Summer in the City

Summer in the City
Photo, Chicago Tribune

Two of my sons live in the city.  All of them work in the city, as do their wives, whom I treasure.  Henry starts his day with a stroll with Daddy in Ukranian Village.  Mike’s child will son be strolling his (her?) city block.  The daily tote board of gunshots and violence in Chicago impacts them.  Worry wart that I am, I map the events, and forward cautionary messages.

Their neighborhoods have been strafed by the gang angst and conflict.   Just last week, graffiti and gunfire happened at Mike’s corner.  He became a self appointed “block captain”, walking his unwatchdog (18 pounds) and engaging all the residents to call the police, be careful.  He has baby-to-be’s turf to preserve peace in.

This weekend’s fatal shooting of a 17 year old BY a 17 year old after an exchange of words at a laundromat plunges new depths.  The victim was not a saint. But he was helping his Mom with the wash, for God’s sake. “What are you looking at?” cannot possibly be seen as provocation for murder.  And yet….

The shooter clearly was violent, and had a weapon. What haunts me about this tragedy, gang driven or not, is that a kid thought NOTHING of shooting another kid in front of his Mom and younger brothers.  My God- that is a heart of darkness.  How will an 11 and 4 year old go on with life after seeing a thug point a gun at their brother, pull the trigger, then re-aim it at their mother?  Who can not lose hope when cold violence forces a Mom to cradle her son, exhort him to hold on, after his siblings witness his murder?

We don’t have to run a check on the priors of these individuals or look for their affiliations to recognize that this detached,venomous violence must be addressed. And we can only pray that this event is not so ordinary that it is greeted with a yawn.

Social workers can probably list scores of causes for this brazen criminality. It would take generations to change the culture it gestates and thrives in. For the moment, we need to focus less on the causes and more on solutions. More cops. Better tech. Reward funds. Fast trials. Big sentences. Intel from arrested dealers and gang bangers. Please, Garry McCarthy- tell me there is a plan, or for God’s sake, call in the National Guard.

People live in the neighborhoods that are perforated by gunfire and violence. They go about their business, but they are never relaxed or safe. Children are collateral damage of the gang divisions and grudges. We cannot get used to it.  Death can never be an “assumed risk” of a Chicago zip code.

Texting, twitter, throwaway cell phones- all of these instant connections guarantee immediate retaliation and violent retribution. The police are bumping against a code of silence and internally administered gang justice.   It must be an act of profound courage to strap on the kevlar and hit the streets. But the CPD  does that work for us. In this case, witnesses assisted the police, and the Mother was able to recall the face of her son’s killer through a line up.  But more frequently, police are met with limited cooperation. That needs to change.

We can read the news and think it does not threaten the neighborhoods we inhabit or visit- that reveals lost empathy and cruel calculation. We have officers on the front lines, and children in the crosshairs. We had better get serious about this mess.


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