Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not Again!

In the early 1990's, the South Natomas community in Sacramento spent over $100,000 and used volunteer labor to build a beautiful children's playground in Jefferson Park. It was the first community playground in Sacramento and was the pride of the South Natomas community. A generation of children grew up enjoying the wonderful playground. Then, in June of 2006, someone burned it down. I blogged about it at the time. My wife and I watched a massive, roaring fire reduce beautiful "Ft. Natomas" to a pile of charred wood in a matter of minutes despite the best efforts of firefighters to save it. The arsonist was never caught. But the community rallied and, through fund-raising activities and hundreds of volunteers, the playground was rebuilt in a weeklong labor of love. Children in the community worked side-by-side with engineers to design the marvelous new playground, and its fixtures were brought up to newer safety codes and constructed out of plastic. I remember worrying at the time that someone, perhaps the same deranged person who torched the original playground, would destroy it, but I hoped that no one would.

My hopes were dashed yesterday morning around 1 AM when the playground caught fire and burned down again. There's no way this could have happened by accident. Someone had to have set the fire on purpose. What kind of person could do such a thing? Why did he do it? I've written here before about how everything anybody does is the inevitable product of the entire, unified universe and that people shouldn't be blamed for their actions, no matter how much harm and suffering they might cause. But part of me would like to find the perpetrator of yesterday's burning and beat him to death with my bare hands. Or just put a bullet in his brain with a .44 Magnum. Blow his head "clean off," as Dirty Harry would say. In other words, utterly and irrevocably obliterate the evil in our midst. But, as hard as it is to acknowledge in my current anger and bitterness, such violent retribution would be sicker and more evil than what the arsonist did to that hapless playground.

Yet, if this person is ever caught, and a $5000 reward had been offered for his arrest and conviction, what is the appropriate way to deal with him? As a community leader said, "This is beyond a crime, to take this away from the community," and as someone else commented, "It is acts like these that tear apart our sense of community--and, eventually, civility."

Ft. Natomas--Our Community, Our Story

Ft. Natomas Rebuilt


Gary Reed said...

This post is being considered for The Sacramento Bee's roundup of regional blogs, which appears in Forum, the Sunday commentary section.

The Blog Watch column is limited to about 800 words. Blog posts included in the column are often trimmed to fit. The blog's main address will appear in The Bee, and the online copy of the article will contain links to the actual blog post.

If you have questions (or you DON'T want your blog post considered for inclusion in the newspaper column), contact me at greed@sacbee.com

Gary Reed
Forum Editor

shirley said...

So you would kill a person for burning down an inanimate object but suppoert only giving a slap on the wrist to those who ruin others lives?

Nagarjuna said...

I wouldn't kill someone for burning down a playground. At least not unless I was overcome by rage. And I don't propose giving someone a mere "slap on the wrist" for ruining another's life through child sexual abuse. But isn't there a huge middle ground between sending someone to prison for many years and giving them a "slap on the wrist"?