A Purse And A Protest: How One Word Can Lead To Murder

What does a dinner party, my purse, and religious preference have in common with the 2020 protests? Both show just how quickly a single incident can spiral out of control and into murder. 
I attended a dinner party at a friend’s home and naturally brought my purse. I locked it in my car’s trunk as I carry my gun in my purse (with my legal permit). The get-together consisted of my hosts, friends, and acquaintances. The crowd was small, with much laughter.
Because we all knew one another, it felt comfortable to discuss usually “hot” topics. One of my acquaintances, Pat (not their real name), began asking about religion, and each person presented their religious preferences as we munched snacks. A few people laughed, sharing stories about religious upbringings. “What religion are you?” Pat asked me.
“I’m agnostic,” I said, going for a nacho.
“Well, fuck you!” Pat blazed.
It became deathly quiet, then my host graciously changed the conversation before I had a chance to add “agnostic” is not “atheist,” and I believe all religious beliefs are right for the believers unless the religion is used to hurt and demoralize people. The topic was dropped and left to lie there.
But it didn’t have to be. 
Had the conversation continued, it could have turned into a tragedy so quickly. I could have responded to Pat’s verbal attack. Our words flying at one another, intending to hurt, fuel to a bonfire: “Oh yeah? Fuck you, too!” “You must hate God!” “That’s not what ‘agnostic’ means, stupid!”
The other guests would have tried to shush us, for the sake of social order, but words unchecked often lead to physical violence: shoving, slapping, punching. When words do not affect, and humans still intend to harm, to protect our ego, physical violence is the next resort. When words fail, animals act (think of two battling lions; first, there are the snarls, growls, and roars, and finally claws and jaws.).
To protect everyone around us, and ourselves, Pat and I would have been held apart by our friends because they care about our safety. (Had we been strangers in neutral territory, perhaps we would have been encouraged; sides would have been taken. Someone would be recording our altercation on their cellphone, no doubt.) 
Continuing with the scenario: pulled apart now, Pat and I have suffered blows to our ego that have gone unresolved. I  struck a nerve in Pat’s childhood history, or something deeper, something that pierced Pat’s soul: prejudice, self-esteem, old anger that just needed a nudge to awaken. And I would have been angered, embarrassed that I was called out in front of my peers, unnecessarily cursed, and upset that someone I believed an ally has so quickly turned against me. Something in Pat’s quick, hateful retort against my core value would have hurt me, and I could not forgive or forget.
Cocktails were available at this gathering; had Pat and I been drinking, our senses and judgments would have been skewered. No illegal drugs were involved. Had this been a factor, the scenario would have different consequences.
Pat and I are mature adults, and both have had to grow up quickly because of our upbringing. We are no longer youthful, thinking life will last forever, and there are no consequences to our actions. Sure, we can be irrational and make dumb decisions like all humans do; it’s just not our norm.
But, had all these factors not come into play, the end of this story would have ended in tragedy. Had Pat and I been emotionally immature, under the influence, began a verbal argument, turned it physical, and then walked away from one another with feelings left smoldering, I would have felt unjustified. I would have felt as if Pat failed to hear me out and judged me without trying, embarrassing me in front of my peers to make me look stupid and small. To avenge myself and keep my dignity - winning this argument - I could have gone to my purse to retrieve my gun, returned to Pat, and ended it forever. 
This is an example of how a peaceful protest turns into a riot. 
First, a crowd is trying to explain themselves, their belief. A second party – a person, a group, an
organization – either does not or appears not to be, listening; this party doesn’t seem to care. When words fail, we animals act. Strangers in neutral territory, banding together for the same cause, are more likely to follow one another. Should anyone in the crowd be emotionally immature, under the influence, the escalation to violence will be faster. The people in this crowd have suffered blows to their ego that have gone unchecked: childhood trauma, anger, hurt, any feeling they need to express that has been sleeping. Like a tea kettle, the pressure has been building; all it needs is action to set it off. Maybe someone throws a bottle or a firecracker, or a police officer pushes a protester. There is a high potential for the initial disagreement to turn deadly. 
Of course, I did not fetch my purse to shoot Pat at the party. And I did explain my religious values to Pat and the others, who respected my feelings. Later, we would laugh about it. We all eventually left the party promising to meet up again soon, safe and happy.
Currently, our city streets are teeming with people who need to be heard and explain. There are both protesters and rioters. Some of my readers understand why these people are doing what they do. Other readers are angry and hurt at their actions. One fact we all understand: people have lost their lives during these protests and riots. No matter what side you are on, let’s leave the end violence locked away in a trunk if there is a side at all. Because we all want to leave safe and happy eventually.

Purse photo is labeled free usage and can be found on https://www.neimanmarcus.com

BLM Protest photo image was originally posted to Flickr by The All-Nite Images at https://www.flickr.com/photos/7278633@N04/15305646874. It was reviewed on 30 January 2015 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.