Like many older men I have grown weary with the deaths of young men. I do not know what happened the night Trayvon Martin died, only what the only surviving witness said and what a jury of his peers decided. The alleged assailants of the Australian college student Chris Lane reportedly said they were bored and so killed him, but this explanation is impossible, isn’t it, even in a world gone as mad as our world?
The usual suspects are ferreted out and exposed. Those who still make a living on the supposed prejudice of others despised one of the murders and tweated the other “should be frowned on.” Guns are the sole cause, or bad parenting, or absentee fathers or alcohol or video games no sane person would give his child.
We do know one certain fact; two young men are dead, irretrievably dead, removed forever from their father’s instruction and their mother’s embrace. If you are of the Judeo-Christian heritage (I know, I know, so many inscrutably wise people believe no such heritage exists, nor did it ever, but I cling to it still) then you believe that not only are these two young men lost to us but also all the lives that might have come from them, as well, extending down to every generation that might have known their DNA. They are gone, lost to us in a thoughtless, angry second, months and miles apart, but of the same lingering evil.
And, though it counts for nothing, I am simply over-weary with the deaths of young men. Chris Lane was said to have a “crooked grin,” the kind of smile I believe bespeaks shyness, even self-consciousness, a modesty that so often characterizes Aussies. My prejudice shows here, for the world over, on whatever continent I have traveled, the nicest people you meet are Aussies.
Shakespeare makes his Julius Caesar shrug over death, wondering aloud why men should “fear so natural an end.” We all love the bard but there is nothing natural about a fellow in a hoodie killed on his way home from the corner store, or a baseball player shot down while on a jog. The surreal aspects of their deaths should make us shudder, as if no clement sun will ever again break through our gathering cultural gloom.
Since no one in power seems likely to say, let me say from my lowly post, Chris Lane looked like he “might have been a son of mine.” Trayvon Martin, hoodie and all, resembled the young black man my wife and I helped raise. Regardless of their racial resemblances, they are both “sons of us all.” To mourn their passing on our streets is the most natural thing we can ever do, complete with a pledge to make those streets safer by whatever legal, moral, compassionate, gracious means we might find.
We should, I think, each one of us, grow weary with the deaths of young men.