This is hard to write. Words would fail me if only they could fail me. But instead of giving up, they have decided to parade through my head while The Doors sing about death and deliverance in the next room, coming out of the loudspeakers just like Jim Morrison was still alive and bellowing like a cornered, bearded bear.
“Everything must be this way,” the madman croons. “Welcome to the soft parade ... there are still a few animals left out in the yard ... But it’s getting hard,” the dark idol of yesteryear yells, imploring those still listening to chart the darkness falling in pieces all around us.
Meanwhile out on the streets that pass by my home, in my neighborhood and beyond, in the city of Albuquerque—a place mythologized as both enchanting and foreboding—violence rules the day. This past week, our city by the river suffered because of that horror, even as spring blossomed everywhere.
I had a chance encounter with one of the victims of all that rage a day or so before she died. A human being with dreams and a heart and a set of footprints apparently passed away because a gun became involved in a domestic violence situation that she encountered.
Cecily Corazon stopped by Weekly Alibi twice on Friday, April 5. When told she was early for a meeting with our editorial board, she laughed and left, returning dutifully a few hours later to talk about the school that her son attends. When she was done, she fixed a huge pink hat upon her head and smiling, said that she was happy that the newspaper took the time to hear the voice of its readers.
Now Ms. Corazon figures prominently in the letter sent by our city at the end of the day on Friday. The missive, sent directly from the mayor’s office to my inbox—to the inbox of most of the press outlets in these here parts—addresses a week of violent human behavior and tells of her death.
While details are scarce, the heinous act perpetrated upon Ms. Corazon (a shooting that may have been the result of domestic violence) was not the only darkly enacted ritual to take place within our city in the course of those seven days. All told, eight members of the human tribe in Burque allegedly died through violent acts within the referenced time frame, a week in April that started out warm but quickly grew cold.
In fact according to the missive from the mayor’s office, there was a deadly uptick in “senseless violence” this week. Of the humans who died, five of them met their end from the discharge of a firearm; one, Eric Trujillo, was stabbed to death in the middle of Downtown; one was beaten to death and another victim’s demise (Erica Nilson) is still under investigation.
While it is clear from the city transmission that much has been done to combat violent crime in our city, people continue to die because the root problems that lead to violent misadventure among the group of highly specialized and sometimes noble hairless apes inhabiting the middle of the middle Rio Grande Valley have yet to be confronted and controlled, have sometimes been ignored and dismissed even as their consequences continue to wreak havoc through Burque.
Keller’s epistle mentions many issues influencing criminal violence in our city and includes an apt conclusion from the chief of police, Mike Geier: “We are hiring more officers and making progress toward fighting crime, but this week’s violence points to the larger issues of gun violence, child abuse and domestic violence that we are taking on as our top priorities.”
He is correct and we believe that these three issues are intertwined. Coming to this conclusion and working out a widely applicable set of solutions is where this city and its citizens must begin if we are serious about banishing the specter of violence from our living, growing city.
There are too many guns in the hands of the public. An overabundance of guns has plainly led to an epidemic of gun violence. Last week, one of our contributors wrote about efforts among some county law enforcement officers to put the kibosh on gun regulation efforts recently made law by our legislature and Governor.
His entreaty was met with disgust and derision by some, who see any attempt to regulate the ownership of any type of firearm as a threat to the republic. The fact is that widespread gun ownership is a new relatively new cultural phenomena, even in America, but it is still a part of a culture that has not yet fully embraced the rule of law.
In summary, a broadly interpreted, aggressively defended Second Amendment has resulted in a culture that glorifies guns and domination over law and reason. It is certainly a predominately male, patriarchal culture that calls for the glorification of such killing tools.
That culture, burdened by the same violence that it has nurtured, includes those who seek “second amendment sanctuaries” while implicitly insisting that not-so-random citizen shootings are just part of the package. Does this sort of blood sacrifice, carried out against children and women, guarantee our freedom any better than the absence of guns among the citizenry might?
Such violent incidents involving guns often arise in the heat of human passion. For a populace that has been conditioned by teevee, films and video games to believe that abrupt, aggressive physical action solves problems, the emotional forces that govern interpersonal interactions are rendered moot by the omnipresence of real men with real guns.
Guns are designed for killing. Having easy access to killing machines can make the unthinkable—
The state has taken initial steps to curb gun violence by requiring background checks for all sales and denying guns to those convicted of domestic violence-related crimes. But our leaders need to go further.
While we acknowledge that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives US citizens the right to bear arms, owners of guns should be required to undergo regular renewal testing for licenses, testing that is commensurate with the gravity of owning a deadly weapon. Automobile drivers are regularly tested to make sure they are capable of driving. So should gun owners be subject to tests that measure their emotional and physical fitness—if they desire to possess a gun in an otherwise civil, peaceful and truly democratic society.
It’s a well known fact that endemic poverty, hunger and shelter insecurity lead to stressful existential situations for at-risk individuals and families. Unmitigated, that sort of stress often ends in abuse. The results of such well-known but unsolved social conditions were demonstrated in the details of the deaths of two of our city’s children this week.
Diamond Williams, an 8 year old, was allegedly killed by a gun on Sunday. A couple of days later, in a separate incident, Kalahaya Johnson was allegedly killed by her father. The two lived in a motel room near the interstate. Mr. Johnson told authorities that he struck his child repeatedly because she refused to do her homework.
Similarly, domestic violence, perpetuated by the patriarchy and given continued shelter through perpetually poor living conditions that seethe just under the surface of this city. Its chaotic presence, living on the streets as machismo, is not an unpredictable factor in this culture. It is often an insidious thing though, carefully disguised by innumerable factors as victims seek respite from their tormenters.
A truly progressive methodology for lowering the incidence of domestic violence against women and children should include wide-ranging plans to begin education at an early age and to provide the resources necessary to provide adequate, livable existences to families in need.
That includes expanding behavioral health services, creating opportunities for affordable housing, initiating extensive drug treatment and occupational rehabilitation programs and encouraging community activism and awareness. While we are at it, teaching compassion and limiting the corrosive reach of corporate capitalism among our young may also help engender an advanced nonviolent human society.
Communication is the key to ending gun violence and domestic abuse, tumors that feed on fear and silence and precious lives. Recent initiatives by the city and county to strengthen outreach and community policing services are just a beginning.
Citizens can and should be taught to trust their government, but distrust of the man and the system—whether that’s a cop with a gun or a social worker with a helping hand—is deeply ingrained in the citizens of Dirt City. Untying that Gordian knot and using the resulting rope to raise ourselves up will take years of sustained effort but we are sure that Keller and Co. are up to the task.
I know and you know that this won’t bring back the dead. Here in what is now, we can only remember their lives and keep moving forward as a community determined to find peace at home and abroad.