Not one of ‘them,’ but one of us
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2012 6:54PM
Hundreds of Chicago youths participate in a “We Want to Live and Not Die” march last month. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:05PM
Another dead body.
Just another one of “them.” Not one of “us.”
It’s “those” people.
Over there. Not here. Not in my — our — own neighborhood.
Twenty more shot in a weekend. Or was it 30? Or 40?
That wasn’t somebody’s son or daughter murdered, or left scarred, maimed or paralyzed. Not anybody’s mother or father. Sister or brother.
Just some worthless, soulless semblance of humanity shot down like the buffalo that once roamed the Wild West.
But it’s not “my” problem.
And besides, it is unsolvable.
So let lawlessness reign in certain neighborhoods across this so-called world-class city that the leader of the Free World claims as his adopted home and has a house on perhaps the safest block in Chi-Town, although surrounded by streets that have become urban killing fields.
It is chilling.
But say nothing. Do nothing.
So go on, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Governor and Mr. President — a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Put out political fires. Avoid the powder keg. Do just enough to be able to say you’re doing something. Say just enough so as not to appear to be conspicuously avoiding the elephant in the room.
And even if the bodies mount — women, children, babies, the innocent — so what? Aren’t “these” expendable members of a mostly invisible, powerless and voiceless caste unlikely to stir much trouble for the powers that be?
So what if they march? Or cry? Or ask the reasons why?
Let them bury their dead. Anesthetize themselves with liquor, drugs and religion while dwelling in dread. Why should “we” instead do what is moral and decent and right. This isn’t “our” fight.
And when the day is done, and hundreds or thousands more of “them” have been slain, shall it encroach one iota upon our lives, our peace? Will we not feel safer — better — because there are fewer of “them” with which to contend, and more of “us.” And if they kill — destroy — themselves, won’t they eventually in doing so eliminate this problem?
Who cares about those schoolchildren who will be felled by some thug’s bullet before the end of this year? So what of the promise, hope and future that soon will lie stinking in the grave of another young man or young woman too soon departed from this mortal life because those who could bring an end to this murderous scourge now plaguing this city — this country — in mostly poor, mostly black and brown neighborhoods failed to stop it?
I wonder if some of this kind of thinking isn’t beneath it all, if it isn’t the bits and pieces that form the rationale for the lackluster effort to finally solve this crisis. And while I believe politicians and social leaders are not necessarily co-conspirators, they are, in my humble estimation, at least complicit in this calamity of humankind.
It is clear that we all have a stake here. For as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote nearly 50 years ago in a “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
What is also clear is that the murder of our children is a human rights issue — among the most critical of our times. And none of us can afford to sit idly by as the toll mounts and American streets run red with American blood.
I have seen them, lying in the streets, in the county morgue, in child-sized glistening caskets. And my soul cries for them. Not just another dead body.
But our children.