Listen to a family's grief.
"The world on Tuesday lost a truly wonderful human being in Jay Boughton," said his brother-in-law, Stephen Robinson."Jay was a great man."
Boughton was the youth coach and dad who was killed by gunfire in an apparent road-rage incident last week on Hwy. 169. Driving home from a game with his teenage son, he was shot by someone in another vehicle. He died a short time later, and authorities are looking for clues to his assailant's identity.
"This is the world we live in, people," Robinson said through tears. "Is this the world we want to pass to our children? Is it? Is it?"
No. It's not. And it is no slight to Boughton to point out that this is only one of the ways in which our world is falling short.
David Castro, 17, was killed on July 6 in Houston, also by gunfire, also following a road-rage encounter. Patrick Earl met a similar fate in Illinois last month, as did 6-year-old Aiden Leos in California in May.
Driving — with or without gunfire — is increasingly dangerous in Minnesota and elsewhere. Traffic fatalities are rising at an alarming rate. More and more road-rage incidents involve guns. And judging from the anecdotal evidence of our own eyes, motorists here in Minnesota are behaving with diminishing regard for courtesy and the rule of law.
Even so, what happened to Jay Boughton feels ominous, like a harbinger of social decline on a new and frightening level. Such incidents shock us. But why?
Have we forgottenTyesha Edwards, the 11-year-old killed while doing her homework at the dining room table, struck by a bullet fired from outside her house in 2002? Or, much more recently, Aniya Allen, 6, who died after being shot riding in a car with her mother? Or Trinity Ottoson-Smith, 9, shot while jumping on a trampoline? How is Boughton's killing different?
Maybe it has to do with our perception that road rage is a response to some sort of stimulus — that the rage is simply too much of an emotion that we have all felt at times. Somebody cuts us off or honks for no reason or makes a rude gesture, and we wish for an instant that we were vigilantes who could teach that punk a lesson. But there is no indication that Boughton did anything to provoke his attacker, and it would be outrageous victim-blaming to suppose that he did. Nothing justifies what happened.
There is something in the human capacity for adapting — for getting used to the unthinkable — that betrays us in moments like this. Jay Boughton's brother-in-law had the right reaction: This is not the world we want to leave our children. His response is authentic, heartfelt, sane. Not only is this not the world we want to leave to our children; we don't want to be the sort of people who get used to this.
AAA and Minnesota's Office of Traffic Safety offer safety tips for life on our Mad-Max-flavored roadways: Get out of the way. Avoid eye contact. Make no vulgar gestures. Limit use of your horn to polite taps instead of prolonged blasts. Signal your turns and allow other drivers to merge. Keep a safe distance from other cars.
These are steps we can take to reduce risk, but there is nothing we can do to make ourselves truly safe. None of this is the world we want to leave our children. None of it.