A recent conversation with an acquaintance wrapped around the subject of the assault of the innocent bystanders as a gang initiation. A violent game “knockout” is happening across the country. Teenagers are sucker punching adults forty to eighty-seven years of age. A few of the victims in some cases dying.
“Would not have happened in Florida,” said the woman across from me. “Those old ladies are packing. Gangs do not go near them.” She smiled then nodded for emphasis as if I should take that information as fact.
An image of an octogenarian trying to pull a gun from her handbag while holding on to her walker flashed before my eyes. Having been in hand to hand combat, I understood the term sucker punch. It means you do not see the fist coming towards you. However, if I did suspect someone might be thinking about hitting me would my first reaction be to shoot an unarmed teenager? These images spun around my brain like fireflies in a hot August night.
I was so stunned by her remark I took several moments to realize that the speaker had moved to her second point.
“…the best way to handle these gangs is to give them what they want. Build an arena, sell tickets, and let them kill each other on live TV. Gladiators fighting to the death. It would be popular.”
After a couple gulps of oxygen removed from the heated air, I responded. “I see we are on opposite sides of this issue.”
“So what would be your solution to end these gangs?”
“Well…the problem does not start with the gangs. It starts with neglected children alone on the streets.” I watched her eyes roll and head shake. Clearly, the village approach to the discussion had already fallen flat. “I worked in Oakland after our economy crashed. I saw neighborhoods of poor kids standing in the street mid-day with nothing to do. No jobs. No activities. No hope. It’s a formula for problems.”
“People were out of work in the valley too.”
“I didn’t say they weren’t.”
Someone had the intelligence to change the subject. I got up for a cup of coffee.
The next day it hit me that the conversation had been about killing people as a solution to solving problems. I am surprised that anyone believes that the death of a human being is the correct resolution to a complex social issue. That this belief system exists in my state in the year 2013 saddens me. As our world fills with more people in tighter spaces, shouldn’t we look for some way to be a bit kinder to each other? Perhaps then others would not be so angry and ready to lash out at the world or more specifically an old woman with a walker.