"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone" -
Last Saturday, El Nuevo Dia ran an editorial ("Una Muerte En El Piel Del Pais") that essentially blamed the people that may have been complicit in the senseless murder of Karla Negrón. The latest victim of a "bala perdida" (stray bullet) on New Year's Eve, Karla's passing has become a symbol for Puerto Rico's raging crime.
As the editorial claims "En cada lugar y en cada comunidad desde la cuales, [...], individuos desalmados hicieron disparos al aire, es seguro que hubo otras personas que fueron testigos directos o indirectos de esa reprochable y disocidora actividad." Bluntly put, the editorial insists that everywhere someone discahrged a weapon into the air, there had to be witnesses.
The editorial continues to suggest that there are ways to report such activity. Yeah right, would you stick out your neck and report someone you know to be in possession of and willing to use firearms? The editorial continues by suggesting that by reporting these crimes, the informants would help reduce crime and restore peace to our communities.
This editorial reminded of a New Testament story that I think applies perfectly. As Mary Magdelene is being threatened with stoning for accusations of prostitution, Jesus steps in and tells the crowd: "Let he among you, that is without sin, cast the first stone." Reluctantly, the crowd examines their conscience and quietly disperses.
This is a powerful story and very instructive in this situation. First, while regrettable, Karla's death is, in my opinion, just another example of broken windows theory. Simply put, broken windows theory suggests that when citizens see laws being broken, then they feel empowered to also break the law.
From top to bottom, and east to west, Puerto Rico is drowning in lawlessness. From illegal businesses, to contraband trafficking, to corruption (kickbacks, bribes, etc.), to organized crime (gangs), and, unfortunately, to murder. We talk of "balas perdidas," but rarely does anyone complain about illegal fireworks. While some fireworks are legal in Puerto Rico, all fireworks that explode or shoot a projectile into the air are illegal for use in Puerto Rico. They are illegally brought into Puerto Rico through our ports and plainly sold in our streets. In this instance, there really isn't any difference between illegal drugs and illegal fireworks; both are contraband.
So I ask, how many of you out there reported your friends and family members for the use of illegal fireworks? If you ever want to visibly witness just how prevalent crime is accepted in Puerto Rico, all you have to do is wait for New Year's Eve. Every firework you see explode in the midnight sky, is all the evidence you need.
It is pure hypocrisy for anyone to accuse Karla's murderer of breaking by the law by anyone who knowingly and willingly bought and discharged illegal fireworks. In the eyes of the law they are BOTH crimes. It is at this point in our analysis that we enter the very slippery slope.
Most people will respond, but one crime is for our enjoyment, and doesn't really hurt anyone. Most will continue on to say, but murder is another thing altogether. I am not justifying either, both are part of the same environment. While "decent" citizens turn a blind eye and maybe even rejoice at the beautiful display of illegal fireworks, the witnesses of a murder do the moral equivalent. They turn a blind eye.
The second lesson we should take from Karla's repugnant murder is that there can not be two standards. There is no grounds to justify discharging illegal fireworks or discharging guns into the air. Everyone wants to draw a line between the criminals responsible for Karla's death and "decent" citizens. We want to justify our crimes by saying, "I'm a good person," and THEY are criminals. You also hear the same argument when politicians get caught for corruption. We want to be able to say THEY are corrupt, but we are not.
Let's take another example: illegal businesses and corporate corruption. Most "decent" citizens who partake of these crimes justify their actions by rationalizing that they were only providing for their families. It is not a coincidence that many gang members make the same claim.
Again, where things get slippery is by one set of the population justifying one set of crimes, while simultaneously condemning the other. The difference to many is in how they perceive themselves. If they fall into the "normal" group who are criminals out of convenience, then they say to themselves that breaking the law is understandable. They may confess their crimes, but they are fundamentally "good" people.
These "good" people look down at the "bad" people who are conducting murder. They want to be able to lump the "bad" criminals together, and not include themselves. They even go so far as to say, that "bad" people that get murdered deserve it because they should have known better then to get involved in gangs or trafficking in contraband.
I think very few people want to be criminals. In many situations the environment that they live in, creates situations that are morally grey. Drive by any informal flea market and take a poll, do the merchants there believe they are criminals? Ask most gang member the same question, and I think you might be surprised by their answers.
We can not have one set of society that commits crimes, but are accepted; and another that commits crimes, but are condemned. As a citizen of Puerto Rico, I say, this is our problem. Drugs and gangs are not the problem, our indifference to crime is. The same environment that permits doctors to commit Medicaid fraud or merchants to sell their products in flea markets, is the same environment that permits rampant gang participation. We can not draw a line between the two environments, because they are the same; we are one society.
"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone" -