When I first heard about the shooting of Bradley Odens up in Brookings, I thought, "Well, that's what you get for breaking into houses." Brookings County States Attorney Clyde Calhoon appears to agree, as he has declined to press charges for what he has deemed a justified killing.
As I read a little more about Odens, I'm inclined to see this incident less in terms of manly justice and more in terms of just plain sadness. Odens wasn't a thug; he was drunk. He was a typical college kid. He sang in the SDSU Concert Choir. He wanted to combine music somehow with his electronic engineering major. He looked like Abraham Lincoln, his friends say, and on a choir trip to D.C., he bought a top hat on a whim and did impromptu impersonations of the 16th President.
And he's dead now, because he went drinking, drank so much that he couldn't recognize his own house.
Grim irony: at a benefit scheduled for today to help the Odens family cover funeral costs, well-wishers can pay $10 for unlimited drinks from the beer kegs. We celebrate a life by saying, "Drink all you want!" which is exactly why we lost that life.
I can't help thinking that if Odens had just been on a bender with pot and come stumbling up to the wrong front step, he'd still be alive. The armed and trembling owner would have said, "This isn't your house!" and an herbal stoner would have said, "Whoa, dude, you're right. Thanks," and wandered hazily off to his own place.
We ban pot, but we build industry and tax revenue on alcohol, which gets South Dakotans killed, beaten, pregnant, and otherwise messed up on an all-too-regular basis. (Nationwide, alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes.)
I have little tolerance for pot or beer. I'd just as soon ban both as legalize both. But what we really need to address is a culture that glorifies alcohol and mindlessness. Why do we as a society transmit the message to our youth that the proper and manly way to enjoy yourself socially is to surrender your reason and will to mind-altering substances? Is it really that hard to enjoy reality the way it is?
Had I been the trembling homeowner on the other side of the door, had I said, "Stop or I'll shoot!" and the tall stranger outside chosen to keep coming, my lack of faith in my judo as well as the keen awareness of the other people behind me in the house likely would have led me to pull the trigger, too. But I'm glad I don't have to live with the fact that I did... or that I did because of nothing more than the mindless consumption of alcohol.
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