There are aspects of every small town and rural area in the United States that represent a microcosm of life in general in the entire country. Unfortunately, some of those similarities are of the negative variety.
As God is allowed to become less and less of a guiding influence and His values and morals are increasingly ignored, the hearts of Americans grow colder and colder. Subsequently, family structure is eroding beyond repair, self-glorification and gratification have become high priorities, and respect for the feelings, possessions, and even lives of others diminishes on a daily basis.
Big city, rural country – doesn’t matter. It applies to both.
As much as I wish it were different, I fear that the bus we’re on has headed down a road where the bridge is out, and there may be no turning back. And the evidence is all around – even right here in our little neck of the woods.
During the second half of 2011, more blood has spilled onto the pages of the Houston Herald than would usually happen over a period of years. Violent confrontations are every bit as prevalent in the headlines as construction projects and political promises.
In addition to the bloodshed, it’s hard not to take notice of the increase in theft, assault, and all other types of undesirable behavior. There’s just plain more of it, and this is surely an instance where more isn’t better.
I think it’s possible to pinpoint a moment in time when it all went to the next level locally: The murder in August at the Sinclair gas station in Cabool. Ever since Daniel Chapman gunned down his wife Sandra – allegedly – Texas County and the surrounding area has experienced an almost uninterrupted flow of unusually bad criminal incidents.
We’ve come to know the likes of Darryl Eye, Terry Volner, Marvin Rice, and Gary Welch, all of whom were apparently hell-bent on killing, being killed or generally wreaking major havoc. And beginning last week, we were introduced to Chris Jorgensen and Nathan Jensen, a couple of men who are accused of being involved in the killing of a teenage acquaintance over some sort of disagreement.
As well as murders and suicides, assaults have been plentiful along the way, and burglaries and break-ins have become all but every day occurrences. And the perpetrators represent a cross-section of Americana; some have been brought up in an environment where generational shortcomings are allowed to proliferate, and the difference between right and wrong is virtually unspoken and almost entirely unrecognizable, but others come from backgrounds that would be considered far more “stable” and “safe.”
While all of theses incidents make it easy to wonder why, there’s nothing surprising here. While it may be difficult to relate to a thought process that deems it OK to solve a problem by killing someone (or trying to), it’s not unfathomable.
To the contrary, this is all just Biblical – because it is written.
I don’t believe for an instant that this is some sort of anomaly. It’s not a passing trend, a momentary blip on the radar, or “just a phase.”
It’s a reflection of the overall state of the increasingly God-less world in which we live. I know I’ll be called cynical for expressing (or even having) that viewpoint, but I’d argue it’s being realistic. And there’s scripture to back that up.
We can’t see inside the hearts and minds of the people at the center of these cases (especially the more horrific ones), but it’s probably a very dark place where Jesus is nowhere to be found.
We who have never pulled a trigger of a pistol pointed at a “loved one” can’t imagine the mental process that would lead to such a thing.
We who haven’t stabbed an acquaintance to death for giving a friend a hard time couldn’t possibly understand the convoluted thought pattern that would rationalize such action.
And we who have never killed a young boy to avenge a misguided jealous rage couldn’t begin to relate to the demonic battle that must be raging inside the perpetrator’s being.
But we can safely assume God is not involved in such battles, patterns, or processes.
I’m definitely in agreement when I hear people say that Texas County is a great place to live and that there are a lot of fine people here. And nothing that has happened on the back end of 2011 will change that.
But the inescapable fact is that we’re living in perilous times and there’s no place in the U.S. that’s immune to that. People are turning toward callousness, and they’re not going back.
Alas, I believe that even realization and acknowledgement won’t prevent what has already been set in motion from continuing. Nope, the wheels are turning, and the brakes are shot.
The good news is, as bad as things may seem here, they’re already far worse in many other places. For every Chris Jorgensen or Darryl Eye we have, big cities like St. Louis have dozens more.
Make no mistake, I love this unique piece of the Ozarks in which we live. We can still fish, hunt and ride horses. We can still grill out, hike and go to the river, and our idea of a traffic jam is four cars in front of us at the exit of the Walmart parking lot.
And most of the people here are hospitable, if not downright friendly.
But we can’t stop what’s coming, and we sure can’t hide from it. There may be some lulls and pauses, but this isn’t going away, it’s a sign of the times.
A woman I know said the other day that if anyone wanted to know the way this story ends, they could read it in the Book of Revelation.
All that’s left is to prepare our hearts for more and dig in, because what is written is true.
The bad exists. The bad will worsen.
And there will be blood.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.