The Young & Fallen: On The Path Towards Barbarism

The Young & Fallen: On The Path Towards Barbarism

Hadiyah Pendleton, 15
Another senseless casualty on the front lines against the barbaric

By Katrina Taylor

I can only imagine the joy that must have filled the young folks at Chicago’s King College Prep band and drill team when they got the news that they would be among those performing for the 57th Inaugural celebration … the laughter and cheers, I can almost feel the waves of excitement as word spread lips to ears, student to student, sharing in the pride that comes from receiving such an honor.

15 year old sophomore, Hadiya Pendleton was surely one of the happiest among them, already a bright and shining star in her own right. Nothing could have tainted that day for them, an affirmation of character and confirmation of all their efforts to excel amidst the greatest of difficulties.

These are the moments, the times to cherish and remember. For in each and every moment there lies within the potential for great possibilities or catastrophy. Never none take for granted, for the next breath is not promised.

And even though students at King College Prep were all too familiar with the despair that stems from the kinds of policies that seek to put a gun in every hand — many of them living their entire lives in the proclaimed war zone on the west side of Chicago– I doubt even they could’ve imagined how different life would be just one week after their memorable performance for the first Black President’s second inauguration ceremony.

Possessing the ancestral grit and fortitude to persist no matter how hard the circumstances, Hadiyah and her friends were taking a well-earned break from school at a local park after classes. Honor student, drum majorette, and dreamer of big things, she was just hanging out with her equally ambitious and aspiring buds. But her dreams were obliterated shortly after 2 pm on January 29, 2013 by the bullets that pierced her body as she tried to escape all too common gunfire by rival gangs. The celebrations in the moments before  quickly transformed into a bloody scene most of us will, thankfully, never experience.

“Atrophied gun laws” have long been a problem for the nation as a whole and the surge of terrorist activity within our shores is a glaring indicator of  our propensity for barbarism.While it took the Sandy Hook tragedy to get everyone’s attention, the intentional carnage of small children pushing us past the numbness needed in a barbaric society just to get by, an average of 85 people are shot everyday in cities around our great Land Of The Free. On the morning of December 14, 2012, before the gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, 22 year old lawn manicurist, Patrice Sherman was left shot dead in a ditch in Jacksonville, Florida, the first of 12 shooting deaths that day, excluding the Newtown massacre.

Unfortunately, there is a greater value placed on White lives in our historical conversation. Like it or not, it’s the truth. Otherwise, the thousands of black and brown lives that are shattered every year due to gunfire wouldn’t  fall into the that’s-just-how-things-are dust bin of our national psyche. Were white communities as susceptible to the conditions that bring about such destruction in minority neighborhoods, I would guess there would be more of an uproar. But as long as it’s just po’ colored folk, well …?

But the rippling out of grief and despair that impacts these families and neighborhoods ultimately affects the rest of us. In the bigger picture, there really is no “us” and “them”.

Contrast that reality to the sudden out-of-the-blue tragedies that have struck American communities at alarming rates and the barbarism of a nation is revealed. Again, were it not for the debilitated media “educating the perch”, more attention would be given to the suffering caused by guns and not the “rights” of misinformed libertarian wanna-bees who have no understanding of the Constitution or the rights they currently possess. Or, for some, what century they’re living in.

Because many poor communities suffer gun violence disproportionately, any legislation passed to curb this problem will disproportionately benefit the poor and minorities. And while I would prefer that we were evolved enough to realize the value inherent in all life,  any path that leads us through the densely resistant gun lobby to enact real changes is a path we need to take. Save such issues for another day. The reality is that, regardless of color or creed, of the approximately 35,000 U.S. gun deaths per year, half of those are due to self-inflicted and accidental gunshots by those attempting to “protect themselves.” The other half are the casualties of the laws that uphold the rights of guns over human lives.

Children should have childhoods and get to live out their lives with some modicum of security and sense of well-being. Hadiyah Pendleton and other young people growing up in towns across the nation should expect to be able to visit a park after school without fear of being a casualty of war. A sentiment most of us hold close to our hearts yet somehow a twisted right to bear arms has taken precedence over these vital things. Fear has become a master forced upon us, driving us to “protect ourselves”  annihilating things that really matters in order to do so.

It’s a double burden for those without the money to buy congressmen, unsung souls, often blamed for conditions beyond their control that benefit the greedy bastards who inflict unjust laws upon them. Personal responsibility is a necessary focus but it’s a hard one when your basic human right to exhale is in constant jeopardy. There’s no room here to mention all the unsung heroes, individuals and organizations that fight the bureaucratic battles for their communities within the malaise of the weary and disinterested. Their voices buried under the societal pile-on of blame, making them receptacles for our collective unwillingness to face latent, barbaric tendencies and, instead, project these primal urges onto the innocent.

No child should ever expect this as their lot in life. And what do you think happens to those who are convinced early that there is no other kind of hope for them but to brandish a gun over others? What happens to the larger society that allows barbarism to fester in  children often made soldiers in unjust wars, forgotten and tossed aside by a distracted world?

We are the ones …

Seldom are the stories heard of triumph over adversity; of hearts crushed to the earth only to rise again; of the perpetual hope that manages to continue to grow against the dysfunction of broken systems and the pain of broken promises. But the mother who buried her fourth child because of gunfirethe dozens of deaths and maimings each day that sap the life out of even the most optimistic hearts, those are the fodder for the 24/7 news cycle. The majority these folks are willing contributors to society thru hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. So sitting back and hurling stones at ailing communities — our human brothers & sisters, son & daughters, mothers & fathers — is a weapon that can only wind up coming back to harm us all.

We are One.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hadiya Pendleton “what is best in our city ..” hoping to persuade someone to come forward with information about this senseless death. Another life devastated and all those connected to it spin a spiral of suffering that infects, not only those close, but the environment at large. What is happening in Chicago is not some other peoples’ problem. It’s a microcosmic view of the barbaric ways that are spawned within our borders, nurtured by apathy & disdain. Lax gun laws put every citizen in similar danger that these less fortunate face. But many go about unknowingly while the unhinged & paranoid are camouflaged among the “normal”, emboldened by the call of their “leaders” to flaunt their gunswith pride.

As I write this, I hear on the news that a gunman in Alabama has shot and killed a bus driver and taken a child as a hostage in his “bunker”.

It seems that since the Sandy Hook shootings forced us to look at the madness of our gun laws, the mad among us have reached even higher levels of insanity. Convinced by disingenuous leaders that the government is really coming for their guns this time, fear has possessed them and any sense of humanity they may have had has drowned in the cesspool.

When will it end? I don’t know but I do know that it won’t end unless people continue to push back against the NRA and other lunatics trying to bully us out of a general sense of safety.

Our children deserve so much better. And so do we. We must keep the conversation going. Contact legislators, local & federal. Blow up their phones and faxes and do not be distracted. Past policies have gotten us here, living within a beautiful promise marred by the constant and unpredictable threat of the wrong person pulling a trigger.

We can do this. Together we always do. We owe it to Hadiyah and the hundreds of children killed by guns each year. So many have paid the ultimate price but the price we’ll all pay if things don’t change will be of our collective doing; the result of letting the barbarian rule. Sacrificing the higher for the lower and handing treasures of the gods over to devils. It’s up to us, as always, to continue to follow the stirrings of our better angels and do whatever we can to ensure the success of this slowly turning tide.

Yes, we can …

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~ by katrinataylor44 on January 31, 2013.

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