Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Value of Michael Halpert's Life

There is no doubt in my mind that Seaman Michael Halpert died doing what he thought he was right, which was standing up to something he knew was wrong -- the theft of $15 meant to pay a tab at a bar in Preston, CT. See the Norwich Bulletin article here.

There is something noble in that, though I doubt that's any consolation to his family on this July 4 holiday weekend. From the article:

A Navy man died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a fight in Preston that witnesses say started with a dispute over $15.

Seaman Michael Halpert, 31, a Navy electronics technician from Miami Beach, Fla., died at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. Police said Halpert was involved in a fight at David’s Cafe on Route 12 in Preston early June 26 and suffered a subdural hematoma, a form of traumatic brain injury.

Eduardo Rosario, 34, of 43 Denison Drive, Groton, was arrested hours after the fight and charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault, second-degree breach of peace and violation of a protective order in connection with the assault.

The only times in my life I've been in anything that even remotely started to become a two-way physical altercation (which I can count on one hand), it's always come back to the same thing: a desire to want to right something I had perceived as wrong, which usually involved someone running his mouth in a manner designed to provoke that type of response. There have been many more fights avoided, such as the time someone essentially *extorted* $15 from me in a bar in order to pay for dry cleaning after he claimed a female friend of ours had spilled a beer on his jacket. His tone of voice and the wild look in his eye told me right away that half the cost of a round of drinks for our group was well worth the value of avoiding something far, far worse for us that night.

A quote I read regarding confrontations on a Choosing a Soundtrack post has stuck with me for the past few months, and has guided me through some bite-the-lip-and-walk-away type of moments since I first read it. To paraphrase: "Don't get into an argument with an idiot, because it will soon become impossible for any observer to tell which of you is the idiot."

Of course, it's always WAY easier to give someone else that type of advice than it is to take it, especially when your sense of right and wrong has been violated. But bear in mind that when you describe your interpersonal conflicts to other people, no matter how *right* you think you are, no one is really listening, and they're just going to come away with the understanding that Person A and Person B were in a dispute, regardless of who *started it* and regardless of who was right or wrong.

Last Friday night in Preston, Eduardo Rosario was the idiot and the bully. That seems indisputable.

However, there's now one Sailor recovering from a broken jaw and one whose family is in mourning after a life and a Navy career was cut far too short.

That can't be *right* or *just* in anyone's idea of a fair world.

Michael Halpert's life was worth more than that.

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