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Am I happy how the nearby Discovery building hostage situation turned out?

Sep 01, 2010 Am I happy how the nearby Discovery building hostage situation turned out?

Usually, about the most noteworthy things that happen on the streets outside my Silver Spring, Maryland, office — except for the time I was floored meeting Jane Goodall just a block away, near her then U.S. headquarters —  are such events as the closing of the Electric Shaver repair shop and museum, in the face of rising rents surrounding the downtown development that looks like so many other outdoor shopping mall-office-condo complexes that obliterate the truer, even if grittier, flavor of the surroundings they replace. 

The Discovery Channel headquarters two blocks down the street from  me replaced the Tastee Diner, which seemed to have stubbornly resisted earlier likely overtures to buy the diner’s real estate parcel for erecting a much larger building. Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead comic-strip chronicled the relocation of the Tastee a decade ago to a half block from my current office. The restaurant serves meat, and the vegetables did not taste so Tastee, so I have stayed away, but Bill Griffith likes diners, including in Connecticut to which he transplanted. 

Early this afternoon while at the D.C. Superior Court, just eight miles down the street from me, I learned about an event more surreal than Zippy’s take on the relocation of the Tastee Diner. I learned that at the Discovery Channel building that replaced the Tastee Diner site, a man had taken hostages, streets were being blocked off by cops, I would be letting my staff leave for the day, and I would not get back to my office until after the alleged hostage taker, James Lee, had been shot and killed. 

For the rest of the afternoon, I transferred my office business to the Bethesda, Maryland,  conference center that is part of the company providing me offsite meeting space. On the way back to my office at around 8:00 p.m., closed was the entrance to Colesville Road, which passes by the north side of the Discovery Channel building. 

Fortunately, nobody was physically wounded, nobody, that is, but the alleged hostage-taker James Lee. 

On the one hand, I want to depict James Lee’s alleged actions as a rare aberration that does not justify tightening the criminal justice system, imposing harsher sentences, forcing more people into mental hospitals, and reversing the erosion of the death penalty machine, 

On the other hand, we are all connected in one way or another. That does not automatically mean that others are at fault for Lee’s actions. On the other hand, the question remains whether he would have taken today’s actions had more people reached out to him with caring from the outset and through today. 

On local news radio WTOP, a news announcer said that the Discovery Channel hostage situation had ended happily. At the auto shop at the end of the day, one of the staff seemed pleased about the skills of the shooter who killed Mr. Lee. Later in the evening, someone from out of state told me it was good that Mr. Lee got shot. 

Am I disappointed that Mr. Lee got shot, and dead at that? Not necessarily, although I wish to know more, including whether the sharpshooter had an opportunity to incapacitate Mr. Lee by maiming rather than killing Mr. Lee; possibly not if the shooter was too far from him. 

Do I feel that we would have a more peaceful and harmonious society if we reduced the disconnect that so many people feel among each other, if people did not so quickly feel “good” to learn that a hostage taker had been shot dead, and if we continued working harder and more caringly to finding nonviolent and non-incarceration approaches to so-called deviant behavior? 

Yes, and that responsibility to reduce the disconnect starts with me.

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