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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Relay for Life, yet another shooting Saturday night share more than one connection

Hundreds walked in hope against cancer at the overnight Relay For Life.

The overnight 'Relay for Life' event rallying people in the fight against cancer literally rubbed against another side of Plainfield on Saturday night when the victims of three violent events -- a shooting, a slashing, and a beating -- all drove themselves to the Muhlenberg Satellite ER for treatment about the time the cancer walk's huge candelaria display** in the bleachers at Hub Stine Field was scheduled to be lit. The ER is literally across the street from the site of the overnight event.

The shooting makes the fifth in about a week. Though I am told the shooting, the slashing and the beating all occurred in the area near Liberty and West 3rd Streets, it was not known last night if the incidents were related to each other or to the week's prior violence.

What I was able to find out is that the three who betook themselves to the Muhlenberg Satellite ER are all known to the police to be gang members.

It struck me that besides the physical proximity, the Relay For Life event and the three incidents share a connection that is important to keep in mind: violence.

For cancer indeed is a violent assault on the lives and bodies of those who have it, as well as on the lives of their families and loved ones.

Relay For Life represents a response to this violence in the form of a plan -- a well thought out attack on the violence that cancer wreaks on lives and relationships. It is highly focused on supporting those struggling with cancer, honoring and remembering those who have passed, and raising funds to support continuing medical research as well as such services as transportation for cancer patients.

Gang violence, on the other hand, simply represents violence.

There is no 'point' other than the violence itself.

My favorite radio interviewer, Terry Gross of WHYY in Philadephia, conducted an absolutely riveting interview the other day with Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who has spent twenty years working among that city's gangs (see story here, listen to interview here).

Boyle was riveting for several reasons, but two in particular stuck with me. First, he explained that he had given up on a strategy that he spent years working out -- getting gangs to make 'truces'.

When asked why by Terry, Boyle said he had concluded that gangs are not like countries at war, that they do not have long-term strategic goals, but only short-term and immediate interests -- resolved by violence -- and that working 'with' gangs only served to legitimize them.

He decided that the best way forward was to work with gang members who wanted to get out of the gang life. That insight led to the founding of his jobs program for ex-gangbangers, Homeboys, Inc.

The second insight that Boyle shared was the one which is his foundational motivation in the first place -- that gang life essentially does not offer HOPE to those caught in it.

HOPE, Boyle believes, is at the heart of his ministry as a priest and the only way forward out of gang life.

And that is what came to me as I learned of the incidents last night, with the image of Relay For Life candelaria spelling H-O-P-E in my mind's eye.

What Plainfield's gang members are waiting for is someone who devotes his or her life to valuing their existence and offering them

Boyle observed that cops on the street (and some enlightened police higher ups) are well aware that gangs can never be 'busted' out of existence.

So, something else must be tried.

There are some I know in Plainfield who have been concerned over the years about how to address this issue.

But it seems we are still waiting for the person (or persons) who will devote their life to offering

Whether in fighting cancer or gangs, it is
HOPE that we need.

**The photo illustrating this post is from a prior year's event (taken with a 'real' camera, not my cellphone); this year's candelaria spelled out C-U-R-E, as a sharp-eyed reader pointed out.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Actually,this years candelaria display spelled CURE until it was extinguished by the downpour at about 10 pm

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank all our City Leaders for taking the strong stance on crime. Oh ait five people have been shot in a week nevermind I take that back.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Dan!

Anonymous said...

I concur with the 5.05 pm comment, excellent post. This is the type of 'posts' we like to read about. . . jim spear

Anonymous said...

great story and your right it did spell c-u-r-e
p.s. nice post

Anonymous said...

What a surprise, another shooting. This so far has included 3 innocent victims in a gang war. Nothing has been done by Hellwig or Briggs. Maybe we can send the motor home down there again? That will show them!

The police need a real leader that knows what is going on here. Hellwig is a joke. Just ask any cop who gets a laugh any time he gives quotes to the newspaper!

We should put up an SOS to the state police and union county. We cant manage this problem with an understaffed police dept who has no leadership in place.