A few months ago I posted an exegesis of Ephesians 4, mentioning the three different types of anger being discussed in the original Greek text. One type of anger was supposed to be nurtured and maintained: righteous anger. An instinctive reaction to injustice or wrongdoing that makes us want to improve the world. It's a powerful motivator.
Until recently I'm not sure I had ever really experienced righteous anger. Sure, I'd see something sad on TV or read an article about abuse and get angry. But it didn't stick with me very long.
Last November 28 was the one year anniversary of Julian's murder. It was also Samantha's fifth birthday, so I took Jack out in my car around 7:30 a.m. to pick up some birthday doughnuts and bring them home for a surprise breakfast treat. I noticed on the way back that there was a vigil forming near Julian's memorial by the school. I felt a twinge of something, like maybe I should stop by, but I kept driving and we enjoyed a good start to the day.
Around 8:15 I finally left the house for work, and the vigil was still going. This time I parked my car and walked over. Julian's dad was there, along with seven or eight of Julian's friends. I recognized three of them who had witnessed the shooting. I wonder what they were feeling as they stood there again?
The corner of the shooting, as viewed from my car. Asterisk on where he was laying.
The memorial still there more than a year later
For the next hour I talked with Julian's dad, and the conversation covered a ton of ground. This is where my righteous anger started to build, while listening to him. He's a good man, works hard, and I believe he truly wants the best for his family, so I don't want this coming off as overly critical of him. Here's a bulletpoint-style listing of the conversation points that have stuck with me:
--He was still thinking about suing the school for not keeping Julian safe, even though he wasn't shot on school grounds, and class had started 15 minutes before he was shot.
--He was still thinking about suing the city for slow EMT response, even though I supposedly missed the shooting by 15 seconds and had only just started CPR when the medics arrived.
--He said that Julian had already been caught once with a gun, and when Pops (dad's nickname) took it away Julian was caught trying to buy another one. His reason was that "he didn't feel safe" outside the school. Hello! Alarm bells, anyone?
--He said that Julian would often sneak out and have a lame excuse for why he was gone for hours. And that Julian had some trouble with gangs in the past, but that was all over.
--The day before he was shot, Julian called Pops to pick him up at school after an afternoon meeting because he "didn't feel safe" again. Pops remembered it because it was such a rare thing for Julian to call his cell phone during the day.
--He reminded me that Julian lived with his mom for a decade in another state and eventually "escaped" to Houston to live with his brothers and sisters at Pops' house. Julian was physically emaciated and emotionally scarred when he arrived, but he had steadily progressed with his health and his studies.
--He had progressed enough to start taking ownership of his life at age 17, and was scheduled to transfer to a new school in January 2007, by his own efforts and requests with the school district(!). His main reason was safety and better education, because he wanted to join the Army after high school and then go to college.
So to sum up, he had escaped an abusive childhood to finally live with his dad and siblings, only to have his multiple pleas for safety go unnoticed. When he didn't feel safe, he engineered his own transfer to a better school but was killed only weeks before the transfer date.
During this conversation one of the campus police officers came up to us and mentioned that the half-dozen students needed to get inside the school. Class was well underway. Each student had an obviously false excuse for either not having a class that period, or not even being enrolled, and the officer just said OK and left. He didn't seem to care about the kids, and he definitely knew they were lying.
I'm angry that kids can so easily slip through the system, and that the only reason slippage is possible is that one or both parents aren't paying attention. I'm angry that so many kids don't give a crap about their education and about rising above whatever baggage they've inherited. And I'm most angry about one kid who did give a crap, but will never get a chance to see what he could do with his life.
I wish I could say that this righteous anger has focused me into doing some good in my neighborhood, but so far it's just a fire without a target. I'm angry and motivated yet still clueless about what my role, if any, can be in making a difference.
After the talk with Pops, I got in my car and drove to work. A song came on the radio 30 seconds later -- "Youth of a Nation" by POD. Here's how it begins:
Last day of the rest of my life
I wish I would've known
Cause I didn't kiss my mama goodbye
I didn't tell her that I loved her and how much I care
Or thank my pops for all the talks
And all the wisdom he shared
Unaware, I just did what I always do
Everyday, the same routine
Before I skate off to school
But who knew that this day wasn't like the rest
Instead of taking a test
I took two to the chest*
Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming
Everybody was running
But I couldn't hear nothing
*Note: Julian was shot twice in the torso