Inner City Diary
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Bush's tough talk applies to crime in our city
September 13, 2001
I slipped the maitre’d $20 to get us a seat by the window. Virginia and I were living and working in New York City. It was our 6 month anniversary and we celebrated in a style beyond our normal means.

The restaurant was called "Windows on the World." More than 100 floors above the Manhattan maze of concrete and cars. We sat near the top of one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We held hands, looking out the window with a kind of glassy stare at the lights, people and cars far below.

Tuesday we watched the video of people jumping and falling from that same building. Many eyes welled with tears as we heard reports of “I love you” and "Good-bye" phone calls from those towers and the planes.

We watched as concrete and steel turned to dust. We saw towering symbols of human ingenuity disintegrate before our eyes. We watched as the brassy, technicolor city of lights was swallowed by an ashen haze.

A tough people, grizzled by daily crime reports, are shocked by an evil beyond even their comprehension. Some reporters are talking about a “declaration of war.”

But the people in the pictures weren’t prepared for war. They were simply thinking about work, and working toward their dreams.

A reporter comments, “The rules have changed.”

As a youth, I walked those streets and visited those buildings. I was awed by these concrete symbols of power and importance. The panoramic perspective from the top of those buildings was as close as I would come to the view the Creator must have of His creation.

As a pastor, I pray for comfort for the families of victims. I wonder if God ever regrets allowing some monsters to take their first breath.

I wonder how much power is justified in a government’s attempt to restore a sense of order and safety in the world.

A large and powerful country has been sucker-punched, bloodied and on its knees, but we all know that giant will get up and turn on the perpetrator.

Part of me wants to pray for peace talks. Then I wonder if talking (gently or toughly) makes any difference if your opponent isn’t willing to speaking the same “language” (
of peace.)

Most of me feels like delaying the prayer until after revenge has been extracted.

But for now, we need to focus on the search for survivors. I wonder about friends and acquaintances. It’s hard to imagine anyone being found alive in that mess.

The radio is on at the church. I'm trying to work while listening to expert analysis and instant updates on the latest facts, the latest speculation.

The phone rings. We talk. A woman is desperately wondering about the whereabouts of her 35 year old brother-in-law. She’s coming by the church to drop off some pictures of him. I’ll get others to help with an attempt to find him. They just want to know if he’s alive. He’s not in the rubble of Manhattan skyscrapers, but has been sucked into the vortex of crack houses on Winnipeg’s streets.

Last week I got a call from another woman. She was concerned for a mom who had armed herself with pepper spray and a small crowbar, determined to find her 14 year old son during the 9 p.m. rush hour at those same crack houses.

It’s five o’clock. Time to go home. There’s a knock on the church door. A man stops by to tell me about his friend who is threatening suicide. She’s tried twice before and came close. This time he can’t get to help her personally. We try to make arrangements for a crisis intervention.

Tuesday night there are many tired people. We’re tired of evil. Tired of terror.

Whether that terrorism is enacted on a national stage or on a neighbourhood, family, or personal level, we must show determination to get up and reinforce the rules of civility in a deliberately firm yet legal manner.

I began to feel the weight of President Bush’s comment that “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbor them.”

To be sure, the daily crime in our inner cities pales in comparison to the scale and indiscriminate evil of monumental terrorist acts.

I have no desire to minimize or distract from the horror of recent events in the land and city of my birth.
But I have always believed that we also must refuse to make distinctions between our street level terrorists and the middle and upper businessmen who benefit from, fund and protect them.

Local politicians and families must refuse the donations and relaxed connections with friends and associates of biker gangs and drug dealers. We have no right to swear at those overseas associates of terrorists while smiling at local associates of criminals over coffee.

For the Americans, and many others, I’m not sure of the implications of Bush’s statement, but I believe it must be followed - there and here. 

Lord, help them.  Lord, help us..
Copyright 2001
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929
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