Thursday, July 15, 2010

A small rant

Well, I've decided to use this blog to experiment and just say and do whatever comes to mind. And what comes to mind at this moment is most likely an unpopular thought. But what the heck!

Here in Chicago we had another cop shot by some thug with a criminal record. I don't know if the details are important -- it happens, unfortunately, too frequently. In this case the officer was shot by his own weapon while in the police station parking lot. (I still wonder how that happened.)

The police officer was a well-liked man who helped train new cadets. There has been coverage on the news every day since the shooting happened, including of the memorial and many grieving friends and relatives. It was a senseless death.

What bothers me is that senseless deaths occur all the time, but we only hear about it when the "good" person is shot. An innocent child, caught by a random bullet. An honor student, caught in some gang crossfire. The news loves to portray people grieving for their loved ones -- but not if the victim is one of the "bad" guys. The gang members that get killed are not covered.

What happens when a gang member gets killed? Well I will tell you. The family mourns, friends grieve, and they get tattoos in honor of their fallen "homey". "RIP" with the person's name, and a stylized cross, is the usual choice. The gang members drink, and pour out liquor in honor of the dead. And they become angry. Angrier than before, and more full of emotional pain, because no one cares but their own kind. They know that their friend was more than just a gang banger. They know that he was a helpful son, or loving big brother, or loyal friend. They know that he had good qualities as well as bad. Just like other human beings.

Because the media emphasize how right it is to honor and remember the "good" guys, by omission they enhance our demonization of the "bad" guys. This only perpetuates the cycle of anger, feelings of separation and isolation that young people and the poor, or of anyone who is what I call part of an "underground" culture.

Anything that enhances an "us" vs "them" attitude is not helpful when it comes to trying to put a stop to the violence. To give credit to some media, the local ABC station recently did a series where a reporter went along with gang members at night, and filmed what it was like on the streets. I wish they would go farther. I wish they would talk to them about the losses they suffer, both from deaths and from loved ones being in jail or prison. I wish they would talk to some family members.

When I was in graduate school, I had an internship with an agency on the south side that organized a yearly youth/police forum. A number of meetings were held, with at-risk kids from local high schools and area police officer in attendance. The goal was to try to communicate, and to understand each other. I can't say for sure how successful this was, but I can say I have rarely seen teenagers so attentive.

It is sad that the police officer lost his life due to senseless violence. I think most violence is senseless. Especially since the cops and the criminals, in most cases, are more alike than different.

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