I read the most disturbing article this morning—and one that has physically turned my stomach, and left me feeling most certainly drained.
It’s not often that I have this type of gut wrenching reaction to things. Even less frequent, is when this type of ‘breaking news’ has the capacity to ‘break’ me.
With my illness, I suppose I have become just a bit more patient with this world, and all of the things within it. And, I suppose, through this—I have learned the true meaning of faith and understanding, as well.
As a Mother, my instinct is to protect—to be that proverbial ‘Mama Bear,” stepping in where needed and in order to ensure that all of the children of this world are cared for…loved…and protected.
As a Buddhist, I try to view this world through a lens of gentle loving kindness and ‘oneness’—to recognize, each day, that we are all part of the same cloth of inter-connectedness, beautifully spun into the rich fabric of this Universe. And, with each passing moment, I try to infuse just a bit more of myself…of my spirit…and, of my understanding into this great big beautiful Earth that surrounds me…that surrounds us all.
And, yet, perhaps this is that one story that most needs our understanding.
But, sadly, understanding escapes me now—as my mind is flooded with the very many ways this story should have ended.
And, as my eyes fill with tears, I realize that not all stories can be blessed with a happy ending—for some, there can never be a ‘happily ever after.’
But, that doesn’t change my longing for ‘that which might have been.’
And, as I read further, this story pulls my heart deeper still.
On the morning of May 1, 2011, Police were called to the residence of a modest two-story home in Riverside, California. They were called there to investigate a murder.
In the living room, and laying slumped over in a chair, was the body of Jeffrey Hall—a father of five, and Southwest Regional Director of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi organization responsible for the promotion of racism and violence in these, our ‘United’ States. His body, ironically, lay lifeless under this organization’s banner and flag.
A young boy named Joseph, just barely 10 years old, and the eldest son of this now dead man.
He had crept from the ‘comfort’ of his small bed in the earliest hours of this May morning, holding in his hand a loaded .357 magnum. And, as he made his way through the piled-high filth of the ‘night before’—this young boy, with just 10 short years of life and living under his belt, had just one thought on his mind…
He wanted ‘it’ to end.
And so, on the morning of May 1, 2011—Joseph did the only thing he knew he could do—he pulled the trigger, and shot his father in the head.
“Joseph: “It’s all my fault.”
Officer: “No it’s not.”
Joseph: “Then whose fault is it?”
In an article filled with statistics and facts and psychological ponderings on…these were the words that leapt most from the page.
I guess, that is the bigger question to this story here. Whose fault is it?
For, as with any story just as tragic as this—I know there must be a much earlier beginning. And, as the detectives began their process of ‘unfolding’ these facts, and just as I had assumed, a much more gruesome picture emerged.
The conditions of this home, though appalling, were simply masking a much more disturbing history.
With just a little digging, these detectives learned, that Child Protective Services (CPS) had investigated this family not once…not twice…and not even several times in these past few years…but rather, and more shockingly, they learned that CPS had investigated this family on at least 23 separate occasions.
These investigations began when Joseph was just 3-months old, when he was taken to the ER for treatment of an eye infection. A hospital worker watched as Joseph’s father brutally shoved the mother and infant son into a waiting room wall.
But that was just the beginning.
In the years to come these reports would become filled with horrifying details of neglect and abuse, of toddlers wandering the streets alone at night, and maggot-filled diapers…of bruises, and bumps, and busted lips…and of sexual abuse and gross neglect.
But what was ever done? As, with each investigation, CPS would continue to record these details—and yet, in each and every single one of these cases, CPS failed to substantiate the claims.
I believe Deputy District Attorney Mike Soccio summed it up rather cleanly when he said,
“Joseph didn’t fall through the cracks; there was no crack that fit Joseph.”
But, the signs were still there. In retrospect, it seems the signs are always there…when it is that we are finally able to take a moment to pause, to look and to finally see this suffering as it really is.
So, whose fault is it when all the signs are there but missed, and cries for help fall to a system overburdened by ‘deaf’ ears?
And more importantly, how do we find a way to make the cracks ‘fit’ so that something like this may not ever happen again? So that each and every single one of the young hearts of this world may always and forever have a voice which may be heard?
Sadly, on January 14, 2013, Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard ruled that young Joseph was indeed ‘responsible’ for his actions, and therefore, convicted him of second-degree murder. And on February 15th, Joseph will be sentenced for a crime I am still struggling to understand.
At a time when our Nation is most focused on this topic of gun violence and control, I’m just curious to know what the other elephant readers might think? Perhaps, it might help me to better understand.
As, I guess, in this story I am left most wondering—what does ‘responsible’ mean?
And, who is it that is really to blame?
Because, as a Buddhist and practicing ‘Mama Bear’—it seems, I don’t yet quite know how this story should end.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta