I cannot imagine the agony singer, actress and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson is going through right now. I have not spent much time on the South Side, but even here in relatively staid West Town in hear about break-ins, shootings and stabbings all the time. As I crawled around the western edge of the city yesterday morning, I noticed three or four police cars parked diagonally at several street corners, at least half a dozen more tearing down the street, and two helicopters dangling from invisible strings in the sky. It reminded me of the year I lived in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood in the late 1980s, when the local crack dealer lived downstairs, searchlights from helicopters illuminated University Place, Malcolm X Park and 13th Street, and DEA agents in heavy boots and cargo pants tromped across our ceiling. That impressive show of force, an early version of shock and awe, didn’t stop one young man from shooting another young man on our front lawn.
My boss says it’s time the people who run this city recognize that we’re at war and behave accordingly. He says he had a gun leveled at his face once while delivering pizza, and narrowly avoided becoming a statistic because he refused to put up with gang violence in his neighborhood.
I do not for one second assume that Obama’s victory next week is a sure thing, but if he should overcome the massive Republican dirty-tricks network, I hope he will make some attempt to reinvigorate the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson. And this time, in addition to putting the economy of scale that only governments can create behind such worthy causes as nutrition, education and job training, I humbly ask that he consider adding a fourth leg to this table, one that will make it stable: security. Give the people of the South Side, or Anacostia, or Watts, or north Minneapolis, or Detroit, the opportunity to implement the same kind of safety measures we lucky few here in the gentrifying neighborhoods north of the Loop enjoy: sturdy front and back gates that lock, home security systems, multiple door locks and whatever else can prevent people from living in constant fear. It’s not poverty that causes violence, it’s the people who prey on the poor. And if this is a war, as my boss insists it is, then bring in some armed protection while you’re at it.
Just my $.02.