Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rodney King Dead at 47

Rodney King was found dead, by his fiance, floating in the bottom of his swimming pool. Rodney was an African American who was beaten savagely by several Los Angeles Police Officers . The beating was caught on video tape by a passing citizen and the entire country, especially the Black Community became outraged.  Several of the officers were arrested and charged, but when they were acquitted, outrage turned to violence and riots broke out in several cities. In Los Angeles the riots lasted for days and included extensive and blatant looting of businesses. It took years for the city to recover. During the riots Rodney made the now famous plea for calm asking "Can't we all just get along?"

Rodney was just an average guy made famous by circumstances. He made some bad decisions which lead him into a life of petty crime and alcohol and drug abuse, something that is tragically all too common. I could take a cheap shot here and point out that he was African American and quote some statistics about how prevalent this is in that community -but that would be dishonest.  The bad choices that kids make at an early age to use drugs, which almost inevitably lead them down a road of crime and prevent them from getting a good paying job (let alone a career), are a plague on all communities regardless of race, culture or religion.

I do not need to read studies or see statics to know this. I have spent the majority of my adult life in management, counseling and teaching -41 years of experience. I know this for a plain and simple fact.

The tragedy of Rodney King is not the riots he became known for. The tragedy was his inability to free himself from a life of drug abuse and petty crime. And it is not just his life we are talking about. It is a societal problem -endemic in all communities, in all countries. It is a problem which we should be smart enough to solve. But we are not. How many studies have been made about these problems? How many agencies and programs have been set up by governments and community groups and churches and religious organizations to combat this? Hundreds? Thousands? Perhaps Tens of Thousands? And the problem still persists and grows.

That is not to say that some of these attempts have not produced good results. Some certainly have. But lack of recognition and support, and the inevitable greed and abuse of the bureaucracies set up to support these programs have repeatedly prevented them from making significant progress addressing the problem. To over-simplify it, it has not been a lack of recognition nor effort, it has been a tragic lack of leadership.

Rodney's passing is tragic. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. His life, however, should be a lesson for us all. We must all make the effort to try and keep our young people from making those bad decisions which lead to this cycle of abuse and crime. Perhaps, in the final analysis, that is the real answer. Maybe, just maybe, if more of us made an effort, one on one, to help and guide our youth we could finally defeat this problem, or at least change it from "common" to "rare".

But, alas, I doubt it. Most of us are too involved in our own lives and problems to take the time to help the kids. We prefer to let the government and the social service agencies tackle the problem. -And I don't see that changing soon.

Perhaps that is the real tragedy in all of this. Perhaps we are missing the real point of Rodney's simple plea: "Can't we all just get along"....

Live Long and Prosper....

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