Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Infinity and Beyond

There’s a story that’s getting a lot of press time and space (in the Chicago area) about four young people who died in a car wreck, with the driver of the car allegedly intoxicated. It’s always a sad story to read when young people perish, especially this way. A few days later, in accordance to newspaper law, a lengthy feature appeared that followed the night’s events of one of the victims, and some details emerged. For example, Katie Merkel, one of the victims, had been trying to leave a house party in west suburban Montgomery around 1:30 a.m. She called some friends for a lift home, and tried to stay at a nearby friend’s house the rest of the night, but to no avail. About twenty minutes later, Katie was dead, as she and eight others crammed into an Infinity car with an inebriated driver, who survived the crash with injuries. Katie was 14 years old.

Now, the question is begged, but unraised in any of the reports I read or heard about this Infinity crash: why is a 14-year-old at a party, in the presence of alcohol, late into the night? It may sound patronizing, demeaning, stodgy, to ask that question, or it may come off as insensitive. But I can’t help but wonder about parental responsibility, not legal culpability, but the average commonsense about allowing a 14-year-old to go to a house party in the watches of the night. And I also wonder why no one dares to raise such apparently forbidden questions—queries about the relationship between ethical responsibility, forethought, and outcome. When a student wins the national spelling bee or receives a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, the parents are invariably interviewed about their practices with their winning child.

No one wakes up in the morning and plans to die, I realize that. We quickly rise from our beds and dive into routines that make some sense of our day. But we never include in our list of things the prospect of death nor those deeds that tend to “invite” it, as far as human logic goes (as opposed to fate and decree). This past month nearly every other day we read in the local newspapers young teenagers who are killed in car accidents. Their family members tell reporters that their loved ones were just going on an errand or enthusiastic about visiting a friend or marching off to some party, but only to have their plans interrupted by collisions that claim their lives. Then suddenly they are confronted with a reality unlike anything they could have imagined, a reality they were unprepared for.

As I have the feature up on my screen now, I can’t help but feel grief for the family and wonder about the crisis of parental wisdom and sqeemish journalism in daring to broach issues of ethics and commonsense.


Anonymous Maliha said...

Inna lillahi wainna ilayhi rajioon. This scares me..the manner in which we die; the decisions we make that domino into each other to our final moments.

Asking tough questions means dealing with the assumptions are society lives on; and i don't think we are ready to deal with that yet.

2/14/2007 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Danya said...

Subhanallah. I completely agree with you. Have you thought about writing a letter to the editor?

2/14/2007 7:18 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

May after a while, a letter would be useful. Wait until the dust settles.

2/14/2007 10:55 PM  
Blogger jordan robinson said...

It was Thoreau who said and quoted by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf recently, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

2/16/2007 6:57 PM  

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