Friday, July 25, 2008

It's not about bikes; it's about responsibility

I was going to rant and rave about the state of the law and those who practice it. That will have to wait.

I was sick hearing and reading about the incident in Newhallville in which a teen riding a dirt bike crashed into the back of a van. The van driver stopped and was set on by a gang of thugs, who beat him to within an inch of his life.

Many years ago, before it was cleaned up, Chapel and Howe streets in New Haven were similar to what that corner in Newhallville was the other day: a part of the wild west. Before the city and business owners cleaned it up, going back around 25 years ago, hookers took over the place at night and transgender hookers took it over after midnight. Maybe that's not politically correct, but until the late, sainted Evelyn Schatz and what eventually became the Chapel West Special Services District took over, that's what it was.

During that time, a friend was driving along Chapel about 1 in the morning, heading home after a night's work, when he was set on by a number of these hookers who moved toward his car as he slowed for the light. He accelerated, and thought he hit someone, but wasn't sure. He was terrified and drove a few blocks along until he saw a phone booth. He called the police to report the incident.

The dispatcher told him he did the right thing by driving on. If he had stopped, he would have been certainly robbed and probably killed.

I hope we are not going back to those days in Newhallville.

A gang of thugs, and that's what they were, beat up a van driver whose only crime was that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He dove into an intersection when a kid driving an illegal bike ran a stop sign. The bike his the van. The kid eventually died of his injuries. That's a tragedy. Thankfully, the van driver has not died.

Some of the kid's friends became angry. That's a natural reaction. They set on the driver of the van. That's not. It's as wrong as can be.

We can blame the thugs' parents for not teaching them how to react in a civilized manner when things don't go their way.

We can blame the idiots who riot when court cases don't go the way they would like them to. We can blame those on television who react to every slight by beating someone or shooting someone. We can blame the cops for not chasing and catching illegal bikes.

We can blame television news for showing screaming mothers of teens or children who were killed doing the wrong thing. We can blame the ambulance chasers who solicit business from parents whose children were killed doing the wrong thing and get them in front of the cameras to say it was everyone else's fault except their kid.

We'd be wrong.

As we drive along the city streets, people on major roads act as if the road were part of their backyard. They dash out into traffic -- late teens, young adults, not tykes chasing a ball -- and we have to swerve to avoid them.

Has New Haven become this place? Have we gone back to Chapel and Howe at 2 in the morning?

Again, it must be said. Fixing this is up to the parents. Not the schools, not the cops, not even the priests and ministers and rabbis and imams. The parents are the ones who have to shut off the television sets and tell their kids that it's alright to get angry, but it's not alright to beat someone because of it.

The cops must catch these thugs and make an example of them. They deserve to get out of jail just in time to go on Medicare. No baloney about youth or anger. Throw away the key. These people jumped on a man who did nothing wrong.

But this kid's death also must mean something.

One way to do that is to use it as a teaching tool. That's where the teachers and clergy can come in. Instead of just putting up a memorial, gather the neighborhood youth together and try to teach them that there are consequences to actions.

And while you're at it, try teaching that to some of the adults as well.

Page 2

It's been about a year and a month since Sam Dimenstein died.

Read all about Sam in:

Sam was a good friend and a quiet man who did a lot of good for a lot of people. He lived into his 80s and was gathered to his fathers in the fullness of life.

Let's remember Sam as we think of those whose lives were not full and not allowed to journey to their natural conclusion.

Have a great weekend and, for those of us in the Tribe, a good Shabbos.

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