Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disney isn't the salve for everything

The LaughingPlace.com daily Disney newsletter had a link to this article which tells the story of a 20 year old man who was killed in late October 2008 by an officer of the Anaheim police department. The police were chasing burglary suspects, and the man was an innocent bystander. The family of the man is suing the city of Anaheim for wrongful death.

The man had a wife, and she was pregnant with their child, a daughter who was born in early December 2008. The man's death is tragic, especially given the circumstances of his death, and I can't imagine what his widow and his parents and family must be going through, and that poor little girl who will never know her father.

There is one wrinkle in this story, though. Even though Disneyland and The Walt Disney Company are not connected in any way to the matter of the man's death, the parents of the man, in conjunction with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are asking Disneyland to put up a statue on Main Street to honor their son. The family's lawyer says that the statue would "serve as a message of healing and reconciliation to the community and a reminder that deadly force should be eliminated from the streets of Anaheim".

I am having trouble seeing how Disney putting up a statue would be any kind of reconciliation with the community since Disney wasn't involved in the shooting at all. And would a simple statue actually do anything to heal the hurt and anger and pain that the man's family must be feeling? I also find it hard to believe that a statue would be any kind of reminder about eliminating deadly force. Do most people go around thinking that deadly force on a regular basis on the streets of Anaheim is ok? And no matter what happens with the lawsuit and what determination is made regarding the actions of the police officer, it wasn't like the police were just wandering around the neighborhood looking for someone to shoot. They were in pursuit of suspects who had committed a robbery. If they really want to eliminate the need for deadly force to be used, how about putting together a neighborhood group to watch out for crime, so that the citizens and police can work together to curtail crime in the area.

The attorney goes on to say about the statue that "it's about honoring a man who didn't deserve to die and preventing it from ever happening again". With all due respect to the man killed and his family, he is unfortunately not the first person or the only person nor will he likely be the last person who "didn't deserve to die". I'm also unclear why Disneyland would or should choose to single out this one person for a memorial statue - what about the countless victims of crime in Anaheim? They didn't deserve to die either. Should they each be memorialized with a statue on Main Street? And how on earth is having such a statue going to prevent a senseless death from ever happening again? Anyone who is contemplating a crime that might result in someone's death is going to see that statue and then change their mind?

I would think that the memorial at best would be something that the family might want to look at. How are they going to be able to see the statue when it's placed on private property that requires an entrance fee and is only open during certain hours? How callous would it be for Disney to say, "Sorry, I know you want to see the statue dedicated to your son/husband/father/family member, but you have to pay the admission price to be able to see it"? So, Disney has to also provide free admission to any family or friend of the man who would want to see his statue?

I am going to give the parents the benefit of the doubt that they are in so much grief that they don't see how inappropriate their request is, but shame on the SCLC for being party to this and using the demand to Disneyland as a publicity scam. I have a hard time believing that the family came up with the idea themselves. I'm not even sure where the idea would have come from. There is no mention that man was a fan of Disneyland or that he and his family enjoyed spending time there. Even if they had, it would be an outrageous request, but absent that connection, the demand makes even less sense. Figuring out what really happened in this man's death, and regardless of the outcome, how best to provide for the widow and daughter is what's most important, not some stupid statue at Disneyland that will do nothing to help anyone.

I am going to assume that the SCLC actually does some good somewhere. From their website, they appear to have a good history, but being involved in this kind of ridiculous request sure calls into question any credibility they would have developed over the years, which is a real shame. I hope they will channel their resources to actually helping people rather than simply as a means of shining the spotlight on themselves.

After I read the news story, my thoughts were as I've set them forth above. But many hours later, a realization came to me - I'd already heard about this story previously, about the man who was accidentally killed. The story had been told to me by a friend - who has a friend who is peripherally related to the man who was killed. I remember thinking of the pregnant widow at the time, and what she must be going through and feeling sad that the man was never going to know his own daughter.

Remembering that I know someone who knows someone connected to the situation doesn't change my feelings any, though. I still give the parents a pass because of the pain they must be in, and I still fault the SCLC for taking advantage of the situation.

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