In Texas, a 62-year-old man pulled over on the highway to help a couple whose truck had run out of gas. While he was assisting, the Good Samaritan apparently objected to the demeaning way the 31-year-old husband was addressing his wife, and said so. The husband then attacked the older man…who drew his concealed gun and shot him in the shoulder.
1. Stopping to help the couple was a generous and ethical act. As with any time one trusts strangers, it involved some level of risk. Still, it was the right thing for the older motorist to do, a pure Golden Rule decision.
2. When anyone sees someone being abused or mistreated, whether it is a stranger or not, he or she should register an objection, and if the abuse is egregious, intervene to the extent necessary to protect the abused. For example, my wife has confronted mothers who have physically assaulted small children in public. This is ethical conduct, and is a social and human obligation. It also involves risk (as my wife has discovered), since people who are abusive to those weaker than themselves often are disrespectful of others generally and prone to violence. The older man was correct to object to the husband’s verbal abuse of his wife.
3. Attacking a motorist who has stopped to help you for any reason is the mark of a jackass; attacking someone for insisting on courteous conduct toward others is the mark of a mega-super-jackass-jerkwad, with jimmies on top. This is not ethical conduct.
4. Defending oneself when one has been attacked by a man 30 years younger for nothing more than an appropriate reprimand is justified. Doing so with a licensed firearm, used in a non-lethal manner, may also be justified. Ethics has little to do with it.
5. The incident reeks of Moral Luck. The Good Samaritan did everything right, and yet the people he tried to help are worse off, and he may end up being charged with using excessive force. Nevertheless, he did the right thing, twice. The fact that it all spun out of control does not mean what he did was any less right. Bad luck turned a generous and ethical act into a fiasco.
Lesson: Doing the right thing doesn’t always result in desirable results, and proactive ethical conduct often has risks. This is, in part, what Theodore Roosevelt was referring to when suggested that those who would accomplish great things should “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
Especially in Texas.