Live by the sword, die by the sword.
Jesus said it, and Jalen proved it.
And so it was that with a shotgun blast on a Saturday night justice was done in the Flower City.
Not with courts and cops and pretty words, but with the harsh cruelty that thunders in fire and lead. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, this is life on the streets.
Some two years after walking out of court a free man, and some four years after doing a drive by that left three other young men dead, Jalen Everett has left this world, a victim of felony crime. Someone else’s felony crime directly, and his own felony crime indirectly.
Because this was a case of as ye sow, so shall ye reap. What goes around, comes around. And karma’s a bitch, baby.
And beyond police overtime, the taxpayer comes out ahead.
And you can’t help but think that, save for a juror’s crudity and a judge’s sensitivity to it, Jalen Everett would be working on his GED in prison somewhere, contemplating release in middle age and trying to get somebody to put money in his commissary account.
But instead, now, at 24, it is his family that will be preparing a funeral.
And the cesspool of evil will have claimed more life and broken more hearts.
And the only people who win are the ones selling Hennessy and Virgin candles.
Yes, he got what he deserved. But he and all the others deserved better.
Because Jalen Everett wasn’t born bad. Not him, nor any of the others. It wasn’t that long ago that he was an innocent babe in arms, a gift from God, a boy baby born in the city of Rochester. They line up in the incubators at Strong and General, today’s angels who, short years in the future, will be tomorrow’s devils. The ones who prey and are preyed upon.
And the failed culture that steals their purity and potential continues to flourish. Deprived of love and nurture, without the structure of true home and family, awash in a microculture of savagery and aggression, they are troubled by kindergarten, violent in elementary school, and on the prowl in their teens. And they find themselves on one end of a gun or the other.
Dying in retaliation for a shooting which was retaliation for another which was sparked by a third.
The energy and masculinity of young manhood twisted from strength to weakness, salvation to damnation, and when they should be going off into life they are instead stepping down into the gutter.
And sometimes all a mourning mother has to cling to is a mugshot.
Jalen Everett got what he deserved. But he and all the others deserved better.
And all his hometown has done, for decades on end, is show that it has no idea how to stem violence. No idea, and no desire. No willingness to challenge the broken way of life that produces broken boys, or disrupt the political and non-profit system that profits from it all, winning elections and grants on the backs of young men dying and killing.
It’s a gravy train that turns blood into gold for the ones on top.
And tears into everyday companions for the ones on bottom.
We’re good at vigils. We’re good at holding hands and praying for the TV cameras. We’re good at bellowing into bullhorns. We’re good at City Hall looking the other way. We’re good at monetizing murder, at starting one more program to provide a check for one more connected activist.
But we’re not good at demanding and pleading and praying that babies be loved, truly loved, and that decency and respect be taught. That the innocence and purity of a newborn babe be nurtured and encouraged, and reinforced and guided and shaped.
In the very town where Frederick Douglass uttered the words of absolute truth, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” we facilitate the shattering of children by tolerating the feral raising of them. Out of respect for practices that are not respectable, we allow the boys of Rochester to face a high likelihood of having their potentials destroyed by the circumstances that produced them.
We don’t need more programs, we need better mothers.
And a better neighborhood culture of love and support for those mothers. And hopefully for the men who should be fathers -- real fathers.
We need pastors who preach Jesus instead of Marx, commandments instead of politics, loving God instead of hating cops. We need a sense of right and wrong -- not as anger and condemnation, but as love and encouragement. This path leads to happiness, and this path leads to sorrow.
Or Dewey Avenue. Or Genesee Street.
Or wherever they will string the police tape next.