Last week’s La Jolla Light had three articles dealing with our children. One theme was local graduation. Another theme was the tragic and heroic death of a beloved son serving his country during war. Another article was about the murder of a local young man by a gang of his contemporaries, most of whom were locals as well.
As fondly as most of us remember our graduations, and as heroically selfless as the death of a soldier might be, we are faced with the grim truth that the last act will have a greater impact on our community for a long time.
Why? Because the first two ideals, graduation and sacrifice, speak about our communal nobility, we expect this from us and our children. The last series of events speaks about our communal failures.
If we look at the young actors involved in each story and try to identify a “La Jolla gene” in the young actors, we would be surprised with what we find. Loved children succeeding at the highest levels of accomplishment, a young man exuding confidence and impervious to self-doubt even as danger was all around him: Certainly, in life or death, these are the children we raised who make this a better world.
And they were nurtured by our families, prayed in our churches, attended our schools, and understood that our hopes for them were attainable. But we would also find kids who went to the same schools and churches, with parents going to the same PTA meetings, who matured into dangerous, anti-social young men who clearly misunderstood their place in society. This last group, sadly, does not represent a mutant strain of the La Jolla lifestyle.
We know that the young men who called themselves the “Bird Rock Bandits” found sustenance in “the beach” and partying. In fact, they were willing to defend, violently, their right to party. Their parents were unable to re-direct their motivations. Schools and church couldn’t move them, by persuasion or coercion, from their pursuits of provincial pleasures. The police force apparently had no inkling of their existence despite the fact that their activities had made them locally infamous. How does a group of wayward young men openly embark on a lifestyle that is so repugnant to our communal standards and not feel the pinch of public censure until it is too late? How does a smart, caring community like La Jolla allow this kind of behavior for so long without taking notice?
By all accounts, the four young men who are alleged to be members of the “Bird Rock Bandits” make up a fraction of that group. It is time for the remaining members to be “outed,” by themselves, their parents, their friends, the police, schools, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that La Jolla must say “no more” to this senseless violence that threatens each and every one of us. What matters is that we protect these young men from the failures of our community before they, too, make the mistakes that their fellow crew members made. The “Bird Rock Bandits,” after all, are our children: We have a responsibility to them and their futures.