I read an article the other day about a deaf man who was stabbed multiple times because a passerby mistook his sign language for gang signs. Yes, you read that correctly. Some gang thug was walking down the street and saw this guy using sign language and stabbed him.
Of course, there are layers and layers of wrong to dig through in this story. First off, I know low-level gang members aren’t necessarily the sharpest knives in the drawer (pun definitely intended), but how in the world do you A.) not recognize that a guy is using sign language and B.) jump to the conclusion that since you don’t know what he’s doing with his hands, he must be part of a rival gang. I mean, if he was, shouldn’t you know which gang based on the signs he was supposedly flashing?
But even if he was flashing gang signs, this would still be a ridiculous crime. The whole notion of one group of people “claiming” a particular piece of turf while also claiming superiority over another group of people is one of the most juvenile and asinine behaviors you could possibly be involved in.
To prove your superiority and defend your self-defined boundaries by beating up anybody who might not be on your side is just silly. It reeks of insecurity, intolerance and, at a deeper level, a complete devaluation of human life.
We know this. We recognize it in a story like this. This is a case of a man going about his everyday affairs, minding his own business and being brutally attacked by another man who wrongly assigned meaning to the deaf man’s actions. In short, he misread the signs.
Unfortunately, this colossal misinterpretation of basic information is not confined to high school drop-outs and drug runners. This “condition” is actually a pandemic among supposedly serious people – people of power, people of influence. We live in a time and place where we are ready to stone anyone who does anything that we construe as not being 100% on-board with our ideas.
Consider the whole “Deport Pierce Morgan” movement. Here’s a guy who happens to disagree with our current gun laws, who has a platform from which to voice that disagreement and financial impetus to do so and who, at much risk to himself (you don’t want to anger the folks with guns) decided to put his opinion out there.
Now, whether you agree or disagree with him, surely we can all agree that one of the great things about this country is the First Amendment to our constitution (the one just before the Second Amendment), which gives people the right to speak freely – to give their opinions on any number of issues without fear of arrest, imprisonment or – yes – deportation. The idea that we would deport someone for disagreeing with us is as ridiculous as stabbing a deaf man for using sign language.
At the end of the day, we live in a country where Pierce Morgan and gun rights advocate Alex Jones are both free to speak their minds about guns and gun control – even if they sound crazy doing it. I’m fine with that. In fact, that is part of the bedrock of our nation. I don’t have to agree with either of them (and I don’t), but an America that ceases to allow public discourse is decidedly un-American.
If you want to keep gun rights the way they are, that’s great. Speak up. Speak out. Let your Senators and Congressmen and women know how you feel. If you feel otherwise, that’s great, too. Make your voice heard. We live in a country where politicians are more concerned about getting reelected than they are about doing the right thing (whatever you think that may be), so if you want to change their mind, convince them that you’ll change your vote.
In the midst of it all, remember that even the person with whom you vehemently disagree is still a human being, that they have reasons for thinking and saying what they do and that, in most cases, if you actually listen to them, you might learn a thing or two. Whatever you do, think about the deaf man and the gang thug before you decide to pick up a metaphorical kitchen knife and start stabbing away at anyone who thinks, speaks or acts differently than you. That’s what grownups do.