Me, six years ago:
When we react with anger to someone else, we’re generally trying to teach them a lesson. A judge once told me that anger is usually the result of either a loss of control or a perceived loss of dignity; I think that he got it right. When we try to teach another person a lesson, we’re trying to show them that they can’t take away our control or dignity and get away with it.
President Obama, nine days ago:
This attack is an assault on human dignity.
Me, five years ago:
“I’ll show him!” That’s the retributive impulse in a nutshell, isn’t it? The desire, when someone angers us by making us feel a loss of control or a perceived loss of dignity, to regain control and dignity by “teaching him a lesson”?…
It drives prosecutors to put people in prison (hold them accountable! teach them a lesson!), it causes domestic assaults, and it results in road-rage incidents.
The President, nine days ago:
…I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons….
Me, from the 2007 post:
What is road rage but an effort to teach the other guy a lesson? Driver A makes a mistake, and driver B feels a loss of control. So Driver B then flips driver A off, and driver A feels a loss of dignity. So Driver A brake-checks driver B, and Driver B feels a loss of both control and dignity. So Driver B runs Driver A off the road, and Driver A feels a loss of control and dignity as well. Soon someone is getting shot on the median and someone is getting charged with murder. These things tend to turn brutally expensive for everyone involved really quickly.
And that’s what the President wants to get us into in Syria. Except of course the consequences will be much more brutally expensive than any run-of-the-mill road rage.
All because his dignity got a little bruised.
Congress would do well to heed a little street wisdom:
Even if the odds are more even, though, being the aggressor in a road-rage incident is a bad idea. Unless you plan to stay in your car and shoot the guy who has deprived you of your precious dignity (a good way to get indicted), you’re either going to (A) damage your car while damaging his (explain that to your insurance company. and your wife); or (B) get out of your car and risk getting your stupid self run over (if you get out of your car, in my view the other driver should reasonably assume that you are carrying a gun and intending to use it on him). There is little upside to a road-rage incident. It’s much cheaper to swallow your pride and go home.