Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lost Generations

Statistically speaking black men are committing more crimes and face more and longer terms of incarceration. “These lost generations” are not just a racial issue or related to one race. Think of the victims that these young men (of all races) leave in their wake. The impacts are inter-racial and cross generational.

I consider myself lucky. I grew up in a household where my siblings and me lived with both my mother and father until I was almost 16. Then my parents divorced. Mom wasn’t rich; she was a schoolteacher. My father wasn’t any better off financially speaking. I grew up in South Florida in an area where drugs and bad influences were as common as anywhere else. Trouble was easy to find for those who weren’t afraid of it (or just didn’t care). Nothing prevented me from joining the military in the early 1980’s and I didn’t. I didn’t finish college either; I just went to work. The thought of going to prison was shameful. Taking something that wasn’t mine or harming someone else purposefully was appalling too.

A lot of kids these days don’t have any shame when it comes to criminal activities. Their role models are all eventually imprisoned or accused of some crime. Only a precious few (if any) college or professional athletes have clean records (legal or medical). They grow up with a Nintendo mentality (say “I’m sorry” and everything’s ok). They play Grand Theft Auto on video game machines at home in and in the real world.

Where do today’s youths learn about personal responsibility? Presidents commit adultery on the job, CEO’s are subpoenaed, investigated, convicted and imprisoned every year. When parent’s fail, why should we think it’s just their fault? Let’s face it, when “Junior” ends up in prison for life, it’s too darn late for everyone.

Members of the Saiz family have expressed support for the execution of convicted murderer Dwight McLean. They (Saiz’s) will share a life sentence dreading potential escapes or violent infractions of inmates like McLean. After sentencing, the State represents the offender; they are responsible for his well being now. As far as the State is concerned, the Saiz’s have all the justice they are going to get. It’s “case closed” as far as the courts are concerned. Lawyers say that life without parole means McLean will die in State custody. Lawyers also argue about the definition of the word “is”. No one can personally guarantee that McLean’s last breath of air will be drawn behind prison walls, or that he will never harm another person or never escape. Sad, ain’t it?

WRAL forgot who the victims are here. Yes, McLean was only a kid (17) when he murdered Robert Saiz, but 16 year old kids are given drivers licenses every day by the North Carolina DMV and they are entrusted to make life or death decisions on our roads. McLean committed PREMEDITATED MURDER, not an accidental traffic infraction. McLean wasn’t charged with being careless or stupid. He purposely pulled the trigger on a firearm (during a robbery) and shot his victim from behind (a victim trying to flee).

I don’t blame Dwight McLean’s parents for the murder of Robert Saiz. They didn’t pull the trigger. I blame Dwight McLean. He knew better and murdered anyway. Now he has to live with the consequences. Dwight McLean is not a victim! When we “feel sorry” for these murderers or put them up on a pedestal or glorify them in any way, we enable the next generation to do the same things.

The courts said that executing Dwight McLean might be the wrong thing to do; as a result, he was sentenced to “life”. Whose life? Only time will tell if he doesn’t harm a corrections officer, another offender or commit suicide. Things happen in prisons that are crueler than taking a nap on a gurney. There are no questions concerning guilt in McLean’s case. He’s not been in prison for all that long and he’s already committed a few “minor infractions”. Let us all hope that Saiz family's concerns about a mere life sentence or justifications for an execution are not confirmed. Dwight’s probably got another 50 years to go before this is over…