* Who is Wes Moore? A Brief Introduction (Part 1 & 2)
** A Family Friend of The Victim Offers A Response to this review and the book's publication.
*** Lessons Learned? The Author's Opinion
**** Lessons Learned? The Reviewer's Opinion
* Who is Wes Moore? One...
Wes Moore was in a caravan leaving the airport en route to Cape Town. He marveled at the pristine view of The Table Mountains, the picturesque waterfront cottages, marble statues and modern metropolitan skyscrapers that decorated the wealthy suburban landscape. As the bus entered the expressway, awe gave way to disappointment and confusion as the newly paved roads became a pot-holed infested and dirt-covered. Freshly painted mansions and manicured lawns seemed to be a figment of his imagination as he grabbed his bags and walked into a bare concrete dwelling that, housing a family of five, could have easily fit into a garage so many miles back. He was intrigued by the duplicitous living situations in this still-newly democratic society.
It was a long way from his early years in Baltimore and New York City as a child of West Indian immigrants. He looked inquisitively at the youngest son who was eager to undergo circumcision as a rite of passage into manhood. The boy's fearless confidence was in a procedure that would give him the respect that his elder brother and father had enjoyed after their time had come.
Moore was here on a six-month visa. Having won a scholarship to study abroad, he chose an international business course offered by the University of Cape Town. He would learn by observing his host family a truth that had eluded him as a child living in the rough inner cities of the United States: poverty does not equal indignity.
After he had some time to settle down, he decided he wanted to call his mother to let her know of his arrival. After they exchanged some pleasantries, she told him something that would again change the direction of his life. "[I] have something crazy to tell you. Did you know the cops are looking for another guy from your neighborhood with your name for killing a cop?"
Who is Wes Moore? Two...
Just seventy-two hours before, half a world away in West Baltimore (MD), an off-duty Police Sergeant was moonlighting as a security guard for a jewelry store. A devoted husband and father of five, the sergeant had an equally good name amongst his peers. All seemed normal when he took another shift this morning when the regularly-scheduled guard called in sick. No one was more surprised that day, however, than the sergeant when four armed men broke into the store and he found a gun pressed against the back of his head.
The four men ran out of the store with slightly less than $500G worth of watches and jewelry. The sergeant got up slowly, looked around to see if anyone was hurt, then he ran out of the store.
This "Wes Moore," like his neighbor, was in his early twenties. Growing up as a young boy, Moore had dreams of becoming a football player. He dreamed about it constantly and even played football in school. He was the younger of two sons, his mother Mary had with two different men. The older, Antonio "Tony" Moore was six years older and spent the majority of his time with his father in a seedier part of town.
From an early age, Wes looked up to his brother. His brother was his protector and his "father" by default. Tony, however, was no one to look up to. Before he reached sixteen, he was heavily involved in the drug trade and had several bullet scars to prove it.
Wes knew the dangers his brother faced. Mary warned him not to follow in his brother's footsteps. Tony, himself, warned him this was no place for him. What Mary and Tony didn't realize was that the lure of new clothes and money to take out the ladies to the boys in Wes' immediate environment had an equally strong, but more immediate appeal to Wes than a far off dream of playing professionally ten years down the line. Wes weighed this as he looked at his hand-me-down, highwater-jeans and torn sneakers as he walked past the taunts.
This Wes Moore made a fateful decision.
(** After reading this review, a friend of the Sergeant's family (and one who sat with his family through the four separate trials) wrote to offer a response to the publication of this book as well as to offer some clarification about key details concerning the trial of the defendants.
According to the friend, the family of the sergeant approached the author and the publisher about not divulging too much information about the sergeant as the family desired to keep his children sheltered from unwanted publicity they had been exposed to some ten years before.
In addition, it was the family that decided not to seek the death penalty for any of the defendants as it would have prolonged the family's stay in the public eye, not to mention prolonging their inability to find space in order to grieve and to find solace. This, despite the fact that Tony Moore, criminal Wes' brother, had exchanged words with the sergeant's relatives after his sentencing. He remained unrepentant even on his deathbed.
In deference to the family of the police sergeant, I have elected to remove his name and only mention the bare essentials to give an accurate description of the contrast between the two men who share the same name.
It is my personal opinion that such pre-meditated acts by the likes of the defendants should be met with the swiftest and harshest act of punishment possible. Period.)
*** Much is said about the absence of the father in a home. This kind of vocality is nothing but common currency with a hidden agenda. Such questions to people who like to think are insulting and disingenuous and acts as a mask for the more obvious question that should be asked: which is, "What pushed you over the edge?"
When asked about how would he have acted had his father been there, a sober criminal Wes responded, "Your father wasn't there because he couldn't be, my father wasn't there because he chose not to be. We're going to mourn their absence in a different way." And he was right. He didn't give into that intellectual form of scapegoating. That's a sleight-of-hand that shifts personal responsibility to collective guilt. A rhetorical statement that says, if "The Father" had been there, then the child would have done better, because as we all know "The Father" would have exerted some kind of Pygmalion influence over his children. It's also a backhanded way of saying that all of the criminal Wes' out there have no legitimate control over their minds and actions so, therefore, they're not really at fault.
So where does this leave us?
**** It is true that life begins in the home. But, to say that if one doesn't have a perfect home life, then they'll lead a life of desperation is as absurd as saying a parent can take credit for a child's personal achievements. There are "black sheep" and prodigies in every family line. And, the consequences of their lives are no reflection on their upbringing. Broken home, criminal behavior, poverty and hopelessness is not a destination, it is not limited to the seedy side of any town. It is cross-generational, cross-cultural and runs across socio-economic lines.
In considering their divergent paths, I want to suggest that two very distinct things came into being.
1) The Peer group influence. In the author's case, his primary peer group had a stronger influence over his desire for acceptance than his less desirable group of friends. As I heard Tony Robbins say, "We all rise to the expectation of our peer group." This is quite evident here. It is also true, furthermore, for criminal Wes. The turning point for him (despite the warning from his mother and his drug-dealing older brother) was that he sought the good opinion of those friends whom he saw in the neighborhood, whom he played with, and whom he eventually committed truancy with. It was their newer, flashier clothes, larger allowances, and popularity with the girls that spoke the loudest to his self-image.
2) Inherited favor. This phrase, I suggest, must be distinguished from what the author and the revered reporter Tavis Smiley stated in the afterword as "unmerited favor." It sounds like that familiar refrain so often heard in fundamentalist circles around the country when they chant, "favor ain't fair!" I won't belabor that stupidity but I will say that it is unmitigated foolishness. To say someone is endowed with "unmerited favor" suggests one doesn't have to do anything to deserve the good that happens to him. So, to do nothing, to do no thing, is to be compensated. That sounds like an oxymoron to me. Merit means value. Merit means to earn. Merit means to deserve. If we followed this fallacious assumption, then those who're destitute are so, not because of the value they contributed to society (or failure to contribute) but because it is what their station in life is pre-ordained to be, validating a caste system. When I say, "inherited favor" I am referring to merit, to value, to remuneration that was earned but was either unredeemed or willed to another. In other words, the spiritual treasures earned by the authors' parents and grandparents and great-grandparents had a serendipitous effect on his life. Plain and simple. I want to believe in the integrity of God, but to say that God bestows "unmerited favor" is to call God a bigot and that leaves me cold.
As the author learned during his sojourn in Cape Town, poverty does not equal indignity nor should it be an excuse for immorality. Most of us were reared in an environment where self-respect and hard work are virtues and where hope and faith are powerful and positive dispositions to have. Read more ›