Like many other large American cities, Chicago has been rocked by incidents of violence on such a regular basis that many residents simply seem to have tuned it out. Sure, every now and then some report of recent violence will raise the collective eyebrows of the masses but, for the most part, most seem resigned to suffer the violence of this grand city or unmoved because this violence has yet to affect them or their community.
With the recent shooting of Michael Bailey, a well-loved police officer who was due to retire in a few weeks, many Chicago-ans are being reawakened to the crisis. The reports say that many have simply had enough.
Many others, though, had enough months or years ago… And even now, with the renewed interest and political power of a population that is half frightened and half outraged, it isn’t clear that a solution to the epidemic of violence is any nearer.
Eulogizing at the funeral services for Bailey last Friday, Father Michael Pfleger spoke passionately about the need for the transformational involvement of citizens rather than passive by-standing that stems from fear and indifference. Pfleger, a friend of the Bailey family, combined a moving remembrance of the slain officer with inspiring and resolute words calling people to individual and communal action. Not one to let the chance to make a point slip by, Father Pfleger also broadened the focus by citing public policy issues like the ease of handgun availability and a proposed law that would title handguns like states title automobiles.
Continuing a familiar theme that seems consistently to fall upon deaf ears, Pfleger restated his conviction that violence in America has reached epidemic levels: “People dying in the streets of urban America is a national emergency!” (ABC currently has footage of the entire eulogy on their website)
What remains to be seen is if the lament and outrage of cities like Chicago, overwhelmed with violence and fed-up with things seeming only to get worse, will lead to the awareness and urgency that leaders like Pfleger are calling for.
Will the outrage over the recent shootings of three Chicago police officers (3 in 2 months) be strong enough to spark the transformation that the shootings of Chicago Public School students (508 shot in 16 months) couldn’t?