Let’s get this out of the way first. The attack on Oaksterdam and other dispensaries in Oakland yesterday was not just useless and a waste of government resources, it was anti-democratic since Oaklanders and their representatives support medical marijuana overwhelmingly. It was also a setback for that retail corridor; since that area has been coming back as a result of the marijuana dispensaries which opened cafes and shops in that neighborhood before it was popular.
That said-this was not the most important thing that happened in our city yesterday. Seven people went to classes in the hopes of furthering their careers in the morning and had been slaughtered without mercy before lunchtime.
Not unexpectedly by the following morning, our local columnists had weighed in describing Oakland as a place where “shootings and murders….occur… every day”, that we probably need “the feds’ expertise in investigating allegations of government corruption” while wondering if “violent crime — driven by a steady stream of street shootings — could have gotten any worse in Oakland.”
On Facebook some were noting that the postings seemed more concerned about the violation of Oaksterdam than the terrible loss of life in East Oakland. I will admit that when the Nixle (OPD email notification program) feed first showed up on my computer, I assumed it was a drug shootout. So that’s my confession. I, too, have become jaded about violence in East Oakland and have to be prepared to challenge my own assumptions and associations.
But, it slowly became clear that a horrible mass murder was occurring in a place few of us had even heard of. When we immediately jump to another chance to denounce Oakland, well, at least that helps explain so many of our attitudes-we are harangued about becoming inured to violence in a way that only deepens our cynicism and limits our abilities to respond. Was this yet another example of a general malaise in our Oakland community-if such there be-a lack of police resources, government corruption or the simple lack of gun control?
We all know, as we search for answers, we may never find them but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I read that the alleged shooter was an immigrant, that he had lost his brother last year and his mother shortly after that. Was it loss and grief gone wrong?
The newspaper also reported that the man, One Goh, had a mountain of debt hanging over him and that he had not finished his courses at the trade school. It was noted that he had acted “weird” and may have been picked on by his classmates. Bullying gone too far until the bullied becomes the bully?
So we have a myriad of reasons and responses that never came. In our country the folks who make the rules about gun control belong to the National Rifle Association-that is who the legislators listen to-kinda like the thieves deciding what the definition and consequences of theft are. Oh yeah, the thieves do make the rules these days and then get remunerated after they have robbed us of our homes and savings.
Then there is the obvious fact-hardly ever noted-that he was a man and men commit 95% of the mass or serial killings (or maybe more). He killed six women and one man yet we are always shocked when women become targets in other countries refusing to notice our own misogyny. On the other hand, now that at least one of our political parties has declared war on women’s rights, we may have finally begun to notice.
Our mayor rightly noted that gun control is a serious problem in our country, not just in Oakland, and that social services are in short supply. The bankers/thieves get reimbursed when they make a mistake but struggling individuals do not, and it seems mentally ill people are only noticed when they strike out.
Trashing Oakland’s people or its government may work for cheap shots and many seem to find that satisfying. But, we will not solve Oakland’s or America’s problems by not confronting our decisions to refuse to control guns, to refuse to rescue struggling families, nor by refusing to recognize the depths of some of our ugliest assumptions on who is important and who is not-whose lives we allow to be shrugged away when they are ruined or lost.
We have a lot of work to do here in Oakland, and I believe that Oakland is the right place at the right time to challenge these assumptions and propose creative, new solutions. But first, may we bow our heads and mourn for the vanquished hopes and dreams of the people who lost their lives yesterday? We owe them that much.