No Shelter From This Storm

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I'm sorry, sir! You have to move on!

This is a sad post. If you prefer some pleasant distractions check out my other blog, russellpop. It is inspired by a sad little story in today’s SF Chronicle. Peter Cukor, 67, was brutally murdered outside his nice home in the Berkeley hills. He had spotted a young man loitering beside his garage, and went out to tell the man to move on. Given that Peter lived in a fairly secluded area, he undoubtedly thought the young man, Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, was up to no good. After confronting Dewitt, Peter Cukor went back inside and called the nonemergency police number. Dewitt must have been somewhat hostile, and Peter preferred to have the police handle it. He didn’t realize he was dealing with a mentally ill person, who could not control his rage. The police were busy monitoring an Occupy Oakland march, as usual. One officer noticed Peter’s call and planned to respond, but was told not to. Trespassing complaints regarding homeless people are a common occurance, and can be ignored.

Peter Cukor became more impatient, wondering why the police had not arrived. Daniel Dewitt was still out there. He may have been taunting Peter. I don’t know. In any case, Peter Cukor made the fatal mistake of going back outside to confront Daniel again. Daniel assaulted him, dragged him into the bushes, and killed him. The police found Dewitt nearby, and arrested him.

This is a tragic story on many levels. It is, of course, tragic for Peter Cukor and his wife. It is tragic for Daniel Dewitt and his mother. It is tragic for the Oakland Police, and Occupy Oakland.

People who have worked hard all their lives to spend their retirement comfortably in a nice house nestled among the trees on a steep hillside, feel safe from the random horror of the urban streets. But they are not. There is no shelter from this storm. The levees cannot hold. In the interest of free enterprise unleashed, our responsibility for the mentally ill, the homeless, and the elderly was abandoned, in the eighties under the conservative messiah, Ronald Reagan. He made the choice to throw the mentally ill onto the streets. Peter Cukor’s blood is on Reagan’s hands. Given the diminishing resources of government on all levels, this situation isn’t going to get any better.

We are all in this together. This is the message I take from such tragedies. The homeless and mentally ill cannot be shuffled from place to place, each person telling them to move on. It just doesn’t work. I do not justify murder, and I can certainly sympathize with Peter Cukor. But I sympathize with Daniel Dewitt as well. I can understand the rage that comes from being told to move on, move on, you are not wanted here. You are not wanted anywhere. Our foolish obsession with wealth, and security will be the death of us. The detritus of society will not and cannot go away. I believe that some of the obsession lately with zombies in our popular culture is a subconscious recognition of the zombie homeless and mentally ill. We must face our responsibilities, and take care of our own. In doing so, we take care of ourselves. We are all in this together.

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