As best as I understand it, here is what happened…
There was a group of teens hanging on a side-walk in Baltimore. One of the girls and one of the guys started arguing; and the guy spit in the girl’s face. Another one of the guys (which one is still uncertain) ran home, grabbed his semi-automatic, returned to the group, and opened fire on the spitter who was running away. The shooter let loose five shots.
One struck the spitter in the shoulder.
One struck a five-year old girl in the head.
She was playing in the street and the spitter ran past her trying to get away.
The girl survived. Currently she can’t walk on her own, control her impulses, or have a conversation…but she’s alive.
The suspected shooter is 17 years old. As a Juvenal he was arrested 15 times.
The case came to court recently and it has been a circus. Witnesses have openly declared that they would rather lie or not testify than be labeled a snitch. Several witnesses have failed to appear and warrants have had to be issued for their arrest. Other witnesses seem to be incapable of keeping their story straight. A few days ago the judge made a plea for “civility” in the courtroom, only to be interrupted by one of the reluctant teen witnesses. The girl stormed into the court room and loudly complained about being given a summons to return.
One of the saddest aspects of the trial to me is that these teens don’t even seem know each other’s real names. They call one another “Reds” and “Murder.” They aren’t even people in each other’s eyes. They are simply reputations.
There was an interesting editorial published in the Baltimore Sun on Friday. You can find it by clicking here. The article said some challenging things:
“That’s why the more one examined the proceedings, the harder it became to distinguish the victims from the perpetrators. They were all victims in one way or another.”
“It is painful to watch what is happening to these young people, which is why most Americans simply treat them as if they were invisible except when they commit some spectacular crime. It’s far easier to ignore the desperate conditions out of which such crimes arise than it is to try to change those conditions. And because crime rates are generally down, most people are content to simply blame the poor for their problems.”
“But we’re all responsible for the tragedy unfolding in our cities, and we can hardly claim complete innocence in the matter. It is an evil we have long tolerated through willful blindness and practiced neglect. The real question is, does our refusal to recognize it even in the shooting of little Raven Wyatt make us one of its victims — or one of the perps?”
I actually agree with him that these kids are all victims. In no way does that release their guilt, nor should it lessen the consequences for their actions, nor should it excuse their behavior. Yet they are definitely victims.
But victims of what?
Baltimore is dominated by a culture of disrespect. The primary focus of this culture is being respected or feared. The only way to obtain respect is to demand it from others through belittling them. It is a selfish, unloving, me-centric world, void of compasson, that cares more about personal reputations than individuals.
These teens are all victims of this prevading culture of disrespect.
Who then should be held responsible?
Who should be combatting this culture of disrespect? Who should have been there to offer these kids an alternative? Who should have embraced them as children and taught them that life is not about reputation, it’s about love?
No. Their job is to educate, but not to teach morality.
The city government?
Again, no. Their job is to keep the peace, enforce the laws, and maintain the infrastructure. They can’t create culture.
I lay this problem at the feet of the church in Baltimore. It is our fault. This is the by-product of our failure to make disciples. I guarantee that if you ask these teens most of them would tell you they believe in Jesus and have church background. The name of Jesus is common in Baltimore’s inner city…but his life and character are absent.
How do we turn this around? How do we fix it?
The only thing that can end the culture of disrespect and stop things like this horrible shooting from happening is a counter-culture based on the imitation of Jesus’ love.
Let’s get to work.