A sinus infection (my first) handed me my ass this last ten days. My lethargy and inactivity provided a fine nest for despair. Every Mom has had her heart battered by the death of innocent children in Chicago. I am so mad, so sad, so awash in excuses that I could honestly not organize my thoughts. So forgive the ranting, wandering nature of what follows.
What is happening ? How did violence migrate to places built for children to play, to learn and to grow up? We cannot shrug and say "gangs killing gangs." Bullets fly, bystanders die. Accidents of geography and identity with fatal consequences. A generation of kids thinking this is life as usual. When we become immune to this horror we write off the future for a generation of city kids. This violence is mobile. All of us will be touched by it if we just turn away.
Today's coverage of Hadiya Pendleton's funeral highlighted all her gifts, and the sense of powerlessness and loss that her family is navigating. They are inspring us with their stalwart pride in their daughter and their faith. But they are entitled to be enraged. We have to carry their loss, and anger from emotion to action.
Yesterday's paper covered the sentencing of a Latin King gangster who commanded an army of enforcers. Read it; the detachment from humanity is chilling. Sometimes kids as young as 12 were ordered to make hits on rivals. He got 40 years. Blubbered. No doubt his successor is as inhumane and vicious as he. They use violence with abandon and detachment. Bodies, not lives.
Mayor Emanuel nattered at the U.S. Attorney's office to do more. Columnists demanded that the president visit to drive home the evil of gun violence. I'll get to the columnists later. (I am more pleased with First Mom being here.These parents had no intention of sacrificing their baby to the rancor of gun reform. Let her be a patron saint, not a poster child)
Today I'd like to direct a little grit toward Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
With all due respect, sir, you are at the top of this food chain now. Primary responsibility for the well being of Chicago rests with our city government. It is disingenuous to point a finger at the feds before taking inventory of Chicago's priorities.
For too long, the resources of the city have been sent to flower boxes, parks for our visitors, and projects that insiders benefit from. The quality of life for those living in the bubble of Lake Shore Drive, Lincoln Park and the Magnificent Mile is swell. Then you go into the neighborhoods, and the love fades.
Schools, short on resources.
Then, of course-kids, who do not get a good education.
Neighborhoods, with no after school "safe havens" or programs to keep kids safe.
Parents, with fear woven into every moment that their children are not at home. Or in the front yard. Or back yard. Or alley. Or front room. Who should live like this?
Police officers, with a grim job, inadequate manpower, and crushed morale.
In fact, the misery that attaches to being an ordinary citizen in Chicago is routinely ignored.
Parking? Gotcha. Rats? Deal with them. Education? Lots of private options. Gangs? Inevitable. Snow removal/garbage/crime? We'll get back to you after we service our corporate clients. Give them tax incentives, tax exemptions, special treatment.
Meanwhile, a shining star like Hadiya Pendleton cannot hang out with her friends in a park. Think of the emotional toll this takes on everyday people in Chicago. Those are the folks who actually live on your streets, pay taxes, elect aldermen and the mayor, sustain the businesses and use the neighborhoods. How is it that they have so little standing?
Maybe it is because Chicago is, was and always will be Democratic. The individual voters are easily ignored while the corporate entities and contract-seeking companies are easily identified. They are promising campaign contributions, job set-asides and bribes. That makes them stand out in a crowd.
Your honor, you are asking too much tolerance from your citizens and too little action of your government. We can live without fireworks every Wednesday and Friday in the summer. We do not require cascading flowers on overpass bridges or rooftop gardens. Let's prioritize. Hire more cops. Train them to know every block. Find money to establish mentoring programs so the next generation of impoverished boys will not believe only crime pays. Add social workers to elementary schools to address problems beyond special education. Find jobs for young people to keep them busy, give them skills and create hope. It is not glamorous work. It'll cost a fortune to spin a web of enforcement and social reform. It will cost a fortune in human misery and urban exodus if you do not.
Cleopatra and Nathanial Pendleton need to know that their little angel, lost to a callous act of violent indifference, will make a better tomorrow for other Chicago kids. In fact, every Chicagoan needs to demand that the symbolic gestures of today are followed with action.
Children should never be collateral damage of inaction. Enough finger pointing and excuse making. Let's make a plan. And get started.
In Hadiya's memory.