This is the first in an occasional series titled “Chiraq.”
‘Chiraq” is dead, they say. But maybe they forgot to tell the killers. Neglected to send the memo to homicidal young’uns around Chi-Town to put those guns down.
Or is it that they aren’t listening?
Amid this growing swell who readily admit that words do matter, there also exists the undeniable twist that the word now so hated — the word that now lives and breathes, and that was created by the fate of sons and daughters who now can only speak from countless cold graves — so profoundly resounds.
Their ghosts whisper: “Chiraq …”
These slain souls whisper: “Chiraq.”
Those stolen by the perennial rain of gunfire that still cracks like lightning and thunder through a mid-summer’s haze, even on sunny days. Those swallowed alive by bloody cold murder that swoops in like a whirlwind — unpredictable, and yet as dependable as the sunrise and another grieving mother’s cries. Chiraq.
Banish the word, they say. Consign it to the grave.
For no world-class city should bear the burden of such a somber moniker. Not this name that yields such public shame and also fodder for the media to cast aspersions on this Sandburg City of Broad Shoulders. Not this grand Promised Land with emerald skyline and big-city dreams and the shimmering Bean, now marred by recalcitrant hooded young men with guns in hand and murderous plans.
Not Chiraq, they say, this is Chicago.
But the headlines scream: Chiraq.
The stats gleam: Five shootings on average every day, 35 a week, 140 a month, nearly 2,000 last year with more than 400 murders. Chiraq.
Not a figment of the imagination. It reverberates across the nation. A 21st century wail — baptized in tears — for peace to prevail amid this hell.
Yet, beyond the reign of urban terror — of gunfire, excuses and human error — there still lies beneath the headlines, the white lies and political spin, the truth: That “Chiraq” was born in forlorn enclaves beyond the Magnificent Mile.
That the name itself is an expression of the depravity now seared into the consciousness of those who know where the bodies fell. Who remember where blood once stained these streets before it washed away. Those who too often have witnessed the hearse leading a familiar slow processional across this city’s most “insignificant” miles.
The truth . . . That like a fetus, Chiraq was conceived in the womb of dysfunction, pathology, hyper-segregation and hate. That it gestated in the amniotic fluid of bastardization, abandonment and race — of politics, lies and waste. Then tunneled through darkness into darkness. Spilled crimson red onto the streets of darkness, with mucus-filled eyes yet unscathed by light, into the darkness, screaming: “Chiraq.”
It insinuates war. Conjures images of ravaged villages. Of devastation. And a mounting toll of human carnage and decimation that leaves the stench of death billowing, like white smoke, toward the heavens. A portrait of casualties, abomination and abnormality.
Children — afraid to walk to school. Too frightened to play outside. Little boys and girls — who risk life and limb to jump rope, ride bikes or make mud pies. Children — who have learned to take cover inside a bathtub when bullets fly. Afraid to live. Too young to die.
Casualties: The walking wounded, young men saddled with colostomy bags. Travesties: Too many young now confined by this war to wheelchairs. The sight of too many ramps for stairs.
Good neighborhoods turned bad. Where murder has become the fad. The cries of mothers wailing for children having passed prematurely. The sound of war and fury.