Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Little Too Close To Home

Disturbing that this happened in my neighborhood:
Road rage, accident centers on Obama bumper sticker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville man says he and his 10-year-old daughter were victims of road rage Thursday afternoon, all because of a political bumper sticker on his car.

Mark Duren told News 2 the incident happened around 4:30p.m., while he was driving on Blair Boulevard, not far from Belmont University.

He said Harry Weisiger gave him the bird and rammed into his vehicle, after noticing an Obama-Biden sticker on his car bumper.

Duren had just picked up his 10-year-old daughter from school and had her in the car with him.

"He pointed at the back of my car," Duren said, "the bumper, flipped me off, one finger salute."

But it didn't end there.

Duren told News 2 that Weisiger honked his horn at him for awhile, as Duren stopped at a stop sign.

Once he started driving again, down Blair Boulevard, towards his home, he said, "I looked in the rear view mirror again, and this same SUV was speeding, flying up behind me, bumped me."

Duren said he applied his brake and the SUV smashed into the back of his car.

He then put his car in park to take care of the accident, but Weisiger started pushing the car using his SUV.

Duren said, "He pushed my car up towards the sidewalk, almost onto the sidewalk."

Police say Harry Weisiger is charged with felony reckless endangerment in the incident.

Harry Weisiger is 70 years old, according to a story that was e-mailed to me. That story also said he was charged with driving under the influence, though I didn’t see that information in this story.

You know, if a 70-year-old man can’t be a grown-up, who can?

Years ago when Mr. Beale and I were youth advisors at our church I was driving through the dreaded Williamson County to take our youth group to play Laser Tag. I had our church’s associate pastor and four teenagers in my car. I also had some anti-war bumper stickers and one of those W’s with a line through it on the back of my car.

An SUV driven by a young guy rushed up to my bumper and tried to push me off the road. The incident fell short of what Mark Duren experienced, thank God, but it left us all shaken.

Perhaps people should take a cue from Chris Reichert, the guy who threw dollar bills at a Parkinson’s patient:

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way," said Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, in a Dispatch interview.

In his first comments on an incident that went viral across the Internet and was repeatedly played on cable television news shows, Reichert said he is sorry about his confrontation with Robert A. Letcher, 60, of the North Side. Letcher, a former nuclear engineer who suffers from Parkinson's, was verbally attacked as he sat before anti-health care demonstrators in front of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy's district office last week.

"He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day."

"I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process."

Good for Chris Reichert.

What really struck me is that Robert Letcher, the guy who was berated for being for healthcare reform, is a former nuclear engineer: someone who went to college, got advanced degrees, worked in a field that requires a lot of experience and training. Not, as the Glen Casada’s of the world would have you believe, some lazy person who just never lived up to their potential and are now looking for a handout. He’s a professional who was felled by a powerful disease.

I think we need to hear more of Letcher’s story, and everyone’s stories. It is easy for the Harry Weisigers and Chris Reicherts to dehumanize those with opposing views when our discourse is polluted with hate speech from talk radio and viral e-mail campaigns, 24/7. Our corporate media profits handsomely from caricaturing the opposing sides, and there is money in keeping the nation divided. How many fundraising e-mails hit your inbox this week?

Maybe if we all turned off the radio and turned off the TV and actually talked to one another and heard each other’s stories instead of letting the media and political groups profit from its divide and conquer strategy, we’d all be better off.

I dunno, just a thought.