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The greater dangers of selfishness - Gerry Yandel

It was just after 9 a.m. one morning, the skies were clear, I was heading down to the office on Interstate 675, and there was only one other car on the three-lane highway as far as the eye could see.

The other driver was tootling along at exactly the speed limit in the center lane, which was the same lane I was driving in, perhaps just a tad over the speed limit, but in no way a danger to anyone else.

For reasons known only to him, the other driver decided it was his responsibility make me slow down. Rather than moving his slow butt over to the right-hand lane to move out of the way, he started stomping his brake lights, apparently in an effort to send some signal to me.

About the only thing he accomplished was to convince me that he was less than intelligent and filled with a self-important sense of entitlement that apparently superseded any responsibility on his part to be a safe driver and abide by the traffic laws.

Of course, I-675 is basically a straight-away, and it was a simple matter of changing lanes and moving around the self-righteous jerk, and he and his idiotic attempt at traffic control were where they belonged – fading rapidly in my rear-view mirror and out of my life.

Granted, I was technically in the wrong for driving 70 mph on the empty highway, which is marked as a 55-mph zone, but I am a careful and considerate driver who takes road safety very seriously when other drivers are present.

I have to do that, you see, because I see instances of selfish behavior constantly on our roadways.

One of the more frequent examples of it is the driver who gets in the left lane, which is, for those of you who don't know and can't -- or won't – read the signs posted all along the highway, for faster-moving traffic. Most of these drivers are nothing more than an annoyance, and easily avoided by careful maneuvering. However, there is a particularly dangerous subset of these cretins who seem to take offense at other drivers trying to get around them. If someone has the audacity to try and move over a lane to get around their self-appointed traffic control, these fools speed up to keep the other driver from getting in front of them.

I am not making this up.

The opposite of the self-imposed traffic controllers, of course, are the reckless tail-gaters who get within centimeters of your rear bumper in an effort to make you drive faster. Never mind that there are cars in front of you impeding you, or several clear lanes to the right for these pinheads to go around you, they want you out of their way and are, apparently, willing to risk your life and theirs to make this point.

Both of these types of drivers, neither of which should be allowed to operate anything faster than roller skates, are operating from the same wrong attitude. For reasons only they know, they obviously feel as if they are more important than other human beings and have a right to use whatever means necessary to get what they want.

It is an attitude that seems to afflict the greater portion of the population in this country, and it is not just limited to stupid and dangerous behavior on the roads.

Take for example the so-called Christians who feel it is their duty to ram their beliefs down the throats of whomever they think needs it. They can spout Bible verses at will, and woe to the person who tries to engage them in any meaningful discourse about their views. Despite their obvious love of the teachings of Jesus, their overbearing and self-righteous approach to "helping" others illustrates that they are completely clueless about those teachings – particularly the ones about love, respect and tolerance.

There are countless other examples of how our American way of life and sense of privilege seem to be fostering an increasing sense of selfishness and self-importance: people who cut in line at the store, people who block intersections in traffic jams, people who let their kids act like wild animals in public places, people who watch TV shows to find entertainment in the humiliation of others, people who lie, cheat or steal.

Of course, these seem like petty things, and I am sure those same people wouldn't think twice about telling me to just get a life or just get over it.

Maybe they are right.

But every time I look at what we've done to Iraq in the name of democracy, I sincerely doubt it.

Gerry Yandel is the city editor for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or gyandel@henryherald.com .