Monday, May 08, 2006

Cities, Violence, and Loss

Yet another shock was delivered to us today, just several weeks after one of our colleagues at a neighboring agency was caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting. It seems an elderly patient of ours and her husband were murdered during a break-in at their apartment. Apparently, the intruder forced his way in as the husband was leaving the apartment. Our patient was killed as she lay in her hospital bed. I cannot elucidate any more, but it's another shocking reminder that we work in a city where random violence and senseless brutality are still rather commonplace. Many of my colleagues also live in this city, while I and several others escape each night and return to our homes in much more relatively sedate and characteristically quiet New England towns. "Escape" takes on a new meaning in this context.

There's a scene in My Dinner With Andre---one of my favorite films of all time---in which the main character describes for his dinner companion his vision of New York City. He describes a city which is in fact an ersatz prison in which the citizens were originally the inmates but eventually became their own guards, holding the keys to their own freedom but blindly perpetuating their own misery and isolation. Does the fate of such troubled cities indeed rest in its citizens' hands, and does the power to alter the fate of the inhabitants actually reside in the streets and homes and businesses which make up that urban conglomeration of people and lives?

This little city where I ply my trade is riddled with corruption, violence, cronyism and poor management on most every level. Drugs and gangs seem to rule the streets, the police and city hall fighting a losing battle against the perpetual tide. The saddest part of this brutal equation are the innocent lives which are shattered, literally caught in the crossfire, taken out in the heat of the moment, murdered for a pittance.

Where is the power to change? Where does it reside? In whom does the responsibility rest? Can cities such as ours turn themselves around, and if so, what will it take?

We grieve for the family of the murdered elderly couple, bereft of their parents and grandparents, who lived quiet and humble lives in a city they called home. May their souls rest in peace, and may their grieving family members eventually find healing and solace.
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