Mister Paul’s Blame Pudding

It is foolish to prioritize verbal communication. But, it seems our words take center stage, while we disregard information delivered through a glance, gesture or maybe even arson.

I present Rand Paul’s recent spat with his neighbor.

Mr. Paul suffered five broken ribs when his neighbor tackled him to the ground while Paul was mowing his lawn. This sounds shocking! What could have spurred this violent, unprovoked attack on a sitting U.S. Senator?

Sticks. Piles of sticks.

Before diving into this we should recognize that Mr. Paul’s Kentucky home has many trees. And when you’ve got many trees, you lawn collects many sticks.

And it’s best to pick up your sticks before mowing to prevent any pointy shrapnel from shooting out the side of your lawnmower.

With his headphones on, Senator Rand Paul collected his sticks, piled them neatly near the edge of his property, and mowed his lawn.

Normal chore duties.

Well, Mr. Paul neglected to recognize that putting piles of anything on the edge of his property enraged his neighbor. And that’s probably because Mr. Paul contends that it had been a decade since he spoke to his neighbor before being tackled.

But that means Rand Paul neglected to notice the clear message his neighbor sent by dousing gasoline on a previous pile of sticks, and torching the stack.

The neighbor wound up with second-degree burns from that stunt. This sizable blaze should have conveyed some meaning to Mr. Paul. Right?

Nope, he continued on like always: collecting sticks while listening to music, placing them all too close to his neighbor’s property line, and obliviously mowing his lawn.

By this point, this action was received as a clear rebuke. Baffled why an impromptu bon fire didn’t accurately convey his feelings, the neighbor reached his snapping point. Charging across the property line, this retiree tackled a member of Congress, which is a felony.

Rand Paul suffered from five broken ribs and developed pneumonia from his injuries sustained during this attack. And his neighbor received a sentence of 30 days in jail.

The problem I see here is the complete dismissal of nonverbal communication in this case. A decade without speaking doesn’t equal no communication for ten years. Mr. Paul was just blind to the signals his neighbor was screaming.

Starting a fire on someone’s property while seriously burning yourself is a grand statement. Isn’t it?

It should be enough of a statement to at least go over and ask your neighbor, “What’s going on?”

The neighbor said he had enough of Mr. Paul’s brush piling up. This was his justification for tackling the senator to the ground, but did Rand Paul’s neighbor do enough to communicate how irritating he found that perpetual pile of brush? And did Mr. Paul function as a respectful neighbor by ignoring those signals that were sent?

Is this all just a matter of not feeling heard?

After a certain point, are we even capable of containing our festering grievances into calmly spoken words? Do we let spiteful thoughts about others rot inside us for fear of realizing that we are equally to blame for holding that hurt?

I know I’ve suffered from years of not feeling heard. It’s disenfranchising. It makes you feel less than.

And when we feel less than, we feel an urge to tackle our oppressor. Of course, the enlightened way to do this is figuratively, in private. Where you realize, through much soul searching that you are your own oppressor. And that the path forward is to dissolve the power you give an action or a person in your life.

But fear keeps us from seeing that we are willing participants in our own pain. And that fear can push us to do some truly out-of-character and malicious stuff. This neighbor is a retired anesthesiologist for crying out loud! A retired anesthesiologist tackled a man pushing a whirring cyclone of blades!

You know how easy you could lose a foot by pulling a stunt like this? I bet a retired anesthesiologist would. Yeah, this was out of character.

So, who would I say is really at fault here?

Both of them.