Dec 18, 2014

Another Ugly American Story

The following photos were uploaded from facebook pages and are covered with extensive commentary on  I am pasting and posting here for extended coverage of an event that bears ongoing circulation.  The story related below is taken from statements posted by some of the people involved in the incident. 

The man in the photo walked over to a neighbor's home in Santa Lucia, Volcancito on Dec. 16th and shot through their fence to injure the neighbor's two pet dogs who were inside the yard.  He claims to have done so in retaliation for one of the dogs having bitten his child earlier. The child is reported to have only superficial wounds and was observed teasing the dog while it was out on its daily run. The poor animal was shot in the jugular area and is currently in critical condition.  The second dog received a superficial gunshot wound. The man used an air rifle, which apparently is silent. When the animals cried out from being shot, the owners became aware of the action. The owners spoke with the shooter, Justin Whitney Reinholz, following the incident and asked the obvious questions.   Mr. Reinholz warned them he had killed lots of dogs in the US and that he also had "real" guns and wouldn't hesitate to return to deal with the owners if necessary.  He is seen resting on his gun muzzle and smiling at the Panamanian neighbors through their fence after the incident.

Needless to say there is a lot of outrage in our area---not only from an expat community that has two full time charities plus numerous satellite organizations dedicated to the humane treatment and rescue of animals, but also from an increasingly agitated Panamanian population that has just about "had it" with the growing influx of foreigners and the problems they are introducing.  And to top it all off, December 20th is the anniversary of operation Just Cause, which always seems to pour salt into the unhealed wounds of many nationals.

Animal groups in the expat community have reached out to the owners of the wounded dogs and are offering assistance to get the appropriate denuncias filed for legal action to be taken against the shooter.  Apparently, he also has filed a complaint against the dog owners. He is either married to a Panamanian or is the custodial parent of two Panamanian children, so there are multiple issues related to how his actions are handled by authorities.

As is generally the case with the Boquete.ning forum, opinions and sentiments abound.  Some expats are angry at being "profiled" because of nationality. Others are over the top in demanding a meeting with the mayor for the purpose of getting their sentiments of regret publically expressed.   In my opinion, we need to learn restraint and to stop trying to take over.  We should allow the Panamanian legal, regulatory, and social instititions to do what they are meant to do.  I feel demanding a meeting with the mayor is akin to making still another demand for "special"  attention. Why should our concerns be addressed differently or more expediently than that of any other citizen or resident who has a  regret to express?  

I'm amazed at the sudden concern from expats about how we might be perceived. Perceptions are built over time from ordinary, everyday encounters and interactions.  An incident such as this one can certainly add fuel to the fire, but it alone isn't going to make a generalized negative  impression.  If there is a backlash now, it's not because of this single, albeit horrific, event.  It's because of our behavior patterns in everyday matters. It's about the way we continue to conduct ourselves. 

The governmental and social systems currently in place haven't been given the opportunity to function yet.  The ink is barely dry on the denuncias, and we are already demonstrating what pains  in the  #$%&#   we  expats can truly be.  Will we never learn a little humility, deference, respect and patience?  Have a little trust that things will work out as they should.  It happens here more often than any of us are willing to imagine. I am continuously amazed at how efficient things are here as compared to back home.  

Please, people, just chill.  If you need to do something, express your heartfelt apologies to the dog owners.  That might truly help.