Vandalism now punishable by deathSteve Hammer

We are living in some very sick times. The latest piece of evidence is the tragedy that occurred Sunday, July 24, when 15-year-old Brandon Dunson was murdered in cold blood on the Westside after hurling eggs at cars. Our politicians want to ban violent videogames while they're cutting funds to after-school programs that would give youth an alternative to vandalism.

The driver of a maroon Ford F-150, a victim of the vandalism, hunted down the youths, pulled out a weapon and killed Dunson and wounded one of his friends.

As a result, Indianapolis police announced plans to strictly enforce the city's curfew law, which prohibits those under 18 from being out unaccompanied by a parent or guardian after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on weekends.

While my friends at the Indiana Civil Liberties Union are against the state's curfew law, I have to take exception with them on this. The streets are too dangerous these days, especially when you have people willing to kill over petty vandalism.

Those teens shouldn't have been throwing eggs at cars, I agree. They should have been detained or arrested and maybe served some time at Juvy. Young Mr. Brunson received the death penalty for his alleged crime.

Like a lot of people before me, I went through my days of petty vandalism, and while I'm not proud of what I did, and would not endorse anyone emulating me, I don't have any regrets.

I remember being 18 and 19 and hanging out with some friends in Broad Ripple and getting into lots of trouble. Back in the '80s, there was even less for kids and young adults to do than there is now. Our weekend consisted of looking for alcohol, then consuming it, then going on sprees.

I've experienced many of the pleasures life has to offer, and among the most enjoyable of them was hanging out of the window of a car going 40 miles an hour down a suburban street and using a baseball bat to smash the hell out of mailboxes.

I'd take a Hank Aaron swing and send the box flying, then wind up and swing at the next target. Letters and packages would go flying. The mailboxes would sail through the air. It was astonishingly fun.

I feel bad now about the damage I caused, but at the time it was one of the most exhilarating things I'd ever done. If I could go back and make restitution to my victims, I would. But I was so smashed back then that I'd have to send a $250 check to everyone who was living north of 38th Street.

Remember those yellow boxes used to deliver the Indy Star? We must have destroyed 10,000 of those things, and I most emphatically do not apologize for that, even now.

I've done my share of tagging and graffiti too; there's an underpass at Bluff Road and I-465 that probably still has my NIXON LIVES and PUBLIC ENEMY RULES tags on its underside. One of my pals made a stencil of a housefly and must have tagged every white wall in the city with it.

My point is not to glorify vandalism, but to emphasize that some young people have and always will do destructive things. Especially now, when we have outlaws running our government, and a breakdown of the moral fabric of our society hastened by the policies of the current president, people are going to act out on it.

It's unfortunate that a young man full of such potential had to die for it. The person who did it should be egged and then executed, in my opinion. Kill the bastard for what he did. There is no excuse for murdering a child, even if he messed up the paint job on the man's redneck-mobile.

As I said in the beginning, these are sick, sick times. Our politicians want to ban violent videogames while they're cutting funds to after-school programs that would give youth an alternative to vandalism.

Lives are being lost across the world for no reason. In Africa, someone dies every three seconds of diseases that could be cured with $2 worth of medicine. Genocide continues in Darfur and the world does nothing.

We're dedicating our national treasure in an ill-conceived war that's killing thousands and thousands of Iraqis and Americans monthly while having no exit strategy.

The same politicians who want to outlaw abortion - which I agree is a noble goal - refuse to address the root causes of the problem, such as contraception, education and raising the self-esteem of our young people.

Our police forces are understaffed, underpaid and working with 1970s technology. They're having to take over the role of parental figures more often than they should.

Our cities are being devastated by meth and crack, while the war on drugs is largely focused on eradicating marijuana. Pot may not be benign but it doesn't take lives and ravage communities.

This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue, although President John Kerry would have begun a process of healing. It's an issue about our nation's survival. Bin Laden has no need to kill Americans when we are doing such a good job of it ourselves.

Our souls are at stake here. It's time for the so-called Christians in our government to walk the walk. Start with bringing our troops home, then work on uniting our people. We can do all of that while still eradicating poverty in the Third World in our lifetimes.

We're facing challenges we've never faced before, and they're problems largely of our own making. Brother Malcolm was right when he said, "The chickens have come home to roost."

Meanwhile, the family of a young man mourns because some kids were out having fun.

I'll say it a third time, for emphasis: We are living in sick times.


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