Yesterday afternoon, shortly after I got home, GF asked me if I'd heard the latest news about the late Ken Harris. I had, but I wanted to see where she was going with it, so I said no.
"It turns out that there was somebody in the car with him," she said, with just a hint of conspiracy in her voice.
"It was a woman."
Now I knew where she was going, so I replied again, "So?"
"She wasn't his wife."
"Well, it's pretty obvious that he was up to something."
This is where the conversation pretty much broke down. Her point, which I've heard other people spout, is that if he hadn't been out with this woman then he wouldn't have been killed. And the way that I've heard it phrased, is that because he may have been doing something that ain't quite right (and as I write this, I don't think it's clear what relationship he has with this person), that he somehow had it coming.
That's absurd. ABSURD! What's the matter with this city, anyway?
Look, this is not a case where a guy is on a street corner and tries to buy some heroin, and the deal goes bad and the guns go off and that's that. Nor is this a situation where someone is, himself, out committing a crime and winds up in a firefight because his intended victim turns out to be heavily armed.
This is a man who is doing something that anybody might be doing. It was late at night and he was (presumably) looking to open a bottle of wine. A light goes off in his head: "Hey, I have a friend at the bar nearby; I'm sure he can help." So off he heads.
And he winds up getting killed for it.
It doesn't matter whom he was with. Nor does it matter why he was with her, unless this was some weird situation where she set him up to be there for assassination, which doesn't sound so likely to me. The fact is, Ken Harris could have been any guy in any parking lot who was doing something that wasn't illegal and, in so doing, became our city's Murder Victim #160 for the year. It just so happened that he was locally famous.
The message that the "Divine Justice" crowd is handing out is that we shouldn't go out. If we stay home, nothing bad can happen to us. Does anybody see anything wrong with this head-in-the-sand mentality? Are we so inured to the violence in this city that we simply find some reason in our heads to justify why we weren't the victim this time? "Hey, he shouldn't have been there at that hour. He was doing wrong and got what was coming to him." It doesn't matter! The man didn't deserve to die just for being where he was!
I, for one, can't remain cloistered in my house just because something could happen to me. Many of the schools I work with (or in, for that matter) are in less-than-excellent neighborhoods. If I'm out doing my job and I take a bullet, is the refrain going to be that I shouldn't have been in that neighborhood? That I shouldn't have been doing my job? That I shouldn't have been working to make the lives of children in our city a little better, and that I shouldn't have done my job without regard for race or economic ranking?
I truly don't understand the mind-set involved, here.