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We Are All To Blame

Dean Pagani

June 16, 2008

The 90 seconds of videotape of the hit-and-run accident of 78-year-old Angel Arce Torres on Park Street in Hartford is remarkable primarily because it forces us to watch the chronic indifference that permeates life in general these days. It is shocking only in the sense that it captures a violent example of a lack of civil behavior and leads us to agree collectively that it is wrong.

At least two things went right after Mr. Torres was hit. Someone called 911, and the police showed up in less than a minute. Yes, some ignored what happened or were stunned into inaction, but others did the right thing, proving that Hartford is better than that minute and a half seems to show. The drivers should be more troubling to us than the bystanders.

Connecticut is a state where residents with extreme wealth and poverty live side by side. Nowhere is this more evident than in Hartford, home to some of the world’s most successful companies, our state government, and thousands of families who face a daily struggle just to survive.

Two Worlds

These two worlds rarely meet, such as the single mother trying to raise a family on a meager wage who lives in a small apartment building just a few blocks from business people having lunch at Max Downtown.

It is a world where a few years ago, a woman with a score to settle, walked right into the McDonald’s on Washington Street and stabbed her neighbor. It was the middle of the day. A block away, it was business as usual at the Superior Court and two blocks away no one at the Capitol had any idea of the desperate scene playing itself out just down the street.

Variations on the Torres case happen every day in Hartford and elsewhere. Part of the population seems to have a reckless disregard for life and property. If you want an education on how these people think and behave, take a Monday morning off to sit on one of the spectator benches at arraignment court. Monday morning is best because some of the city’s worst and most hapless criminals have spent the weekend cooped up in jail.

Commonalities Of Crime

All the cases have at least one of the common denominators of crime in the city. Lack of proper family structure, lack of education, lack of respect for others in the community, poverty and a sense that the defendant crossed the line in a fit of rage, drunkenness or some other anti-social behavior that prevented him from thinking of anything but his immediate satisfaction. Like the two drivers who hit Mr. Torres and kept on going.

As a lesson in the way we live, the Torres hit-and-run accident is not about Hartford; it’s about society as a whole. Hartford is only the venue.

We have no right to be shocked because by our own inaction on a variety of issues we foster an environment in which this anti-social behavior flourishes. We ignore street crime that takes place every day because it’s centered mainly in the poor parts of town. We accept pockets of poverty, because it is contained and easy to avoid. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to improve city school systems, but rarely take any steps to make sure the money is being well spent. Our conscience is satisfied simply knowing that the money has been allocated.

Watching through the safety of a surveillance camera, it is easy to judge those who did nothing at the scene of the Park Street accident. It is harder to admit we all played a role.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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