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Thursday, May 08, 2003

Slow Down, You're Gonna Kill Somebody! (Part II)

Tony Adragna
Yup, nowhere is safe for pedestrians. Indeed, the most unsafe place to cross a street is where you would think a pedestrian would be safest — a guarded crosswalk
Frederick, Md. (AP) - A West Frederick Middle School student was hit by a car and seriously injured this morning while she was crossing the street on the way to school.

Authorities say the girl was hit when the car didn't stop for a crossing guard at the crosswalk on West Patrick Street near the school.

The girl was flown to Children's Hospital in Washington for treatment.

Several other students who watched the girl get hit were so distraught, they went home early today.
I'm neither anti-car nor anti-driver — though, I will note that there's one roommate whom I always feel at ease riding with, but the other I will only ride with out of necessity. I just can't figure out what the hell is going on in the minds of some drivers in these situations — the some being those who end up causing injury & death where the conjuction of auto & flesh was so avoidable that the only accounting for it is reckless disregard ...

'Course, I'm focusing on the contest 'twixt pedestrian & driver 'cause that's my melieu. But I understand from my driving friends that in the melee they call a morning commute can be found the same type of behaviour in a contest between cars...

Slow Down, You're Gonna Kill Somebody!

Tony Adragna
Being a lifelong pedestrian/mass transit rider, I've no clue what happens to the human brain when the body it's attached to sits itself down in the driver's seat of an automobile. What I do know is that I'd be a fool to try claiming my right-of-way when a driver is determined not to yield...

This morning's trip to work was typical for the most part. I got off the train at Dupont Circle, walked over to 20th Street, and started my short trek down to M Street. Everything was wonderful...

Got to the corner of 20th & M and noticed 3 patrol cars and crime scene tape blocking off two lanes of M Street from the corner up to the entrance to my office. Then I notice the SUV stopped askew the two left lanes. Next I see a pool of blood next to an orange cone... What happened?

Well, the driver wanted to turn left from 20th onto M. The light was yellow, so the driver sped up to make the turn. In haste, the driver didn't notice a women halfway across the street in the crosswalk...

She's dead, he left the scene in the back seat of a police cruiser.

Then it rained.

I took a walk this afternoon, and what did I notice as I was crossing the street at 20th & M? Left turning drivers trying to beat pedestrians in a contest over right-of-way.

I think it makes much more sense for me to cross the street mid-block from now on — that way I've got at least half a block on the cars. I need that advantage, 'cause the cars'll win a head on fight anytime, rules-of-the-road be damned...

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Virtue is a Habit… But, so is Vice…

Tony Adragna
Good question on the Bill Bennett flap, and the correct answer from Catholic social teaching. But what does the church say about virtue?

The Catechism defines "virtue" as "an habitual and firm disposition to do the good", and "the virtuous person" as someone who "tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions." Can that be said of Bill Bennett?

I could go down the list of cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude & temperance — in a check-the-box type exercise, and conclude from that in at least one respect — his seeming lack of temperance at gambling — Bennett’s not all that virtuous.

But that seems to me the wrong approach to a test of character. Bennett is, after all, just a man who will, like all men, have some failing that marks him as imperfect as the rest of us. If, however, he "tends toward the good" — notwithstanding some personal failing — I think you could still say "He's a man of virtue."

Where I find fault with Bennett — and I find the same fault in much of the current criticism of Bennett — is a lack of Charity. The Catechism notes Paul's description of charity as
"patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."[1 Cor 13:4-7]
To Bennett's credit, he at least never expressed any schadenfreude at the moral failings of public officials. But, this constant refrain of "Bill Clinton's presidency [...] defining public morality down" always seemed to me overwrought in the same way concluding from Bennett's gambling that he's a hypocrite also goes too far.

[Before I get emails informing me that "lying under oath" is akin in no way to Bennett's legal gambling, note that Bennett holds up the Clinton presidency as giving "insights into how we view politics and power; virtue and vice; public trust and respect for the law; sexual morality and standards of personal conduct." That's a fairly broad playing field on which to assign a single administration blame for declining public morality — the U.S. lost its bauch long before Willie got a free hummer in the Oval Office]

Now, what about gambling? The only reservation I have in re the Catholic church's teaching on gambling [see #2413] is that it doesn't take a perfect stand against state promoted gambling [not that I think the church should start preaching the sinfulness of gambling — I just think the state has no business putting its grubby paws into the business of gambling, liquor sales, etc.]. Rather, read in the context of the rest of teaching, the church admonishes the state to beware the ill effects of gambling on addicts & the poor.

If the church is to find that a state should not get involved in gambling — because in current circumstances the social harm outweighs any benefit — then how does the church square itself with what ought be a similar application vis a vis bingo?[JohnMcG "think[s] stories like this are leading a lot of Catholics to wonder exactly how 'good' Church bingo is"]

Don't think the situations aren't equivalent — the states are getting into gambling for the same reason as did the church: Revenue. But, doesn't church bingo disproportianately tax the poor, much the same way that state run lotteries do? And the church has proven itself no less capable than the state at deliberately putting individuals into situations where temptation to sin — even grave offenses — may be overwhelming for someone who is especially disordered in some way — like being addicted to gambling.

This is something I'll hafta get some guidance on from my spiritual director — soon as we get together again for a friendly game of poker, that is...