The Cry For Help

What alarm can one raise in the morning when the cry for help went unanswered in the night? What outrage can you express, save to concede the undeniable? That the foreboding of the coming night, though hours away, fill your mind with dread.

We would have been relieved if the piercing cry in the dead of night was a mistake, a confusion of some sorts or other feelings of emotions, perhaps virgin lovers wrestling and shrieking in affectual disagreement, and so while regrettable, there would be no need to be concerned that life or liberty is at risk. We would be relieved, satisfied even, least the uninitiated run to give aid and comfort in an environment that has already been ceded. Instead of a sacred place or trust being violated?

There comes the cry again. Chilling. Piercing. Needy. There is no denying that appeal. Then silence. You tiptoed to a place that allowed you to exercise your rights to bear arms, recently acquired. sufficiently armed, you looked  more confident, but neither you nor I left the discomfort of where we stood in the dark, barely breathing and sweating profusely.

Our silence, perhaps appropriate in the night, was not shamed by the police tape in the morning, they did not come till night had given her charge to the day. What could you say? “That you were armed and dangerous, ready to repel the devils but you were uncertain from where the cry for help, that single solitary cry, came?”  Or, that “I gave you no encouragement to be the hero that you have always wanted to be?”

As disturbing as the cry for help is, our response, if we are honest men, is an unwelcome acknowledgement that our world is more overshadowed by fear than by courage.

cry for helpThe crisis is not the decease cry for help, or even our paralysis in the moments we heard what we did not want to hear. Rather, it is our continued hope and prayer for a change in our circumstances whilst not lifting a finger  to effect same. It is our passionate insistence that arming ourselves with military hardware will ensure that thieves and murderers will either be converted or transported, preferably the latter with a bullet `tween the eyes. Then, we, still in the land of the living, can then not be confined or restricted to the narrow spaces we have been penned into.

Meanwhile we will make ready for the unfortunate turn of events, evidenced by our large turnout for the funeral, at which we will speak honestly of how good and upright the person was, even to the final breath as  the cry for help was made. Is this what we have become? A people filled with sorrow and remorse at funerals, extending condolences and consolations that cannot comfort the living? The dead could do no worse. Is this what it means for the dead to bury their dead?

A mourner`s grief stricken loss, perhaps, leading to uncomfortable words. Yet, our crisis must be faced, and the evidence of more cries for help going unanswered, despite our arming ourselves in our pajamas, is undeniable. If arming ourselves doesn’t change the circumstances, or the misperceptions that worries a man who is unimpressed with the quality of our commitment to him, or he is already convinced he is a victim of a society that has a storied and a checkered history, can we do right by him in sending him to meet his maker without making a determined effort to remedy the squalor in which we too, live.

What shall we do? Shallow analysis of crime statistics have zeroed in on those likely to offend, giving us racial profiling, stop and frisk, three strikes laws, early arrest of teens and preteens, privatizing of some prisons, a disproportionately large and growing prison population, dysfunctional families and still the cry for help go unanswered in the night, and the undertakers are doing a thriving business on a dead end street.

Law enforcement personnel can be expected to defend any measure that yields them a measure of success, their job is admittedly hard and stressful. Nonetheless, we cannot continue to do the things that are ineffective and inefficient, well intentioned though they may be, and continue to cede the productive spaces in which we work, play and raise our families. We are in an inglorious spot, penned in by the denials of how stark the deficiencies in our concerns for each other are. So we wait, dreading what the cry for help will demand of us. Perhaps a reluctant hero, but if not a sad faced mourner in the funeral procession.

When others of lesser means or resources are able to live, laugh and be unarmed in their pajamas, are able to educate their children, create markets and opportunities for their citizens, strengthen the appreciation for law and order, while we, with our noses pressed up against a window pane or turned up in disdain, are faltering in our execution of our basic responsibilities to each other,  are building prisons and seeking new lenders, there has to be a recognition that, in more ways than we care to admit, the cry for help is not something we can hope and pray away. Perhaps not even respond to with blazing guns.

The cry for help is indicative of our need to answer each others` concern before the cry pierces the night or expose our temporary disorientation.

Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow

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