how then should we respond to violence?: a few thoughts on the thayer street shootings

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Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

how then should we respond to violence?: a few thoughts on the thayer street shootings

police tape little rock shooting

yesterday afternoon, in the relatively quiet capitol view neighborhood, two peoples’ lives came to an end while another was left with life-threatening injuries.

just after mid-day, 19-year old charles murry, jr. entered a home on thayer street and before leaving, shot the 2 inhabitants. after fleeing the home, murry was shot by police and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

as the events unfolded live on twitter (and in subsequent local news outlets’ accounts), i found myself particularly engaged. first and foremost, this is just a few houses down from where we lived several years ago. this was our neighborhood. this was our street. this was our neighbors. secondly, it’s not so much that i can’t look away from a train wreck, but more that my ears always perk when there’s violence and crime in neighborhoods near where i live. i’ll get to why i’m so particularly interested in these incidents shortly.

it goes without saying that the events of yesterday are particularly sad. the 2 people inside the home—28-year old gyorgy posan (deceased) and 25-year old gabar felszeghy (critical)—who were shot are the foremost victims and for them and their families, this is a tragedy. without even knowing them personally, it’s intensely sad and heartbreaking. if nothing else, just the senselessness of this crime makes it that much more difficult to wrap your mind around. when people are victims of violence—especially gun violence—it’s just as disturbing and tragic as the time before and the time before that. there are other victims, though.

some people won’t like this, but the 19-year old kid who was the shooter is also a victim. don’t get me wrong, what he did was wrong. it was evil. it was criminal. it deserved to get him locked up for a very, very long time. but we’re talking about a teenager. a human being, not a monster. i’m not excusing it or justifying it, but i’m simply saying that, most of the time, someone that age who chooses to engage in this type of behavior is usually a product of that type of behavior. i don’t want to get too caught up on this point, but i think it’s one worth making.

the final victim is the neighborhood and the downtown area in general. i don’t want to trivialize the events and compare the reputation of a neighborhood to the lives of humans (please, understand that i’m not doing that), but i think this is a point worth exploring in this case.

for quite some time, i’ve been meaning to blog about why we’ve chosen to live where we live (the dunbar community, which sits on the edge of one of the highest crime areas in all of little rock), but i’ll save that for another time. the principles, though, are very similar to my primary points in this case. in the aftermath of the shootings yesterday, i discovered, as with other similar incidents here in little rock, a series of reactionary, fearful, lashing-out commentary by people on both twitter and facebook. naturally, the indictments of the capitol view, stifft station and downtown neighborhoods were swift. i saw one person say, “Now you know why everyone who wants to live peacefully and wants to protect their family moved out west”. another person commented, “You guys can have Capitol View and Stiff Station! I will not live in fear that myself or my fiancee could get hurt. If it was a once in a blue moon occurance, that would be one thing, but it seems to be happening more and more often.” i could give a number of other very similar examples.

there are many issues i feel strongly about, but probably none as much as the issue of fear. specifically, i feel absolutely driven to dispel the crippling effects of fear on peoples’ lives and our society, in general. fear makes us hate people. fear makes us commit crimes. fear makes us never fulfill dreams and callings. fear makes us abandon certain neighborhoods. fear makes us prejudge others. fear makes us horde our money instead of giving to those in need. fear makes us have enemies instead of friends. fear makes us vote for unqualified and unhelpful political candidates. fear makes us power hungry.

fear is a dead end. it’s destructive. it’s unhealthy. and it drives our society.

when violence erupts in a neighborhood—much like it did yesterday in capitol view—fear is the winner. people spew the aforementioned reactionary comments that not only exposes their own fear, but tries to pull others into their disease.

what i’m here is to say is to stay away from that. don’t listen to it. don’t believe it. don’t trust it. don’t contract it.

when these incidents occur, people want to tuck and run. people succumb to fear. they go somewhere else that they perceive to be more safe. more “family friendly”. more white. more secure.

and you know what? sometimes they find it. sometimes they escape. sometimes they’re safe. but that’s just the problem. you know who leaves neighborhoods when they’re perceived as dangerous? the people who actually care and have the ability to make a difference. you know who stays? the minority who make those neighborhoods worse. for decades, the good people have fled to the “safer” places. a lot of neighborhoods (like my own) that could and should be great have been abandoned by the people who could and should make a positive difference.

letting fear win leads to abandonment rather than resurrection and revival and renewal and mutual understanding and friendship and learning about/from the other.

how then should we respond to violence?

we should stay. we should invest in our downtown neighborhoods. love the people in these communities. refuse to let fear lead to an irrational and ill-informed decision about our neighborhoods.

capitol view is a beautiful and interesting neighborhood. as is stifft station and the dunbar community and the little rock central area and the governor’s mansion district and the list could go on for this part of town.

yes, there’s crime. just like in other parts of little rock. yes, there’s downsides. just like other parts of little rock. but let’s not let our fear lead us to escapism. they hurt our neighborhoods and in turn, hurt all of little rock.

as we mourn for those whose lives were ended yesterday and for the one whose life has been forever altered, let’s not react in unhealthy and unhelpful ways. let’s honor their lives by not forfeiting ours to fear.