Every morning I run at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth and I often listen to recorded books while I do. A few books, I listen to repeatedly and one of them is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
I also take the opportunity while I run to think. To think of important things and unimportant. Today, because of a note I received last night from her cousin, I thought of Brenda Keith who, about this time last year, went back to school at Newark’s West Side only to discover the few teachers who understood her were gone. Transferred by some idiot eager to do the bidding of an even worse idiot, a boss, who literally believed that disrupting the lives of children will bring about “education reform.”
Brenda stopped going to school and, because all the attendance officers had been laid off, there was no one to try to track her down.
Weeks later, Brenda Keith’s badly decomposed body was found maybe 1,000 feet from West Side. No cause of death has been reported by the Essex County prosecutor’s office.
The cause of death was carelessness. Indifference. She was only 15.
So, while I was running this morning and thinking of Christopher Keith’s note to me, I heard these words about rich, indifferent people from The Great Gatsby…
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”
They smashed up things…then retreated back into their money…and let other people clean up the mess….
I heard those words and I thought about Christopher Cerf and Cami Anderson and Chris Christie and Tim Carden and all those people in Montclair who think somehow it’s the “liberal” thing to do to upset the lives of people poorer and darker than they. Rich people, hedge fund managers, people who wouldn’t stay five minutes in a real Newark neighborhood at night but think they have all the answers.
I don’t have any answers.
I just think some things should never be forgiven.
And one of those things that should never be forgiven is what happened to a little girl named Brenda Keith and the actions of careless people who believe they have the right to fool with other people’s lives.