Martian thoughts about a confrontation in NW Portland

I can’t stop thinking about this post. I saw it Sunday, on /r/Portland, and read it, and lots of the comments, both from the original poster, and others arguing against him or praising his actions.

In the vast majority of those comments (827 as I post these words) I didn’t see my own thoughts reflected. But maybe my point of view is so different from those around me that they might as well be from Mars.

The OP clearly states, in the post and further comments, that he feels powerless and vulnerable. More than anything else, he wants to feel safe. From his post, he’s threatened by the man he drew on, of course, but also by the petty criminals, tweakers, and homeless people he sees all over his neighborhood. But even more so, he’s disgusted and powerless against the mayor, city government, and law enforcement.

But he’s also a man who plays by the rules. He pays his rent, and his taxes. He works within the rules of his neighborhood and building management. And, again, in his own words, he has tried to soothe that fear by buying guns. 40 of them, over the course of years; he admits to only owning 12 right now. He’s followed the law in getting a concealed handgun license (CHL), and from his words it’s clear he’s knowledgable about how and when to use deadly force.

He’s staying inside the lines, but he sees those lines being ignored by people everywhere; both the authorities, and the common citizens. So he still feels powerless, and vulnerable. And that is not a good way to feel. No one should feel that way.

And so, in the Pearl District, while he was out walking his dog, a man rode quickly past him on a bike, the OP reacted as if he’d been wounded, and a confrontation happened.

I’m glad that no one involved was physically injured or killed. I’m happy that all three of them (let’s not forget there was a dog involved, a labrador/whippet) walked away.

The reason the OP cites for not actually pulling the trigger, despite the training he received that drilled in to him the idea that he should not even draw if he is not willing to fire, despite his training to shoot to kill if he’s going to shoot at all, despite his fear being enflamed by the actions he describes, is that he was too, yes, afraid: afraid of being second-guessed by society, law enforcement, and the media.

I’m not going to second-guess him. I don’t know what happened, exactly. I am far from an expert on gun laws or even the kind of training given to those who feel the need or desire to carry a handgun. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you either know about my own feelings on the topic or you’re just a couple of clicks away from finding out. But here, that’s not my point.

In contrast to the OP’s dehumanizing language, though, I bet that the man who had a gun pointed at him also feels powerless and vulnerable. I know I’m speculating here, but it’s just for a moment, just for this paragraph. I bet that bike-riding man feels just as abandoned by society. But because of the different paths each man has taken through life, they each express that deep fear and loathing in different ways.

One goes riding through the streets of one of the richest, most developed neighborhoods in the city, screaming and yelling, ready for a fight.

The other walks his dog, a gun at his side, wishing the police or government would do something about the petty crime, ready for a fight.

We’ve alienated both of them. We need both of them, and so many more, back.