The Reality of Prejudice

A young woman called one day to take me up on an offer. I knew that the company where she worked had given her and several other employees notice of impending layoffs. The company had been courteous and had tried to give their employees at least two weeks to line up other jobs. On a previous occasion, I had told the young woman that if she wanted help with her resume, or if she wanted moral support in looking for another job, that I would ride along or drive her to various companies to pick up applications and/or to hand out her resume.

She did not have a college degree, but she was professional and preferred working as an office aid or assistant at places such as lawyer’s offices, dentists, medical clinics, banks, insurance offices, etc. We made the rounds to places such as these. After one stop, she returned to the car with a scowl. I asked her what had happened. She said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever been discriminated against. I guess they don’t like _________.” (She named her particular ethnicity.)

My eyebrows raised. Whether or not the discrimination was real or perceived, it ruined her day. I could see the hurt and anger in her build. The rest of the afternoon had clouds over it, emotionally speaking. By midafternoon, she had handed out all of the resumes that she had prepared, and we decided to call it a day. I encouraged her to let go of the anger and resentment she had toward the individual who had treated her with aloofness and disrespect. She looked at me and said, “That’s easy for you to say. You’ve probably never been treated like that.” I carefully looked at her and said very seriously. “Yes, I have been, but it’s not who I am, and it’s not who you are.” I was concerned that this episode could sour her young life, and I didn’t want that for her. Prejudice is a long road to take, and it leads to a hellish end.

Later that day, my husband and I discussed the episode, and he said, “Well, some of what we call prejudice is just life. It happens.” I had to agree. But, his comment made me ponder on this particular problem in life.

I was fifteen years older than my young friend and had experienced either prejudice or forms of snobbery and unjust treatment on many occasions. I knew she had, too, but it had been closer to home, and she didn’t recognize it for what it was: I remembered my young friend’s difficulty in her relationship with her mother. Her mother treated my friend who was the oldest child with much less affection than she treated the two younger children who were boys. This had been a point of pain for my young friend.

I realized that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice are all fruits of the same, rotten tree.

In the family, if you are treated with less fairness than your siblings, then we call this treatment by parents toward their children “favoritism”. In some families, one child is the “golden child” and the rest are ignored or treated with less favor. Or, in some families, one child is ignored, abused or neglected, while the others are treated with favor. In a society where most of the people share the same ethnicity and culture, if you are treated with less fairness by your own people, then we call it “snobbery”. The word “prejudice” typically comes in when it is applied to a person who is of different gender, ethnicity, or culture. Prejudice is typically a stranger-on-stranger action. For some reason, we, as a culture, find this more appalling than we do parental favoritism or societal snobbery; however, favoritism and snobbery typically cause much more long term psychological difficulties for a person than does prejudice by strangers.

I believe that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice come from four possible sources: 1) negative experience with a particular person; 2) information about a particular person from someone whom we consider credible; 3) a sense of superiority that produces a dislike of a particular person based on appearances or social factors; 4) a dislike for a certain people group that has no basis in either personal experience or first-hand knowledge, but is more ingrained, like a belief system, i.e. dislike for women in general, dislike for men in general; therefore, even if you don’t know the individual standing before you, because he/she belongs to a particular people group, you have a dislike of him or her personally.

Additionally, I concluded that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice produce dislike of individuals based on three basic categories: 1) What they are (genetically—how God made them and what family and nation they were born into); 2) How they are (culturally—how their culture has shaped their mannerisms, appearance, and speech); 3) What they do (personally–what they themselves, as individuals, act out in their lives regarding their belief system/religion/world view/life style/habits/actions).

I began to ponder on some of the ways I had experienced favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice by my fellow human beings. Looking back, I had to be honest and admit that some of the dislike that others had demonstrated toward me may have been caused by my attitude and demeanor. Other acts of favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice had, indeed, been inflicted upon me unjustly. I remember one day being treated frightfully badly by a man who was intoxicated at his place of work. As a representative of another company, I had shown up to discuss some matters with him. He yelled and cursed, and ordered me out of his place of business, stating that he wasn’t going to talk to “No God-________ woman.” I thanked God that I wasn’t damned, after-all, and just kept right on going. I don’t think we ever did business with him or his company again.

The truth is, some people are simply not going to like you. They can and do come up with all kinds of reasons. On the flip side, you may be treated better than someone else, simply because of race, gender, national origin, etc. One story that comes to mind was when I was traveling overseas. The people in whose country where I was a guest could not tell by looking at me what nationality I was. They had to see my papers or hear me speak to pinpoint my national origin. Because of my nationality, they often favored me over some people who looked like me but who came from different countries or different parts of the world. With my passport, I could pass easily between checkpoints. Other people who looked just like me but who sounded different or who had different national origin were often detained and harassed. There was a bias in that region for/against various nationalities, and I happened to be on the “favored” list. It could easily have been the opposite for me.

Bias can come for/against someone for many other reasons, such as, choice of church attendance, chosen profession, economic level, political views, and education level. The list can go on and on. The reasons others choose not to get to know someone or to X someone out of their lives can be infinite. But, guess what? It happens. The best response is to move on, courteously.

My personal opinion is that if a person has displayed no cause for alarm (his or her behavior does not indicate that you need to keep your distance), then treating him or her with less dignity than you would anyone else simply because of his or her gender, ethnicity, economic level, etc. seems trite and petty. In some cases, it can cause more prejudice to occur, and the ball just keeps rolling.

Having said that, I can completely understand the preference to mingle with certain groups and the preference not to mingle with certain other groups. Living in the rural countryside, I look at nature a lot and learn many life lessons from it. Where I live, one may often see multiple types of livestock in the same pasture. Most of the time, the cows will hang with the cows; the horses will hang with the horses; and the goats will hang with the goats. That’s okay. That’s natural. However, when the goats start denying the horses pasture rights, and the cows start denying the goats drinking rights, then we have a problem. It’s perfectly okay not to want to mingle with someone or a group of someones. But, to treat them with disdain or to deny them human dignity is another matter. One would hope that such things are relegated to grade school, but alas, they are not. They occur at family reunions, class reunions, community meetings, church gatherings, political gatherings, and many other venues where otherwise rational adults meet.

If you are on the receiving end of a mild prejudiced act or attitude, remembering who you are and Who your Maker is should bring things back into focus after an unjust hurt has been inflicted upon your psyche or person in the form of prejudice. However, if the prejudiced attitude is justified because of an action or attitude on your part, then it is best to do some soul searching and try to remove the stumbling block that perhaps others are falling over.

Obviously, forms of favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice can run the gamut from mild to severe. In some cases, a mild dislike of a person or people group is all that surfaces; in other cases, assault, terrorization, or murder can result. This can be true of a domestic situation in which a spouse or child is the targeted victim. This can be true of societal bullying or snobbery, in which a member of “one’s own people group” is the victim. This can be true of racial or cultural episodes where strangers or people outside of one’s own people group are targeted.

Can prejudice be eradicated? I wish it could be, but realistically, let me ask you, “Can you force your daddy to treat you as well as he treats your brother or your sister? Can you force your mamma to think of you and do little things for you like she does your sister or your brother? Can you force your classmates and community members to include you in their cliques and clubs? Can you force a stranger to acknowledge that you are a child of God, just like he is? This problem runs to the core of who we are as sinners. It is the mentality of, “Me and Mine, and Down with Everyone Else.” Prejudice against a member of the family first occurs in the home; prejudice against a community member occurs in schools, churches, and shopping centers right in the heart of where you live, against “your own people.” As grievous as stranger on stranger prejudice is, it causes far less damage than what we do to each other at family reunions, class reunions, church gatherings, social events, and political venues.

My young friend who had experienced the emotional pain of prejudice that day when we were handing out resumes was able to move on. The next day, a company who valued her skill level and her professionalism, and who recognized that she could be an asset to their business called, and she gained employment virtually right away. She is now a dental hygienist and very happy in her career. She doesn’t seem to have a chip on her shoulder, and I have never seen her treat others with less dignity because of their natural born (God given) place of birth, gender, or ethnicity, or their economic status in this world. She remembers that there is a world to come, and she must answer to God for how she treats others in the here and now.

 

 

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A Godly Moral Compass that Regulates both Private and Public Affairs

We have noticed a trend that seems to have escalated in the last few years. This trend troubles both Sarah and me. We believe that a capitalist based economy is the best economic form for a society. Capitalism not only rewards hard work, ingenuity, creativity, etc., but it encourages it.  I stand to reap the economic rewards for my efforts and creativity; therefore, I have a reason to excel and achieve in the marketplace, much like an athlete has a reason to excel or achieve in his or her chosen sport. If I run the fastest in a race, I am rewarded with a 1st place ribbon or trophy. Actually, that held more true when I was a kid in the days before “participation trophies”; but that is another subject for another time. But I’ll just say that, if in the Olympics, everyone only received participation medals, the games wouldn’t be the same.

While we believe that capitalism is the best economic form, it needs to be kept closely in check by another force. That force is not government, because government is not capable of the task.  Only one entity is capable—it is He who imparts us with the ability to govern ourselves and our actions. I am speaking of God and the Godly moral compass He imparts to his followers.   Without a Godly moral compass or governor, capitalism over time becomes controlled by greed, which results in dishonesty, selfishness, and a list of other vices. These vices, in turn, create all kinds of misery for society at large. Does any of this sound familiar? Has anyone reading this experienced any unscrupulous marketing or business practices of late? This is the trend that we were speaking of earlier. It has always been around, but it is escalating in mainstream, and even small town America. Why? Because we have removed God from most of our society; hence we have removed the Godly moral compass that should keep our business practices in check. Without this governor, our business practices become ruled by profits and bottom lines. If we remove regard for God’s laws and compassion for humanity from the equation, price gouging doesn’t exist, neither would deceptive marketing. It would be about a business extracting as much money as possible for the least amount and least quality of a product or service as possible. Sound familiar? Because we have deemed ourselves too good for God, we now live in a world of escalating deceptive advertising, deceptive packaging, and deceptive pricing of products that are often shrinking in quality and size, all in an attempt to maximize profits. We have lost our Godly moral compass of what is right. While you might expect this type of behavior from the world at large, sadly many people who attend church and claim to follow Christ have developed the attitude that church is  church, and business is business, and they need to be as profitable as possible: it is just good business. God has become compartmentalized; He no longer has complete rule of our lives. We have become out of control. We have in essence removed ourselves from the principle stated in the Scripture passage, 1 Cor. 10:31, which states, “whatever we do, do unto the glory of God.”

Why can’t government step in to remedy this situation? Simple: because without a Godly moral compass, Government is just as corrupt as the businesses they are supposed to keep in check. In our society, “government” is a group of elected or appointed individuals, most often from within our own communities. There is no such thing as a mysterious entity called “government” absent the people. Government, is, in its very essence, people who are in positions to govern. Some societies choose a monarchy and are ruled by royal families. Some societies are prone to dictatorships and are governed at the point of a sword or gun. But, even in those situations, it is still people who are in a position to govern. In our society, those who govern are most often chosen through an election process and are consequently put in charge “at the consent of the people” to manage public affairs. However, they can, and often do, go awry with the power with which they are entrusted. We must return that internal governor of God awareness in order for both private and government affairs to be fair, just, honest, and effective. Otherwise, the strongest one wins, the one with the most money, power, influence, or intimidation techniques runs over the “governed”, and it most certainly does not represent the ideal of “with the consent of the governed.”

“They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

I was seated at an outdoor restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk. My date had been thoughtful and had chosen an upscale and picturesque venue. He ordered wine and made light conversation. He was in his mid 30’s and was a professor at a university. I was in my mid 20’s and was writing for a publishing company. Both of our professional futures had promise.

Soon, the conversation turned more serious, and he asked me if I would date him exclusively, with marriage in mind, a little bit down the line. It wasn’t exactly a proposal, but it was a request for a more serious dating relationship with marriage being the goal in a few years.

I paused. I couldn’t fool myself or him. It just wasn’t there for me. He had everything a woman could want; just not this woman. I smiled. It was an awkward moment. I said, “No. I’m looking for something different. I just can’t commit to anything more serious.” He was a bit surprised. He was quite a catch, and he knew it. “Well, what do you want?” He asked, taken aback. I sighed. What did I want? I could feel it, but could I articulate it?

While in college, I had attended a church where I had met a married couple who made a profound impression on me. They were in their 50s at the time. Their children were older than I was and were out of the home. My senior year in college, I was looking for a place to live closer to the university I was attending, instead of having a long commute. I refused to live on campus and had never even considered it. My mother suggested that I ask the couple I so admired if they would rent a room to me. While at Bible study one evening, I mentioned it to the woman. She was delighted and made me feel very welcome. I moved in without delay. They treated me like a daughter and would not take rent money from me. Over the course of the year or so that I was there, I witnessed an amazing marital relationship—such as I had never seen—it was one of love and devotion, respect, fun-loving jabs and retorts, laughter, and eye-rolling at “honey do’s”. It was real. There were no pretenses. She adored him, and he was her everything. He loved her more than he loved himself, and it showed. I subconsciously tucked these things away, not knowing that I had observed in them a standard that no one whom I would date from then on could live up to. I could not get over it. I had to have that, or I would have nothing. I didn’t mind being single. But, being in a pretentious marriage was more than I could bear.

On the Riverwalk that night, when the professor asked me what I wanted, I found myself describing a man that somewhat fit into an old western movie: I wanted a gentleman who said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ I wanted someone who was at ease with either presidents or peasants. I wanted someone with a plain name—John, Tom, or Sam, or something like that—I didn’t want someone named Wellington, Davenport, or Piccadilly. I wanted someone who was confident in who he was and who didn’t obsess in the mirror over his hair gel. I wanted someone who would give you the shirt off his back and who worried more about pleasing God than padding his bank account. I wanted someone whose ‘Yes’ meant ‘Yes’ and whose ‘No’ meant ‘No.’ I didn’t want someone who squabbled over insignificant details and differences. I wanted a self-made man, not a company man or a union man. I wanted a one-woman man—his heart had to be true toward me, and he had to genuinely love me.

My list included a few more items along these lines. My date interrupted me often as I talked. He didn’t agree with me. I had named nothing of ‘importance’ in his mind that made a good marriage: career, social connections, family connections, ambition, politics, religion. “Besides,” he said, “they don’t make them like that anymore. You are describing a throw-back, not a modern man. I’ll bet you can’t even name anyone like that—except maybe your grandpa.” I smiled. No, not even my grandpas (both of whom were deceased) fit this description.

Months later, when God saw fit, He introduced me to the man who would become my husband. Ironically, he was so real, that he once told me that I was a “little snot” who was spoiled and bratty. And he was right. I was selfish and lost in my own little selfish world. My ideals had not met reality, even in myself. For three years we were simply “friends”. I dated; he dated. We would get together and talk about our dates. We admitted one time that whenever we were on a date with someone else, we thought about how much more fun we had together instead of with others. We talked about what we really wanted in a spouse. One day, it hit us. What were we doing? It was right in front of us. He was the first one to broach the subject. Would I consider going on an actual date with him? I said that I was afraid to mess up what we had. It was so good and so real. I said that maybe we could try it. That night, he kissed me. That was it. It was real, and we knew it. Two months later, we were married. That was thirteen years ago this month. He is still the man of my dreams, and so much more. They do still make them like that. But, they are rare. I’m so blessed to have one of those rare models.

Who Decides Right and Wrong?

I have stated many times that man or humanity cannot deem what is right or wrong; it can merely determine legalities according to the laws created by the morality of that society. Like it or not, only God determines right or wrong, and we as humans are subject to his decisions. Recently our nation has recognized the legality of same sex marriage, while it is now legal according to our laws and accepted by many as legitimate, these actions do not , I repeat do not, make it right. Why? As I stated before, God determines right and wrong.  We, as individuals, and as a collective (society), are not sovereign over God, but rather, are subject to Him. He does not have to accept our laws; we have to accept His.  God doesn’t have to accept something as right just because it is now legal in our country.

The strength, health and legitimacy of a society are really judged on how its laws align with God’s laws. If its legal system is based on God’s principles, all of that society’s judges and courts should be the same in determining right or wrong based on God’s stance not their political viewpoint. There is one standard. If the standard was followed, there would be not liberal or conservative judges with personal and political viewpoints coming in to play.

We tend to think of religion (following God’s way) or anti religion (against God’s way) along political lines—if someone is “liberal” he or she tends to be anti religion (not religious themselves and not friendly toward individuals and institutions who are); if someone is “conservative” he or she may be more religion friendly, if not also religious themselves. This is not always the case. Just because someone is “conservative” does not make them godly. In fact, there are such things as conservative atheists who are not hostile to religion but who do not espouse it themselves. There are “conservative” humanists and secularists who believe more in man’s power than God’s power. And, just because one is liberal, does not make one against God. Churches are full of Christians who tend to lean toward a liberal political viewpoint. One cannot be grouped merely by their political affiliation or their religious affiliation.

People on both sides and all along the political scale (from far left to far right) have ideas on what this country should look like in the future and where we should go from here. They have ideas of what laws we need to pass, what laws we need to abolish, and so on. When one side of the political scale gets their way and a law is passed, the other side weeps and mourns, proclaiming doom and gloom; when the other side gets their way in the political system, the first side proclaims that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The truth is, the only hope we have as a nation is to bring ourselves back in alignment with God. Try as we may, we will never bring God into alignment with us. We must be One Nation, Under God or we will become fragmented along the cracks that have already begun to develop in our society. As much as I urge my fellow countrymen to do so, sadly, I do not see us uniting under God. We will continue to try to unite under laws passed by man and man’s strength, which, in time, will result in a fractured nation that may or may not stay intact. In truth, our country now resembles a broken windshield—pieces of shattered glass barely held together and technically still in place, but obviously very broken. Again, our only hope of our nation’s repair is in God. This is achieved by giving Him His rightful place—Sovereignty over us.

The Scriptures are full of episodes in different nation’s existences that can be summed up best in this verse: Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” Throughout history, many nations have risen and fallen as the Lord has seen fit. He can call into existence a nation out of nowhere, and He can cause the mightiest nation to fall. It seems like the stronger a nation gets, the more independent of God it thinks it is. It becomes its own god and offers up a plethora of false deities to its masses to please different regions and groups.

I mentioned Psalm 33:12 in particularly to a man who attends church regularly and who identifies politically as both a Christian and a liberal Democrat. He said that he does not accept that verse because it implies that if the Lord God is not the God of our nation, we will not receive His blessings, and that’s not fair. This person’s beliefs toward God were that He is fair, and like a social program that doles out benefits equally to all, God should do the same. He (God) should not have preferences or dole out His blessings selectively to people who accept Him and follow His ways.

I was speechless. How can one argue with that (ill)logic?

Right now, our nation has many gods. But there is only One Sovereign God, and we seem to want any other god except Him. Ultimately, we want to be our own god.

In Article 3 of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” approved in 1789 by the French National Assembly, a statement reads, “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” This socialist, humanist, atheist world view governed the actions of the notable and infamous French Revolution. Clearly, they had become their own god. And, history tells us where that leads.

 

Am I Missing Something?

We have several friends who are opposed to securing our country’s borders. That is ok; they are entitled to their opinions.

What puzzles us about this stance is that the majority of them live in urban settings with their yards surrounded by privacy fences. Why do they have fences around their backyards? While discussing this with some friends, one woman suggested that perhaps the fences in city neighborhoods were to mark property lines, and without the fences, perhaps the property owners wouldn’t know where their property lines are. Okay, we’ll give her that one. She may have a point. But why a fence? Why not just mark the property line with a rope that people can easily pass under or step over?

And, why do most of these fences have gates that have latches and locks? Someone else suggested that maybe these fences are to keep in the pets or to keep a small child from wandering off onto the road. Okay. We’ll give him that one.

But, if the fence and the gate and the lock are to secure anything other than a pet, or if the fence, gate, and lock are for anything other than a child’s safety, what or whom are you, as the property owner, securing the backyard from?

Could it be to keep out uninvited persons who might just walk into your backyard? And, if so, could these uninvited persons pose a possible threat to property on the premises or persons living in the home? Could people who wander uninvited into your yard and home also be a possible threat to others living in the area?

Maybe the fence around your home is to keep unwanted/uninvited people out of your pool. What if the uninvited guests didn’t have a pool of their own? Shouldn’t they be able to use your pool? With or without your consent? When they want to? And bring as many of their family members and friends as they want to? Why or why not?

On this thought, why even put a fence around a public pool? Who cares whether the swimmers come in legally (paid their fee) or illegally (non-paying customers)—they just want to swim. Why shouldn’t they? After all, while they’re there, they may jump start the pool’s economy—they might buy something at the concession stand or put some quarters into the coke machine. They might even stay and clean the pool after hours, providing labor that no one else wants to do. But wait, if they don’t have to pay for the privilege of swimming in the pool, why should they pay for a soda or a snack? Why should they stay and clean up the pool they used illegally?

While not all of the friends we speak of have backyard fences and pools, they do have one thing in common—doors on their houses. Why do houses in this country typically have doors? The obvious answer is to make our homes weather proof—to keep out the wind and the rain, the hot and the cold. And, we are glad for doors on houses. But, why are there locks on the doors to these houses? We have had some pretty severe storms, but none required locking the doors to keep out the weather. Closing the door was adequate to keep out the weather. Why the lock? The obvious answer is that the lock is supposed to provide some form of protection to keep those inside the house safe. Safe from what? Not the weather.

If you lock your doors at night, for safety, to keep out unwanted, uninvited people who might intend you harm, wouldn’t that same principle hold true for our country? Could people who just walk into our country uninvited be a threat to us?

Maybe the people who came into your home uninvited didn’t intend you harm. They just wanted to watch your big screen. After all, they don’t have one. And maybe they just wanted to cook a steak on your grill. They just wanted something better than their own menu and equipment. They didn’t want to wait and take the necessary steps to purchase their own grill and steaks, so they decided to use your stuff. I don’t understand why that should upset you. After all, you didn’t get to where you are on your own, and, if you look closely at the package you are eating from and the utensils you are cooking with, I’ll bet you didn’t grow it/raise it or build it. It was built/made somewhere else. Maybe in the same place where these folks are coming from who just want to come in and use what you have.  Oh, but wait, you paid for and bought the items in your home. So, whether you built, grew, or raised these items yourself is immaterial. You paid for them. That makes them yours.

Maybe these people who wandered into your home uninvited just needed a can of green beans. And, it was easier to get one from your pantry than to go to the store. That should be okay with you, right?

We talked about locking the doors at night for personal safety. What about when you leave your home to go out, say for work, or to church, or anywhere? Do you lock the doors then? What person are you protecting then, if no one is home? Ah, it’s not about safety, now, is it? It’s about property. Unless you have that pesky property that has that nasty tendency to sprout legs and try to escape on its own unless you lock it in, you are protecting it from someone else entering your domain and taking your stuff. Our question is, if securing your home is prudent and considered okay to do, why is securing our country not?

Regardless of your political affiliation, we all understand the necessity of security. In some cities, tickets are even issued to homeowners who leave up garage doors and who leave unlocked houses or vehicles, thereby, “tempting” criminals and thieves who create a bigger work load for police departments and create bad statistics for the town’s crime rate, thus discouraging tourism. It’s bad for business all the way around. So, tell me again why securing our borders is a bad thing? We’re not locking them down—no one in or out. We are simply securing them against illegal activity. Isn’t that what you are trying to do for your home?

Life in “Big Town”—Robberies, Stabbings, Arson, and All

The other day when I posted an article about putting blame where it belonged in the mall shooting in San Antonio at Rolling Oaks Mall, I had intended to include this story as well. But, it is pretty long, so I saved it for a later post.

Around 1998-99, I was invited to Mesquite to display my products at a show inside Big Town Mall. I told the promoter of the show who had asked me to attend, “No thanks.”  It wasn’t a place where I wanted to spend four days. She kept telling me that it would be a great market for my products, and she would even sweeten the deal by assigning me a premium space next to the main entrance. She said it we be good for both of us. Reluctantly, I agreed to the show. I couldn’t see how it would greatly benefit me, but I had done other shows with her in other cities, and maybe she knew what she was talking about regarding Mesquite. But, I kept thinking that it just didn’t seem like my market.

As in most mall shows at that time, the set up time for vendors was after the mall closed on Wednesday. Set up went as usual, with no hiccups, taking a little over three hours. I had a great location, just as she had promised. It was right across from a shoe store next to the main entrance. I finished the last details on the booth and left the mall a little after midnight. I returned with optimism at about 8:30 a.m. ready for a day of activity.  A brief account of the next 4 days follows.

Day 1: After a slow morning of customer activity, around noon, I noticed a man running into the front entrance. As I watched him enter, he ran into a display of shoes that was directly across from me. Both the fugitive and the shoe display fell to the ground. He immediately got up and continued to run, but faster this time. The thought that went through my head was, “That’s kind of weird. So, he’s in a hurry, but it looks like he would have helped pick up the shoes.” While my mind was still processing this, a couple of police officers came running in as well. I thought, “There’s my answer. Probably a shop lifter.” A few seconds later, all of the security gates on the mall stores began to drop. The mall went into lock down.

My display booth was in the middle of the isle. I had no gates to drop. Nowhere to go. And, I had no idea what was going on. I approached the employee who was locking up the shoe store and asked, “What is going on?” He stated, “There was a bank robbery somewhere around here, and they have chased the armed robbers into the mall. One of them was the one who knocked over the shoe display. They think there are three of them that came in different entrances.”

After a few minutes, some order returned to the mall, but it stayed on lock down as they searched for the suspects thought to be remaining in the mall somewhere. No one was allowed to leave until it was sorted out. Probably thirty minutes in, I received a phone call. It was my mother. She said, “We were just watching the news at lunch. What mall are you at?” I said, “Probably the same one you’re hearing about.” She said, “I thought so.” She said that the news helicopter that had followed the chase was now flying over the mall. I said, “Everything seems to be relatively safe now. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.” Not long after that, all of the suspects were apprehended. But, the mall stayed shut down for a lot longer while officers searched for a firearm that one of the robbers was thought to have stashed.

Almost immediately after things had calmed down, a mall employee began to hand out flyers to all the vendors and other employees of the mall, stating: Do not speak to the media. If a reporter asks you a question, do not answer. Refer all inquiries to the mall’s public relations personnel. Mall employees, members of the public, and mall vendors were never in harm’s way with the incidents that have transpired. The authorities apprehended the alleged suspects within minutes. Again, please refer all inquiries about this subject matter to the mall’s public relations personnel.

This was not a generic flyer for incidents such as this. This flyer was dated and specific to this event. They must have been printing while everything was still in play. Without going into a lot of details, what I witnessed in the mall seemed quite a bit different than what was spun to the press. This was my first exposure to this type of CYA misinformation on a grand scale.

After the bank robbery/fugitive incident, the mall was vacant. No sales for the day. Being optimistic, I said, “Tomorrow is a new day. Fridays are usually better than Thursdays anyway.”

Day 2: Friday morning, I once again returned to the mall with optimism. Again, it was a slow start for customer activity. Most of the people there were “mall moms” pushing their baby strollers around, a routine that normally takes place in many malls. From a vendor’s point of view, you can see who is there for exercise in a climate controlled environment (versus walking on a track outside at the park, etc.) and who are actual shoppers.

I’m not exactly sure of my time line, but I think that it was around noon once more, that chaos again erupted. This time, it took place three or four stores down from me. The police were called again. This time, it turned out to be a gang fight involving stabbings. Within an hour or so, the police got it under control, and things seemed to get back to normal, but who really wants to go shopping in an area where that has just occurred? A few dollars worth of sales were made on Friday. The optimist in me said, “Well, Saturdays are usually better than Fridays. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Day 3: I returned Saturday, slightly less enthusiastic than I had been Thursday and Friday. It was a slow morning, consisting mostly of friendly chatter between other vendors and store personnel over the events of the last two days. We jokingly said, “What could happen next? We’ve had armed robbers, gang fights, and stabbings.” Little did we know how wrong we were. Again, a little after noon, an undetermined commotion started, then the appearance and smell of smoke filled the air. Fire fighters started to arrive. The mall continued to fill with smoke. It was shut down, and we were all escorted outside, still not knowing what was going on. We were simply told that the mall was being evacuated and would not be open the rest of the day.

As I returned to the hotel, I talked with other vendors who were also staying there. Some had heard that the gang that had lost the fight the day before had returned and lit the mall’s cardboard compactors on fire, and firefighters were having difficulty getting the situation under control. We were not sure if the mall was going to be open or if we were going to be able to get into the mall the following day to retrieve our merchandise. Saturday night, we were supposed to be sitting in our booths until the mall closed; instead, several of us vendors went to a steakhouse and tried to make the best of the evening. Table conversation again was mostly about the events of this disastrous weekend. A few people had tried in vain to contact mall personnel about Sunday’s schedule. So, we called it a night without knowing what time to show up the next day, if at all.

Day 4: We showed up at the mall at the originally scheduled time, joyfully to find the doors open. A little bit of a smoky smell still hung in the air, but most things were no worse for the wear. None of my products were damaged. The ones mostly affected were stores and vendors who sold clothing, fabrics, material, or items that absorbed the smoke. Their inventories were totaled. I didn’t have the optimism that had accompanied me the prior three days. I just wanted to get this last day over with, load up my stuff, and go home. Much to my surprise, as soon as the mall opened for business, the customers came. It was actually one of my better Sundays for sales. It didn’t make up for the three lost days of sales, but at least it got me out of negative territory. I continued to do mall shows on and off for the next couple of years. But I never got the urge to go back to that one. Once was enough.

Put the Blame Where it Belongs

In the late 1990s, I was just getting started building custom home décor and displayed items I had made at mall shows. Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio was one of the malls where I had set up a display booth. Recently, there was a robbery of a Kays Jewelers in that mall. This robbery resulted in a shooting that left an innocent, unarmed customer dead. From the reports, all this man did was step in front of his wife in an attempt to protect her. He was unarmed and could only protect her with his body. This couple was in the jewelry store getting their wedding rings cleaned for their anniversary. From my understanding, things went downhill from there.

After shooting the unarmed man, the duo of robbers seemed to go on a shooting spree as they attempted to leave the area. Somewhere along this timeline, after the initial shooting of the unarmed customer who had stepped in front of his wife, a Good Samaritan who had his Concealed Carry license returned their gunfire, hitting one of the robbers, making him unable to flee the scene. The other robber continued running through the mall, firing off rounds that hit other innocent individuals. He eventually was caught outside the mall when he crashed his car. The Good Samaritan, from all reports, only hit his intended target—the murderer who had just killed an unarmed man. The Good Samaritan stepping in did not cause the unarmed man to get shot. The Good Samaritan stepped in because the unarmed customer in the jewelry store had just been shot. While I do not know the specifics of the Good Samaritan’s actions, from the details that I do know, he should be applauded, in my mind.

This shooting occurred Sunday. I am familiar with KENS5, a CBS affiliate, out of San Antonio. They throw a twisted, agenda driven slant to almost everything they “report.” The last two days of reporting on the shooting at the mall have been one attempt after another to make the Good Samaritan into the villain. The latest being today (Tuesday), when the news channel found an accomplice in vilifying the Good Samaritan—the general manager of the mall, whose perceived liability and CYA mode obviously drives his public relations policy—even to the detriment of human life. The headline in the story today reads, “Mall policy: Shopper who shot suspect not allowed to Carry.” In the story today, the reporter laments that the Good Samaritan should never have been carrying in the first place. The mall manager echoes that lament by whining that guns are prohibited on mall property: “Although we respect the laws of the state and individual rights, we do, however, maintain a separate code of conduct that we visibly post at our entrances that includes the prohibition of any weapons on the property. Our top priority continues to be the safety of our shoppers as we strive to provide the best possible shopping experience for all.”

In a typically mislead anti-gun view, both the mall manager and the reporters seem to think that the robbers were not the threat—it’s those conceal carry holders that need to be kept out. Tell that to Mr. Murphy who stopped the robber’s bullet that day that left his wife a widow. The Good Samaritan permit holder had no evil intent when he entered the store, unlike the criminal duo. We don’t know why the concealed carry permit holder was carrying in the mall. I know that some signage is hard to see or easily overlooked. Whatever his reasons were, his actions reveal that he had no evil intent.

Neither the reporters nor the mall manager mentions the robbers as being the cause of all the grief and tragedy—they simply lament that their 30.06 sign (Texas penal code designating permissible areas for conceal carry) should have kept out the concealed carry Good Samaritan. They see no connection between their “gun free” zone and how well it worked (or didn’t) to keep the robbers from carrying their guns in there and murdering an unarmed man who did not try to stop them from robbing the store. He simply wanted to protect his wife from being victimized. This vilification of people who step up on the side of right, not only does it leave me with a sick, disgusting feeling in my stomach—it just makes me downright mad.