Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three more shot dead; something isn't working

I have a well-practiced line about urban violence that goes something like this: a healthy community, one that truly engages its youth in positive activities and that has a solid network of job and training opportunities for adults, that community will be able to reduce the brutal street killings that mark a less-healthy place, a place where people are angry and lack any real hope for their own future.

But with the gun violence continuing every day in the very neighborhoods where we work to build those healthier systems, I'm having trouble getting those words out of my mouth.

On Monday and Tuesday, a man was killed and a teenager injured in a Southeast Side shooting; a 28-year-old died after being shot in West Humboldt Park; and another man, 22, was killed in North Lawndale. These are cold-blooded murders -- one man walking up to another and shooting him dead.

So when I was repeating my theories about healthier communities to my mother the other day, I had to stop and back up: Either I'm just plain wrong or the efforts underway in the New Communities Program neighborhoods are just not big enough, not good enough, not widespread enough to combat what one of my colleagues has called "a culture of thuggery."

In neighborhoods where one man shoots another for taking a cigar dropped outside of a West Side club, existing efforts are clearly not enough. Getting guns off the street is part of the answer, yes, but at heart this is a human and societal problem, a deep wound in the urban heart that we have not yet learned how to heal.

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