If I’ve learned anything during my brief stay on earth, it’s that people in moving cars who throw things at pedestrians are terrible marksmen.
While walking the other day, an old mini-pickup passed me, and a quarter zinged by my feet and ricocheted down the sidewalk. The truck was probably moving at about 35 mph, so the coin was going that fast plus the force of the arm that threw it. I imagined whoever threw the coin laughing and feeling very amused with themselves. I felt pretty vulnerable, wondering what kind of welt that quarter could have left, but I didn’t really feel mad. This is the third time I’ve had stuff thrown at me from moving cars, so I’m kind of used to it. And they always miss. And now I’m 25 cents richer.
But while talking about it later with my wife, I realized how dark this experience was. We are used to hearing about violence towards religious or racial minorities, and this is of course dark and evil. But I experienced an act of violence, though small and ultimately harmless, with no bias attached to it. I was targeted because I was a stranger, because I was an easy target, because it would be fun. This demonstrates that we don’t have to hate people to hurt them. This shows that we sometimes don’t think of strangers as breathing, feeling people, like ourselves. Strangers are expendable objects, target practice.
After the truck was on its way down the road and the quarter had come to rest, I picked it up and kept walking, and as I walked, I realized that this is what I want to fight with my writing. As long as people commit acts of violence, large or small, I will commit small acts of writing as a countermeasure. I won’t respond with anger. I’ll use empathy to tear down the invisible walls that make us strangers.