On birthday visit, Obama should tour city’s killing fields
BY CAROL MARIN firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2012 8:28PM
Chicago Police investigate a shooting in which four teenagers were injured on April 27, 2012, on a Side Side street. The teens sought shelter on this CTA bus. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: September 2, 2012 6:14AM
President Barack Obama is turning 51 and coming home next week for celebrations and fund-raisers.
But he needs to add something to his schedule.
He needs to travel to the killing fields of the South and West sides, where children at play risk not making it to their teens, much less to their 51st birthday.
The murder rate is killing parts of this city.
And shootings are happening in places that Obama, the former community organizer, knows well, including his own Kenwood neighborhood.
In the blocks surrounding the president’s exquisite home, a stone’s throw from 51st and Kenwood, bullets fly.
Just three blocks away on June 27, a 21-year-old man was shot in the chest. Just streets away on April 14, there was an aggravated battery with a gun.
Six blocks to the west on May 28 there was a fatal shooting. (Check the Sun-Times’ Chicago Under Fire map at www.suntimes.com/news/violence).
Further south where Michelle Obama grew up, near 75th and Euclid, there was more of the same.
At 78th and Constance on July 15, a 21-year-old was shot in the head and died. Earlier this year there was a shooting homicide at 74th and Merrill, another at 78th and Yates and multiple shootings on East 71st.
This is where the first lady once could play on a summer afternoon. Sasha and Malia could not do so now.
According to the Chicago Police Department, through July 22 of this year there have been 293 homicides in the city, compared with 224 in the same period last year, an increase of 31 percent.
While it was important that the president went to Aurora, Colo., to comfort the victims of the massacre at a movie theater there, it is every bit as important that he do it here.
In his adopted home.
In the city that gave birth to his presidency.
The headquarters of his campaign.
I’m not the first to say so.
Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster has written bluntly on this point.
And the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has said mass for too many dead kids, also has spoken out.
“I get it that he’s the president of the whole country, and not just from Chicago anymore,” said the St. Sabina pastor , “but why not a national conversation on gun violence, our undeclared war, that stretches from Newark to Oakland?”
It’s time for the president, as Gov. Pat Quinn has done, to speak more plainly and directly about banning assault weapons and to stop tiptoeing around the gun lobby.
The president should stop by Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital on the West Side, where for 20 years Dr. Michelle Gittler has treated mostly young men of color whom assault weapons have consigned to wheelchairs.
Gittler was looking at the scan of a young man when I called on Tuesday.
The blaze of bullets from just one assault weapon blew out his collar bone and kidney and fractured his spine.
He can’t walk anymore.
“It’s just chaos out there,” said the doctor.
This too is a massacre.