fateful evening was not even close to the first time that I had gotten behind the wheel while intoxicated. I’ve also driven other people who knew that I was too drunk to drive, and I’ve gotten into cars with others, whom I knew were too drunk to drive. My wife and I have left concerts where we’ve watched people by the hundreds stagger through the parking lot towards their cars, a lone police officer at the bottom of the hill directing traffic to assist them back onto the highways.
We don’t hate drunk drivers. We only hate them when they turn out to be bad at it.
I recall once leaving a party, weeks after I was released from prison, where people who knew my story, professional and well educated people who knew my history, people who are DOCTORS, were getting into their cars to drive home…intoxicated.
Kara and I came to a solution for this. We don’t go to parties, and when we do we show up early and leave early. I simply can’t bear watching it, and I can’t stand at the end of driveways having everyone arrested. So, we leave early.
I no longer have any illusions about driving while intoxicated. This is a part of our culture that, whether we admit it or not, we have come to accept. I would challenge anyone reading this who does not believe it to go to any bar or club this evening, any evening, and count the people that you know are intoxicated who leave, only to get behind the wheel of their own car and drive home, putting all of us at risk.
I have suggestions on how we could practically eliminate drinking and driving, but really, I know that this would involve changes that as a culture we are simply not willing to make. This is our ugly reality, and so when I hear that someone is killed by another drunk driver, well, I am saddened. I’m saddened for the loss. I’m saddened for the families. I’m saddened for the driver. But I’m not shocked. I am not angry. This is an ugly reality, but it is one that as a culture we have uniformly made. We absolutely will tolerate drunk drivers. We do so every single day, and we only place minimal efforts at stopping them. We are not willing to change.
I’ve had it with the hand wringing and empty prayers for the victims of the latest mass shooting. I’ve heard all of the now repetitive and boring arguments about the 2nd amendment and our constitutional rights, and gun laws. I’ve had it with all of the empty arguments about why THIS shooting was different than whatever the LAST mass shooting was. I simply don’t care anymore. I think it’s time that we admit to ourselves that this is simply a reality that we are absolutely willing to live with. It’s an ugly truth, but let’s face it head on…we are not willing to change.
We already know another mass shooting is in the works, and really we aren’t going to take one single step towards stopping it.
My wife and I were discussing this yesterday as well, and I’ll tell you we implicated ourselves as guilty and complacent in this as well. We simply aren’t willing to move. Statistically we have a pretty good chance of not getting killed by a gun, but we both realize that this could happen. We could be the next victims in some senseless act of violence, because let’s face it, we simply aren’t willing to make any efforts to change this.
I call bullshit on anyone who says that there is nothing that can be done. We are the same people who built the pyramids. We are the people who created the hanging gardens and have dammed up entire rivers. We can harvest energy from the sun. We can split freakin’ atoms for crying out loud. We took photographs of Pluto and Pluto’s moon! There is very little that we cannot do with our big, creative, monkey brains. If we wanted to reduce gun violence, I am absolutely convinced that we could do that too. So, let’s just be honest with ourselves. We don’t want to. We don’t really care that much. It’s just easier to pray for the victims and hold our loved ones that much closer today. Those things won’t help anything, but they probably won’t hurt, and we can pretend like we really care.
We don’t care.
If we cared, if we really cared, we would work to change it.
Maybe someday we will care enough to change it.
I hope so.
I really hope so.