Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Reckoning in Oakland

Sometimes in early spring, sometimes in peaceful places and under a bright sun the urge to pull the trigger reminds us, jarringly, that it doesn't stop to check the calendar or location. I have a small piece coming out in the May San Francisco Magazine about the killing of seven people at Oakland's Oikos University in early April, about the ways in which its circumstances did and didn't fit with the usual patterns of violence here.

Certain rules always apply, and as usual I couldn't help but think about what I've learned following some of Oakland's violence prevention workers over the past two-plus years: in particular, that the one pulling the trigger never considers that the person he seeks to destroy is not his only victim. That bullet that wounds or kills, it also ricochets, wounding or killing the lives of families, friends, communities, of the cities of the victims. Now the seven families, and the city's Korean community, begin their struggle through a place where so many Oaklanders dwell, the dark void of the survivor.

Of course, these killings at Oikos are all about how easy it is to get guns in the United States, and how hard it is to get good mental health care. All your plans, all your prevention, all your police work can't stop an angry, mentally ill person from acquiring a weapon and killing. Some say that's the price of living in a free society. But it's so often the innocent who pay when the reckoning comes due.