Glen texted on Sunday night to tell me that one of the local knuckleheads got shot. It's become a very common occurrence on that block lately. The two most recent shootings involved kids who were, well, kids, when we moved in. I remember their prom and first cars, and when it became clear they chose thuggery. The kid — let's call him Karl — who got shot on Sunday was, by all accounts, the louder, dumber of the duo. But, he just didn't seem soulless. Perhaps I was naive, but I thought redemption was plausible for him.
Karl didn't die from the gunshot wounds on Sunday, so there's still time for redemption. But I'm a lot less hopeful about idiots these days. I lived in that neighborhood, and those idiots ruined the quality of my life, which, in turn, contributed to the demise of my marriage. I hate them. With my whole heart. I understand the problems of life in the city, the cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity; I understand racism and classism. I understand, too, that there are decent people living in those circumstances, sometimes only treading water, but are sometimes able to break free in spite of the generations of social exclusion. It's a good time to be alive. Or at least it CAN be.
The kids who got shot most recently on my old street glorify all of the wrong things; they don't respect themselves or anyone else. The world would not be worse off without them, as much as it bothers me to say that. Once, they were babies, and presumably their parents held them, full of hope and love.
At one point not very long ago, I wanted to be part of the positive change in Trenton. I couldn't be among the silent, apathetic majority. The anti-snitch sentiment, especially when it came to big things like life and death, and our emotional and mental well-being as members of that community, really disturbed me. Besides, we were encouraged by the police and activists to provide info.
So, we called the police. We took pictures. We wrote down license plate numbers. We recorded videos. We went to meetings. I even interrupted drug deals. It would be a little bit of a lie to say that it was for nothing. Sometimes there was a bust, and that feels good. There have been years of misguided leadership of the police force; we rallied against Joe Santiago and Sleeping Captains. Tony Mack gutted the department in 2011; I had already signed the letter of intent to recall him, but seeing the photo of all of those out of work officers, with their boots lined up, filled me with such rage and dread that I was all the more motivated to show Tony the door. I know, too, that in Trenton, society's normal is suspended; "Trenton Standards" come into play, and by "Trenton Standards," there are bigger issues than a couple of bad seeds in the East Ward. But our information was good, and those seeds were malignant, and spread. I'm not so silly to think that just because we were doing all we could to be part of the solution, that things would instantly change. We know there are challenges and complications and limited resources and legal procedures and constitutional rights. But now those bad apples are grown men, with guns, and getting shot at, endangering the entire community.
Including my little son, who spends a decent amount of time with his dad over there. I am fully aware that the problems in Trenton are not all policing issues; I am not blaming the police when the knuckleheads with their saggy pants, in their knuckleheady, hip-hop blaring pieces of shitmobiles are the ones ruining everything. But I can't lie: I feel that our efforts have been largely ignored by the police. And that hurts.
It makes me insane and sick to know my son is in a house repeatedly surrounded by police tape and little markers indicating spent casings. I have risked so much, and lost so much. I have done what I can to keep my child safe, and Glen continues to do the same, despite living in what is becoming a warzone. I'm not sure what else, if anything, we can do to help improve that neighborhood, but I am open to ideas.
Karl's gunshot wounds were not too bad, which means there's a likely chance someone will be by to finish the job. And then there will be retaliation.