Saturday, October 23, 2010

Join the Jedi

He came midyear, and after his first day, all the girls were in love with him and all the guys wanted to be him. Teachers, parents, friends--Bruce Davis, Jr made us glad to know him. He wasn't the best writer, but his astute comments during class discussions made involvement in education important, cool, even. Nobody goofed off when Bruce was around; he just thought it was silly to be disrespectful.

He was voted president of the middle school's African American Club and his leadership was palpable: positivity, peace, levelheadedness, sensibility, faithfulness all characterized this gifted young man. I believe he won "Most Leadership" in our school yearbook.

He moved to Mississippi after his sophomore year, graduated from high school, was attending community college--and was fatally shot in the chest this October 15.

In looking for more information about his murder, my heart broke to read that the violence was allegedly due to a drug deal gone bad. I didn't want to believe it. It had to be his cousin's deal, not his own. But a tribute video included some pictures that told of choices that Bruce had made--choices that included a gang, if I were to believe the bandana covering his mouth, or the sign he threw as one picture was taken, or his gang moniker tattooed across his chest.

When did he join? When he still lived in San Diego? When did he get involved with drugs? And the bigger question: Why did he go in that direction?

WHY DOES THAT GANG LIFESTYLE APPEAR SO ATTRACTIVE TO OUR YOUTH?? I am heartbroken. But I am also so angry I can't see straight. My stomach is a knot. Some kids don't have a caring family, don't have a strong sense of self, don't know better, have family members with a long history of thugging. But Bruce doesn't seem to fit that pattern.

I fight it, that lifestyle, every day. It only looks like I teach history and English. I am really teaching a belief system. I teach kids to believe in hard work, in excellence, in patience, in goals, in choosing the better way. I am just one soldier; other teachers, a scout leader, a youth pastor, a coach, an uncle--we are all Jedi fighting against the dark side of the Force, against the lure of fame and fortune hawked by music videos and lifestyles of those celebrities and athletes who serve the gods of Self and Pleasure above all. We Jedi do not save them all. And we do not know our influence; when we hear such discouraging news, it's easy to feel that our fight is of no avail, especially in the face of the money machines of Madison Avenue, of the music industry, of Hollywood. But by God Almighty let us continue to fight the good fight in the hopes of saving others, of helping our children reject destruction, drugs and death.

I love you, Bruce. The real Bruce, not the fake one in the picture above, but the young man I am posting here in his graduation robes. The fact that Bruce was in community college shows that he was still a believer in education, and that the fake Bruce in the evil picture hadn't completely won the battle. I'd like to believe that had Bruce lived, he would have one day joined us and been a most powerful Jedi, or like Anakin Skywalker, come back at the end. R.I.P., Bruce Davis, Jr. You will be missed.

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