Murder is one those words that I hear every day and have for years and years and years, to the point, I fully admit, that I have become totally desensitized to its real meaning. Yep, to me, the more I hear the word murder, and especially the more I read it in yet another newspaper report, the more and more detached I seem to become from it. It has lost its initial intended meaning to me. In fact, right now as I type this and just think of the word MURDER in my head, I cannot help but hear the refrain from that classic 1993 dancehall reggae hit by Chaka Demus & Pliers, "Murder She Wrote," echoing happily in my skull: "murder she wrote, nah nahnah, murrrrder she wrote." So, to me, murder or that six letter word spelled backwards -- redrum (popularized by The Shining) -- is just another empty, meaningless word, or, even worse, alternately, it is a sexy catch-phrase, repeated in songs I hum, the theme of entertaining movies I watch, video games I play, books I read, and juicy headlines in morning newspapers I read as I sip my comforting coffee. So ultimately murder to me (and maybe to you too?) is just another hollow disposable word -- nothing more, nothing less. Unless, unless, that is, of course, that the word murder is directly connected to me personally or to someone close to me.
So as I sat on the BART the other morning reading a small article in the Bay Area section of the San Francisco Chronicle under the heading "Two Murders In Oakland Over The Weekend," about a couple of unrelated fatal street shootings (one of them "gang related"), to be totally honest, it barely registered in my consciousness, just the same ol, same ol to this jaded soul. Until, that is, the location of one of the murders jumped off the page at me ("Fairview Ave. in the 100 block, north of Lake Merrit"). Damn! I realized that this was directly outside the apartment building where I stay. Later that day from talking to folks in the immediate East Bay neighborhood I found out all the killing's tragic details: that the murder happened on Friday night at 9:25PM. That it took place directly opposite the church (ironically) when a car screeched to a halt in the middle of the street with two guys audibly arguing inside. Both got out, still arguing loudly, and one shot the other nine times before hopping back into the driver's seat to speed away leaving the body of a 29 year old man bleeding to death on that chilly Oakland night.
"The blood is still out there on the street!," one neighbor giddily informed me yesterday. That observation was confirmed this morning as I walked by the exact spot where the murder took place. And a few feet close by, on the sidewalk, was a simple makeshift alter at the foot of a street sign with flowers and candles (see pic top left). And even though it was early this morning, just after 7AM, I noticed someone had lit one of the candles. I wondered if the person who lit this candle knew this murdered man personally or if they lived in one of the houses nearby. And if, like me, they unexpectedly got drawn to the sadness of this tragedy initially because of its proximity to their dwelling but then, like me, had became attached after realizing just how terribly sad this and every murder everywhere truly is.
That same morning this week (Monday) on the BART heading into San Francisco (to 24th Street station) reading the Chronicle, I glanced another couple of items about shootings and murders -- these in San Francisco. Several of them were in the Western Addition, where shootings and gang violence has been on the increase lately, and some were reporting shootings in the Mission. One that caught my eye was the shooting of a 15 year old kid over the weekend on the corner of 24th and Harrison -- just a couple of blocks from where I was heading for after I exited BART. Damn! A few minutes later as I walked through the Mission along 24th -- taking pics of graffiti (right and below) -- I thought about that kid getting killed for "being in the wrong place at the wrong time." I thought about the implication that the shooting might have been "gang-related" and I thought about how that commonly used term (gang-related) always somehow manages to desensitize us when we read about it in relation to a murder. Like it dehumanizes the tragedy somehow -- which, of course, is bullshit! I also wondered to myself, as I snapped pictures of the beautiful bright graffiti and murals of the Mission District on this lovely warm and sunny San Francisco morning, how could people surrounded by such beautiful art cause so much pain to one another?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know one thing: that the word murder has regained its real meaning for me once again. And I do know that all of these senseless murders are killing me. Murder, even if I don't know the victim, makes me sad... really, really sad.