You don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Often times, this adage is used in regards to a relationship that's come to an untimely end or conclusion. Be it through personal experience or witnessing the downfall of something that is supposed to be long-lasting, one party or the other feels, whether consciously or subconsciously, what on earth the other person is (or is not) thinking. Whether people want to admit it or not, there's an undercurrent or sense that one person eventually is to miss out on the gift that equates to your presence.
Interestingly, this adage plays itself out in more than an interpersonal relationship or two. In fact, when you consider one of the more precious gifts that anyone can experience, based on what we've seen in recent days and years, it makes you wonder if people sincerely realize that there's something else that we forget about until it happens in our backyard or to someone we are closely associated with or connected to.
That would be the gift of life.
Consider the initial outcry, then calming down, and eventual acceptance or co-signing on "it's just another story" or another sad tale that we can do little to nothing about. As sad as what took place at Sandy Creek Elementary, which is given a profound reminder during the pre-game of the Super Bowl, consider the marginal coverage and more localized outcry given the 506 homicides that took place in the city of Chicago in 2012; only when the recent case of Hadiya Pendleton made national attention is the response stronger than the customary ripple which fades after its initial impact.
Even in the city of Atlanta, last week's shooting at Price Middle School, in which a 14 year old student is shot in the back of the neck by a 15 year old student, while drawing an initial response of shock, has reached an eerie calming. While early reports noted the school's metal detectors (At a middle school? Really?) are not working at the time, and the blame game is initially pointed at the school, where is a similar level of outcry directed at the community conditions present which may serve as contributory factors resulting in such random (or not so random) acts of violence and degradation of life?
Interesting, isn't it? Life can be more fleeting and fragile than what people expect, and the aura of invincibility can be shattered in the blink of an eye. Likewise, for multiple reasons known and unknown, such issues seemingly take place at a disproportionate rate among different demographic groups. Regardless of color, in 2010 alone, nearly 75% of all victims of homicide (view the report and scroll to the homicide section) are victimized by someone they know (i.e. an acquaintance, partner, family member, or friend) and presumably, someone of the name ethnic and/or demographic background.
Have people simply become too conditioned to accepting the worst, especially what is typically shown in the first ten minutes of the 6pm, 10pm, or 11pm local news? Or, are people in the community realizing that the changes needed may not always come from government or law enforcement? Perhaps it means that a lot more have to do a little investing in people and their communities, ranging from after-school, nonprofit, service and civic organizations, local businesses, professional associations, the religious community, and others. Maybe, just maybe, when a noted civil rights leader noted that he couldn't sit "idly by", let alone understanding that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" isn't just a soul-stirring sermon-based saying to rally around one day a week.
Higher individual and collective accountability and improved access to resources are a few of the keys that can perhaps contain the levels of foolishness that people see far too often. Likewise, something called respect for self can also play a role; sometimes, certain segments of the population note how others have historically oppressed and emasculated other groups of people, or that violence against others is interwoven in a country's "fabric". While this may be true and may be a part of the problem, if said group who notes the actions of others subconsciously or otherwise co-signs on such actions against its own kind, then how can one truly demand more out of others when it demands little to nothing from themselves? It's the classic "my child is a good child around me", but when you look at the track record, it's clear you may have only listened to the demo or outtake of the entire song or album, or even worse, you made an allegorical decision of how good a movie is by only watching the trailer. You have to watch the entire film before you make a decision.
Perhaps a more perfect union is perhaps a dream or a fool's folly, but it may be one worth chasing and pursuing. We don't have to be perfect, but we can be better. Investing in people, investing in community, it is not full of fanfare like winning the Super Bowl MVP (and the payday that comes with it) or nailing the game-winning shot or even being the headliner of a concert. However, the little daily investment, even in something as simple as a 40 day call for peace, can be a start for moving closer towards where we can be and just doing more than hooting and hollering for a day, only to be replaced by a smooth and smothering silence just days later.
And by the way, happy (what would have been your) 18th birthday, Mr. Trayvon Martin.