Well, all right… OK, it’s in the news every day and every week, this gang turf and drug war of ours. When it is in the mass media it is not just in the neighborhoods that are affected; it becomes OUR issue and OUR concern and OUR problem, everywhere in Chicago. Because such events as gang shootings, retaliation shootings, drug corner selling and open-air drug markets, and turf wars (really now, whose turf is it but the good citizens of this city), could happen anywhere in Chicago, anywhere in Cook County, anywhere in this country.
So, what is the first solution? Our police force is all ready taxed to the max with this city to take care of. They cannot devote half their force to taking care of a couple of problem areas, Englewood and West Harrison districts that are so full of crime and traumatic happenings and “high crime areas”. They have others to see to as well, other things to do.
These kids, as one of my colleagues said, NEED TO BE IN THE HOUSE. Between the ages of 10 and 19? BE IN THE HOUSE when you are supposed to be. What do we need to do- impose curfews on you every day and all the time until you get the drift of how important and essential discipline is and when you are ready to go to college? You darned well need to learn that before you consider college, kiddo. BE IN THE HOUSE, be doing your homework, be cleaning up your streets and parks and schoolyards and community centers, and be in the habit of doing good and right things. SIMPLE.
Meanwhile, what do we need to do with you? Need we call out the Illinois Guard? Need we put SWAT on your streets to make sure you don’t go out and cause trouble for yourself or someone else? Do you want tanks and armored personnel carriers on your streets 24/7 until the problems are solved? Want the National Guard to solve them for you? You can make it difficult or easy; and the National Guard and SWAT can make it difficult for you if you want them to. And I don’t think you want them to. Don’t test the concept- trust me on that one; you don’t want to make it complicated.
Of course there is another positive and better solution, and that is to catch the kids early on, those first days that they are capable of learning right and wrong, good and bad, what is harmful and what is good and decent to do and try. We have to get the concepts into them very early, making those concepts basically a part of pre-school learning and drilling in the principles throughout school.
Very young children can make amazing contributions to society. They can perform work in community gardens, sweep and rake, and help in planting trees and shrubs. They can learn about participating as good citizens as they get older and stronger. We can teach them that just because they see it or hear it does not make it right. Just because “someone else” is doing it or because they “saw it on TV” or “it was done by a celebrity in a movie”, that does not mean it is right, proper, decent, honorable or good to do or say.
Now you can make it easier on the children so they can talk to you about anything. If they have something to ask, let them ask it. What they have to say might include a “bad word” or two, but be patient. If you know they cannot have learned it and must have picked it up somewhere else do not be angry with them for saying it but sit them down and explain it. Ask where they heard it, who said it, when and in what situation it was said. Ask if anything was done when the word was said. Did the person show them a picture or make a gesture or touch the child in any way whatsoever? Take what the child says seriously- they should have no reason to lie to you and should feel comfortable being completely open and honest about such things that can be very troublesome. Once they tell you what happened, then act appropriately. If something bad did happen, the child should not be around the person or place until you see to the happening.
Do everything possible to protect the children but not to shelter them; in other words, be careful of extremes. We must use every positive initiative, be it faith-based, be it corporate, we must put it together before one more pre-teen is gunned down or otherwise traumatized in their yard or on their porch or in their bedroom. It is one too many that has been shot and killed in Chicago this year, one too many kids that have seen a friend or relative shot, heard of the funerals, been to a funeral perhaps, seen the gore on the sidewalk, seen the police presence, heard the gunfire, seen the bullets on the pavement.
Surely they wonder when their family can move. Surely they wonder, “Why can’t I go out and sit on the porch with a lemonade in the evening?” “When is this going to end so I can go out and play again?” “Why isn’t my brother coming back?”
What can we say to them?
In the meantime, we are all ready in some areas at the level of going to extremes- calling out the police, calling out SWAT, maybe calling out the Illinois Guard to clear the streets.
We can continue to make it difficult and complicated. Or we can make it easy.
Divi Logan for EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, 2012.
- Street Gang Shootings In Chicagoland Are Proxy War For Mexican Drug Cartels (bitterqueen.typepad.com)
- Why does murder matter more in Colorado than Chicago? (davidswanson.wordpress.com)
- Mexican cartels deep into Chicago (cbsnews.com)
- Terrorised Chicago residents plead for police crackdown as gang war murders soar (telegraph.co.uk)
- National Guard promotes anti-drug message through outreach, education programs (troyrecord.com)