Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Don't say them, please.

Try not to think them, if you can.

And DO NOT voice them to Daniella Powell, if you have any compassion at all.

Why not?

Because saying things so pithy and awful as "Society's to blame", or " You had to have known this was going to happen" to this grieving mother are cold comfort - downright icy.

Such statements only serve to bolster the horrifically cynical attitude that money is the perfect justification for a father to slit the throat of the future - of his future - and dump it in a field. "Whoever saves a human life saves the world entire" is a saying of the fathers in my religion. Danny Platt turned that completely on its head. Some father.

No, we cannot bring this child back from his unjustified death. But we can do our best to help with the healing of this mother who is left behind.

In her shock, she is still thinking her son needs new clothes. I am grateful for the presence of her extended family at this time, and I hope that more New Orleanians all over this city will reach out and show her that her feelings matter, that her son did not deserve this fate, and that she should not be thinking "What if..?" for the rest of her days.

As in, "What if I didn't let Ja'Shawn visit alone with his daddy?"

"What if I had gone with them?"

"What if I had taken the indifference of his daddy more seriously?"

Those sort of thoughts are slow killers that can consume the thinker. Hindsight is a 20/20 horror at times like these.

Bottom line: she was only doing what we have encouraged single parents of children time and again to do, and what we still encourage them to do: develop a relationship between the estranged parent and his/her child. How many times have you heard this? Whether it's coming from the mouths of those preaching "family values" in a fairly narrow context or simply from researchers saying that having both parents in the lives of a growing child is preferable, it is clear that raising a child alone is still not the way to go, if one can help it. Daniella Powell had little reason, in any case, to believe that her son wouldn't come back home.

I worry now about her capacity to trust others. She had entrusted the life of her young son to someone she thought would value that life enough to at least visit with the boy for a time, because he had visited with Ja'Shawn a few times before.

Danny Platt ended one life...and seriously injured another.

Contributing to the funeral fund for this child is the least we can all do.

Contributing to a society that values life above all else is the work that is never done...but it is absolutely necessary to help prevent things like this from happening again.

Update, 4:12 PM: Jarvis DeBerry weighs in:

I used to believe that I loved my father because he loved me. I used to think that I loved him not because he carried me around on his shoulders or let me sit on his lap to watch basketball games or showed me how to keep my center of gravity low to catch a hard-hit ground ball, but because he was there -- day in, day out, no matter the circumstances. But Ja'Shawn's gleeful reaction Friday night makes plain that a little boy will love a daddy who has done next to nothing for him.

Daniella Powell says Ja'Shawn said, "Oh, my daddy's here" and ran to the door saying, "Daddy, daddy, daddy."

"He was so happy," she said.

And then the father raised his hand against him.


Red said...

Goddamn, I'm still crying about this! There's some tragedies in life like 9/11, like Aaliyah's plane crash, like when the levees broke - the tragedy marks you like a tattoo. You always remember where you were when you saw the planes fly into the buildings or the water coming over the levees or the video of that man saying "I'm sorry I killed my baby".

we will move on but how will we ever get over what happened to this little baby boy, on of ours.

thanks Leigh for the compassion, for holding the vigil for this child of ours.

Cold Spaghetti said...

I really admire how you found words on this...