Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A culture of violence

(A true story from earlier today. - Fred Van Magness)

It was early, very early this morning.

I was about halfway done with my morning walk when I saw her. A nice older lady, out watering her lawn and enjoying her morning cup of coffee.

"Good morning," we both said at almost the same time.

"Nice day today," I offered.

"Yeah, gonna be a hot one," she answered politely. Bad day for the lawn.

"Yeah, really," I said.

And thus, like most such encounters, this one appeared to be over. I continued on my walk, never breaking stride. She turned her gaze back to the grass, as if to silently reflect on the blazing heat that lay in store for the lawn.

Then, something unexpected happened.

"Hey," I heard her call out suddenly, looking up excitedly and gesturing toward me. "What do you think of that murder?"

In a moment of bleary-eyed naivety, all I could come up with to say was, "Which one?"

I guess it actually wasn't that naive. She could have been referring to the brutal murder of an 18-year-old girl in Wayland, or one of the four murders in Boston over the July Fourth holiday weekend. (And, that's not even counting the 15 shootings in Boston over that period, or the recent shooting of a four-year-old boy, etc.)

The news is full of murders. But, of course, these weren't the crimes on her mind.

"That one in Florida," she said, turning my attention back to the obvious, the trial of Casey Anthony that resulted in a 'not guilty' verdict yesterday. "Unbelievable," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. "I can't stop thinking about it! Those people [the jurors, I understood her to say], they must be crazy. Who do they think killed that kid? I can't believe it."

And so it went on for a few more minutes, both of us volleying back and forth about how amazing it was that a two-year-old child could die under suspicious circumstances and that no one would be brought to justice.

The sad part is, this sort of thing is happening all across America these days, and it is actually becoming less surprising each day.

An entire generation is under siege. Young people across the country are dying in acts of violence, many of them perpetrated by other young people, and it only seems to get worse.

America needs to get its act together and stop the violence. It's a problem that starts in each household across America, the places where young people must be taught by family that it is unacceptable to tolerate, much less perpetuate, the culture of violence that awaits them when they leave their house each day. It's also a problem that must be addressed by government. Our criminal justice system needs better resources and more oversight to get its job done. And, our elected officials need to get tougher on crime and the criminals that commit violent acts. It's a burden shared equally by all of us, no matter what our party, our background or our station in life.

We might never know what really happened in the case surrounding Casey Anthony and her daughter. We have our own opinions, but that is a question of legal intrigue likely to be bantered about by experts on television for weeks and months to come. But what we do know is this: a two year old girl named Caylee Anthony isn't here to see it. She is a victim. And, she is unlikely to be the last victim of such a crime unless we act as a society to call for an end to the senseless violence.

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