Saturday, September 08, 2007

Here's a question for you:

Where is the right place, and when is the right time, to be murdered?

Folks in our neck of the woods are reeling today from this story:

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - His favorite movie was Easy Rider, his favorite book was The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, his favorite musician was Bob Dylan.

Despite his counterculture bent, Kyle Quinn - the son of a Warminster Township supervisor - attended a very unradical college, Kutztown University, in the heart of Amish country. Here, early yesterday, he was found fatally beaten along quaint Main Street.

Police arrested three men who they say spent the night drinking in Shorty's bar, then chose their 19-year-old victim at random and left him unconscious. [Emphasis mine.]

A police officer happened to come by the scene shortly before 2:30 a.m. and made the arrests, Berks County District Attorney Mark Baldwin said.

Quinn "had been beaten and was lying in a pool of blood," Baldwin told reporters.

Quinn was pronounced dead at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown at 3:36 a.m. An autopsy was scheduled for today.

It was Kutztown's first homicide since 1982, officials said. This borough of 5,000 residents, nestled in farm country between Reading and Allentown, has had only three murders since 1968.

The rest of this sad story is here. The local TV news was all over this tragic tale yesterday, as they no doubt will be today. And in at least two of the stories I've seen so far, I have heard a reporter and a police official use the phrase "wrong place, wrong time," is in "This was a case where the victim was just in the wrong place at the wrong time." And you know what? That bothers me.

This young man belonged where he was. He was a student at Kutztown, which, by the way, is a very nice place to go to school. I've actually visited there. He sounds like he must have been a great kid. Heck, he could have been my kid. He was out having a good time in his college town. The people who picked him out at random in order to murder him did NOT necessarily belong there. They lived somewhere else. They drove to this college town (where none of them went to school) to, presumably, "party" with the college kids and then cause trouble. Which they did. Their victim did nothing wrong. But it drives me bats when I hear someone use that "wrong place, wrong time" line, because, to me, it's a way of saying the victim DID do something wrong, as if the victim of this horrific act of stupid, pointless, random insanity had no right to be where he was. Which is wrong.

I've heard this same line used to somehow try to explain the "execution style" slayings of three Delaware State University students in Newark last month. These three friends, along with a fourth young person who somehow survived this attack, were sitting in a neighborhood playground, minding their own business, when they were lined up, ordered to face a wall and drop to their knees, and were then systematically shot in the back of the head, one at a time. This for reasons still unknown. What had they done wrong? Nothing, apparently. As Newark police keep saying, they were simply "guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Well, no. In both of these cases, the pack of cowards who committed these killings were the ones who were in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. This phrase was also used by at least a few of the commentators I heard who were expounding on their opinions regarding the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this year. Excuse me? The victims there were college students and professors - and a campus police officer - who were in class or in a college dorm, doing what they were supposed to do. That is, most of the victims were in class. To somehow imply in the slightest way that the victims of these random acts of violence are somehow responsible for their deaths is ludicrous at best, and disgustingly insulting at worst. And worst of all, it also says to me that, somehow, we're being told that we have to expect - and maybe accept - that things like this are "bound" to happen. That they are "just part of life."

Which is a lie. Unless, of course, we buy into it.

(Cross-posted at The Quaker Agitator.)

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