I’m still searching for a kid named Larry Davis who would be about 15 by now. I told you about him last week, that I’d met him on the West Side in the gang territory known as Holy City and that his mother and siblings lived on West Cortez in 2010 when I met him. He was 11 years old then and already a weary soul surrounded by the sounds of gunfire.
The summer I met Larry, there were 436 homicides in Chicago.
CPD reports there has been a drop since then, with Chicago recording fewer — 415 — murders in 2013.
Have you noticed that inside the word “number” is the four-letter word “numb”?
I’d argue it’s almost as obscene as any other four-letter epithet. Because we, in large part, are desensitized to the killing in our own backyard. Oh, sure, we talk about it, decry it, march against it. But each and every time, we move on.
It is the drip, drip, drip of death.
Unlike the massive — and on some crazy level — more comprehensible scale of a single missile strike in Ukraine that takes out a Malaysian jet with 298 aboard.
All dead now. But at one time. And in one place. Even though it’s a place we largely don’t understand.
This event triggered wall-to-wall network coverage, constant cable conversation, national policy briefings, and a Wall Street stock drop on Thursday.
I’m not saying it shouldn’t have.
But those tragic 298 deaths — those murders — don’t approach the annual tally of our own. Even the “reduced” tally.
And here’s another thing.
As the Obama administration tries to figure out who did the shooting of that missile and why, it is possible, just possible, that it fits our own classic gang narrative.
It is possible that pro-Russian separatists mistook the jetliner for a Ukrainian government transport. And shot to kill.
You know, the old “wrong person, wrong time” scenario we attach to our own street slaughters.
It happens in Chicago’s neighborhoods all the —-ing time here. (Insert “Numb” or any other four letter word that works here.)
Before the Malaysian jet went down, the news of this week had been that Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board, had firmly and finally announced she would not butt heads with Rahm Emanuel in a 2015 mayoral bid.
The next, most talked about contender against the unpopular — but potentially unbeatable — Emanuel is Chicago Teacher’s Union head Karen Lewis.
There has been some civic hand wringing about all this. If Lewis decides to run, the argument goes, election rhetoric will revolve around issues of race and class.
I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Or that Emanuel and Lewis couldn’t discuss both constructively.
I think back to my conversation with young Larry on a curb in North Lawndale.
“I want to be something in life,” he told me.
Not a number.