COMMENTARY: With explosive devices detonating at churches in Las Cruces, an environmental disaster hitting San Juan County, horrific crimes becoming the norm in Albuquerque, and New Mexico being ranked 49th in child well-being yet again, we should be having substantive discussions about the ills that plague us.
The Friday arrest of a state representative’s son in the devastating shooting death of a 17-year-old high-school student, Jaydon Chavez-Silver, presents another opportunity for such a conversation.
Instead, we saw some tabloid journalism and offensive politicking over the weekend as a news organization and a Bernalillo County commissioner questioned whether Rep. Stephanie Maez of Albuquerque is fit to continue serving.
“I think it’s fair to question the ability and judgment of an elected official to make laws that affect the safety and welfare of New Mexico children and families when their personal life is in such obvious disarray,” Commissioner Wayne Johnson was quoted by KOB-TV as saying. (KOB has since apparently taken the story offline.)
It seems opportunistic that Johnson, the only commissioner who voted against appointing Maez to the House seat in 2014, is now going after her without having any facts.
It’s outrageous that KOB aired the story, which ran with the headline “Credibility of State Rep. Stephanie Maez in question.”
In addition to quoting Johnson, the story relied on an unnamed woman who said she thought Maez’s son, now accused of murder, was homeless. She claimed 18-year-old Donovan Maez sometimes lived with her. The woman said she came forward “because if Stephanie had taken care of her son, maybe Jaydon wouldn’t have lost his life and that mother wouldn’t have lost her son.”
A community that has been plagued by horrific and senseless crimes is trying to grieve and understand the loss of yet another one of its young people. And there’s a good chance it’s lost two young people, because Donovan Maez could spend much of his life in prison.
We should try to understand. But only if we find some real evidence that Rep. Maez contributed to the situation should we question her parenting and whether she’s fit to be an elected official.
Speculation by Johnson and an unnamed source, amplified by the megaphone KOB handed them, is nothing more than salaciousness at the expense of a grieving mother.
We point fingers at mothers too often in America. It’s cheap and could reasonably be viewed as misogynistic.
Maez, in a Facebook post, asked for privacy.
“Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs anyone can take on,” she wrote. “I love you Donovan… Always have, always will.”
We can’t give Maez privacy. As she knows, understanding the facts that lead to crimes is important. Maez sponsored legislation earlier this year that would require gun owners to store firearms in such a way that minors can’t access them, such as locking them up. The bill did not pass.
At the time, Maez spoke about recent shootings by minors who accessed unsecured guns. “None of these tragedies would have occurred had their parents properly stored their guns,” a news release from Maez stated.
Maez pointed the finger at parents back then, but only after gathering facts.
As a society, we should do the same now — gather facts to help us better understand what we can learn from this horrific crime.
In the meantime we can give, and Maez deserves, compassion. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding Donovan Maez’s upbringing and we don’t know all the facts about the crime he’s accused of committing.
I do know firsthand what it’s like to be a parent and a foster parent. I know I’m not in a position to judge Maez, nor do I think anyone else should judge her. This crime is awful and breaks my heart. And the situation is probably complicated.
Focusing on finding a villain, especially without knowing the facts, is a disservice to everyone.
Jaydon Chavez-Silver deserves justice. Donovan Maez deserves a fair trial.
And we all deserve a deeper conversation about why our society is plagued by such horrific crimes. Can our media and politicians please help us facilitate that discussion?