A firestorm sparked in my tiny community recently, and it’s quickly growing into a devastating blaze — one that may in fact spread to the national media. Tonight, only three days after the issue that started it all, I sat and read hundreds of comments. Some defending the man who shot a man in the face, in front of his wife, and others. Some pronouncing their own judgement, “He’s guilty of murder and deserves capital punishment.”
At this time, I’ll keep my opinions to myself, they don’t matter anyway. A complete gathering of evidence is not complete, and besides, I am not qualified or in a position to determine this man’s fate. But what I would like to talk about are both the attitudes that led to such an outcome, and the attitudes resulting from it.
In the past, I’ve harbored concerns that this kind of thing might happen, though I hoped it wouldn’t. Having worked directly for a floating outfitter for many years, and being in a position of responsibility, I’ve seen and heard many alarming perspectives from those who visit, and also from those who reside here.
Now I want to be VERY clear. The comments I refer to, on both sides of the issue, represent less than 10% of their groups. The problem is, when someone has a sour attitude, they come across so strong, that everyone in the barrel is seen as having the same puckered flavor. A few quotes in particular represent what I mean:
“I’m in the country, anything goes here.” (Over the years I’ve heard several visitors to the area say this in some form or another.)
“I’m sick of tourists. If it’s tourist season, why can’t we just shoot them.” (Spoken in jest, multiple versions spoken from a handful of locals in the area.)
“They should expect to clean up our trash, defecation, vomit, messes, etc. After all, we’re paying good money to come here.” (This is the clean version of comments I’ve heard when customers forget they rented an activity, versus buying the whole place.)
“The next one that mouths off to me is going to taste blood.” (Phrases like this spoken by that small percentage of locals who feed off each other’s anger.)
You get the point.
What appalls me now, and always has, is the depth of self-centeredness in these statements. How some challenge anyone who dares question their right to do as they please. On the other side, all tourists are held to account for the actions of the minority.
In all cases, it’s sad that a small group of people would rather be right in their own eyes, standing on a platform of arrogance, than to put themselves in the shoes of another. Asking, “How would I feel if that were me on the other side of the equation?”
Would I want someone to trash my yard and leave it? Invited or not.
Would I want to go on vacation and be treated badly because the group who stayed before me tore the place up?
Eventually, pride can cause folks to fall on the swords of their own arrogance. And there’s plenty of destruction to go around.
This case has just begun. Like many, I will follow the legal proceedings, watch the outcomes, and pray for hearts to soften. Because otherwise, negative emotions will fuel more negative emotions. Frustrations, anger, bitterness, and pride that have simmered for years between tourists and locals will increase under the heat and pressure of this shooting, bringing many to a boil.
Though it shows a lack of emotional intelligence for those who do it, the name calling from both sides has started. Hillbillies, hicks, paranoid liberals, and drunken idiots are just a few I’ve seen and heard. Sadly, there are posts from visitors who say they will come again, only this time packing their own guns while floating down the river. Some landowners are talking about hunkering down in preparation for things to get worse. All seem defensive and on guard.
Which leads me to this final thought. Are any of us accomplishing what we were created for, placed on this earth to do, when we allow ourselves to get sucked into a cesspool of selfishness? It can happen to any of us, but if we wallow there, we can’t focus on living a life of meaning. Of making a difference. Of discovering the beauty of why we exist.
No one except the people who were there know the details of exactly what happened on the Meramec River that day. And even then, human emotion can distort our memories. The courts will sort it out, and I pray that God’s justice is served.
In the meantime, I mourn with the friends and family of the man who lost his life, attempting to deal with a nightmare they wish they could wake up from. I also mourn with the family and friends of the man who fired the shot. There are people, innocent and hurting, who love him, and are trying to sort through their own nightmare. And I pray fervently, that those of us who are observing from the sidelines can imagine how we would feel if we were walking in either sets of shoes. After all, it’s only by the grace of God that we are not.
I am reminded of the power in what we say. The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18.
From this tragedy, let us learn to use wise words from unselfish motives — easier said than done, but it could save lives. And may we serve the greater good, our fellow man, and not our foolish pride. This is where healing begins.
Anita Fresh Faith
Anita Agers-Brooks is a Business and Inspirational Coach, Certified Personality Trainer, Productivity Expert, Certified Training Facilitator, Communications Specialist, national speaker. She’s the author of, First Hired, Last Fired — How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market. Now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, and Christianbook.com.
She’s a partner in The Zenith Zone, a business coaching firm. Member of the Christian Writer’s Guild, Toastmasters, a client of WordServe Literary Group, and the Simply Sue Speaks booking agency. A graduate of CLASSeminars for Leaders, Speakers, and Authors, a co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio, and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries.
Anita’s passionate about business with integrity, healthy relationships, and issues of identity. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research. She believes it’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith.
Anita likes to lounge by a river or lake in Missouri, laughing with with her husband of thirty years, Ricky.