Monday, July 14, 2014

Poor Border Kids? What About Chicago's?

This past weekend, four people were shot to death and 29 others wounded in Chicago.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend earlier this month, 82 Chicagoans were shot within 84 hours, and fourteen of those people died.  Last year, over the Independence Day holiday, those numbers were 70 and 13.

Clearly, the Windy City has a problem with violence involving guns.  And when these weekends are over, the totals are added up, and the media posts them for the rest of America to see, we collectively shake our heads, clucking our tongues , and give thanks for not living in that dangerous metropolis.

But that's about it.  For the most part, Chicago's murderous summers are Chicago's problem, and it's been that way for so long, there's no urgency left to the situation.

Liberals give lip service to gun control, and use the NRA as their handy punching bag, but they can't overcome the reality that even if they banned every gun today, no legislation has the power to stop the shootings, since by now, it's obvious that the city is full of people who have adopted violence as a way of life.  And death.

And conservatives point to Chicago's failed legacy of government-sponsored welfare policies that have created entire generations of families who have been stripped of self-worth and personal responsibility.

Of course, there are many more problems than these at play when it comes to urban crime and violence, but at their core, both sides of the partisan political aisle know that what's going wrong in Chicago has been going wrong for decades, and there are no quick fixes.

Meanwhile, down at the border between Texas and Mexico, America's media machine has become infatuated with the plight of thousands of kids who have been sent here by their parents.  The urgency of this situation is palpable, since most average Americans can't conceive of how parents could intentionally put their children on such a dangerous trek, and have the audacity - or naivete - to expect the United States to welcome them with open arms, no questions asked.

This summer's border children are the media darlings du jour, and on the one hand, they should be.  It's a bizarre story twisted by international strife, parental desperation, political opportunism, and children who are supposed to be sleeping under their watchful parents' sheltering roof every night, not traipsing half-way across a hemisphere by themselves.

On the other hand, however, it's easy to throw out the rules and play on emotions when it comes to kids in crisis, which is what a lot of Americans want to do with these juvenile immigrants.  We look at the immediate needs they face, and we want to fix things for them now, to try and mitigate what we presume to be the most traumatic experience of their young lives:  being in a foreign country with no direct familial resources.   Many of them are sick, some are pregnant, they're almost all undereducated for their grade level, and almost all of them speak only Spanish.

The hardcore cynic could easily find similarities between the children crossing the border, and the children either being killed, or shot at, or even doing the shooting in Chicago.  How many children of the ghetto live in a functional, traditional family environment?  How many of these children live in structurally-sound, fully-code-compliant housing?  How many of them don't face the same type of dangers these kids from Central America supposedly faced in their home countries?  Gangs?  Sexual abuse?  Prostitution?  Drugs?  What's different between inner-city Chicago and Honduras?  Shucks, if you're really progressive and count the street language - or "Ebonics" - in which many urban kids are fluent - you could even say Chicago's impoverished children consider conventional English as a second language.

What's the difference?

A major part of it is the media exposure Central America's youngest emigrants to our border have received.  The saga has everything our media loves to exploit:  children, bad parents, partisan politics, and even sex, considering the young women who've been raped on their journey here.  What do the kids in Chicago have that the media can use to sell advertising revenue?  Guns, violence, rage against the system... nah, we've all heard that before.  Urban violence is old news in the United States.

We tend to pity the kids from Central America.  The kids from Chicago?  Well, it's their own fault for not staying in school, or staying out of trouble, or staying indoors.  Granted, it's not just kids being killed on Chicago's lethal streets.  But a lot of kids are there; watching, fearing, listening, running, ducking, cowering, and seeing loved ones getting shot.  And their angst means less than the anxiety our border kids are experiencing?

Advisers to President Obama say they're going to try and come up with a marketing campaign to tell parents in Central America that all is not golden regarding the chances their children will have regarding a better life in the United States.

Maybe the White House should just send people in Central America some Spanish-language versions of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Update 7/21/14:  This past weekend, one week later, 40 Chicagoans were shot, and four killed.

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