Forum: Must expressing ‘freedoms’ infringe on those of others?

Loudmouth louts with louder music spoiled a family camping weekend. A polite request made it worse.

By Tyler Rourke / Herald Forum

Our family recently embarked on a multi-day camping trip to Baker Lake, and we felt fortunate to secure a favorite campsite on a secluded peninsula in the wilderness. The family that snagged the site next to us was very friendly, they had a son the same age as one of ours, and over the weekend we discovered that we had a lot in common. It’s always great to come away from a vacation with new friends, and we hope to connect for another camping trip or a meal in the future.

Across the bay was another camp site, and it was occupied by what I’ve come to recognize as some of today’s typical red-blooded, white-skinned, post-Trump era Americans. These were the types who would have been aggressively driving obnoxiously oversized pickup trucks, except that we were on a lake so they were aggressively driving an obnoxious boat instead. Aside from having a very loud engine, and despite swimming children, kayakers and fishermen nearby, it also had a very loud speaker system. This was used to fill all of nature with the most banal music we could possibly hope not to hear. They even played Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American,” which induced a mixture of cynical laughter, pained groaning, and depressed silence among our cohort.

As much as we were all disappointed to have our freedoms to swim peacefully, and to simply enjoy the sounds of nature trampled upon by their louder freedoms, having deliberately chosen one of the few remaining places that might allow a person to maintain a little hope of some distance from one’s fellow idiots, none of this was really a big deal.

After a day of speaking loudly over a mix of the Beastie Boys and Bon Jovi, two women from our side kayaked over and approached the proud slobs, politely and very diplomatically asking if they would consider alternating between silence and music once in a while. This was met not only with foul language and an increase in volume in response to their more than reasonable request, but also with additional verbal harassment of everyone camping on the peninsula all weekend long, including bedtimes and mornings as they sped off before dawn to presumably catch fish. Their word choices can be left to your imagination.

In my mind, I pictured myself walking over to their camp while they were out fishing, putting rocks into their tents and sleeping bags, and sending their entire campsite to the bottom of the lake. I wanted to hurt them because they were senseless, mean people who were ruthlessly bullying us without any cause or provocation.

Instead, I did nothing, and the reason for that is simple. Guns. These are the kinds of people who have guns, and I knew that any confrontation including even a rational expression of shock and disappointment at their behavior could put the lives of my friends and family at risk. The only options were to do nothing, or make it deadly, and I simply have too much to lose. This is a dynamic that plays out all the time, and I’m tired of sharing the world with aggressive morons such as these. I believe that in America we’re currently breeding psychopaths in unprecedented numbers.

On the topic of guns, while some of our politicians may tell us the government is not going to come after your guns, I, for one, hope it will. I say this as a gun owner myself: I hope the government takes every last one of our guns, because as soon as we all have a reasonable expectation that you don’t have one, you’re going to learn to be more polite. We’ll have an even footing, your behavior will be challenged when you step out of line, and that will make the world a better place.

Switching topics to race, gender, sexual orientation, and any other human trait that has ever been used as an excuse for unprovoked vitriol, threats and violence, particularly by white men in America, for whatever it’s worth to those who have been targeted by this kind of hatred, I’m sorry for what you’ve endured and continue to endure. I recognize that my privilege as a white male in this country has provided tremendous insulation against these kinds of actions.

Getting back to my unpleasant countrymen across the bay, I want to thank you for lighting a fire in my belly, and for giving us something to bond over with our neighbors. We found it unfortunate that our interaction with you was such a negative experience, but we’re stronger now and more motivated toward action against those who act the way you do.

The paper’s only going to print two of my last three words so I hope that if you can read, you can also read between the lines. Go yourself.

Tyler Rourke lives in Everett.

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