Where Is the Outrage?
By Jeff West
An edited version of the following article appeared in the May 25, 2011 issue of The Times Examiner
On Wednesday, May 11, 2011 Pastor Billy Dean Randall of Lexington, S.C. was killed in a tragic and senseless traffic accident, when his car was allegedly struck by a 20-year old driver charged with DUI and having a fake ID. The accident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. in Columbia at the intersection of Assembly and Whaley Streets, as Reverend Randall was en route to preach a Wednesday night church service. Pastor Randall was an incredible Christian who started Gethsemane Baptist Church in Lexington and was a pilot who flew missionaries and supplies to the Caribbean. He would fly into Cuban airspace and drop tracts in plastic bottles just offshore to wash up on the beach. He defended the First Amendment rights of street preachers and was arrested for such on numerous occasions.
The other driver, Mary Reames, was a Criminal Justice major at USC with a 3.6 grade point ratio and worked for a law firm. Witnesses say she drove on the curb for about a block and then ran the red light, first striking another car and then Rev. Randall in the side as he waited to turn left. Photos show that his car was struck with such force as to be driven across almost two lanes of traffic in the 35 mph zone.
Reames is out on $100,000 bond. If found guilty she faces a maximum of 25 years in jail. During her bond hearing, she sobbed uncontrollably, and her lawyer said she could not even discuss the incident. Rev. Randall’s family said that they forgave her, but that she must pay the penalty decided by the judicial system. This young lady faces the possibility of never marrying or having children, or having a meaningful job, all because of this selfish, stupid act.
Yet, although her case is extreme, she is not alone. As of 2009, statistics show that SC is second in the nation in the percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. And Columbia was ranked 13th in 2010 in Men’s Health magazine’s list of America’s Most Drunkest Cities. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2007 Men’s Health ranked Columbia as the worst drivers in the nation based upon accident data. Therefore, since this behavior is so rampant, we should not show misdirected anger only towards Miss Reams, who will be haunted by her sins, but rather ask, “What has gone wrong in our culture that we now think this behavior is permissible?”
A friend of mine was almost killed several years ago when he was driving at 9:00 p.m. and a 21-year old drunk hit him while driving at an estimated speed of over 100 mph. It was his second offense in over six months and his license was suspended. He had downed two pitchers of beer and a six-pack, and his blood alcohol level was 0.29 two hours after the accident. The bar that served him legally only has to carry $2 million in insurance, $1 million per victim, so after his settlement, my friend was not nearly fairly compensated for the permanent injuries he sustained. He can no longer get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. All because, just like Pastor Randall, he was simply minding his own business.
My friend tried to show him mercy, and offered that instead of a 12-15 year sentence, he could get out on probation and work, and pay my friend $18,000, at a rate of $300/month. My friend was trying to save the State the half-million dollars it would cost to house him. Yet the man has already stopped paying him. And besides this sum, he will also owe the State a $25,000 fine for his crime.
South Carolina, as well as America, is in a very, very serious moral decline. We live in a non-Christian culture that glorifies drunkenness and substance abuse in music, movies, television, etc. This is combined with a rampant lack of discipline now seen in our culture, as compared to others or even our own historical values. Of course, our political leaders don’t set an example for us, either, as seen repeatedly in the news. This was again recently demonstrated when alcohol was served at the Republican Party Convention, held just four days prior to Rev. Randall’s death, and one mile away from his fatal wreck.
My grandfather retired as a Federal Probation Officer whose job was to check on bootlegger parolees across the Western Piedmont counties of S.C. I know from his and other witnesses the evil past S.C. has with demon alcohol. S.C. is the perfect place to make moonshine, with its ample corn crops and water supplies, warm weather and vast forests to supply wood fuel for alcohol distillation. Al Capone himself used to visit S.C. frequently to check on his night clubs and bootleg liquor supplies, which were loaded on railroad cars in broad daylight for shipment back to Chicago. Whenever Capone visited, he left a trail of bodies in his path of his competitors and others who stood in his way. A friend of mine told me his boyhood friend was actually named Al Capone by his father, who worked for and admired the gangster as a hero! His job was to drive a tractor trailer through the swamps of S.C. to buy moonshine throughout Capone’s territory.
So unfortunately, alcohol has become ingrained in our culture for decades, if not centuries, and consequently, we have an uphill battle in overcoming our history. I am not talking about people having a glass of wine with a nice meal in a restaurant, I mean people addicted to imbibing large quantities of anything with ethanol in it to escape reality. And in the culture of S.C. good ole’ boy corruption, not so long ago you could just pay $500 to your Highway Commissioner and he would get you a new driver’s license if you lost yours in a DUI. These attitudes are a dangerous combination.
Sir Isaac Newton categorized the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which says that entropy, or chaos, increases in a system over time. That is, barring any outside influence, things will continue to get worse. Our society will continue to decay unless we try to change the outcome. So we can rest assured that our substance abuse problem in S.C. will not get better unless we make an effort to stop it. We have to make a conscious decision, “Do we want to continue this historical trend of alcoholism, or break the cycle?”
Although our political system could be refined to address these problems, new laws are not the answer. The laws on our books now did not prevent Miss Rheames’ foolish choices. Prohibition did not work; all that did was enrich Chicago organized crime networks (which eventually helped give us Obama as President). And if Miss Reames spends the maximum 25 years in jail, it will not bring back Rev. Randall. We need to recognize that our society has turned away from God and we are now suffering the consequences of our sins.
This is why Jesus told Christians to be salt and light to a dying world. If Christians do not stand up for what is right, who will? And Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What is now so warped in people’s world view that they would get behind the wheel intoxicated when they could kill someone, if not even themselves? Is it any coincidence that we no longer teach Jesus’ admonition, the Golden Rule, in public school anymore?
No one knows what God’s will is, but perhaps one message in this tragedy is that our society has deteriorated so drastically that no Christian, not even a true leader like Rev. Randall, is immune to the consequences of the rampant sin in our dying culture. The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. We can no longer put our heads in the sand and hope the problems will go away; next week your child or spouse may be the victim of a similar tragedy. The circumstances of Rev. Randall’s senseless death are but a symptom of the decadence of our society, and therefore I ask, “Where is the outrage?”