Chicago has faced a particularly violent 4th of July weekend. 84 people were shot, and 14 people were killed. These numbers are truly terrible, regardless of the weekend. And as usual, there is a lot of grandstanding and hand-wringing. People across the country are calling for the National Guard to intervene, because "Chi-raq" (a term I loathe with every fiber of my being) is getting out of hand. But before Boss Rahm goes to the Governor or to the President to activate and mobilize the troops, please understand that this is a bad, awful, terrible, no-good idea. I'll elaborate on the other side of the Great Squiggly.
I live in Chicago. It's been my home for just about my entire life, save for a brief tour down south courtesy of the Army. I've seen the best that this city has to offer, and the worst. I live in what would be considered a "notorious" neighborhood, in the Roseland area, an area euphemistically known as "The Wild 100's." Not exactly something you'd see on a Board of Tourism poster, right? One of the things that my neighborhood was famous for was the gang-related killing of Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer. His death made the cover of Time Magazine, and he was described as a "super-predator."
As a side note, I never heard any of the mass shooters before or since described as a "super-predator." The Columbine shooters, the Sandy Hook shooter, the guy in California... none of them were described as a "super-predator", even though they were just as predatory in nature, if not more so. But I digress.
With this past holiday's shooting spree, everyone is wondering what can be done. A common suggestion is to activate the National Guard, because Chicago is now "a war zone." Activating the National Guard is a TERRIBLE idea. And here are the reasons why.
A MILITARY PRESENCE (translation: AN OCCUPATION)
When the National Guard is called upon the scene, the area suddenly becomes militarized. For the duration of their activation, the city would be under martial law. If people have problems with military-style police SUV's, and para-military cops, imagine what the presence of an actual military would do. Does anyone REALLY want to go to work and watch a convoy of National Guardsmen rumble past the bus stop? And here are the key questions: How long will they be deployed? Will they be deployed only to certain neighborhoods? (this question was more rhetorical) Who determines when the Guard can be deactivated? How will "victory" be determined? Which brings me to the next point...
RIGHTS AND FREEDOM
If the city is under martial law, what happens to individual rights and liberties? Will the entire region that's under martial law have to be placed under curfew? If you work late, would you have to show ID to come and go as you (used to) please? Will the National Guardsmen have the right to use deadly force, even if someone happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Will there be checkpoints and Guardsmen to monitor who does or doesn't belong in a specific area? Will those areas be completely closed off to the rest of the city, save for the military-style checkpoints? Would our Constitutional rights (i.e. Miranda warnings, etc) be suspended during an occupation period? If I wanted to go to Walgreens late at night, would I need permission?
A LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE
Exactly WHERE would these Guard units be stationed? And specifically, what areas of the city will be occupied? And yes, a National Guard presence is just that... an OCCUPATION. If it's on the South Side, will neighborhoods like Roseland, Englewood, Auburn-Gresham, Pullman, etc. be sealed off? Likewise for West Side areas? Will there be regional command centers? Will the Guardsmen operate under their own authority, or would they have to cooperate with the police? What powers would the police cede to the National Guard? Of course, this leads back to the freedoms that can be suspended during a period of martial law.
Very few people who think that activating the National Guard to curtail gun violence actually live in the areas most affected. A friend of mine mentioned that there was a National Guard presence in Gary, IN, and that city isn't exactly a booming metropolis.
Getting to the root of the gun violence isn't a simple solution. At a prayer vigil, Boss Rahm was asked about the lack of police presence in the affected areas. One of his responses was "Where are the gun laws?" I am in favor of common-sense gun legislation, including legislation that makes it harder to traffic guns into the city. I'm in favor of closing gun-show loopholes, and stopping the straw purchasers from getting guns from out of the city to bring to the gangbangers. But Mayor Emanuel's response was absolutely terrible. Instead of directly addressing an issue that has been the product of his shuffling police personnel around, he chose to deflect the issue. Arguably, the city needs more police. More than just enough to replace the police that retire.
From a community perspective, we all have work to do. We have to get out the message that the criminals are not welcome in our neighborhoods. We have to get the youth to NOT embrace things like "Chiraq" and "The Wild 100's", and to not treat gun shootings and gang violence as matter-of-factly as they do going to school. As men, we have to lead, and lead by example... even if it's just our own kids or the kids that we come in contact with. And don't get me started on the radio and the stuff they play, like Chief Keef and the rest of them... ugh.
The churches have to come together and mobilize their efforts beyond their four walls. From megachurches such as Salem Baptist Church to the storefront church across the street from the other storefront church down the street from the OTHER storefront church, the men and women of God have to practice was Jesus preached. This situation is bigger than any denomination or church background.
The politicians have to do more than just pay lip service to making a change. And let's clarify something here: Despite the fact that President Obama is from Chicago, the gun violence is NOT a Presidential issue. People are clamoring for the President to "do something", but in the city, we have a mayor, a police chief, aldermen, state representatives, and a governor that should be held accountable. On a national level, the President can recommend legislation that creates more jobs and opportunities. Also, as I commented elsewhere, if President Obama WERE to "do something" here, where would it end? Detroit? Newark? New York? Atlanta? Dallas? Memphis? And would it end with just the Black communities? Would other areas or communities demand "equal time"? If President Obama were to attempt to intervene in every local municipality's crime situation, he would become the personification of micromanagement. He'd be so busy "doing something about crime" in all of these cities that he wouldn't have time to govern on a national level.
I'm holding Boss Rahm accountable, and he's been sorely lacking. I'll delve into that in more detail at a later time. In the interim, his term is up next year, and if he's not careful, he could lose his seat. Anything's possible.
Note: Edited to remove mayoral candidate's name.