There used to be a delicatessen and liquor store on one corner of 79th & Essex where you could buy pickles out of a barrel. On the other corner was a drug store where you could pick up a prescription or drop off film for processing. On another corner was a shoe store, and on the fourth corner was a burger joint. They are all gone now, as are the people who used to live in the neighborhood. Other people have moved in, and other stores have opened. When I was a kid, my house was two blocks away. This was my corner. I felt safe there. I was safe.
Yesterday, seven people were shot on that corner. Two of them have died. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 61 years old. One of the victims may have been shopping inside a corner store when he was shot. It was what has come to be referred to as a drive-by shooting. It took place at 6:45 in the evening, which is not an unreasonable time for teenagers to be walking on the street or people to be shopping in their neighborhood stores.
I haven't lived near that corner for decades, but it is still my corner. It always will be. It belongs to me and to everyone else who ever lived in that neighborhood.
Every congressman in the U.S. and even the President can look back to the corners they grew up on. I'm sure that if they read in the news that seven people, or even one person, was shot on a corner where they used to meet their friends, buy penny candy, trade baseball cards, or just hang out, they would feel some sadness, just as I am feeling.
I have never lived in Iran or even visited there. But I know that every corner of every city or village is special to the kids who grew up there and to the people who now live there. If we attack, all those people will feel the sadness that I am feeling. They will also feel anger. Just as the people in Iraq felt sadness and anger when we bombed their corners and killed their teenagers. Just as the people in Afghanistan felt sadness and anger. Just like the people in Viet Nam felt.
Maybe if we could realize that the corners we are attacking all around the world are special to people we wouldn't be so quick to shoot up those corners and the people who happen to be there when our planes and drones and tanks drive by. Maybe if we who live in safe neighborhoods in the U.S. could remember that the corners where people are being shot in our own cities are special to the people who are still there, we would do more to stop the shooting. Maybe if we would just spend a few moments with our own memories of feeling safe during our childhoods, we would be more upset that because of the violence in our society, other people will never have those kind of memories. Kids are growing up in the U.S. and all around the world never feeling safe on their own blocks.
I grieve because someone just shot seven people on a corner. My corner. They are all my corners. Here, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Iran. They are yours, too.