Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cleveland, Ohio: "The Shoot 'Em Up City". My Students Respond

"Hey! Do you have today's paper?"

"No, I forgot to bring one up this morning. Why?"

"My picture's in it!"

I smiled, "Well, that's a pretty big deal. Go down to the office and see if they have any more copies."

Ten minutes later Joe walked back into the classroom, opened the paper up and said, "See, there I am."

There in a picture that took up most of the page, was Joe, standing with a group of people in the hospital room of Johanna Orozco. Johanna was a girl from his near west side neighborhood who was raped and then shot in the face by her ex-boyfriend, another kid from the neighborhood. The Plain Dealer ha been running a series all week on the story of Johanna's tragic ordeal, and her heroic struggle to recover.

"You must know her very well"

"Oh, yeah. We have been friends for a long time. I know Juan Ruiz too, we went to school together. We used to be friends."

"Things must have been awful, very confusing, when this first happened."

"Even before that. Oh yeah.
Juan had been asking me questions about her, like what was she doing, who was she seeing. Then after she was shot, and the police and reporters started asking questions, some of his people started calling me up, warning me not to talk."

"You got threatening phone calls?"

"Yeah, anonymous callers. But I didn't care. They can't scare me. I'll talk to whoever I want to talk to."

"Nothing happened?"

"No, I told the police, the reporters, everything I know."

Joe took the paper to his table and spread it open to read the article, which was several pages long. After a few minutes he folded the paper up, got his project out and began to sketch. The rest of the students were busy working too, so I decide to take advantage of the quiet, and the mood, to ask the class a question; "Why do you guys think we've had so many shootings in Cleveland lately?"

Without so much as a seconds' hesitation, Joe nearly spat the word, "Scarface!"

"Scarface? How's that?"

"You know, Scarface, the best movie ever. It's like everybody wants to be Al Pacino. Somebody pisses him off and, BAM! He shoots 'em."

One of the girls chimed in, "It's not just Scarface, there's lots of movies like that. Video games too. You shoot people to get points, you run from the cops, then if you get caught or killed, there are no other consequences, it's just 'game over'."

The girl's friend, sitting beside her, continued to draw, and without looking up, quietly added, "But in real life, shooting a person doesn't end a problem, it's really just the beginning."

1 comment:

Phil Lane said...

Joe is already a man.