Monday, August 17, 2009

SOCIAL COMMENTARY: My Face Was Red with Anger

by Antonio Cassone

(original article posted on my Facebook Notes - Wednesday, August 12, 2009)

Being the newshound I am, I am usually deeply affected by world events – both great and small. In these trying times, I have followed some of these stories closer than others and carried the burden of other people’s sorrow and anger over passed on loved ones. Death by terrorism, murders, rapes…one victim, two, hundreds, thousands. World disasters seem to come and go all the time in our lives anymore. ‘People die everyday,’ most settle with. I guess it is all right, so long as it doesn’t happen to you and yours. I suppose I may even be selfish of that thought process myself. I believe it is in human nature to feel that way. It could be a basic survival instinct to think so.

So many times, while Jane or Joe Blow are watching the news, wolfing down bagels and reading a fancy magazine article …there I sit, internalizing the story. Making it my own bitter reality. It has helped me grow as an artist doing so, but it is a heavy price to pay. Sleepless hours of the night, restlessness, anxiety, depression…the list grows and grows. The process for me is as natural as tying my shoes or brushing my teeth. I sort of just fall into it. When ‘news’ happens I think long and hard about the details. What were they thinking when they did this? What led them to decide to do that? Did they know what was about to happen was actually about to happen? I could go on and on. It can actually get very detailed – and the movie in my mind plays on.

On Monday morning this week, I got a breaking news alert about a woman found dead inside of a restaurant. It was before the store opened and she was discovered by co-workers, who thought she had fallen and the blood they saw was maybe a result from that fall. However, unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, she had just been brutally, viciously murdered by two men, who allegedly posed as job seekers. She let these two men into the store under that presumption and they then robbed the store of whatever little cash they could get, stabbed her several times and left her for dead.

Of course, that was not disclosed right away, and as the story unfolded details about the victim came to the forefront. She was a good, churchgoing woman, 39 years old (my age), a devoted employee to that restaurant for 20 years, married to a loving husband for the same amount of time and had three children, who undoubtedly are going through it right now. If you were a customer short some change, she’d let it slide someone spoke of, and may even cover a meal for somebody; if they really needed it. She was in love for as long as she was married. How often do we hear that? She was a lot of employees ‘favorite manager’ and someone they could tell just about anything to.

I got to thinking about that and all of the praise she got for being so good to her community. I imagined the heartbreak of not only her family, but of all her friends, co-workers, even the people in the local business community that she probably served lunch to for many, many years. Think about it. Think of a regular person you see every time you go somewhere at your local grocery store, restaurant, news stand, coffee shop or neighborhood bar; who waits on you and wishes you well on your way. Sure, they may be fleeting moments in a day, but those moments add up over time. I think of a few people in my own life like that; the lady at the grocery store who always asks about my shows; the bagger, who always makes it a point to tell me of his progress in school and at the local gym or the gas station owner who knows exactly how much I am gonna pump, what cigarettes I smoke and pulls my 1 liter diet soda out of the cooler before I even would get out of my car.

I thought about the fact that when this poor woman left her family that morning, probably sipping her very own cup of coffee and hurriedly getting to her place of employment, as she seemed to be the devoted employee; she had no idea what was about to happen would happen. The fact that it has come out that the accused in the case is a former employee is even more daunting because she knew her killer; probably offered her shoulder for him to complain on one day. Sure, I am assuming, but I know a lot of nice, giving people – I am one of them – so I know the type.

She will never hear her children’s laughter again, or celebrate their life events. She won’t look upon her husband’s loving face, or laugh with her friends – ever again. She won’t celebrate her 40th birthday, or greet her many customers with open arms. Nor will they hear her joyfulness for living.

Why?! For what? So some crooked young punk kid could get maybe $100, $200...$1,000 – tell me, how much is a life worth? What is the going rate these days? I wonder.

I was literally red in the face with anger when I read about the details of how the actual crime went down. By his own admission, the accused knew he was going to rob whomever and kill them. He felt he would have to given the fact he would more than likely know his victim, as he was a former employee. She knew him, let him and his friend in under the pretense they were seeking a job and then they robbed her, the store, stabbed her several times and left her for dead.

Absolutely ridiculous.

My mother used to always feel that stabbing someone was far more personal than shooting them. We would joke, as my mother and I often did about serious subjects…we would joke, ‘well, if someone shot me I think I would take it pretty personal.’ Yet, all jokes aside, the fact that when one is stabbing another they have to get in close with the victim. More often than not, unless it is a single slice from behind to the jugular vein; they have to touch one another, grabbing, struggling and human nature would compel a proposed victim to fight or flight. Considering the robbery would have already taken place, one could presume that the victim was already on the defensive. I can only imagine a struggle and two against one can never be good for the one. At time of the release of this article, the accomplice was still being sought.

Then, for the accused to so blatantly admit to the crime and tell detail by detail the plan to carry it out and the actuality of it, the finality of it – literally, my soul raged on. I sent the article I was reading to my co-worker and she replied, as most of us in our local area are just a bit miffed by the unfortunate set of circumstances. She responded with a choice phrase or two about the murderer’s selfishness. I couldn’t reply back to her right away because I had to get up and take a walk.

I thought about all the times of my youth, growing up in Detroit and seeing so many young people’s lives snuffed out. Every year in high school, we lost at least one classmate to gun violence, one even to terrorism. I worked with an advocacy group that promoted anti-violence, only to watch that violence become even more evident. The funerals were plenty, the sense of loss enormous and realizing the sad and bitter truth is that among colleagues and friends, you would have thought we were talking about something as common as the weather, or what we were having for lunch.

A colleague suggested we have become desensitized, as a society, to such things. The flicking of a fly out of our way, so is the thought process of the ins and outs of the daily dramas that are told in mere fleeting moments on our nightly news. It is our way of life anymore. Ponder it for a millisecond and at first cell phone’s ring, text beep or IM it is on to the next little thing. And it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

A whole life. Gone. Just like that. Does anybody get it? I used to get fired up as an anti-violence activist. I used to feel more sorry for the accused more so than the victims in some cases because the set of circumstances led me to believe everybody, at least everybody should be given a chance to at least explain themselves. I suppose that maybe it is because we need to have an answer. Perhaps, there are reasons and situations in the murderer's life that lead him to come to such a decision.

This is a case where for the first time ever, with such a huge public outcry being heard loud and clear throughout the community, I don’t care to hear an explanation. There IS no explanation. No excuse. The state of Florida carries the death penalty. I would not be surprised if that is brought up when the prosecution puts their case together. I used to be opposed to such, but I think a case has finally come along where that punishment fits the crime.

I hope that the police and crime scene investigators did their due diligence. I pray they were careful to gather any and every bit of forensic evidence to at least put the accused away for life. I would like to think that the victim, with love in her heart for her family and all she knew, was blessed enough to see within an instant what her inevitability was quickly becoming. I hope she had enough in her to fearlessly claw, scratch, bite, pull and tear at the two vultures who took her life so inhumanely. Forensic evidence does not lie. It will be the backbone of the case.

Karari Ritchie is the alleged accused being held in this case. I want you to remember that name and the name of his victim. I have personally set up news alerts for myself, as I am planning to not just let this news story die with the next IM, or phone call or text message. The insensitivity to such life events needs to stop. I don’t know when we became so complacent as citizens, but that could have been any one of us. Just doing our daily routine, our job – and done; just like that. We need to pay attention and see things through. Challenge our lawmakers. Watch the news. Read up on the things going on around you. Become involved.

While Ritchie seemingly knew exactly what he was going to do Monday morning; his victim, Tikkitress Johnson had no idea her life was about to end when she did the most routine of things…going to work. Please keep Tikkitress’ family, friends and all she knew and touched in your thoughts and prayers. Feel free to follow up on her case, as I certainly plan to. We have to keep our ear to the ground and our eyes open. These sort of news stories have become too commonplace.

We do NOT have to stay seated next to the punch bowl and act like it’s supposed to be this way …not if we pay attention, get involved and speak up.

--------This is the news story referred to in this article:

Antonio Cassone is a published freelance writer with two upcoming poetry and essay books, "Ramblings from the Ragged Edge" and "Blue Sky - Writings for Steven and Others I Have Loved for So Long." His previous published works include, "Diva/Cassone" (poetry); "Looking through the Naked Window" (memoir); "Opening the Naked Window" (memoir) and "The Naked Window: Exposed/ Revelations." Cassone is also an accomplished photographer, entertainer and videographer. See more works at

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