26 January 2010


And not in a titillating sense, either.

I'm intentionally coy about where I live in Ohio because I'm a paranoid freak. So I don't write about local events without obfuscating the details, or being so general that what I'm talking about could be anywhere in America. Mostly.

Last week, an 80 year old woman was murdered here. Sadly, homicide isn't limited to the youthful people on this planet. It is something that knows no real boundaries, color, ethnicity, age, sexuality, gender. Far too many people are murdered every day in the United States. What makes this one unique? Ahh, that opens a Pandora's Box, and requires me to give enough detail for my location to be given away. But I'm feeling particularly strong about this, and hell, going private in a week, so why not.

The location of the murder is part of what makes the crime rather heinous, even for someone who possesses no spiritual beliefs. She was shot in the parking lot of her church. Why does that make it worse? As an atheist, I don't think the fact that it was at church is supposed to matter to me. But it does. That bothers me, because would it be any less terrible if she was shot in the parking lot of a grocery store, or her own driveway? No, of course not. Hell no. But it seems "worse" somehow, that it was her church's parking lot, right after mass.

I grew up in a world of devout Catholics, where lots of bubbas (the word means 'old lady' or 'granny,' and is an affectionate term rather than derogatory. Eastern European in origin, but I've only ever heard it used here) go to church every day. Devout Catholics attend Mass daily. Mostly it is the elderly or kids in Catholic school who hold fast to that, but there are wide swaths of the Catholic population who do attend mass more often than just on Sundays. It never really made a lot of sense to me, but even when I was a kid a lot of the religious instructors I had answered my "Why?" questions with "Because it is." or my favorite, "Because God is." (hulp!)

This lady was one of those bubbas, attending nearly every mass her church offered, all year long. In that congregation, a pillar. Or as much as women are allowed to be pillars in the Catholic church. (Nope, can't shake that venom over the role of women in Catholicism, even for a second. Sorry.) Most likely, before mass, she had all of $12 in her purse. After the collection plate was passed, she probably had less than 5.

You know someone like this, I promise. She's elderly, widowed, kids who are adults now moved away years ago in search of jobs. Her house is spotless, but hasn't changed in 30 years. She's involved in every society and group the church has; altar guild, bible study, and the like. The church is her entire life, all of her socializing stems from it and is related to it. She bemoans the state of "kids today" but is also the first to reach out to hold a baby.

Police suspect that robbery was the cause; she was killed for the contents of her purse.

I joke a lot about my hometown having 2 degrees of separation, rather than the urban legend of 6. And it plays out all the time. This is a small place and everyone seems to know everyone else. For all that, though, I didn't know this woman personally. One of my co-workers did, and he summed up the mood over this act particularly aptly yesterday, saying that he wasn't so sure he wanted to be part of the human race if these are the things we're collectively capable of.

Sad, wise, and true words.


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