Thursday, January 13, 2011
What a nightmare. What a mess.
Those words, unfortunately, apply to too many events right now. Close to home, Monterey County has entered its seemingly annual, beginning-of-the-year shooting fest. As of this writing on Jan. 12, Salinas has seen seven non-fatal, gang-related shootings since Jan. 1. So far, there’s been one arrest. In Seaside, two teenagers were shot on New Year’s Day on Fremont Street, resulting in four arrests. Seaside police report the four, three from Salinas and one from Monterey, have been charged with attempted murder.
In the most notorious local event so far this year, a group of mouthy drunks were bounced from the Mucky Duck in Monterey early on New Year’s Day; two of the men returned shortly after being tossed, with wounded pride and rage in tow. One of them pulled a weapon and opened fire, wounding two bouncers and one patron.
The consequences of the Mucky Duck shooting have ramifications far beyond the trauma that victims and witnesses will continue to endure. On Jan. 5, while attempting to serve a search warrant on a house officials believed was connected to the shooting, a SWAT team broke a window and placed a diversionary “flash bang” device inside. A fire broke out and 31-year-old Rogelio Serrato, a father of four, was pronounced dead at the scene. The coroner has yet to release the official cause of death, and the Sheriff’s Department has launched an investigation, but Monterey County police say Serrato was misidentified, and not connected to the shooting.
And then there’s Tucson. It was impossible to turn away from the news Saturday until it became too painful to watch anymore. A lone gunman, driven by nobody yet knows what (depending on who’s doing the talking, it could be leftist politics, right-wing politics, fascist politics or, most likely, the voices in his head) opened fire on a crowd gathered at a strip mall for a meet-and-greet with centrist Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Among the six dead are a 9-year-old student council member, an elderly man trying to protect his wife from the bullets and the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
Giffords is lucky to be alive. The accused gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, allegedly shot her through the head at close range.
The combined impact of this violence: Salinas Police Chief Lou Fetherolf this week issued an unprecedented call for help, for community members to “step up” and do what they can to assist police in solving the spate of unsolved shootings. In Greenfield, Mayor John Huerta is urging calm and patience – and asked the more than 100 residents that packed City Hall at a meeting Tuesday to resist finger pointing until all the facts are in. (If only the anonymous commenters on our local newspaper websites would take that advice as well.)
Back in Salinas, a member of Sen. Barbara Boxer’s staff was to have set up office hours at the Steinbeck Libraryto help the people Boxer serves with problems related to Social Security, the Veteran’s Administration and other federal agencies. But that event has been cancelled until further notice in the wake of the Arizona shootings.
Whether or not Loughner was driven by political rhetoric, politicians who have advocated “Second Amendment” remedies – failed Nevada gubernatorial candidate Sharron Angle calling it the “cure for the Harry Reid problems” – or otherwise targeted opponents – Sarah Palin and her map of “targets” identifying candidates that must be beaten, should be hanging their heads in shame. The families, fractured or poor or otherwise, who turn a blind eye as their teenagers leave their Monterey County homes with weapons tucked into waistband, shame on you too.
I’m no police apologist, and I believe absolutely in the right to bear arms (although with two teenage sons in the house who combined have the common sense of a bag of hair, I currently don’t own a weapon). But something’s got to give. The world, it seems, has gone completely insane.
Of the millions of poignant messages to emanate following the Tucson shootings, this one has possibly the most relevance for us all. The current commander of the International Space Station and American astronaut Scott Kelly, twin brother of Giffords’ husband and fellow astronaut Mark Kelly, sent this message to the world from space.
“As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is not.
“These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words,” he said.
“We’re better than this,” he said. “We must do better.”
So we are, and so we must.
Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at email@example.com