Editorial: Tolerance Is More Than Words

By Sue Pascoe

If we can’t get beyond “us” and “them,” nothing in this world will ever change for the better. When we make someone “those” people, we strip them of humanity to make us feel superior.

Thank god, Tim Goldman didn’t look at the color of Bart Bartholomew’s skin, but instead helped protect the photographer from angry street protestors in April 1992. If the African American had not taken brave action, Bartholomew could easily have been the first fatality of the L.A. riots. (See our three-part series.)

We all wonder how we would react in a crisis. Most of us, luckily, will never have to find out. It is easy to be an armchair moralist, until you have a real situation to confront.

A candlelight vigil was held at the intersection of Chautauqua and Sunset boulevards in Pacific Palisades on April 5 for the deceased motorcyclist from a fatal accident. Credit: Bart Bartholomew
A candlelight vigil was held at the intersection of Chautauqua and Sunset boulevards in Pacific Palisades on April 5 for the deceased motorcyclist from a fatal accident. Credit: Bart Bartholomew

Experienced motorcyclist David Babalyan died at the corner of Sunset and Chautauqua on April 2, in a motorcycle/vehicle accident, which is still under investigation. That may not be completed for another month or two, according to LAPD West Traffic Investigator Panameno. He did confirm that the driver of the car was 16, and too young to have passengers in the car legally.

On April 5, a candlelight vigil was held at the scene of the accident. Babalyan’s immediate family, his fiancé, his sister, his daughter and members of the Ruthless Ryderz came to the site. According to our photographer (Bart Bartholomew) who was at the location, all were respectful of the neighborhood and parked legally.

Unfortunately, some residents decided that this was the time to teach the Ruthless Ryderz a lesson.

Even as Bablyan’s family and Ryderz mourned their loss, letters were left on cars, stating “The Ruthless Ryderz New Mission Statement. We are dedicated to the safety and quiet of the Pacific Palisades Village—a family community.”

Who in their right mind would think that insulting a mourning family with smug superiority would be appropriate?

The definition of narcissism helps explains this behavior: Has a grandiose sense of self-importance; believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people; has a sense of entitlement; lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

The Ruthless Ryderz are a family, maybe not your family, but a family still the same. Bablyan’s family deserved sympathy from this community, not scorn.

Once or twice a week, a large group of motorcycles come roaring through our town. Living two blocks from Sunset, I hear them and think “Oh, it’s Wednesday night.” And then the noise fades as quickly as it came. I wonder how it is to drive in the darkness and feel the wind? I wonder who they are and why they are out riding, rather than rather than watching a late-night television show or checking their emails?

Bablyan’s fiancé, Angelina Khachaturova, told the News that “when David had a stressful day, he went for a ride on Sunset to PCH to clear his mind. Riding a motorcycle was his therapy. No one in his immediate circle ever understood him when David described how free he felt on those rides.”

The motorcyclists have jobs, pay taxes and have children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.

So what was the message some people in the Palisades felt obligated to send with the note? That our families are more important than the Ruthless Ryderz?

There is no denying that motorcycles are loud, especially when they come through as a pack at night, but most riders follow the laws as far as the allowed decibels, and when the LAPD bring out their speed guns, they catch more people driving a car than those riding a motorcycle.

Do some residents want to ban all motorcycles from the streets? Do we want to ban them after a certain hour? Palisadians, no matter how many connections we may have with state and city officials, have no right to determine who can and cannot drive on streets and the hours.

Residents yell that the motorcycles speed. Show me one person in this town who has never gone over the speed limit.

Our focus should be on all people following the law, including our youth. It was a local resident who was killed in a motorcycle accident at the corner of El Medio and Sunset. It was a youth going to work at Gladstone’s on a motorcycle who died at Sunset and Marquez.

If we’re going to point fingers, let’s just say no more speeding in town—on residential streets as well as Sunset, Palisades Drive and Temescal Canyon Road— and that means everyone. No more texting, and for heaven’s sake, stop when there are people and dogs in crosswalks. Obey the laws.

We should be embarrassed that instead of trying to set up a college fund for David Bablyan’s young daughter, some Palisadians instead decided to lecture a mourning family and friends about how OUR community is a family community.

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