Thursday, May 9, 2013

Four Alive in Ohio

Ever since Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Berry's little girl Jocelyn, were rescued from the house in Cleveland where they had been held hostage for the past decade, the word "miracle" has been bandied about quite a bit. As in, it's a miracle that they're alive. Or, it's a miracle that they've been found. It is indeed very good news for the women, their families, and even society at large that they came through this ordeal intact. So I shouldn't quibble about semantics, but I'm going to, anyway. It's not a miracle, it's a surprise. A hugely pleasant surprise. I guess it shows just how jaded we've all became that when someone, especially a minor, disappears, we've come to expect them not to be found. At least not found breathing. But a miracle is when something impossible happens. While it may be improbable that someone who's been missing for a very long time will ever be found alive, it's still possible.

Actually, as more details of the absence are known, it seems less miraculous and oddly predictable. That is, predictable if you were in on the details in the first place. These women weren't held hostage way out in the country somewhere. It was a low-income urban neighborhood with old houses and people of all ages crammed together. Furthermore, one of those hostages had a baby. A baby takes a lot of care. I'm told they cry occasionally. Kidnapper Ariel Castro had quite a lot to keep from the neighbors. And the police, whom he was no stranger to all these years, though for reasons having nothing to do with the three adolescent girls disappearance. Castro may have lived in a low income neighborhood, but he himself, until recently, earned $18.50 an hour as a school bus driver. He once left a kid on a bus while he ate at a Wendy's. As a school bus driver is a child's temporary guardian, this was against the law. The police visited his house but no one--including the hostages, who may very well have been bound and gagged--answered the door. Another, even odder, detail is that Castro's then-teenage daughter was the last person, until a few days ago, to see Gina DeJesus alive. No, this was a crime waiting to be discovered. The miracle, or anti-miracle, certainly surprise, is that it took as long as it did.

The always-beleaguered Cleveland Police Department has come under criticism. I don't wish to criticize them myself. At least not just yet. Because, really, everything I've described in the paragraph above is in hindsight. The crime that seems so solvable now may not have been back then. A house-to-house search might have worked, but civil liberties, the bedrock of a free society, have to be observed. As a character says in the 1956 movie Touch of Evil: "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."

All I can add is this: a miracle is only simple when performed by a saint.


  1. It will be a miracle if those women and that child are able to have any semblance of a normal life, after their captivity.
    It would be a miracle if there weren't people capable of carrying out this kind of horror. It'll be a miracle if Mr. Castro survives in prison. What is really miraculous is that Charles Ramsey, who certainly isn't wealthy, told Anderson Cooper to give the FBI reward, to Castro's victims.

    1. As I understand it, Patricia, Ramsey works as a dishwasher. They sure don't make $18.50 an hour.

  2. my current, working definition of a miracle is an occurrence for which we have no explanation that fits our current understanding of the world. as far as i can tell, we are dumb as toast about so many things, everything looks like a miracle.

    none of these events are miraculous. as you said so well, kirk, improbable, perhaps surprising, yes. mostly it just points to our general state of oblivion, and willful stupidity.

    can ya tell i'm kinda down on people right now?

  3. Wow, rraine! You had me laughing out loud with that comment.


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