As the Obama administration decides a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, several neighborhoods in Kabul have been plagued by death - 36 children in 2009, killed in the crossfire between rival Taliban clans as they battle over turf and control of drug running. In 2008, 27 kids were killed in rival fighting and 34 kids were gunned down in 2007.Except none of this is happening in Afghanistan. It’s happening right here in Chicago.
American commanders and Coalition forces in the region are stumped as to how to stop the increasing violence in the community where year after year it has gotten worse. Major General Dunn, commanding the US army’s 2nd battalion, has said repeatedly parents in those violent neighborhoods should “step up.” He said he wants to see an increase in after school art, sports, and mentoring programs for the youngsters so they don’t become tomorrow’s Taliban fighters.
Some community activists are outraged and want an immediate increase in military presence to protect their families, but authorities in the military may be concerned about how that might look on the world stage, with cries for civil liberties if a heavy footprint were to occur. But activists are quick to point out that without adequate security, freedom becomes unnecessary. They are also upset because local gun laws prevent them for owning firearms to protect their family, when Taliban fighters are awash in illegal arms.
Colonel Wittick, commander of Special Forces and Operations which currently patrols all neighborhoods in Kabul, recently decried the community’s ‘code of silence’ that protects Taliban forces from being rooted out and brought to justice. In a recent press conference he said, “I don’t know what’s keeping kids from coming forward. I don’t know what’s keeping adults from coming forward."
But one activist, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out the so called ‘code of silence’ was actually the only thing keeping families safe. The activist stated that everyone knows who the Taliban are, where they are, and what they’re doing, but could not report on them for fear of retaliation; they have families to protect. And until families trust authorities more than they fear the Taliban, the ‘code’ would remain.
American media outlets have reported on the children’s deaths, but have chosen not to focus on the violence for fear of highlighting the appalling lack of security and loss of freedom in already poor communities. Although the focus might fuel public outrage to spur a surge of military action to protect local families, the media is concerned some might view the reporting as ‘politically incorrect’ pointing out the “failure” of poor people, which could be labeled ‘racist ‘...
If you haven't heard, or seen the graphic video (http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/metro/video_derrion_albert) of 16-year-old Derrion Albert beaten to death, kids are being killed here in Chicago by gang violence. More children have been killed this year than last, or even the year before that. It's getting worse.
It is getting worse despite the fact a recent report by the Chicago Police Department said crime is actually dropping. In the same period a year ago, the CPD report shows crime and homicides dropped 11% - citywide. But the deaths of public schoolchildren have gone up nearly every year; 2009 is the worst yet and we’re not even through Fall.
2007 34 kids killed
2008 27 kids killed
2009 36 kids killed
For a little perspective, in the ’97-’98 school year, Sept to June, Chicago Public Schools lost seven students. And bear in mind, these numbers are not entirely accurate. Since killings began, yearly tallies may not have represented drop outs, or the “disappeared,” runaways, or kids who have simply vanished. Newspapers in the 1990s may have misreported those killed by gangs because their families couldn’t afford a death notice. So, these numbers could be or are almost certainly higher.
On October 7th, 2009, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley addressed the violence saying government alone could not solve the problem and “Parents need to step up.” “Every Chicagoan has a responsibility to help prevent and end the violence, so does every level of government, local, state, and federal,” Daley said. “We look forward to working more closely with the federal government to protect all of our children.”
Mayor Daley just spent $42 million on a failed bid for the 2016 Olympics. He also wants more after school programs.
What more are the parents supposed to do here? “Step up” against the gangs with AK-47s, the prolific drug dealers, and increased gang warfare? In fact, what are they supposed to do now, that they haven’t been doing for the last dozen years? There is general acceptance that this is “normal” for these poor communities; that they have “earned” these consequences and they alone can extricate themselves.
But have the people of Afghanistan or Iraq “earned” their lots of violence? I mean, what factors are at play in those foreign communities that are not in play in these troubled local ones? Low resources? Low opportunity? High income drug sales? Prolific illegal weapons? Warlordism – gangs. Intense violence? Frightened families caught in the middle? Tribalism – you’re from that neighborhood, I’m from this one. Generations of heartache? Meager hope?
How is it “normal” for any community in the US to lose this many children to this much violence?
I’m not writing this to discuss or explain away why the violence in these neighborhoods is happening, the origins of it, the reasons behind it. Does personal responsibility and behavior play a role? Absolutely. Just like it does in any war. But the question remains, at what point does personal responsibility end, and the inertia of this ever-growing violence take over? How much power do residents really have here? How are the people in these neighborhoods, beset by their own sets of problems, supposed to stop an industry of gang illegality and the violence that inevitably follows it? Trying to fix the roots of this problem is like shoring up the foundation of your house when the roof is caving in.
The majority of these folks are good decent people. And I submit, parents and families are already doing what they can to protect their families. It’s called the “code of silence.”
Jody Weis, Chicago Police Superintendent, decried the continued “code of silence,” in these neighborhoods. "I know there’s a strong force out there that’s keeping you from coming forward. But, please understand: today's victims will be tomorrow’s offenders," he said.
At a news conference November 6th, he said,
“I-I think it’s this code of silence. I think, for whatever reason, there, there has not been a sense of community, and civic, uh, urgency, and, and … to be part of the community, to come forward when they have information like this. I don’t know what’s keeping kids from coming forward. I don’t know what’s keeping adults from coming forward. Uhm, there’s a lot of theories and stuff on that, but I won’t speculate. But no, for whatever reason, there is a strong, strong wall … being built where kids will not come forward with information. And, you know, the Mayor refers to it as the “code of silence” and it literally is killing us.”(http://www.nbcchicago.com/station/as-seen-on/Weis__Code_of_Silence__Literally_is_Killing_Us__Chicago.html)
Witnesses did in fact come forward, but only after an innocent kid was accused of Albert’s murder. So, it does happen, just not often, and for a very simple reason: the folks living in those neighborhoods fear the gangsters more than they trust the authorities. And until that equation gets flipped around, the violence will continue.
The media has not been out in force screaming this story ‘from the rooftops.’ Some have said the sensational deaths of white children get over reported and poor children’s deaths under reported, labeling the major media as racist. But most major media in America are left leaning, liberal, and self-described friends and certainly “non racists” of poor communities. Does anyone actually think all these journalists believe a black or hispanic child’s life is not worth as much as a white child’s life? Of course they don’t. So, what’s the problem?
I think the media believes that by focusing on the deaths and violence, it only highlights the “failure” of those communities. In other words, political correctness is hamstringing their reporting and preventing them from urging solutions by reporting daily on the number of children lost this year and throughout the years. But they have the megahorn. They can change the stigma connected to these deaths and begin to offer some hope that these communities can be turned around, if only there was enough security.
This issue revolves around two sets of people: residents trapped in those neighborhoods and those not trapped, the rest of us. The people trapped are locked inside a virtual prison of small finances, shallow resources, and meager hope. They are locked inside with their families alongside gangsters, thieves, thugs, and murderers. And they cannot escape. The main reason nobody can seem to solve this problem or even keep it from getting any worse, is because the trapped folks and the untrapped folks do not understand this glaring point. If they did, it would be obvious what needed to be done: a surge; a surge of protection, to separate those who mean no harm, from those who do.
In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled on Brown vs Topeka, judging school segregation to be unconstitutional. They stated, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." A few years later, during some tumultuous integration of schools, the Governor of the state of Arkansas called out the state’s national guard to prevent nine black kids from attending their high school. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Mobs were controlling the streets in Little Rock and vowed not to let the kids enroll.
In the President’s speech on the matter to the nation he said,
“The very basis of our individual rights and freedoms is the certainty that the president and the executive branch of government will support and insure the carrying out of the decisions of the federal courts, even, when necessary with all the means at the president’s command. Unless the president did so, anarchy would result. There would be no security for any except that which each one of us could provide for himself.”Eisenhower then called in 1000 soldiers of the 101st Airborne and ordered the Arkansas National Guard into federal service, stealing away the good governor’s army. The show of force helped Central High make a peaceful transition.
More and more money has been spent on after school programs, increased Police patrols, and school security. Parents have marched, prayed, and protested. And still these kids are dying. What’s worse, Chicago’s WFLD reported November 7th, that in 2010 CPD will sign a new contract making up to 1000 officers eligible for retirement. It is impossible to know how many will step down. Police Superintendent Weis says he is “extremely nervous.” Currently, the Police have 600 vacancies and is 2000 officers short of authorized strength. Although there are hundreds of people in the pipeline to become officers, it takes six months for a new hire to graduate from the academy and begin patrolling. Not to mention the fact that hundreds and hundreds of rookie officers will flood the streets.
The residents living in these besieged communities are at the mercy of armed gangs and low resources. They have been traumatized by years of life in a warzone. They are offsides to a government, media, and public that is not working with them to stop the violence, but is in fact working against them, believing only residents and a change in their individual behavior can stem the tide of violence. They have been beaten into submission by the continued deaths of their youth, and humiliated because they cannot/could not protect their children from dying violently, cannot/could not provide them with a normal violence-free life.
If government has a responsibility to do one thing, just one thing, it’s to protect its citizenry. Security is the job government is obligated to do. These trapped folks know who the bad guys are. They simply cannot say, because they know the police will leave. And when they do, the thugs come back out. And they have families to protect.
What could be done:
1. Install more Police cameras. If a physical surge cannot be done, perhaps a virtual one will help.
2. Build many small 3-4 man Police stations for officers to stay at and man 24/7, 365 days a year throughout problem areas.
3. Offer rewards for information leading to arrests and convictions – this may already occur. Rewards should be high enough that residents can buy their way out of their neighborhoods or reinvest in them.
4. Lift gun bans, which prevent families from owning firearms to protect themselves. The draconian ordinances here in Chicago ensure only the gangsters have access to guns and any sense of security.
5. Retrain Police to reinterpret the dynamic in these neighborhoods and conduct themselves accordingly. Cross-cultural problems are solved through a realization of our shared values to understand person-to-person equality, not ‘touch-feel’ politically correct rules that only make officers' jobs harder by making their decision making more complex.
6. Pressure the media to start reporting on the intolerable security in these communities and their loss of life daily. Journalists need to wake up and see the violence for what it is - endemic to an unstable security situation, much like Iraq or Afghanistan.
7. Create security jobs and opportunity in these neighborhoods to protect them, much like 'gated communities.' Train security officers in cross-cultural group conflict and martial arts. Arm them and empower them to protect and defend both themselves and others.
8. Legislate to cover gang violence under existing terrorism laws. Shooting up a neighborhood with AKs should be considered terrorism and those who do it terrorists.
9. Allow parents to have school vouchers so they can decide where their child gets educated. This puts the power of their children’s education in their hands and removes it from failing schools with low resources and teacher unions more interested in employing teachers than creating successful schools and students.
10. Train and teach others to train. Budo is much more than the sum of it parts, more than the strategic, tactical, and technical means to conduct combat and warfare, more than the esoteric martial lineages handed down generationally, more than cultural artifices so cherished in pristine form. The Bujinkan offers training in a living art, an art literally teaching the means to conduct oneself to live, "a better life." The art's strategies and techniques, learned through physical training, also provide intuitive lessons to those acute enough to discover their mental and spiritual applications. The art's inherent moral compass is calibrated when practitioners realize their responsibility to their fellow man through the "natural duties" to our families, friends, and by extension 'others,' embodied when we protect those who cannot defend themselves.