The hit-and-run of Angel Arce Torres was upsetting and sad — and, as it turns out, the perfect opportunity for people to stew in their own prejudice and fear. As if we need that kind of thing. As if that serves a purpose.
Since the 78-year-old man was run down on Park Street in Hartford May 30, the noise from the cheap seats has been a cacophony of commentary lite — all the venom without the facts.
"No Good Samaritans in Hartford," says one headline. "What Have We Become," says another. Swarms of people — online and off — are taking vicious delight in comparing Hartford residents to wild animals and calling on Darwinism to weed them out.
Please. Do us all a favor: Shut up.
When the second of two cars swerving to the wrong side of the road hit Torres, at least four people called 911. In Hartford, residents don't always think of the police as Officer Friendly. Then, too, the fear of gang retribution makes any crime, any aberration, something to avoid. Yet four people quickly called.
And rather than factoring in the shock that a bystander would feel at seeing an elderly man sent flying through the air — a good man known in the neighborhood for his kindnesses, the haters decided that Hartford residents are heartless and worse.
Please don't pretend to understand a city by standing at the property line or by driving through it with your windows rolled up. From that remove, you wouldn't see the dozen kids who showed up in Sunday's sweltering heat at the St. Martin de Porres Catholic Worker community house in Hartford's North End. Those kids met to ride bikes in the Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride.
And earlier, you wouldn't have seen Hartford students build the multi-story stairwell on the back of the Purple House, where on Monday morning community founder Christopher J. Doucot stood fixing a broken door. The day before, Doucot sent an e-mail to friends and supporters calling attention to the hateful online commentary after a city shooting. In his e-mail, Doucot asked that name-calling be replaced with prayer.
Whether you are the praying type, it is the worst kind of science to judge a society through the prism of one person's failings — say, the driver of the car that hit Torres, or the scattered people who didn't run to the fallen man's side to hold his hand. As Doucot says: Do you really want to kick a city that's already down? Why?
What is the future of a kid growing up on Park Street? Sure, he or she can rise to be mayor — love or hate him, Eddie Perez did — but that's rare. If you can't see past your 20th birthday, says Doucot, what is your motivation to stay in school or postpone sexual activity? Or even stay on your side of the road while navigating city streets? Live fast, die young, and let later worry for itself.
For many of these children, there is no later. There is no excuse for awful behavior. Torres' son has asked that the driver come forward, but we could all use a little compassion about Hartford. How about the haters channeling that energy into something worthwhile?
Benjamin Cruse, who with others resurrected Little League in the city's South End this summer, and Rabbi Donna Berman of the city's always-busy Charter Oak Cultural Center have opened a bank account for Torres and his family. Want to do something? Stop whining. Volunteer. Mentor someone. Send a donation to help the guy.
Step up, if you think others didn't, and maybe then we'll have something to talk about.
To make a donation, contact Charter Oak Cultural Center at 860-249-1207, or Leadership Greater Hartford at 860-951-6161. Contact Susan Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-241-6454.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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