04 October 2010

Making Sense of the Senseless

I'll be the first to admit that when violence grips the most violent parts of this fair metro area of mine, I'm rarely surprised and never truly shocked. Even when it hits close to home, at the other end of the city, I'm not surprised. After all, the truth of the matter is this: I don't feel safe in my neighborhood, particularly after dark. There are a large number of addicts living around us and, while our street is generally safe and neighborly, 30 seconds around the corner(s) yields another place that is not.

I was, however, angered at the brief but seemingly random spate of violence that my own community experienced over Labor Day weekend - 24 hours of gun violence that left 3 people dead, in two unrelated shootings. The first happened about half a mile from our house, the second happened closer to home - and that headline is already too old. Within 48-hours of that event, a second man died from his injuries.

My anger has barely calmed to a simmer if only because our Mayor has dismissed these acts as "some bad actors who came to Malden", and said nothing more. There have been no updates on the investigation(s) and I suspect that we'll never know whether anyone will be brought to justice in the case of the victim from Stoneham.

Almost a month later, a section of Boston that I've never visited and probably never will...a section that I've always seen as dangerous and no stranger to the violence that's making it's way to the suburbs of Boston (can our community truly be a suburb when it's about 3 miles from the city-proper's limits, 2 T stops away, and the skyline is quite visible from certain vantage points? Boston is eating it's suburbs like a beast, incorporating them into itself...), experienced an event that rattled me. Last week, 3 men, 1 woman, and 1 toddler were gunned down in the streets. All but one of the men was killed, and he is currently on life support, not expected to live.

Boston Globe columnist, Brian McGrory, summed up my feelings about this better than I ever could have. A child killed in his mother's arms; men stripped naked and shot in the back of the head in the dark of night, on the streets...

It's too surreal. Just like a firefight just down the road from where I live is too surreal. Nevertheless, both events happened.

I understand the price we pay in choosing to live in an urban area - crime will be more in evidence, including violent crime. I don't understand the stubborn silence of my mayor and his persistent refusal to acknowledge a significant increase in crime in our city or at least parts of our city. I don't understand the extremely foreign feeling act of ultra-violence that occurred in Mattapan last week - almost a culmination to a growing number of depraved murders this year in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Mostly, I don't understand how, as my own daughter grows, to even begin to talk to her about these types of things that she will see and hear about. The crack heads and heroin addicts we see too often are easy topics to handle. Even the not-so-surreptitious drug deals on the corner can be dealt with fairly simply. This other stuff though? I can barely wrap my head around it. I'm not sure I could possibly explain the why's and wherefor's of these acts.

It's not about gun control. It's not even about crime control. There are far more deep seated issues that ultimately drive people to commit these most vicious of crimes or have to battle for their lives in self-defense (though a gunfight in a tight, urban neighborhood, even when it's home or self-defense, is still a dangerous venture for anyone to engage in what with stray bullets and all...).

Moving is not an option nor is it a solution. I suppose the best I can do is the Right Thing (as Top Telly used to say to me. Constantly.) where our daughter is concerned - and give her the tools she needs to navigate all of this. After all, soon, the cameras will be gone. In the case of our Labor Day Extravaganza, they left in what seemed like minutes after arrival, especially as it became clear that Mayor Howard is no Mayor Menino, and has not spoken out and demanded justice at any cost. No news there. Just another day in Malden. But in Mattapan, after all the outrage has been aired, all of the talking heads have said all that they can say, life will go on as well.

How much will any of these events, here or there, change anything? The best we can do is keep on teaching - street savvy, street smarts, and keeping away as best one can from a lifestyle that begets violence.

It's all I can think to do.


Karen said...

Well (she said gently), you were going to have these conversations with your daughter anyway. Whether violence happens down the street or half a world away, it does happen, and it's our job to try to help our kids deal with it even when we can't explain it ourselves.

Personally, I think there's no such thing as a completely safe place - look at what's happened in leafy suburbs like Winchester and Hopkinton. All I can do is what you said - try to teach my kids to be safe, and be smart.

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