For some reason, videos are almost never terrifying for me. Embarrassing, yes. Boring, yes. Entertaining, yes. Educational, yes. All manner of things, but terrifying? This video is absolutely terrifying, very nearly panic inducing.

Two police officers stop at night to remove from a rural highway what appears to be a very large dead badger. It becomes unclear just what the creature is, but… it is not dead but drunk. What seems to happen next…

The title “Nighthawk” probably is intended to suggest random, malign predation from the concealing and lonely darkness of the night. In reality, nighthawks are nocturnal, insectivorous birds. They were once not unusual in Chicago, or at least in Rogers Park, but I’ve not heard one call in the night for decades. I miss them. So the title of the video is not so alarming, at least to me.

There may be two aspects about this video that disturb me.

One is that there is a large body of videos on the web that is best described as accident porn. The “fails” are various, but many are dash cam recordings of traffic accidents. Typically they begin with a few tens of seconds of quite ordinary driving and traffic then things turn really bad, frequently without any warning whatsoever. Quite frankly, it’s not clear to me just how people can willingly drive or even be a passenger after having watched more than 5 or 10 minutes of such recordings. None the less, there is obviously an audience for this stuff. Possibly the viewers figure it couldn’t happen to them, and what a pleasant opportunity to pass judgement on those who fail. Cleansing the gene pool of fools and idiots seems to be a favored attitude for much of the audience.

Even though I’ve not owned a car since 1979 and haven’t driven a car since sometime in 2008, this precariousness pretty much matches my experience. The few accidents I’ve been in have been without injury. But there were more than a few times when I returned a rental car after having witnessed a handful of accidents that day and more than a little oblivious driving. On those occasions, it seemed to me that it was almost an accident that I had not been in an accident. It could indeed happen to you.

The other aspect is Louie.

Louie and his wife were a seriously dysfunctional couple, neighbors of mine in the subdivided mansion where I grew up. Both had their problems, neither was any prize as a human, but Louie was an alcohol junkie and worse, a mean drunk. The battles between Louie and his wife were sometimes epic and on a few occasions included guns.

Louie had redeeming qualities, too. He was a stellar carpenter, good at shaping anything wooden whether it was a house, furniture, bird house or tchotchke lawn ornament. I still have a solid and precise set of shelves that he made some fifty years ago. Louie was also an excellent gardener. He more or less expropriated substantial parts of the landlord’s large yard for flower beds that I recall as always in bloom. And one way or another, the two of them always had money to pay the rent and to own a car or two.

But he was a really mean drunk.

There is research that suggests, for a small percentage of the population, alcohol has a dramatic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect; the intoxication evokes rage. When I mentioned this research to a friend, he paused for a moment, considering perhaps an alcoholic in his own life, then said in a smugly judgemental way: “No. That’s just an excuse.”

Excuse from what? I never asked my friend. I don’t know if Louie was part of that small percentage, but if he was, what practical difference would the inevitability of his rage make? It might make a difference in treatment if he sought treatment or was judicially assigned treatment. Another practical difference is that the research finding, if true, would deprive my friend of a superior moral position, of the pleasure of making a moral judgement of Louie and people like him.

Louie may very well have agreed with my friend: Why can’t I not drink? Why is it that when I drink, I so often fight? Why is it the fights make so little sense? The fault is not in my stars but in me. Now consider the years of accumulating revulsion. Consider what it would be like to live with that inner-directed revulsion and to have it affirmed by those around you.

It eventually came to pass that Louie and his wife moved out and were divorced. The gardens rapidly retreated to lawn and the Martin houses decayed into slums for sparrows. But the new neighbors were civil and pacific and harmless mostly. Louie ended up in a trailer in the next town south of us where he continued to drink. At length, he drunkenly drove his car the wrong way down Interstate 55, killing himself and a family of four. It was murder — suicide.

Louie, I suspect, would agree with this video’s “badger’s” last words. And if that doesn’t scare the bejesus from ye…

Author: rmichaelroman

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