Choosing Life Cost Hers
The gloomy weather today in Hartford perfectly matches my emotional state as I write that, a few weeks ago, 21-year-old Shamari Jenkins was gunned down on a North End street, allegedly on her boyfriend’s orders. Carlton “CJ” Bryan reportedly told a friend that Shamari was “trying to ruin his life.” Why? Because she was four months pregnant and changed her mind about having an abortion. Bryan preferred his “other girlfriend.” So, authorities say, he found a hit man. Then he apparently attended Shamari’s funeral.
The poet John Donne wrote that “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” I agree. Still, I confess that I don’t feel especially qualified to write about someone I never met; I’m also wary of reducing anyone to a poster child for Cause XYZ. And yet, I am compelled to speak up, because the usual suspects – Huffington Post, Jezebel, RH Reality Check – don’t appear very interested in this woman’s life and death. Either Hartford is less exotic than Ireland or El Salvador, or Shamari doesn’t advance their narrative. I doubt any sitting presidents will shed tears for her.
Here is what I do know: Shamari was but a few years younger than me. She has a family who must be reeling. 70 or so people came to the memorial, and there are 37 entries expressing condolences in the online guestbook at the Hartford Courant — most from Connecticut, but a few coming from as far away as Florida or Texas. One day prior to her death, she is pictured smiling and showing off her baby bump in a “selfie” posted to Facebook (infinitely preferable to the ignominious mug shots of the two men). She had already named her baby boy Ja’seon Carlton. A father ought to deserve such a tribute.
There are several levels of mind-boggling tragedy here. If the accusations are proved true, how does a young man come to be so calculating, self-centered, and desperate to avoid taking responsibility? How does a young woman become so devoted to a man who would murder her and their child? Then there is the shooter himself. If he can be believed, the plot nearly fell through because he experienced a moment of lukewarm conscience. Almost having the courage to stand up for what’s right is hardly cause for accolades. In that, he may resemble the average person more than the average person would care to admit.
One blog post can barely scratch the surface of what is deeply wrong about this entire sad situation. However, it bears repeating that homicide is a major cause of death among pregnant women. As criminal profiler Pat Brown put it, bluntly, to ABC News several years ago, “The usual reason when it involves a man is the [unborn] baby. The baby is causing a complication in his life.” Apologists for legal abortion will typically downplay its logical connection to the coarsening necessary to view another human being as a problem to be eliminated. I can almost hear friends now: “Well, of course, that’s awful. I certainly don’t support coercion.” And that’ll be the end of any outcry, but the incessant propaganda of “choice” will continue. Every woman who pays with her life for refusing to take the life of another belies that message. To her boyfriend, allegedly, Shamari made the wrong choice. Abortion didn’t empower her. If the charges are true, it empowered him to rationalize killing her. You could easily have done things my way…it’s your own fault. This case is not an exception, though. The truth is that well-paid hit men operate in clinics across America every day, and are called Doctor instead of Defendant.
There’s another appalling trend in the comment section of the story at NBC Connecticut. Several people — possessing psychic powers, clearly, since it’s fair to assume none of them were actually present — have jumped straight to the conclusion that the victim and her killer obviously didn’t use birth control (which doesn’t fail at statistically predictable rates or anything) and opine that a simple condom could have saved her life. May I just say that this is pure insanity? If this story proves true, we should know that we can’t slap a flimsy piece of latex on a murderous heart and call it solved!
I can’t help feeling disgusted, but I pray that our country is another step closer to waking up from this 40-year living nightmare. In the meantime I will do whatever is in my capacity, be it great or small, with the aid of God’s grace, to fight back against our culture of death in the memory of those who have suffered from its poisonous fruit. So will my friends at FIC. Somebody has to. Won’t you, too?