Ex­pose Amer­ica’s vi­o­lent streak

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Read this be­fore pass­ing judg­ment on the causes and ef­fects of Amer­ica’s vi­o­lent streak. “I’ve been at it 30 years, and I don’t know that I can con­tinue at this pace emo­tion­ally. The only way I can re­ally deal with it is see my­self as an out­sider. This is not my way of life. It’s not my fam­ily’s way of life. It’s not the way of life of a lot of peo­ple that I know who are close to me. But I live in the neigh­bor­hood. … I have to have some sense of de­tach­ment in or­der to serve.”

Those words speak vol­umes. They sound like words of de­spair from the mouth of a law en­forcer, don’t they? They are not, how­ever.

The words in that quote can be at­trib­uted to any num­ber of peo­ple in, say, D.C., Bal­ti­more, Chicago, Bos­ton … ci­ties that are re­gional hubs.

So let’s first zero in on Chicago, which ac­counts for 40 per­cent of the year-to-date na­tional homi­cide rate. There have been more than 770 killings in Chicago this year. (We should pray the num­ber doesn’t get too much higher or lead to a sim­i­lar pace in 2017.)

Still, even if some­one waves a magic wand and gets guns off the streets, pol­i­tics will cre­ate a wedge, as most of the blame for Amer­ica’s vi­o­lent streak is tar­geted to­ward guns.

Have we for­got­ten that not all ne’er-do-wells use guns to slaugh­ter other hu­mans?

Just this week, a man was beaten to death with a liquor bot­tle. A by­stander’s video cap­tured the bru­tal­ity of the crime: at least 19 blows. And you thought Al Capone had cor­nered the nexus of crime, vi­o­lence and liquor.

Jok­ing aside, it’s also fairly clear that the lead­ers of Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illi­nois have con­trib­uted to the blood­let­ting that hit a record high this year.

Sure, much of the vi­o­lence and killings stem from the hands of peo­ple us­ing guns — or at least that’s how lo­cal, state and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties in­form us.

Those sta­tis­tics, how­ever, don’t cap­ture the full pic­ture or ed­u­cate us about the rates of non­fa­tal vi­o­lence, where vic­tims are left trau­ma­tized, par­a­lyzed and other­wise dam­aged hu­man be­ings. Nor do those sta­tis­tics, which will be re­leased and re­ported on as an­nual roundups, paint the full bloody por­trait of Amer­ica’s vi­o­lent streak.

Such as the non­fa­tal knif­ing on Metro­rail this week. The at­tack oc­curred on the Vir­ginia side of the Po­tomac, and au­thor­i­ties were able to cap­ture the sus­pect be­fore the train crossed into D.C.

In­ter­est­ingly, the sus­pect and the vic­tim in the knif­ing in­ci­dent had been ar­gu­ing, like their fe­male coun­ter­parts in Chicago, a story I’ll dis­cuss later.

In Bal­ti­more on Tues­day, 11 peo­ple were shot and two vic­tims died. Some of the gun­shot wounds were not life-threat­en­ing, and the shoot­ings ap­peared to be un­re­lated. Like Chicago, Bal­ti­more is an­other of our ci­ties that un­der­goes streaks of bloody vi­o­lence with mul­ti­ple vic­tims and po­lice search­ing high and low for sus­pects and motives.

In Bos­ton the other day, po­lice didn’t have to con­duct a lengthy search be­fore mak­ing an ar­rest in the stab­bing death of a 34-year-old woman. The sus­pect and the woman had been ar­gu­ing in the kitchen of a Dorch­ester apart­ment, the ar­gu­ment es­ca­lated, and one woman al­legedly stabbed the other in the ab­domen. The sus­pect was cap­tured try­ing to flee in a red sedan.

But back to Chicago to learn of a fit­ting ex­am­ple of why our lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials need to paint a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of Amer­ica’s mean streets.

Ear­lier this month, Cook County Judge Paul Katz chas­tised a 35-year-old mother, Tamika Gay­den, for hand­ing her then-13-year-old daugh­ter a switch­blade to fight an­other girl. The girls had been ar­gu­ing one Satur­day, with Ms. Gay­den’s daugh­ter shout­ing at the girl from her bal­cony and the girl shout­ing from the street. That’s when Ms. Gay­den re­port­edly told her daugh­ter to get a knife from her purse and con­front the girl.

Ms. Gay­den’s daugh­ter con­fronted the girl out­side, where the ver­bal fight turned into fisticuffs and the Gay­den girl stabbed the other girl, De’Kayla Dans­berry, 15, to death. Ms. Gay­den is charged with first-de­gree mur­der, and her daugh­ter, al­though a ju­ve­nile, faces sim­i­lar charges.

“De­spite all my years in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” Judge Katz said, “I am still con­founded by mur­ders. All mur­ders are sense­less and stupid, and this one ranks right up there as one of the most sense­less and stu­pid­est I’ve ever seen. I just need to get that out there.”

Thanks, Judge Katz, for the con­dem­na­tion, be­cause even that falls short.

Do Judge Katz and other of­fi­cers of the court, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Ed­die John­son or Gov. Bruce Rauner think con­dem­na­tion is the an­swer?

What they need to do is to be hon­est with the public at large and, as I men­tioned ear­lier, paint an hon­est and re­al­is­tic pic­ture of the “vic­tims” of vi­o­lence and the toll it is tak­ing on their liv­ing care­tak­ers and other sur­vivors.

The least the “lead­ers” should do is not to merely tally for death tolls, but also show the ef­fects of the vi­o­lence.

On doc­tors, for ex­am­ple. The As­so­ci­ated Press in­ter­viewed the med­i­cal di­rec­tor at a Chicago pe­di­atric ICU. Her name is Dr. Cather­ine Hu­mikowski. She saw about 50 kids with gun­shots this year and plans to re­sign next sum­mer when her con­tract ex­pires. Her in­abil­ity to curb vi­o­lence haunts her, and “at the end of the day when I rec­og­nize in my­self that I’ve achieved a de­gree of numb­ness … that de­sen­si­tizes me to the things that are so im­por­tant to me.”

“It doesn’t feel like it’s within my power to change [the chil­dren’s cir­cum­stances]. So all I can do … is patch them up and send them out,” Dr. Hu­mikowski said. “And that’s not enough for me any­more.”

On pas­tors, who have to tend to end­less streams of griev­ers, eu­lo­gize the dead and reckon with their own grief. His name is the Rev. Mar­shall Hatch. He’s pas­tor of New Mount Pil­grim Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church and, in­ter­est­ingly, does not sub­scribe to the black tra­di­tion of call­ing the un­timely vi­o­lent deaths “home­go­ing” cel­e­bra­tions.

“I don’t con­sider it a cel­e­bra­tion,” Mr. Hatch told the AP. “It’s sad. It’s trau­matic. It’s ab­nor­mal, and we need to do some­thing about it.”

Mr. Hatch also is the source of that first quote about de­tach­ing him­self as an “out­sider” be­ing the “only way I can re­ally deal with” all the lost lives and blood­let­ting — and that he has to have some sense of “de­tach­ment in or­der to serve.”

That seems to be the route too many of us has taken. Yet, trust. Trust that if our “lead­ers” paint a com­plete pic­ture things and hu­man be­ings will change.

In other words, tell the com­plete story by let­ting loose the sta­tis­tics of non­fa­tal vi­o­lence.

The liv­ing are a tes­ta­ment to the causes and ef­fects of vi­o­lence, too.

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