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.


  1. dangerous post, td.

    I'd give this one some serious time and space before you seriously try to tell us the difference between that kid and yours - and certainly before you express absolutely no compassion at the death of one of your own neighbors, and even go so far as to imply that his murder was his own fault. And that those mourning his loss were likely to blame as well.

    Seriously, Tim.

    I'm happy for your son and all kids with a positive environment and parents that obviously love and care about them deeply. But take some of your own advice that you so frequently and wisely dispense here, and think about people who are NOT you and not like you before you pretend that you have any idea what actually happened last night.

  2. I think we disagree about agency, autonomy, and free will.

    If you cannot assign responsibility for the outcomes of poor choices then neither can you honor the positive outcomes of better choices.

    This isn't about my son or any child who comes from a stable home its about the ones who don't and thru strength of character choose to avoid this kind of stupidity. Its also about the people named at the bottom of the post who put out a hand to make those choices easier.

    If we have to make excuses for those who clearly put their futures at risk by choice then we dishonor and diminish the efforts of the people who don't and that is a far bigger issue. Seriously.

  3. Tim,

    An interesting post and discussion to be sure! If the murder victim did in fact live the life you suspect, then there is little to dispute in your statement--save perhaps a call for a response tempered by a bit more compassion.

    Having said that, I think the more important issue is, "Is your assumption correct?" Maybe you're right about this kid, maybe not. Years ago when the Morrow Building in OKC was blown up I was so sure that it was the work of Arab terrorists. After all, why would I assume that anyone other than an Arab would blow up a building? As we all learned, that was not the case. The tragic death and destruction which occurred that day was caused by a collection of sick, anti-American white supremacists. Since that day I have tried, often with little success, to withhold judgment about criminals, criminal acts, and their victims. Isn't it possible that your discourse begins with an unsubstantiated assumption? I suspect that if you think about it you will see this to be true.



  4. Erik,

    Indeed my assumptions could be wrong but I think you'll know what I mean when I say that after 20 years now of living in the city you get a feel for places that are legitimate businesses and places that are gang affiliated hang outs and this place gives me that feel. Empirical? No, but I trust that instinct. So then a murder occurs in this place that looks for all the world like a gang hit. I struggle to find victims in that. So yes, correlation isn't causation but they do hang out together all the time so. In any event thanks for reading and thanks for your comment.

  5. Tim,

    It is a pleasure to read your writing and engage with you. I have no doubt that you know your neighborhood. Still, life can surprise the hell out of you every now and then.