Tag Archives: violence

Tears for Aurora


I blame my metta practice for how easily and frequently I find myself tearing up.

As I watched Anderson Cooper tonight interviewing victims of the Aurora, CO theater shooting,  I noticed I had stopped breathing. I recognize too well the look of shock and horror in the witnesses eyes. My heart breaks for them. I cry for them. I know from experience their lives may never be the same. A trust has been broken. While there is no written contract stating that your life will never be touched by violence, you certainly never expect to be just minding your own business in the relative safety of your home or a movie theater and then be confronted by someone with a gun.

That happened to me over 30 years ago and there are still reverberations. I was at a friend’s house and two men burst into the home threatening to shoot us. They didn’t. They did other things. My body still holds the memories. The event still occasionally revisits me in my dreams. This even after years of psychological and spiritual work. I feel fortunate to have therapists and teachers who have helped me turned that shitty event into the manure in which to grow my compassion.

But through the tears there is also anger and outrage. But, it’s not directed at the shooter. I don’t feel pity for him, yet I know it takes a very sick, deluded person to do what he did. No, my anger is at the NRA and its supporters who think it’s OK to be able to legally sell assault rifles to the general public and who have fought tooth and nail for people to be able to buy as many guns and as much ammunition as they please. No red flags were raised about this guy and his recent weapon buying spree. It was all legal. And it makes me sick. And I want to get on a soapbox. I want to blame some “other” for allowing this. But, I know it will do no good. Already online I can read the gun control debates. Everyone just spouting “I’m right, you’re wrong” with no true dialogue.

Tonight as I was doing my metta practice I did a round for everyone affected by the events today in Aurora. And while I certainly wish them happiness and peace, health and strength, and ease of well-being, I wish with all my heart for them that one day that they may once again feel safe and protected. It may take some work, but I want to hold them and tell that it is indeed possible.


The illusion of safety


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? 


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.



It seems like everytime I open up the SFGate website (the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle) there is a story about yet another killing in Richmond (CA not VA). As my fair city has been ranked as the 9th most dangerous city in the US, this doesn’t surprise me. 2007 has been a particularly bad year. I believe we have broken our record for murder. Even though the Iron Triangle where most of these crimes occur is less than a mile away from where I live geographically, demographically the neighborhood of Point Richmond is a long ways away. So from this safe distance, in my heart, I try to acknowledge the loss of life and the people who will mourn their son/father/brother (let’s face it, most of these murder victims are men). It’s easy to get numb and cynical, especially when many of these victims are willingly part of a gang culture where life becomes incredibly cheap.

So, today, once again there is a headline about a murder in Richmond – this time at a local restaurant.

(12-28) 04:00 PST Richmond — Two separate Richmond shootings Thursday night claimed the lives of three men, police said.

The first shooting was reported at 9:14 p.m. and occurred in Sahib Indian Restaurant, located at 12221 San Pablo Ave., Richmond police Sgt. Lori Curran said.

Two male suspects apparently entered the restaurant and began shooting, according to Curran. Arriving officers found the victims, both employees of the restaurant, suffering from life threatening injuries, Curran said.

One victim was pronounced dead at the scene and the second victim was airlifted to an area hospital where he later died, according to Curran.

Curran said there were no customers in the restaurant at the time of the shooting.

At 9:49 p.m., police responded to reports of a man down in the 300 block of South 38th Street. Officers found a male victim suffering a gunshot wound to his head, Curran said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both shootings are under investigation and no arrests have been made.

I’ve eaten at the Sahib Restaurant on a number of occasions. I believe it is a family run restaurant, either that or they have very, very loyal employees as the same people have been there for years. And while I wouldn’t call myself a regular, nor do I know the staff personally, I feel a connection to these victims that I haven’t for the other 40+ who have been murdered this year.

So right now, I just feel sad; sad for the families who lost their loved ones, sad for the other hardworking shop owners in that little stripmall whose businesses will no doubt be negatively impacted, and sad for the good, hardworking people of Richmond who will feel a little bit more fearful when going out into own own community for a meal or to shop. The violence is no longer just between gang-bangers, and those who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s now creeping into our public places which used to feel safe.

I’ll think I’ll stop by and pick up some flowers and drop them by the restaurant on my way home, and then grab dinner at the yummy Vietnamese joint just next door. I don’t know what else I can do besides just show my support in these small ways.


Update: The Contra Costa Times has a much more fleshed out version of the story here. As does SFGate here.

If anyone wishes to send condolences, there is a site here for Ravi, and here for Paramjit

I stopped by the restaurant to drop off flowers on my home this evening and found a small gathering of people, many just shaking their heads in disbelief. The local Sikh community were starting to gather to try and figure out what to do. The family of the two slain brothers are all in India, and transporting there bodies there is quite expensive. God, it’s all so senseless.