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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Morally Gray

In a conversation about writers having the responsibility to be good role models - to make their characters moral paragons or at least have someone in the story who can point out what is morally right when the main character makes mistakes - I thought to myself that if writers could ONLY write things that promoted the morally right way to handle things, that could make for some boring books.

Besides, whose definition of morally right would all writers be bound to?

Anyway, a situation was thrown out that some people think that it's wrong to shoot intruders, but that others think that it's okay. I will admit that if I had a gun AND I was certain that someone was on my property to harm me or my children, I would use the gun. I can't be sure if I would actually hit the bad guy or if he/she would live or die, and that's not important here.

What is important is that it was suggested that not shooting an intruder is the morally right thing to do, and that writers have the responsibility to portray that, especially if it's aimed at young adults - basically anyone under 18.

I wrote this, and I liked the way it turned out so much that I decided to post it to my blog in case I ever want to turn it into a full story :-)

Taking as an example the person who shoots someone who came onto their property. I imagine that it could be written the morally right way:

"I heard a noise and knew that I was not alone. It couldn't possibly be my parents because they were out of town for the week. I held my breath so the intruder couldn't hear me and pulled out my cellphone so that I could call 911. I have no way to defend myself - other than the gun in my father's dresser - so I should go hide in my closet until they arrive. Oh no! He's found me! Somebody help!
Cut to next scene: And in tonight's top news, a local teen was murdered while calling 911 for help. Police arrive just moments later, but weren't able to capture the culprit."

OR the scene could really delve into the morality of it by getting into the gray area.

"I heard a noise and since I knew that my parents wouldn't be home for days, I was certain that it wasn't them. More noises told me that someone was in my house - possibly stealing our stuff. I pulled out my cellphone to call the police and told them that there was an intruder in my house and that I was afraid. She assured me that they had someone on their way and then promised to stay on the phone with me, but that I should remain quiet.
I don't care if they steal from us so long as they don't hurt me, but what if they find me and want to rape me? What if they just decide to shoot me to get me out of their way? In panic, I grabbed the gun from my dad's bed-side dresser, and then ran to my room and into my closet. Trying to hide, I did my best not to make a sound. I peered out of the crack in my closet door and saw someone with a ski mask over their face come my way.
Oh my god, I'm going to die!
The closet door opened and I pulled the trigger before I could even think about what I was doing. The police dispatcher was still on the phone with me and asked me what happened. I told her that I had shot the intruder, and she replied by telling me that the police would arrive in approximately 2 minutes, and that in the meantime I should continue to hide in case there's more than one intruder.
I stared at the person I'd shot in horror! I felt numb and terrible, like a monster had settled in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to be sick but I couldn't risk calling any attention to me. The masked intruder groaned and called out my name.
How does he know me? With my heart in my throat, I decided to remove his mask so I could look him in the eye and ask him why he wanted to hurt me. With my heart feeling heavier than it had ever felt before, it dawned on me that I was staring at my boyfriend. I covered my mouth with a hand, but my stomach rebelled anyway. I barely had time to drop to my hands and knees before I vomited everywhere!
As I heaved, the police arrived, crashing into things as they rushed to make sure that I was alright. I sobbed as they pointed their guns at me and then pointed to my boyfriend, screaming. I shot him! I thought he was going to kill me and I shot him!"

It may sound like I am condoning guns and shooting trespassers in my hastily thrown together scenario here, but what I am really doing is saying: If this happened to you, what would you do? Would you make the same choices? Would you make different ones? What if the intruder really was an intruder? As a parent, what would you want your child to do in this situation?

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