Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Mothers' Tears

So here I am once more – not so much defending the slain criminals as much as the slain criminal’s family from the onslaught of short-sighted people, that short-change themselves by not taking the time to look a little bit closer at those they despise so much. Who they were and who they are.

It would seem as if none of the parent’s tears are felt or heard by anyone outside of a two to three block radius. Tears not only shed of grief, but also of the ultimate failure – to allow a child to take a wrong path – far beyond their reach and out of their control. Leaving only the parents to blame. As though the child and the parents were somehow the exact same people. That every decision the child makes stems and is directly caused by the parents instead. As though the parent’s are the real criminals and the children were their victims.

It’s always the same, in these types of situations, whether the child was or was not “gang affiliated”. The unadulterated heartlessness of some of those with whom I speak outside the emotional comfort of my “ghetto”, still surprises me every - single - time.

A writhing feeling twists throughout my soul as I smile and nod, careful to not disagree with those that say, “The apple never falls far from the tree”.

Because it is a fight I would not be able to stand. I know, I use to fight back all the time. But not anymore.

Now, I just smile, nod and say, “yep…yep…that’s right…it sure doesn’t.”

Feeling like a sell out forsaking my people and choked up to the point that I cannot even begin to look for an opening to spread my gospel of hope – my “promotion of understanding” – my plea for community support and involvement.
It’s much easier to relax and be myself with the parents. It comes so naturally for me to be able to look into a mother’s eyes and gently reassure her of the harmless fact that her child is surly in heaven. That the good outweighed the bad and that Jesus forgives all of us, no matter what we have done, if we just simply ask him to.

Referring to scriptures of the New Testament, I tell a story as though she has never heard it before.

I retell the process of how we go to heaven as though she has never had it explained to her before, though she would be hard pressed to remember a single day of church she had missed in years, her reaction to it, is as though she really had never heard it before, because it never meant so much to her as it does right then and there. Truly, a moment of selflessness that immediately proves to me that this was a good parent.

As though I was bringing back her forgotten ways. And all the while in a manner that is raw, real and usually in Spanish.

And then everything is a little bit better. And real tears flow from both of us. Just like her own child’s blood did not so long before.

But, to do otherwise, to me at least, would seem like the real sin. I would never be able to bring myself to say – “It’s good your child’s dead. He was a filthy gang-banger and he got what he deserved!”. Even if I believed that, which I never have, because I know there is always another path – there is always redemption. There is always good choices that can be made – with enough help from the outside world. And that is the problem – there is no help. There are only prisons, other gangsters and death.

Knowing all along that surrounding us outside our area, be it El Campo, South Mo, West Side, or Airport, there are so many people that would immediately take issue with what I was doing, feeling that certainly there is a debt to be paid by this wailing mother. A debt that can only be paid by a useless admission that her own child was evil incarnate and by all rights belongs in the pits of hell and it was all her fault, because she did not care enough, love enough, or discipline enough.

And who the hell was I, anyway? Who do I work for that I would be so bold as to reach out in these types of situations? Who am I indeed? A far better question would be - who are they that do not?

Of everything that I perform in my advocacy and activism, this is the thing that I hate the most:

Shielding the parents and family from the hurling stones of a bigoted and heartless community that seem to always look to place the blame on those most innocent and least able to afford the price of their hatred. A disgusting hatred which is disguised as little more than sterile, out of sight – out of mind solutions, which in actuality, are not even solutions at all, but rather, retaliations. Retaliations to those things which they really do not even take the time to try and contemplate or understand.

It’s always the same – you dare not speak in public about anything good regarding a gangster – you don’t share what was right about the “person” you will only find true acceptance by spitting on the criminal and advocating for mass incarceration or extermination – and be sure to say, “it starts with the parents – they are to blame”.

Even though the child is dead, the hateful bigots will find a reason to cause as much pain as possible for the family. As though their fowl words are the fuel to some time machine that is going to change the past – or the future. And make this a safer place for all of us.

Of course it begins with the parents. But that is such a blanket statement, that it foregoes the majority of parents that did everything they could to raise their child right and then one night, an officer is standing at the door and something so terrible has happened, that their lives and hearts are broken forever.

It never had to be like that in the first place.

If we do not come together as a community and begin loving and caring for our neighbors, no matter what the colors, language barriers or cultures that stand in our way, we will certainly suffer our own annihilation. Our own literal suicide borne of neglect and disrespect of each other.

Can you not see it happening now?

Support your local Neighborhood Watch and National Night Out events. Reach out to your neighbors right now and let them know you care about them and that you are watching out for them, their children and their futures. They will in turn do the same for you. I guarantee it.

Because they are a part of you and yours eternally.

Copyright 2009 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.