Monday, July 14, 2014

Just airing it out

Usually on a day-to-day basis, I'm one to make light of a sports headline or crack a joke at a funny meme I saw on Twitter. But today, I just want to air something out. For over a month and a half, I've lived in Chicago and I've come to the conclusion that I'm having a culture shock.

Except it's not related to topics one would assume come with moving to a new city. I'm not having a hard time adapting to the city; I can get around on public transportation easily, driving is different here, but I can adjust (USA Today ranked Texans as some of the worst drivers in the country). Having lived in New York, I'm not easily amused.

Rather, my culture shock comes from the prevalent amount of gun violence in Chicago. Headlines come and go like flashing lights with words such as "gang members" "shooting" "shot" and "dead at the scene." Sometimes they're young. Sometimes they're old. Sometimes they're male. Sometimes they're female.

I know I'm not the only one concerned because local newspaper editorials, radio segments and online comment threads express similar concern: What is really going on here?

A report by the Pew Research Center came out on Monday: "Despite recent shootings, Chicago nowhere near U.S. 'murder capital'. According to the article, the following six cities held the nation's highest murder rate from 1985-2012: New Orleans, Washington D.C., Detroit, Flint;Michigan, Richmond;Virginia and Birmingham;Alabama. Does that mean Chicagoans could sleep easy at night?

I can see how the headlines about these crimes can make one numb. It's almost like hearing the weather. Oh, tomorrow? It'll be sunny, high 80's and shootings will occur.

I'm just a writer and I feel almost helpless because I wish there was something I could do. But it's a much bigger picture than how I "feel" about an issue deeply rooted in inner-city socio-economic politics. When I sometimes hear an ambulance pass by, I stop and think "who got shot now?" and it's unfortunate.

I experienced my first Taste of Chicago, Chicago's annual summer food and music festival, and watched R&B artist Janelle Monae perform. She's an eclectic entertainer and had the majority of the crowd dancing because that's what music is supposed to do: make you feel alive. During one of her performances, Janelle held a sign that said "Stop The Violence."

I hear you Janelle, I sure do.

Writer's Note:  The Chicago Sun-Times publishes a website dedicated to victims of recent Chicago shootings called "Homicide Watch Chicago." Instead of reading headlines, you can read about the victims' lives, see what they looked like and sometimes the victims' family members write comments.

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