The illusion of safety

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I keep checking the news to see if the Richmond Police are any closer to finding the murderers of Ravi and Parmi, the owners of the Sahib Restaurant who were killed about a week ago.  Unlike many murders which get only the briefest mention in the paper and then completely drop out of the public eye, this murder has not gone unnoticed.  Perhaps it was the random nature of the crime, the good nature of the victims, and the fact that the Sikh community, of which the victims were a part, are hurt and outraged, and quite frankly fed up with the violence that has been directed towards those in their community.  Unlike some gang kid who gets murdered and who is only known to their friends and family, the Kalsis brothers were known to many as the kind, gracious men who had served them many a good meal.  Food has a way of creating an instant intimacy. 

When I have spoken to people about this crime, everyone can instantly see the tragedy: two hard working brothers come to the US and create for themselves the American dream and then are murdered for no apparent reason. It’s the last part that gets people shaking their heads.  Not that being murdered in the course of a robbery would make it OK, but at least it could be understood.  But, for two young thugs to kill these two gentle men for seemingly no reason?  It makes no sense.  Which is probably for the best.  For it to make sense, we would have to accept the idea we are all potential prey for thrill killers.  Even if the reason for people committing a crime seem completely deluded, at least we can point to a reason.  And somehow by understanding the reason, we feel we can keep ourselves safe.

From my own personal experience as a victim of violent crime, I know that safety is an illusion, and justice, for most victims, is merely a dream.  I’ve accepted this for myself.  It took some work and many years of confused pain, but I’m at peace with what happened to me and no longer have any anger towards those who harmed me.   While my view may seem cynical or resigned, it is not.  It is realistic.  Of course, we take reasonable precautions to keep ourselves and others safe, and we strive for justice (true justice – not justice that is merely revenge in a palatable disguise).   We just need to not grasp at safety or justice as something that is guaranteed.  It will only get us stuck in anger and frustration

After years of asking “why me?” and self-medicating with alcohol, and then more years of therapy and learning to accept “shit happens”, it wasn’t until I met Buddha’s teachings on karma and compassion that I was truly able to heal (which I’ll write about at another time).  But what about others?  It’s one thing for me to be a peace, but here in Richmond and elsewhere so many others are suffering the effects of violence.  At a recent town-hall meeting, the usual solutions are called for; more police, more jobs, better education, etc.  And no doubt we need all of the above.  But for us to have peace in our homes and on our streets, it starts with peace within each person.  And how do you implement or mandate that? 

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Despite my cynicism, that storm did indeed pack a punch.  But the end result was just inconvenience and some property damage, so nothing too awful.   The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was closed due to not one, not two, not three, but four overturned big rigs (two in each direction).  My house overlooks the freeway right before tollbooths on the Richmond side.  It appeared as if it were the end of the world.  The highway was dead empty, with the exception of a few stray cars who obviously hadn’t been listening to the radio.  So, I would watch them go westbound, and about a minute later, back eastbound.

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8 responses »

  1. I don’t know much about the case, but is there any evidence showing the two brothers did or did not resist the robbery? Life is always more important than money. If there are more instances like this happening, we would be able to make a better conclusion.

    The storm has just reached So Cal. Since it has been so dry here, it’s actually a blessing. Nice blog.

  2. According to a witness, the first brother was shot right when he opened the door, and then they pursued the other brother into the kitchen and shot him. The cash register was never touched. So, it does not appear that robbery was the motive, which is why it strikes everyone as so senseless.

    Enjoy the rains, undercanopy. Hopefully, you all will get a nice soaking, but not enough that the recently denuded hillsides come sliding down. Oh, and thank you. Your blog looks very interesting also.

  3. I have been following your posts on this subject, and I feel like I really need to comment on it, but I don’t really know how. I am not a buddhist, I have never been a victim of violent crime, and I generally think that the the two people who commited this offence have what’s coming to them.

    I work in a profession where I am in direct contact with offenders of all levels. From the smallest of petty crimes to worst of humanity. One thing every crime has in common, someone is a victim. Someone’s life has been changed, damaged, or in the worst of circumstances, taken. If there seems to be one thing that is constant (with very, very little exception), there is a lack of remorse on the part of the offender. It seems as though there is some sort of justification for nearly every act, no matter how rediculous it is in the eyes of a reasonable person. This realization, which I admit I have held for quite some time now, has jaded my views on society, crime, the rehabilitation of those who need it.

    My comment here may be somehwat contrary to the general feeling you have displayed here, and for that I apologize. For those that cause people pain, I have no sympathy for them, I hold no hope for them. They have chosen their path, they don’t care who it effects as long as they meet their own self-serving purposes. They will do as they please and to hell with the value of the human life. I can’t say I wish them harm, but I can honestly say there is no place for them in life as I see it.

    Some people heal from their tragedies, some people never fully recover from the pain that was caused them. Some people never come back. I’m glad you have found some peace from whatever it was the harmed you. For these brothers, hopefully their family and friends can find something to hold to that will ease their pain as well.

  4. Hi Adam – no need to apologize for your views. You are simply seeing the situation from a different point of view.

    Perhaps it is naive on my part, but for my own mental and spiritual well-being, I choose to try and recognize the buddha nature in all living beings. Every living being has a wish to be happy – at the very core we all have at least that in common. People don’t start out life as “evil”. Can anyone honestly look at an infant and call it “evil”? Shit happens and people can get pretty damn twisted. Which is *not* an excuse for criminal behavior. Ultimately we are all personally responsible for our own actions. If we do the crime, we need to do the time. And hopefully, during that time we have the interest and opportunity to learn how to make different choices in the future.

    As recividism rates show, prison doesn’t seem to be much of a deterent. So, what do we do to decrease the crimes in our communities? Lock everyone up for life? But, there will only be a new generation growing up fatherless and pissed off. And the cycle continues.

    I don’t have any answers. I so wish I did. I know how it feels to feel completely dehumanized and violated. I wish I had the wisdom to know how to prevent others from having to experience that and worse. The only thing I do know is that peace begins from within, and as long as people have hatred and anger in their hearts, we will have violence in our homes and our streets.

    Thank you for continuing to read and respond to my blog.

  5. Hi Lazybuddhist.

    It must be getting tiresome hearing me compare my story to yours. However, so much of what you say resonates with me, so do forgive me.

    7 years ago, my father was stabbed 55 times with a screwdriver. The motive was a mystery, though evidence revealed who the person was. The culprit remained on the run for six years. The poor policiing situation in South Africa really meant that unless he was caught for another crime, he would never brought to justice.

    Two years ago, the most incrdible thing happened. He walked into a police station and confessed. It was a situation without legal precedent in SA. No one who had ever wilfully committed such an atrociously violent and wilful murder had ever given himself in to the police in that way.

    For various reasons, I ended up being the only witness called by the prosecution. I was flown in from Australia, where I had been trying to make a new life for myself. It was my testimony that ensured he received a life sentence (the harshest penalty SA law is able to hand out).

    For six years I was one of the most damaged individuals alive. The sense of ‘why me’ was palpable in everything I did. It was only my encounter with dharma, and my acceptance of karma, that finally brought about some healing. I actually encountered dharma just a few months before the trial.

    In a bid to ensure the culprit received a life sentence, the prosecutor put me on the stand for one final question and asked me how I felt about the accused considering the havoc he had wreaked in my life and in the life of my family. As a newly converted buddhist, I could only say that I felt compassion for him. Of course the prosectur was horrifed by my staement. Howver, I think that’s what really damned him. The judge was absolutely unrelenting during the sentencing. Even his expression of remorse was ignored.

    I am now doing well. A lot heap of bad karma has ripened. I don’t know if deep down I really believe in karma. But it makes it a lot easier for me to accept the things that have happened to me in my life. More importantly, it helps keep that buring all-consuming anger at bay.

  6. Hi Ron —

    What is with all these smart, articulate men apologizing for expressing their views? Stop it! 🙂 I’m pretty damn hard to offend, and I appreciate hearing all viewpoints.

    Ron, knowing what I do of your background, I fully expected to hear from you on this topic. In fact, I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t. I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your father. Words cannot convey how horrific that must have been for you.

    I think the word “closure” is overused and misused when it comes to a proper criminal justice outcome to a crime. In your case, however, it feels like you indeed got it both externally and internally. Cases may be solved, and the perpetrators may be put behind bars (or even to death – but I shan’t get on that soap box), but until the victims can find some way of finding peace in their own hearts, it will still be an open wound, even though the case was closed and justice was served.

    My case was never solved, or even investigated. Even though though there were at least 10 felonies that could have been charged against the perpetrators, after being questioned that evening in the hospital, I was never contacted again by the Oakland PD. Not once. A few months later, when I was applying for benefits through the Victims of Violent Crimes fund, the caseworker said my case had been given to an officer who was retiring the next week and was never looked at beyond that. She encouraged me to follow up with them, but I simply wanted to move on with my life and not have to relive that horrible night.

    Like you, deep in my heart, I don’t know if karma is true. How can we? However, when faced with the other options, for me, it is the most beneficial and healing to believe.

    Take care, my friend.

  7. Thanks, Ladybuddhist. Yes, I have found closure on this. Very fortunate. I think I know exactly where you are regarding your own lack of true closure (an overused word I know). For many years there was no prospect of this case ever being resolved. The outcome is somewhat of a mircacle. There is more to all this than I can possibly convey here. This story will be published in full. In the absense of any real closure, of course, there is dharma. Thank goodness. It’s the best possible medicine. So make sure you keep your three jewels in a safe place. Keep well. Love Ron.

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