The worst part is how everyone with an opinion runs up after a weekend like Chicago’s recent bloodbath, dips their fingers in the fresh gore and then dashes off whatever political message they already believe and repeat all the time anyway, rain or shine, violence or calm.
The Rahm opponents damn Rahm; the cop bashers bash the cops; the police decry the difficulty of their jobs; the lightly-camouflaged racists on the national stage turn their unwelcome momentary attention to Chicago and express mock concern edged with contempt and then promptly forget about it until next time. (Remember when Donald Trump said he was going to solve Chicago violence? How’s that coming, Mr. President?) I even have a claque of retirees in Florida who weigh in, like clockwork, braying in Nelson Muntz glee, regurgitating some inanity picked up from Fox News that the shootings are somehow a refutation of gun control, as if gangs can’t find their way from the city to Melrose Park.
Do you buy the above? Then hang your head, because I tricked you. The worst part is the dead and maimed, their snuffed lives, grief-stricken families and bereaved friends, a horrible reality that we seem not to be able to ignore quickly enough. If it helps, I join you in shame, because I wrote that first paragraph and then thought … hey, wait a minute.
In a society where everybody talks and nobody listens, what is the point of even going through the motions of analysis? Respect, I suppose, a certain sanctification in addressing the deaths, like painting the names of the slain on a wall. If I just blithely wrote what I had hoped to consider today — a particular Isaac Asimov short story and its message for handling online trolls — then I would be accused of callously ignoring a horror in my own backyard, of living in bland, bovine contentment in the Chicago of tall buildings, fancy restaurants and clean Metra trains while a few miles away children are slaughtered.
But the alternative is as bad: to glibly opine on a subject that defies solution, where everyone involved acts in what they perceive as their own best interests, yet form a circle of tragic failure, each participant pointing to the other. The cops blame the community. The community appeals to the city. The city defers to the cops. And round and round it goes.
Who’s at fault? Everybody and nobody. The cops say they’re only reacting to the dysfunction and criminality all around them. They ask: How can they be expected to care more about Chicagoans’ lives than the people living them? If a kid’s mom won’t keep him out of the gangs, what are they supposed to do?
People who live in the communities are trying to adjust to the harsh realities around them: kids don’t join gangs because they’re bad; they join them to keep from being assaulted by gang members, and because they offer esteem and belonging.
And the city has a complete disconnect between the people they serve and those who serve them; it’s a whole lot more satisfying to craft the pinata of giveaways and benefits being dangled before Amazon than to try to reduce shootings on the West and South sides.
My opinion? Blame the curse of racism, present at the founding of our country, passed through the generations like a genetic disease. I’m just parroting the 2016 Police Accountability Task Force Report: “We arrived at this point in part because of racism” is its first conclusion, leading to this:
“The Task Force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal.”
Which would leave blame squarely at the feet of the police — the Justice Department certainly seems to think so, given the raft of training seminars, programs, workshops, and body cameras listed in the report. But as convenient as that conclusion is, to all who are not police, another question then arises: Where did the police get their racism? The honest answer: from everywhere.
How do you address a problem that is everywhere? Damned if I know.