Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Chicago's bloody weekend demands attention, but what good does it do?

Slaughter of the Innocents, 1532, Bruges workshop of Pieter van Aelst, (detail) (Vatican Museum)

     The worst part is how everyone with an opinion runs up after a weekend like Chicago’s recent bloodbath, dips their fingers in the fresh gore and then dashes off whatever political message they already believe and repeat all the time anyway, rain or shine, violence or calm.
     The Rahm opponents damn Rahm; the cop bashers bash the cops; the police decry the difficulty of their jobs; the lightly-camouflaged racists on the national stage turn their unwelcome momentary attention to Chicago and express mock concern edged with contempt and then promptly forget about it until next time. (Remember when Donald Trump said he was going to solve Chicago violence? How’s that coming, Mr. President?) I even have a claque of retirees in Florida who weigh in, like clockwork, braying in Nelson Muntz glee, regurgitating some inanity picked up from Fox News that the shootings are somehow a refutation of gun control, as if gangs can’t find their way from the city to Melrose Park.
     Do you buy the above? Then hang your head, because I tricked you. The worst part is the dead and maimed, their snuffed lives, grief-stricken families and bereaved friends, a horrible reality that we seem not to be able to ignore quickly enough. If it helps, I join you in shame, because I wrote that first paragraph and then thought … hey, wait a minute.
     In a society where everybody talks and nobody listens, what is the point of even going through the motions of analysis? Respect, I suppose, a certain sanctification in addressing the deaths, like painting the names of the slain on a wall. If I just blithely wrote what I had hoped to consider today — a particular Isaac Asimov short story and its message for handling online trolls — then I would be accused of callously ignoring a horror in my own backyard, of living in bland, bovine contentment in the Chicago of tall buildings, fancy restaurants and clean Metra trains while a few miles away children are slaughtered.
     But the alternative is as bad: to glibly opine on a subject that defies solution, where everyone involved acts in what they perceive as their own best interests, yet form a circle of tragic failure, each participant pointing to the other. The cops blame the community. The community appeals to the city. The city defers to the cops. And round and round it goes.

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1 comment:

  1. I hope you get to the column referring to an Asimov short story. I believe I have read all of his SF short stories (as well as most if not all of his novels). One of my favorite authors. It would be interesting to see which story you apply to the online trolls. If you don't do the column, point me at the story!

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