Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Shoot the Children

Walk or drive through certain neighborhoods in Chicago, and you will see signs on lampposts that say, “Don't shoot. I want to grow up.” Of course, that assumes that you have the courage to walk or drive through those neighborhoods. Or, as some would think, it assumes that you are foolish enough to walk or drive there. Because in those neighborhoods, people are shot nearly every day.

Who gets shot? Children and adults. People on their way somewhere and people just hanging out. People with enemies and people who are mistaken for someone with enemies. People who are there just get shot, a lot more than people who are somewhere else.

Not many people get shot in suburbs like the one where I live. Every so often, some kid picks up his father's gun and accidentally shoots himself or a sibling or friend. Every now and then someone commits suicide. Every now and again someone gets mad at a spouse or boyfriend, or mistakes their kid coming home late at night for a burglar and shoots her. But that's about it. The shooting is stupid, but pretty much stays within the home.

But in other neighborhoods, public shooting is part of the daily routine. Yes, these are poor neighborhoods. Yes, they are neighborhoods that don't get much in the way of services from the city, except when someone gets shot. Then the police show up and make a show of having a presence in the community.

We live in different worlds, just a few miles away from each other. In one world, people walk on sidewalks at night gazing at the stars. There aren't many streetlights. There aren't any flashing blue lights on police surveillance cameras. People feel safe, and they are safe.

In the other world, you never know if you can make it to the corner store safely. You are afraid to sit out on your stoop. You lock your kids indoors.

What would happen if kids and their grandparents started getting shot in my neighborhood in drive-by shootings? I can't even imagine. It wouldn't be tolerated. People would be hysterical. There would be meetings all night and day, and cops thick as mosquitoes by the pond.

So why aren't the people in my neighborhood demanding an end to the shooting? Why don't we object when someone gets shot in some other neighborhood? How can we be so complacent, so myopic, so insensitive, so self-centered? Why do we hear so much about the right to own and carry guns, and so little about the lunacy of having guns? Because when it's not you being shot, it's easy to ignore the shooting. So easy. Too easy.

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