Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Another day, another senseless killing

I have to assume you have heard about it, or read about, or heard a friend, neighbor perhaps, someone you know offering their opinion on the shooting in Kansas City, at a Jewish retreat center.

I watched the news this morning and came away with this thought - as usual, the media has assessed the situation and came up with their own answers to the inevitable question, why?  Why?  Why not?  The shooter has an established record of being what we like to call, a neo-Nazi.  You know - an offspring of those who followed Adolph Hitler into World War II.  Not many of us are alive to remember those days,  I happen to be fortunate enough to have been one of those who remembered and still, tremble.

I was intrigued by the feeling that none of the reporters looked on this guy as a murderer.  After all, he shot his victims down in broad day light, murdered them as they were going about a daily routine.  Now of course, we are going to have an extended period of time while the lawyers and the psychiatrists tell us what they believe we need to know about murdering and, murderers.

I have listened to their thoughts and have evaluated them against the lives of the three murderers I have personally known in my life time.  Actually, there were four, but one was the father of a class mate of mine in grammar school and I really didn't know him as well as I knew his sons.  He killed one of them only because the boy wanted to join the Army and the father apparently feared that he might be sent to Germany and kill their cousins, or others related to the family.  He would eventually die in prison.

The other three, on the other hand, were - at one time, or have become close friends of mine.  The first one I met on a troopship headed for Japan as I occupied the top bunk in an eight tiered arrangement.  He slept below me and the fellow he would eventually kill, slept opposite from us in the adjoining tier. Most of us on that ship were little more than kids, some of whom we got to know better than others on the thirty-one days we spent at sea, from New York harbor, through the Panama Canal and eventually debarking in Yokohama, Japan.  From there, we were "distributed" throughout Japan; the three of us happened to be stationed at the same air base, North of Tokyo.  As raw recruits, we were assigned to our different squadrons depending on our job assignment.  I went one way, they went another. Eventually, I would be transferred to another base on the island of Kyushu.

Then one day, I heard the horrifying news.  The fellow who had slept under me on the transport ship had slit the throat and killed the man who had been his buddy.  It happened as he had broken into the base PX - expecting to steal a camera, and he was met by the other who had been sleeping there to ward off thieves.  He slit his throat and left him to die.  Eventually, he met a courts-marshal and was sentenced to death by hanging.  General MacArthur had mercy on him and changed the sentence to life in prison.  Before he was returned to the States, I had an opportunity to visit with him and really did not recognize him as the bright eyed kid who loved to tease the rest of us and spent his time, telling jokes.

We would eventually meet again, but that is an episode in my life that needs more explanation than is available today.

The next guy I met had just been released from prison after having been convicted for the murder of two women who had been working for him in South Florida.  He was a very intelligent young man and I would learn that he had been earlier convicted of a daring jewel theft when he was little more than a teenager.  I was to be his counselor, but then he was moved out of the place where we were living and I only saw him on occasion.  I was told he was to be considered, privileged.  There were all sorts of rumors about him, but I saw him as a bright young man with great potential.  He demonstrated this by becoming an evangelist with the people who had helped to get him out of prison.

Finally, I was to meet a young black guy on "death row" in Nashville for the murder of a drug dealer in his home town.  I was merely visiting at the request of a fellow member of the church we both attended.
Michael was a fascinating young man, given his background where he was fathered by a "visitor" and left to be raised by his mother who had other children to raise in a neighborhood where "opportunity" was little more than a buzz word for the white folks in that community.  For the most part, Michael was raised on the streets and eventually, there was an offer for drugs, a pistol, and confusion that would lead to the murder of a man suspected to be a drug dealer.  The police had two boys in custody and they offered "life" to the one who "ratted" on the other.  Michael lost and was sentenced to death.

Then, God intervened in the form of a Pastor visiting the prison and shared with Michael, the truly good news of the plan of God for redemption.  Although Michael was poorly schooled, he heard the offer and was determined to be able to read and write, skills that he now possesses that are a tribute to the fact that if you really are motivated to move towards the "good" life, you can.  I happen to be a college graduate and if others might dare to suggest I am a scholar, I like to tell them about Michael.  The good news is that the death sentence has been removed and he is now eligible for parole.

Three men, three very "wise" men have visited me in my life and each has inspired me to greater things in life than to waste it away, talking about my college degree.

What they have inspired me to do is expound on the grace of God that I have witnessed in the lives of these three visitors and others along the way.  I will admit that have I wasted a lot of my life away chasing dreams of one kind or another, none of which have lifted me to the place in life I now enjoy.

When the Bible teaches about the so-called "prodigal" son, it is like His opening my eyes to my own life.

And today, I think about the poor demented soul sitting in a jail in Kansas City.  He is not alone.  There are thousands of jail cells throughout our nation, filled with people who have lost their way in life and their only "product" in life has been the confusion they spread along the way.  And we don't help our own cause as we seem satisfied to affix labels to them and move on - until the next murder.    

Some blame it on the guns.  Others claim it is the lack of an effective education.  And there are those who want us to believe it is because the church has failed in its authentic teaching.

For all of these, I would suggest they look into the mirrors that have framed their lives.  I know because I have had many opportunities to follow my own advice.  Having done so, I share my experiences.

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