I often read and hear about crimes and situations that have gone terribly awry. A person intended to do one small thing but, instead, something bigger and worse happens. “The law doesn’t recognize intent.” (I remember a judge saying this in a domestic violence situation I was involved in – many years ago.)
The 1st misstep, the 1st time you throw caution to the wind, the 1st time you decide to just try “it ” (especially big ITS) can multply into a cascade of casualties.
In the Boston news recently, a young manwas murdered while visiting a student at Harvard University. Turned out he was selling marijuana. His first wrong in this situation was dropping out of Salem State College after his sophomore year and deciding to deal marijuana. As of this writing, the young man arrested for the murder was one of three young men who were planning to rob the marijuana guy. He was an emerging rap star with a contract and had graduated from a performing arts high school but decided to pursue music. (The two other men who were with him have evaded capture). One of the two female students they were visiting at Harvard was a few weeks shy of graduation. She has been kicked off campus and barred from graduating. (Her lawyer is working to get her reinstated).
There are other “first wrongs” in this story:
- Stealing is wrong.
- Robbing is wrong.
- Buying illegal drugs and/or helping your friends score is wrong – I don’t care how many people do it on college campuses and in our neighborhoods do it and get away with it.
- Selling drugs is wrong.
- Giving your electronic access pass to folks you don’t know is wrong.
(The young man who may not have pulled the trigger but went with his friends to rob someone, who knew there was a gun around.)
We have all been guilty of “first wrongs.” Most of us get away with them and are often sufficiently scared so as not to take the chance again. Others of us keep taking chances until we are caught.
I remember years ago when Marion Barry, then mayor of Washington, D.C., was arrested for smoking crack cocaine. There was a lot of hue and cry about his having been set up by the FBI. He was set up but he walked willingly into the arms of the feds. His first wrong was cheating on his wife, which led him to be in the hotel room getting set up by the woman with whom he was committing adultery act, to try out crack. If he hadn’t been tippin’ he wouldn’t have gotten in this particular situation. Ditto for all of the politicians and ministers in the news more recently whose political and ministerial careers have been derailed because of their affairs. We do live in a society where you don’t have to be married when you’d really prefer to be single you know!
I ‘Fess Up:
In my last two years of high school, I moved from an inner-city predominantly Black high school to a suburban high school. There, I fancied myself a radical and began to “liberate” (as we called it at the time) books. The first book I ever “liberated” was The Quotations of Chairman Mao. It was a tiny book with a red cover and onion-skin pages. I was scared to death at first and then I felt thrilled after I got a way with it. I began to steal…I mean…liberate books on a regular basis. I then graduated to stealing tights for my best friend at the time who was a dancer. Then I stole Dr. Scholl’s sandals for both of us. (They’d just come out and we wanted them but couldn’t afford them.) After about a half-dozen thefts, I started feeling invincible, got greedy, upped the ante and attempted to steal an album. I got busted. I was so scared that I hyperventilated, threw up, and cried my eyes out begging the security guard not to arrest me. He didn’t but he scared me so that I didn’t go back in that store for more than a decade. It was the end of my shoplifting ended. Thank goodness.
My first wrong was stealing the first book. I was lucky in that I wasn’t caught by a security guard who forced me to do him a favor in return for not contacting my mother. I was extremely lucky that my Mom didn’t find out because she would have whopped my ass for sure and still might if she finds out. (So, please don’t drop a dime on me.)
While I grew up in church and knew right from wrong, I still took the chance to impress my new suburban friends, trying to act the part of the worldly city kid (when in fact I was a nerd).
Drinking and Driving
Two people close to me have been arrested for drunk driving in separate states. In both instances, they were lucky that they ran into the police before harm came to them or someone else. One was stopped driving on the wrong side of the road! The one-year sentences suspending their licenses were sobering for them.- one has literally stopped drinking. Having the DWI on their record turned out to have consequences farther than they’d thought about, as in – impacting their car insurance and their homeowners’ insurance rates and being part of their permanet record. The original wrong in both of these cases was drinking and driving as was the fact that neither case were their keys confiscated by their friends or the bartenders.
Drinking and driving has tragic consequences frequently – the statistics are alarming. Yet, many people I know who drink swear that they can handle their liquor and will proudly cite that they’ve never been in an accident as proof. When they tell me this, I always think “yet” – and pray for them. (Just like lots of people think they can answer their cell phones and text and still drive safely. They are accidents waiting to happen.)
A final example
A guy I knew was a heroin addict. He introduced his younger brother to the drug. Older brother got clean, went into a training program and got a good job. His younger brother never was able to escape heroin’s grip and died addicted to heroin and alcohol at a fairly young age. His brother felt tremendous guilt about this for the rest of his life. He used to always admonish us to “keep our bad habits to ourselves.” While it’s possible that his brother might have gotten into drugs without his help, he always blamed himself. He wasn’t his brother’s keeper.
The first mistake, the first wrong…figuring out to avoid the mistakes and wrongs that have the potential for such serious consequences for yourself and how to help your kids avoid it is crucial. Any ideas?
(P.S. – I hope I don’t sound like a moralistic, holier than thou asshole. I don’t mean to be. I’ve just been thinking and noticing the “first wrongs..”)