The Rose Park Murders

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Rose Park Murders: “Atomized” Empathy amidst the Embers of Unease

Less than a month ago, a group of neighbors in Rose Park got together to complete an alley mural project started by Cody Lusby that celebrated the name of our neighborhood in Long Beach. Two days ago, a person or persons who have yet to be apprehended defaced that mural without even coming near it with a can of spray paint. While it’s true that the image of the roses on the alley’s walls will glow in the sunlight of the coming winter, and give us succor as we walk past them on our way home at twilight, the nearby blood stains will only seem to fade.

As I told people yesterday at CSU Long Beach about the murders that took place less than 200 yards from where Linda and I were asleep on Tuesday night, and how after waking up at 5:30 and learning of the brutal assassination of our neighbors, who had gathered for a birthday party, Linda and I were also informed that the fire in Simi Valley had necessitated her mother’s evacuation from her assisted residence apartment in Thousand Oaks, it seemed as if I were talking only to myself, when what I needed was time off from work to gather with my neighbors in Rose Park to reaffirm our determination to develop a network of support in times of crisis.

My words at work, reporting these events, seemed like embers, picked up by unusually cold Santa Ana winds, and hurtled forward towards some personal settlement of unease inhabited only by my consciousness of existential vulnerability. Gazing into the distance, I could detect smoldering wisps about to seethe into eruptions; to the rear, I dared not look. The thought of all the past vanishing so that none yet to be born would have the resources of cultural memory was too painful to endure. I am all too aware that these fires are merely the prelude to the devastation of an ineluctable earthquake, in which the precariousness of our most cherished rituals will be subject to a pulverizing exile.

The conflagration of gunfire is not just a single instance, of course. It was almost a year ago, in early November in fact, that a man walked into a bar in Thousand Oaks and opened fire on people just enjoying each other’s company. One of the women who escaped that gunfire lives with my sister-in-law. I had talked to her, while visiting my extended family, less than 48 hours before that catastrophe.

The L.A. Times quoted Ventura Fire Captain Steve Kaufmann, “You can see a lot of the water that’s coming from the ‘super scoopers’ is atomized because of the wind.” So, too, did what little empathy of others was expressed seem to evaporate before the words even left their lips.

I suppose that social indifference is other people’s way of reminding me to be stoic. I am happy to report that I have stabilized, again, at that nonchalance to any individual fate necessitated by the contingencies of dailiness, and am grateful for the tasks I can undertake to keep myself distracted. And, now, to turn to those tasks, which include making a final payment this morning from my the final funds of my mother’s closed bank account for the cost of her hospice care, not that she should owe much for having no one from the hospice company bother to swab her lips for six straight hours. If my sister and I had not been at my mother’s side, she would not even have had that small comfort. It’s odd to pay for neglectful care, but payment is expected and will be made. Let none expect any better.