Thursday, March 25, 2010

Books and Covers....

The Chicago Police held a community meeting last night to discuss the murder that took place last weekend. The person who was killed was indeed a targeted gang member who lived in a different neighborhood and was murdered by someone involved in La Familia. That's what it looked like to me from the beginning.

I suppose I've become desensitized to people who throw their lives away. I can't care about you more than you care about you. In fact I only care about someone wasting their life to the extent to which their choices impede or threaten other people who are making something of themselves.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Guy Was Murdered In My Neighborhood Pt. 2

There is a story about a renowned Russian statistics professor who refused to go into the bomb shelters during the raids of WW ll. "There are 7 million people in Moscow and the odds I will die are miniscule", he would say. One night however he shows up in a bomb shelter and his neighbors demand an explanation. "There are 7 million people in Moscow and one elephant at the zoo, and last night they bombed the elephant".

This is how we process danger, or more precisely the appearance of danger. We reach and overreach to form a narrative that supports its existence rather than entertain the possibility that danger appears in ways that can be purely random. That impulse is going to understandably be on display in my neighborhood in the next few days as a result of a murder at Central and Irving Park.

Towards the end of this news clip a neighborhood guy demonstrates pretty well how an event like this gets shaped into a larger story whether there is any evidence to support that story or not. The notion that we seemed to be wired to accept is that everything is getting progressively worse and that event spikes like this crime are the empirical evidence of that decline. But in reality that is exactly wrong.

In 2009 there were 453 murders in Chicago which was down from 509 in 2008 and while that may not be cause for rejoicing it is a vast improvement over 1992 when there were 943 murders in the city. Clearly the trend represents an almost unimaginable improvement in not only the number of murders but all crime statistics, yet people do not feel proportionally safer.
Indeed they feel progressively less safe.

One can understand an evolutionary advantage in over valuing negative information but it also
has a downside in that sometimes we do an exceedingly poor job of responding to things as they actually are. I think the case of McDonald v. Chicago currently before the Supreme Court is an example of exactly that. This is the case concerning the Chicago handgun ban and while Im not interested in discussing the 2nd amendment particulars here, which I agree with in principle, I am interested in trying to understand why a city with a crime rate that drops like a stone is populated by people who feel that instead crime is out of control and their only hope for survival is to own a gun. It can only be the entirely mistaken notion that the streets are out of control that feeds this and I think we arrive at that notion by placing entirely too much emphasis on the one spectacular event while completely de-valuing the overwhelming number of days where nothing happens at all.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Guy Was Murdered In My Neighborhood Last Night Pt. 1

Early last night someone walked into a barber shop in my neighborhood and clearly, with purpose, shot and killed a young man sitting in a chair. As I came home from the show last night the police had the street blocked off and crime scene tape was stretched around the storefront. I had heard nothing about it as of yet but to see it was to know that someone had died there that night.

My thoughts and feelings about this are complicated, diffuse, and don't make a lot of sense but here they are:

"Barber Shop"? Nawww This place is a hangout for young guys who don't give the impression that they think much about their hair. Lots of smoking out front, spinning rims, and dudes who are consumed with the relative degree of their flex. Feels out of place in this neighborhood and while I've never had the least problem with anybody walking past it, as I've done many many times, Im not at all surprised something like this happened there. It has always seemed like a front for something other than guys looking to touch up their fades.

Honestly I can't say that I feel badly for the person shot or the waste who killed him. Events may prove me wrong and make me look like an asshole but at this point the circumstances of the murder strongly suggest to me that this was an event involving people who have aggressively chosen to live a life that any reasonable person could conclude involved this kind of risk. When the stupid choices of your life finally catch up to you it really isn't my tragedy. I am sympathetic to the families left behind but again I'd guess that to one degree or another this has been enabled by people close to the participants.

But Im also thinking of how, just steps away from the murder scene is the entrance to Portage Park where my son has played football for years. Youth sports make an easy target. Overzealous coaches and parents are a reality and they can be a nightmarish experience for some kids. But in this case I think of the men and women who volunteer an enormous amount of time to provide positive examples and direction to kids who might otherwise not be aware of the choices they have. These are boys and girls often from single family homes that frequently don't have an overabundance of positive male role models in their lives and who are clearly starving for a man's attention and a sense of belonging. You can scoff all you like but I've seen kids grow and mature well beyond what they thought possible ,and this only happens because good people have chosen to put positive energy into the community.

Im not saying that if only the men involved in this incident had played football at Portage Park this wouldn't have happened, but I am saying that there was another potential life path availabe for these men just steps away from where both of their lives ended essentially and the people who work to make that potential available deserve a bigger thank you than they get. Lots of people will look at this and think the neighborhood has gotten more dangerous or they should perhaps move, ( more on that later ) but right now Im looking at this and thinking the neighborhood is lucky that people like Ebony and Dexter , Coach Flipper, Lupe, Omar, Charlie, and a host of other people feel moved to work towards making this kind of senselessness even less common than it is.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How Responsible Are Religious Moderates?

If the Catholic church were a private business or indeed anything other than a church it would be viewed as one of the most sinister conspiracies in history. As more information comes out globally about child abuse it is clear that the knowledge of that abuse and the concerted effort to cover it up reaches all the way to the papacy.

And yet today the church down the street is full of people giving their time and money to an organization that hides, enables, and protects pedophiles.

I know a good many of the people who attend the church down the street. They're good and decent people who would never support a secular organization with the same record but attend church because it appeals to a sense of moral nostalgia or to "give the kids a moral foundation".

Fine. But at some point these same people have to take some responsibility for their support. Their tithe, however small in real numbers, goes to pay the insurance premiums that pay off victims of Catholic pedophilia and supports the work of the countless Christian bureaucrats who have hidden these criminals from discovery. It isn't okay because its a church