13-4 bright ideas

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being. 

        P R A E S I D I U M

A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

        13.4 (Fall 2013)





This quarter we are devoting the “ideas” space to several cautionary remarks intended by a father for children going away to college.  Though these observations may seem more dark than bright, they could save a young life.

An Urban Cowboy’s Tips to Teens on Staying Alive

A story is finally beginning to circulate about two college students who were brutally raped and murdered in Knoxville, Tennessee, six years ago.  This is not the place to review the appalling details, other than to note that the young man and his girlfriend were dawdling about in the parking lot of an apartment complex when the nightmare began. (If you want more facts, google “Christopher Newsom” or “Channon Christian”.)
As our own children resume life around high school and college campuses or in cities where, waiting for their careers to take off, they continue to rent an apartment, certain bright ideas associated with survival spring to mind.
1) Be aware of your surroundings.  A samurai manual warns us that we enter a war zone every time we cross our threshold.  This level of intensity may be somewhat paranoid; but any kind of parking lot, especially after dark, should always be approached as a wise wildebeest approaches a river in crocodile country.  Don’t be weeded out by natural selection.  Stay close to lighting and to other people.  If you must cross a dark space alone, move fast, and have your key ready in your hand.  Be suspicious of approaching vehicles, and even of stationary ones if they sit apart from others (as in a good position to spot prospective victims.
2) If somebody ever does pull a gun on you and command that you get in the car, say no.  Say that you prefer to be shot where you’re standing, with ears nearby to hear the shot and maybe even security cameras running.  Say that you want the shot to be retrieved from your dead body or an adjacent wall so that the killer can be easily tracked down, convicted, and lethally injected.  Don’t figure to stay alive by doing what a would-be kidnapper orders.  Other people would give you different advice, but that’s the advice I give my own children.  These subhuman thugs, like the fivesome of butchering perverts in Knoxville, are not intellectual giants.  They will calculate their safety on a day-to-day basis, or even hour-to-hour. The long odds of a body’s remaining hidden forever in a ditch and concealing their crime will not impress them.  The way they think, as they rummage through your belongings for enough to get their next fix, is that shutting you up permanently and getting your body out of sight is their best play.  Unless you have some specific plan already formed (such as floorboarding your car over a high rail and gambling that you come out less mangled than the hoods in the passenger seats), just say no.
3) Nobody likes to think ahead about such horrible contingencies, but… think ahead.  If you’re a college student, the next time you find yourself falling asleep in History class, imagine that a shooter has just walked into the room.  What would you do?  The campus where I work has a color-coded emergency book of protocols affixed by the door of every classroom, but the shooter would probably not respect the time-out you call to run up and consult this source.  (One of the things advised in the case of a shooter, by the way, is to get away from the door… seems like a mixed message.)  I don’t really like the “crawl under your desk and hope they use up their rounds on other people” approach.  Especially in the case of a healthy male, I would hope he might have nerve enough to try saving the whole class.  If the door opens into the classroom, an alert young man should have the shooter “dead” (so to speak).  Crouch down low on the hinged side—low enough not to be seen, if the door has a window—and wait until you see hands pass through.  Then nail the guy as hard as you can, being sure to empty his hands as soon as possible.
4) Be preemptive.  Don’t go places, to begin with, where you are likely to incur risk. Don’t go clubbing on the wrong side of town. Leave a party if you see the alcohol starting to flow too freely. Don’t stay in a crowded disco (or whatever they’re called now) where the “artists” are setting off firecrackers or playing with flames as part of their act. Don’t be stupid—show some sense.
5) This is thoroughly un-PC and certain to stir condemnation, but it needs to be said.  Don’t “reverse-profile”. By that I mean, don’t assume that a young black male in a hoodie is automatically safe to hang around—and to befriend, for good measure—just because he’s a young black male in a hoodie. Don’t walk up to a bunch of tattooed Latino males loitering on a lonely street late at night just because they’re Latino and have tattoos. Too many college-aged kids are determined to demonstrate—to themselves, if no one else is around—that they’re not bigots by poking their neck into a noose. We don’t want to live in a nation whose cops haul young men downtown for questioning just because of their skin tone and apparel. But there is a degree of correlation between certain violent crimes and people of a certain gender and age, dressed a certain way, and hanging out in a certain location at a certain time of day or night. And yes, race may also be a statistically significant element of the correlation. You don’t have to draw down on the guy or dial 911 to report him: you just have to turn and walk in a different direction. In the post-Trayvon world, this is more necessary than ever if your ancestors hailed from Europe, since some people seem to think that the Zimmerman verdict justifies an open season on white people.
One might call this a sad irony. I don’t find it ironic at all, considering that these “some people” have been stirring up the hornets’ nest for years; and I don’t even think that it’s sad, compared to how very dangerous it may be. Sometimes our samurai manual turns out to have been right.
As for the race of the five butchers who sodomized and slaughtered Mr. Newsom and Ms. Christian in 2007, you can look that up for yourself, if you think it’s relevant. I think the main point lies elsewhere.~     L.V.P.



Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom

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