Expose America’s violent streak
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.