FOR VINCENT DROST, AND OUR LACK OF CHARACTER
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) - July 14, 1995
Author: DICK FEAGLER
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Vincent Drost was a composer. Five young men are accused of killing him
for the fun of it in Lakewood Sunday night. It is up to us to compose
the mournful music for the repose of his soul. The Vincent Drost
He was a white man who allegedly died at the hands of black youths in a
suburb that is worried about race and crime. And so the air is
throbbing with the theme of racial bitterness that pollutes and
degrades our society.
Many of the 200 people who telephoned me yesterday and wanted to talk
about Vincent Drost demanded to know why the paper didn't say his
alleged assailants were black. They thought the Vincent Drost story was
a story about skin color.
Some people who said they were black telephoned to say that we would
not be making such a big deal about the murder of Vincent Drost if he
were not a white man. They thought the story was about skin color, too.
But Vincent Drost didn't die of somebody else's skin color. He died of
knife wounds. You can see that on the coroner's report. And if you want
to start looking through coroners' reports, you will find that in our
town, most young men who die the kind of violent, senseless death that
Vincent Drost died are black men. When it comes to death, skin color is
neither a cause nor a deterrent.
So what we had better talk about here is not the color of skin. We talk
about that entirely too much in America. Some of us are black and some
of us are white, and it's going to stay that way, and it's high time we
got used to it. We use every opportunity and stand on every pedestal to
deliver speeches about skin color. It hasn't gotten us very far lately,
has it? So let's not shout more of it from atop the coffin of Vincent
What we ought to be talking about is the content of character. That's
what Martin Luther King Jr., the martyred prophet, said was the only
fair judgment of a man.
And what we seem to be producing in America is a frightening number of
people whose character is content-free. Who kill without remorse. Who
lack the discernment to tell right from wrong, and the ability to
choose right over wrong.
Back when I was covering trials, such people would have been judged
legally insane. We live in a culture that is cranking out increasing
numbers of people who fit one definition of insanity. And what we had
better want to know - urgently want to know - is why.
That had better be the dominant, color-free, plain-spoken theme of the
Vincent Drost Requiem. A great, resounding, intense, diverse chorus of
us asking why. A particularly special and demanding crescendo of a why.
Not the kind of "why" we ask after the fatal traffic accident. Or when
the doctor says the X-rays look bad. We say "Why?" at such times
knowing we'll never get an answer. Knowing that our only relief lies in
Well, the death of Vincent Drost is unacceptable. This whole epidemic
of senseless, violent slaughter is unacceptable. Accepting it will
bring no relief.
So we have to do something about it. And yesterday, my phone kept
ringing with calls from people who had ideas about what to do. Some of
them said we all ought to be allowed to carry guns. Some of them said
that parents should be held severely responsible for the actions of
their children, as owners of pit bulls are responsible for the mayhem
of their animals.
Some thought we ought to start treating juvenile offenders as adults.
Some thought we ought to keep a sharp watch on the occupants of
Whether these ideas are good or bad, they are recognitions that we
can't play around with this issue any more. We can't call the moving
van and get away from it. The government isn't going to solve it for
us. We can't muddy it with racial politics or liberal politics or
conservative politics or any kind of politics.
We can't blame it on poverty or joblessness. Other nations have as much
poverty and joblessness as we have, without an epidemic murder rate. We
can't keep using all the little, mushy, cop-out answers we've been
using while the insanity grows. We have to make a stand.
Would I have written this much about Vincent Drost if he hadn't died in
my suburb? Probably not. So what? I'm going to keep on writing about
him from time to time. I want to see how this comes out. I want to know
All of us, wherever we live, whatever race or color or religion or sex
we happen to be, better start making more noise and asking more
questions. We are losing our hold on humanity and sanity. Is there a
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