Monday, May 10, 2010

Valuing a Life and Remembering Who We Are

A 14 year old boy at the basketball court. The honor roll student who woke up on Saturday morning not knowing it would be his last.

My Saturday morning included a breakfast in honor of VNA Week for our weekend staff followed by a presentation on safety by Boston Police Officer, Claire, our resident expert on such matters. The breakfast was light and enjoyable. The talk after was eye-opening and sobering.

According to Claire:

Much of the violence in Boston is gang related. Gangs form on the basis of territory, race and culture and target ever younger ages. The pressure for these children to belong and conform can be intense and unbearable.

Gang members are increasingly brash and defiant, not fearing police involvement. They will follow officers to their homes and boldly take photos of them for posting on the web.

The operative goal is "crime displacement", not "crime prevention". Law enforcement initiatives most often seek to frustrate would be offenders so that they will move their ambitions elsewhere. Someone intent on committing a crime "will do so... eventually, they will do so."

Spikes in violence and murders follow an increase in tension in the school system, which is often underreported by school officials. The violence that takes place at night and on weekends often springs from arguments that originate in classrooms.

Claire, with chilling effect, said that the fundamental challenge is that so many do not value life... their own or others.

Jaewon Martin was on a basketball court in Boston Saturday afternoon. He and his family lost the potential of a life to be lived, lost at the hand of one or more who were settling a classroom dispute or completing an initiation or maybe mistaking the young Jaewon for someone else... We do not know.

Violence is an epidemic. Increasingly, the disaffected, disillusioned, hopeless, fearless, heartless among us resort to violence. Laws, enforcement, order and humanity falter when at the most fundamental level a higher and higher percentage of us, when our children, disregard the value, the sanctity of a human life.

American novelist Mary McCarthy said: "In violence, we forget who we are."

I hope we remember who we are. And soon.

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