Stephen Kent

A man in Seattle has pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge in a case that has raised many questions of “how could something like this happen?”

The 29-year-old is accused of pulling his car alongside a vehicle driven by a man coming home from work, firing five shots, three striking the victim in the head, and then speeding off. It happened in a neighborhood not known for such things and involved two people not affiliated with gangs. Authorities suspect it may have been an incident of road rage.

How can a person be so upset by being cut off in traffic as to pursue the driver and shoot to kill? It is hard to believe someone feels better about himself for having killed a person who was the cause of a minor annoyance.


Fast-forward to a recent Saturday in the line at a Costco gas station. This gives a glimmer of insight into the provocation. The scene is familiar: several islands with pumps, cars lined up at each one, proceeding to the pump when the other car leaves.

That day, one car shot into view and, with the agility of an NBA forward, weaved through some openings in three lines and pulled up to a recently vacated pump.

“What the $%&@#$,” I confess uttering in reaction to a sudden burst of pique, hoping that someone would give that guy what was coming to him.

At the gas station, the irritation of many could have led one to overreact but didn’t.

What is the difference between the shooting and the gas station line? Self-restraint.

The perpetrator of the murder could not control his reaction to offense. Those in the gas line could. Self-restraint is acquired by integration of values in our daily conduct so that it becomes the automatic response.

That is why the “don’t impose your values on me” argument is weak. Values are necessary to a functioning community. The disregard of values as some infringement on personal freedom is the fruit of the seed of the “me” mentality.

There’s a song that carries the lyrics “I did it my way,” but what if your way is the wrong way?

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is making the rounds of television talk shows to shill for his new book publicizing his adulterous behavior. What used to be a matter of some embarrassment is now discussed with no shame as an element to marketing a book.

Instant self-gratification says what matters about being human is seeking pleasure — and quickly.

A “tsunami of secularism” has washed across the world, leaving in its wake a tendency to deny that God’s existence is relevant to human thinking and action, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said at the recent Vatican Synod of Bishops.

A society that has to “impose” values is already in trouble. Values result from the belief that human dignity and human rights are the result of humans created in God’s image.

The church has an obligation to teach moral values that shape the character of society.

Just as the flotsam and jetsam from the tsunami caused by the 2011 Japanese earthquake is still being cleaned from Pacific coast beaches 18 months later, so the tsunami of secularism requires the church to be involved in cleanup efforts.

Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He can be contacted at: