Chicago violence hits historic milestone

On Saturday the city experienced its deadliest night since mid-February as six people were killed.  An ongoing gang struggle was blamed, which is an accusation that has become almost ubiquitous.  Chicago’s epic violence is finally on the verge of achieving a critical mass warranting nationwide attention. Even Chicago’s mainstream media is beginning to focus on our violence as potentially more than disparate or heat-related events and possibly something systemic.  Violence has claimed nearly 350 lives thus far this year. While city officials have invoked the gang-affiliation card for many of the killings, gun control is also moving closer to center stage.  As stray bullets increasingly catch children in the crossfire, Chicago’s youth are scared to go outside to play.

Today’s Tribune ran a feature article showing monthly and annual homicide rates to clearly identify the historic nature of the statistics, but why must record-breaking be the bar set for calling attention to something that threatens the safety and secuity of our lives as Chicago residents. While August is on track to realize 2 violent deaths per day, Emmanuel points to a decrease in the overall crime rate and observes that gang violence is causing gun killings. We are a community that must consider the systemic nature of the violence that plagues us.  Why is gang activity spreading?  How are guns so readily acquired and used?  Why has there been a seemingly widespread diaspora of violence across the city?  What can we do to identify, alleviate and resolve the issues that lead to violence?

These questions need to be asked and answered.  It is disengenuous to cast widespread violence as a gang matter (as if black-on-black is somehow a lesser concern) or as a nightly statistic that simply numbs us to its extreme nature (like the high and low temperatures of the day) or as something that happens to our citizens when they travel to distant cities or countries (so we recognize that violence is everywhere and not just in Chicago, which makes us feel that Chicago is not an extreme case).  Violence in Chicago may be about the dislocation of affordable housing or the diminution of social services or the sense of hopelessness that comes with economic and political malaise or maybe even the failure of our civilization to adapt to large numbers. It may be our disenchantment with political will or the ephemeral notion of a representative democracy or just the realization that police and legal system resources no longer present a credible threat to violent criminal behavior. Maybe it’s just our inclination toward silence and inaction because violence only happens to others.  Do we care, really?  Certainly the families, friends, acquaintances and coworkers of the 350 Chicagoans whose lives were cut short by violence on our streets, among our homes, in our community should rally us all to demand an end to this violence before it consumes us all.  Stop the Violence in Chicago!