A loss of civility

Published 9:54 am Friday, March 23, 2012

The conviction of a Franklin man in connection with the beating of a husband and wife after a verbal encounter at Walmart is a cautionary tale for all of us as participants in an increasingly uncivil society.

Much has been — and will continue — to be made about the role of race in the ugly incident in December 2010. Khalid El-Amin Muhammad, convicted Tuesday of unlawful wounding and assault and battery, is black. The victims of Muhammad’s assault with a souvenir baseball bat are white. Only the three of them know whether racism motivated their cross words and physical violence that day. It’s useless and counterproductive for the rest of us to speculate.

What’s clear, however, is that a little self-control by all parties involved could have defused the situation before it turned ugly. Even in small towns like ours, folks are too uptight these days.

“Road rage” was the term coined a few years back as conflicts among motorists — from one-finger salutes to angry verbal outbursts — became commonplace. The same tension is evident now in checkout lines and at gas pumps.

We suspect that conflict among strangers is a product of the stressful times we live in. Economic hardship and domestic discord have a lot of folks on edge. As a result, little things set them off.

The moral of Muhammad’s conviction is that the consequences are steep when we speak or lash out before thinking. There’s much to be gained by taking a deep breath and letting life’s simple grievances pass without incident.