Today I was able to get the LA Times homicide report on the murder near my home. Jonathan Alfred Morales, age 17, was stabbed at approximately 6:37 p.m. One suspect is in custody and another remains at large.
Every victim of a violent crime deserves some dignity. It began, for me, by finding the name of the victim. As a writer and afficionado of mystery fiction, I like to maintain the myth that justice is done, that wounds are healed, grievances are somehow resolved. I am well aware that in the real world, such resolution seldom happens.
On the LAPD website, Jonathan Morales is not much more than a statistic, murder victim #070630836.
A few doors North of the intersection of Van Ness and Virginia Avenues, a makeshift shrine has appeared. There were 16 candles arranged in a cross, a glass of holy water, flowers and cards, a baseball cap. A cigar. For a brief period of time, this will be what celebrates the life cut short of a youth I didn't know. It reminds me --and all who pass-- that this young man was someone with friends and family. A human being.
I once heard Edna Buchanan speak of her days on the homicide beat at the Miami Herald, during a period when Miami's violent crime rate put is at the front of the nation's attention. Buchanan spoke passionately of the need to give each victim the respect they were due, to be more than another anonymous statistic. I would hope that every writer of crime fiction, as well as every reader, desires to fulfill that goal somehow, if even vicariously through the hard work and dedication of others.
My family has been involved in civil rights or activism in various ways for more than a century. I was raised with the ideas of right and wrong and personal responsibility deeply instilled. I won't have the chance to fill the roles of most of my family members; the world, and our society has changed that their specific activities and involvement is no longer relevant. Even though I don't currently work as a journalist, I hope that my ethics and motivations in writing are still fueled by the same sense of personal responsibity. This is, as much as the tales of life of the book tour or publishing tales of horror that we all commiserate with on this network, what we bear in mind as to why we write.
Both of my grandfathers were men who never spoke a word that wasn't necessary. I hope that whatever I should write would be as concise and purposeful.