This past July 4 weekend, the city of Chicago saw a staggering seventy-two shootings. However, very few people were talking about this violence. The nation continued to focus on George Zimmerman’s trial, Ariel Castro’s abductions, and Aaron Hernandez’s possible murder charges.
Now part of this is the troubling national attitude that “Well, that’s just Chicago,” which shows a dismissive, apathetic attitude that is a problem in and of itself. However, George Zimmerman, Ariel Castro, and Aaron Hernandez: these are all names, they all have faces, and people have all read their background. You can focus on a linear (if not transparent) story line and attribute a single cause-and-effect outcome to them. The concept of “seventy-two shootings” just becomes a statistic, not a collection of stories about people with lives just as complicated, just as real as the faces we see on the television. For many, the number just loses its meaning and becomes a less tangible problem than the straightforward, “ Single Person A harmed Single/Multiple Person(s) B, and we have to figure out how to react and respond.”
But when you look at a specific case, you inevitably lay blame on a very situation-specific set of circumstances. You don’t look at the equally as real societal factors that contributed to this outcome, except in that vague way that many pundits on television mention the problem, without discussing solutions or providing thoughts on actually changing these greater problems. You, in a sense, “miss the forest for the trees.”
This yields a very reactive approach to individual problems, rather than examining the mitigating factors consistent with a larger number of cases, and using it to proactively change the culture of violence that perpetuates this. Perhaps answers to the problems don’t come right away, and certainly it takes a long time for culture to shift away from old habits, but if you keep treating cases like this one at a time and so reactively, it will almost certainly keep happening over and over again. It’s a bit like filling in cracks in a wall when it’s really only falling apart because the foundation isn’t sturdy. You have to get in and examine that foundation, figure out where the weaknesses are, and work towards repairing that before you worry about filling in and repainting that one wall.
I’m not calling for stricter legislation, although in some cases, laws and regulations may be brought to the table to be revised and restructured. There do seem to be laws on the books that, though created with the best of intentions, aren’t actually structured or enforced in a way that helps the people they were designed to assist. However, even if you banned the possession of guns by private citizens (as an example), that won’t prevent the future instances of mass stabbings, homemade devices, and people finding other ways to harm one another: if you want to truly change the “culture of violence,” it’s important to examine the root of the problem rather than just taking away the specific tool used to perpetrate the acts.
In the end, government can legislate all it wants, but it is up to we the people to make the innovative changes that actually better society, and it’s up to us to take a step back and examine the larger picture, and the greater factors that contribute to the issues and cases we see so often today.