Virtual Voices

Bad traffic forms good citizens

Transportation

It's summertime, and the living is easy, but not if you're trying to make your way by car through a small tourist town. You just want to get from the village or the beach to your rental, but there are all these other people crowding onto the same roads that are designed for sleepy rural traffic.

But as maddening as that can be, it may be the part of your vacation that does you the most good because it can make you a better citizen and a better person.

I saw this while vacationing in Falmouth, Mass., on Cape Cod this past week. The traffic in that little fishing town this time of year is thick with tourists, and that often means bumper-to-bumper logjams clogging the two-lane road that runs from one end of town to the other. Under those conditions, making a left-hand turn can be impossible, and can hold up a long line of traffic behind you. If the same thing were to happen at the same time going in the opposite direction, you would have perpetual gridlock.

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So was there gridlock in Falmouth? No, there wasn't. People there make way for each other. They forgo trying to get 10 or 20 feet ahead of the game. Instead, they stop and let you cut through. They'll also let you into traffic when you're making a right-hand turn out of a parking lot.

How is this remarkable? Every time someone shows consideration for others in bad traffic, whether in a small tourist town or on a backed up interstate highway, both parties grow in their character as human beings and as citizens. They understand more reflexively that the world is a better place for everyone when we act like adults instead of like children.

When children learn that they are not little gods or little tyrants, i.e., that the world is not their private highway between private toy boxes, they learn self-restraint and consideration for others. They may even learn, as the Bible teaches, to consider others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). That is, they may learn that people are more important than things and one's private ambitions.

Many adults these days continue to act like children who have never learned these lessons. You see them on the road. You see them most places. They have failed to grow up. They may have passports and they may vote, but they have failed to become citizens in the moral sense. Perhaps a few more graciously allowed left-hand turns in difficult traffic would change that. But change or not, you still let them in. It's what decent, grown-up people and good citizens do.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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