I noticed the headline, Poor Kids Living in a War Zone, and clicked on the link. I thought it might be about the Taliban’s terror killings in Afghanistan. I was wrong. Bob Herbert’s column in yesterday’s New York Times discussed the 34 children killed in Chicago’s black and Latino neighborhoods since last September, 34 murders that occurred far below national media radar. The story of Seung-Hoi Cho’s murder of 32 people at Virgina Tech saturated the news; a Google search for <“Virgina Tech” shooting> just produced over 1.7 million hits. Until Bob Herbert’s column the story of these murdered Chicago school children had escaped my notice. Why? These murders occurred over ten months, not a few hours, but that alone does not explain our “passivity and a lack of public outrage” over the Chicago deaths. As Herbert says “most people know (and take for granted) that boys and girls growing up in America’s inner cities often have to deal with conditions that can fairly be compared to combat.” It’s disturbing that this statistic reinforces my own sense of hopelessness at changing the outcome. Herbert cites the litany of causes: too many handguns, sub-standard education, lack of positive after-school activities, lack of summer job programs, and abdication of parental–and particularly paternal–responsibility. I would put more emphasis on parental responsibility, yet while providing a tidy answer one cannot put sole blame on parents and community leaders. How do you learn social norms of responsibility in a vacuum? Irresponsibility breeds irresponsibility. I’m surprised that Herbert fails to cite the lack of economic opportunities. Creating jobs is related to improving the quality of education, but there is certainly a direct relationship between the two.
Soft, fat snowflakes have been falling quietly all day in the flat, gray light. The weather’s downcast mood is fitting. Boston University is coping with the death of two students and the serious injury of a third in a fire this weekend. The victims touched many lives in their years at BU and their deaths leave an aching, empty sadness. My heart goes out to their families and friends.
Today’s New York Times presents a grim graphic representation of the more than 1,900 deaths in Iraq for the month of January. It shows, by location and day, the number of dead sorted by individual status (civilians, American forces, other coalition forces, Iraqi forces, and police) and by cause of death (hostile fire, suicide bomb, car bomb, etc.).