There was a time when I thought that some good lurked in the heart of even the most despicable person. I learned that as a kid, I guess, probably at home but certainly in church.
But watching the herky-jerky videotape of the neighborhood Blockbuster Video killer a few weeks ago, I have to say that it’s hard to see much “good” in that bad guy.
As I write this column, the police are chasing plenty of leads in seeking the killer. By the time you read this column, God-willing, the killer may have been caught.
But the damage already has been done.
To the victims’ families. To the shoping center. To our neighborhoods. And to ourselves.
It’s enough to make me angry.
We here at the Advocate spend a lot of time, energy and money each month looking for the “good” in our neighborhoods. As a newspaper, we work hard to promote those neighborhood residents who are trying to improve our public schools, reduce crime and fund the many non-profit organizations in our neighborhoods that are dedicated to helping others.
But if we let them, a couple of bullets can blunt the impact of all the positive that occurs in our neighborhoods each month.
Talk is cheap, it has been said, and talk is about all you can get from a newspaper. But these criminals aren’t just talking the talk. They are walking the walk – all over the rest of us.
I know a family that lives near where the gun was fired, and their first reaction was beyond shock:
“What?” I was asked upon delivering the news.
“Well, that just about seals it. We’re going to have to move now.”
A few days later, the conversation was more rational, the decision more considered.
“Most people will probably forget about it in a few months,” they said hopefully, perhaps mindful that they own a house whose value likely won’t be increased by fanning the flames of neighborhood fear.
Of course, where can you go these days that doesn’t have its share of neighborhood violence?
Richardson is no safe haven. (Remember the sporting goods store shootings a few months ago?) Nor is Plano. (not after the child was abducted from a soccer field and murdered.) There have even been a few seemingly random killings in Highland Park and North Dallas. It seems to me they’ve had their share of problems in Fort Worth, Grapevine and Mesquite.
I bring all of this up not to build a sense of hopelessness among us. (I think our larger local and national media cousins have done a good job of that already.)
Instead, I want to hammer away at what I consider to be a fundamental truth: We can’t escape this problem. We simply must turn and confront it.
Our chances of victory are so much better here in our neighborhoods than they are in some of the other places I’ve mentioned, because we continue to have the opportunity to live next door to people who aren’t just like us. We’ve had our opportunities to leave, and we’re still here.
Many of us are simply scared, when we should be angry.
There are thousands of youngsters in our neighborhoods and throughout our City – poor, neglected, abused or some combination thereof – who still have the “good” somewhere inside but who are crying out for attention from someone, anyone really, who can set a good example.
We don’t even have to do this work ourselves, if we’re inclined to let others wade into the fray.
Neighborhood service organizations such as the YMCA; the Exchange, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs; and our many church and volunteer organizations already exist.
Many of these groups already employ trained professionals or have volunteers willing to make a difference. But the groups spend too much time trying to scrape together a few pennies from those of us barricaded in our homes, and not enough time in the community making a difference.
There is no longer any doubt in my mind that many of our neighborhood children, left on their own to hang with the wrong crowd for too long, will be shoving guns down our throats in the not-too-distant future.
By then, it will be too late. Whatever “good” these children once had will be but a distant, bloody memory.
It’s enough to make me angry.