I am having trouble writing, because a rather terrible thing happened in Ilion, NY yesterday (Tuesday), and that is what I really want to write about. This being a totally fun blog (see subhead), it hardly seems an appropriate subject. More to the point, I don’t know that much about it beyond what I heard on WKTV News this morning. That makes this a purely opinion piece, and who cares about my opinion? I’m no pundit.
Then again, I’m a person. I suppose my opinion counts as much as the next person’s (depending on who the next person is). This is a personal blog. This happened in the Mohawk Valley. I shall write a little.
For non-local readers what I am referring to is a stand-off situation that left one man dead, one house burned to the ground, neighboring houses damaged, and a neighborhood (at least) upset.
It apparently began with a domestic dispute. Police arrived to find an armed man barricaded in an upstairs apartment throwing things out the window. The man refused to negotiate but threw burning objects, Molotov cocktails and a hammer at the officers. The hammer hit two of them.
About 2 a.m. he set the house on fire. Police and firemen were unable to rescue the man, who in fact did not seem to want to be rescued. Neighbors had been evacuated. Only next door neighbors were unable to return to their homes, due to fire damage.
One reason people are so upset is that this is less than a year after a man set a house on fire then shot six people, killing four, plus a police dog, before police shot and killed him. It seems every other day in the news we hear about another shooting or stabbing or something.
When these things happen, people always ask why, and the fact of the matter is, we don’t know. In this case we can’t ask the man, because he is dead. In cases where the perpetrator hasn’t died, he or she never seems to offer a reasonable explanation. At least I’ve never heard one.
Reactions range from compassionate — “Oh, that poor man, he was so desperate” — to angry — “What the H*** was the matter with him?” In cases where the perpetrator kills others before killing himself, Steven always asks, “Why couldn’t he have just killed himself?” It is easier to feel compassion when they only kill themselves. Still, what a destructive, obtrusive way to do it. Couldn’t he have just quietly taken some pills? I suppose that last was a dreadfully insensitive thing to say, but I think I have a point.
Tuesday’s fire could be seen as an act of despair. “Nothing in my life will ever be good again. It doesn’t matter what I do.” Or it could be seen as an act of entitlement. “If I don’t get what I want when I want it, I can act however the h*** I want to!”
None of which brings us any closer to preventing future acts of violence.
I think these acts are acts of disconnection. People who feel connected to their fellow human beings find alternative ways to behave. If this man had felt the slightest connection with the police officers, he would have responded to their overtures. If he had felt more connected to his neighbors, he might have reached out before things became so desperate. At the very least, he may have felt that the actions he took might hurt people, and he may have refrained from doing so.
Of course this is not a solution, or even a coherent plan of action. “Well, I’ll just go out there and get connected! Then nobody will burn anybody’s house down ever again!” I realize there are no easy solutions. But I would like to feel that somewhere there are solutions.
Perhaps what I am saying sounds very foolish. If so, I ask the following: please do not say, “You are STUPID!” or words to that effect. Instead, say, “What you say is wrong. Here is why…” and explain it to me. Start a dialogue. Begin a discussion. Dare I say, connect with me.
Well, this is completely not the sort of post Mohawk Valley Girl usually makes. Yet, I think it has done me good to write it. Sometimes I find it difficult to maintain optimism in these unsettled times. I like to think there is the possibility for improvement.