Tuesday, July 11, 2006

At Least The Bad Guys Are Shooting The Bad Guys

There have been a lot of shootings in Our Fair City these past few years. It's not a case where you might walk down the street, feel a sting and the next thing you are meeting your deceased relatives. It's pretty much a certainty that when two drug dealers (or dealer and user) have had a little disagreement, it will be settled in the time-honored fashion: one person shoots the other. Argument settled.

It's hard for me to feel much sorrow over this. I look at the newspaper story and think, "Well, there's one more off the streets. Drug dealers don't live long and this one isn't going to change the stats."

But, to play the Angel's advocate, they are people -like us- who somehow went wrong. They were born with the same possibilities: "Tabla Rasa," it used to be called, "a clean slate upon which anything can be written." Unfortunately, they started writing the wrong things on theirs: get money fast, live for today, forget what your parents taught you, forget the accumulated wisdom passed down by your church.

At one point, while most people were planning their lives' careers, these people decided that drug dealing would bring in a lot of money fast. It never seemed to dawn on them that there aren't a whole lot of old drug dealers, maybe not even a whole lot of middle-aged drug dealers. Nor did they get the idea that if it seemed they were stepping on another dealer's turf, it would be in tomorrow's newspaper; ditto with any suspicion they were holding back money.

Each zygote is such promise; each birth is such hope. How do you play the gift of life that has been given you?

*
Isn't it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make - ere life is flown -
A stumbling block or a steppingstone.

--R. L. Sharpe

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