The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, February 25, 2004  

Why is That a Difficult Question?

It’s an unwritten rule at Rittenhouse -- unwritten in no small part because Rittenhouse consists of just one man and his computer, rendering unnecessary the writing of style manuals and the distribution of memoranda -- that there are not to be published here, at any time, for any reason, or under any circumstances, vulgarities or coarse language of any kind.

One might think for such a “mean-spirited” guy, which, at least according to some readers, I am, this would be a challenge. Truthfully, it isn’t. I’m that way in person, too. At least I try very hard to be. Nothing embarrasses me more than walking down the street -- or worse, sitting in a restaurant -- with a friend who’s throwing out this and that crude word within earshot of innocent bystanders. Besides, I firmly believe writers who resort to and rely upon such terms are leaning a little too hard toward the uninventive.

But thinking, as I have been for a few weeks now, about the murder of Faheem Thomas-Childs, and more specifically about the unsuccessful efforts of Philadelphia police to find some half-dozen suspected participants in the gun battle that took that 10-year-old’s life, it’s hard to restrain myself. The words, phrases, and epithets that are coursing through my brain surprise even me.

I have no children. I do, however, have 16 nieces and nephews. As I wrote to a reader recently, I would give my life, without hesitation, for each, any, and every one of them. Put a gun to one of their heads and say to me, “Your life or the kid’s,” I have no doubt whatsoever what my answer would be.

And these are not my children.

So I do not understand how anyone with his or her own children, living anywhere near T.M. Peirce Elementary School, who might know even the slightest thing about the despicable shoot-out there that killed Faheem, would hesitate for a moment before telling the police anything and everything that might pertain to what, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is the search for at least six additional suspects in this heinous crime. (Already two suspects, Kareem Johnson and Kennell Spady, have been arrested and charged with Faheem’s murder.)

“Stop the violence!”

Yeah, sure, and stop the slogans. Step up to the plate. Take some responsibility. Take control of your lives and your neighborhoods.

Easier for me to say, I know, but, please, these are your children. The risk to those speaking to the police may be, and probably is, after all, entirely exaggerated. Nonetheless, will you not risk your life for your child?

[Post-publication addendum (February 27): Elmer Smith of the Philadelphia Daily News expresses a somewhat different view in his column today, “Faheem Was Not the Only Victim,” and also provides important information I previously had not heard about neighbors’ cooperation with the police on this case.]

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