I was recently thumbing through our newspaper morgue - where past issues are kept -when my eyes came to a screeching halt on the front page of the Jan. 8, 1975 Ceres Courier.
Riveted to a photo of a grinding crash on a rain slickened Ceres road, I read of an incident whose gravity was so intense that it made me shiver 38 years later just reading about it. It's possible that there are some of you who may remember the crash.
According to the 1975 Courier article, a 21-year-old Ronnie Lee Sisk of Keyes died in a grinding crash at the northeast corner of Mitchell and Roeding roads while fleeing in his car after stealing a bottle of booze at Barbour's Save Center. Officers Marty Gerber and Deputy Fred Wegis were trying to intercept the suspect when they saw Sisk attempt to turn left onto Roeding Road at a high rate of speed as he collided with a one-and-a-half ton truck driven by Fred Page of Ceres. Sisk was killed instantly. No word on if the contents of the bottle survived.
A man lost his life because he felt the need to steal some booze and as a result of running he died a horrible death as a result of his actions. I consider that a tragedy.
I was 14 years old back in 1975 (which does not seem that long ago to me). But it seems that the country had a different attitude back then. While I was not in the Ceres community back then - I was a school kid living in Oakdale - I'll bet the prevailing attitude to the story was "Wow, that's sad but serves him right." It seems that people better understood the concept of "actions have consequences."
That probably would not have been the attitude today to the same crime.
Let's face it. There was nobody to blame in the death of Ronnie Lee Sisk other than Ronnie Lee Sisk. He initiated the theft of a bottle of booze and took off on a breakneck course down Mitchell Road and in his recklessness ran into a large vehicle whose driver was minding his own business.
But if you can, please imagine this scenario with me. Let's say that Ronnie Sisk were alive today, (albeit 38 years older) stole the same bottle, got in a car and took off at the same speed on the same route only he's in pursuit by a Ceres officer. Let's say Sisk is going the same 80 mph he was doing back then and makes the same fateful turn onto Roeding where he is killed instantly. Now I ask: Who would have been to blame if that were the scenario today? I'm betting Ceres police because nobody seems willing to accept the consequences of a stupid action.
There is a culture in America today that believes in no absolutes and blurs the lines between right and wrong. As a result, nobody wants to be held accountable for one's actions. Part of our culture accepts that anyone can live dangerously and be insulated against the consequences.
We see this mindset everywhere:
• Anaheim's Latino population goes on a rioting rampage a year ago after police shot and killed three suspects - Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo and Caesar Cruz -- in a series of shootings with documented gang members. The protests were aimed at the police, not the stupid suspects who refused to yield to police and reach for waistbands.
• Detroit officials can spend themselves into oblivion and cry to the federal government for a bailout after they file bankruptcy. Conservatives say no more bailouts there's consequences for bad behavior. The liberals say that people will be hurt if nothing is done. The conservative answers, well, the people should have thought about that before they supported officials who made stupid decisions. It's painful but government has got to learn to live within its means just like you or I.
• Kids think they can goof off in school, dabble in gangs and when they get out of high school opt not to seek higher education and cry about not being able to make a living with a minimum wage job. (Hello, minimum wage jobs weren't meant to support a family).
• Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. can spend $750,000 of campaign dollars on an extravagant lifestyle - such as a gold-plated Rolex watch - but try to shield himself with the "I'm bipolar" defense.
• San Diego Mayor Bob Filner puts the make on at least 16 female city workers and interns and blames it on the city not giving him sexual harassment training. On one hand he apologies, then says he didn't do anything wrong while attending a sexual abuse intervention. He says he isn't stepping down either. He feels why should he have any consequences to his actions?
• Former Congressman Anthony Weiner's engages in all kinds of indiscretions, is disgraced from office and comes back to run for mayor of New York, only to have his Carlos Danger sexting scandal explode in his face after telling the world he has changed. He won't drop out of the race either.
Then there is also a recent and local case of Brandon Pacheco, 25, of Turlock. He was fatally shot in the head during an alleged burglary at a rural home in Turlock. Pacheco's girlfriend, Leah Rojas, said this: "I'm not saying what he (Brandon) did was right, but he didn't
deserve this. You don't shoot someone in the head."
I'll agree that Pacheco's death may have been questionable, and is extremely unfortunate but you don't go around stealing somebody else's property either. But then again if you think like Rojas, your boyfriend wasn't stealing anything that day despite the fact that he has a police history of burglary, grand theft and meth possession.
There seems to be a major disconnect in America: We no longer seem to believe if you live dangerously, you can most certainly die dangerously. In reality, there's a very good chance that if you live recklessly, you will not come out unscathed.
Americans, after decades of social spending brought forth by the FDRs and LBJs and BOs of American political landscapes, want - scratch that, want -- guarantees across the board. They believe all should have the same standards of lifestyle without the same skill sets or same drive. Hence, all people who don't work believe the government SHOULD give them free cell phones and free health care. Hence, owning a house (regardless if they can pay for it) is a God-given right. And certainly if you're an owner whose upside-down on your mortgage then you have right to a government bailout from your commitment to pay back their loans - in full.
Our founding fathers would be embarrassed to see what's become of their countrymen.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org