I am from Chicago, or “Chiraq” as some call it, a name coined by media and locals because of a death rate by guns comparable to that of Iraq. Whether this statement is accurate or not, the name signifies a larger truth about the gun violence in Chicago.
This past Fourth of July weekend, 53 people were wounded and nine were killed as a result of gun violence across the city. As shocking as these numbers are, the legislature has not been able to rally together to even pass a universal background check law, a commonsense law that most of the country eithers supports or thinks is already in place. In any city, a heavy influx of guns is detrimental and costly both financially and socially, but this is especially true in Chicago.
When I first came to school, people I met would ask me about the violence in Chicago. I would completely blow it off and say that it was very safe. I did not realize that the city I loved had such a stigma of violence because it never inhibited me during my city excursions or in my suburb. After the fourth or fifth conversation like this, I began to realize that I subconsciously had been thinking, “Shootings don’t happen where I live.” This tiny thought, barely detectible, set off a reverberation in my head and heart regarding the issue of gun violence in Chicago and in the country; it also revealed a larger mentality that many of us, somewhat unknowingly, have about many issues plaguing the United States today.
It is not acceptable that even though I live in a city with some of the worst gun violence in the country, I can feel no connection to the issue because it does not directly affect me. There are too many social problems today that we do not care about or push for because they are not affecting our daily lives. It is not that we are actively against them; it is plain indifference. An article in The New York Times this week is blatantly titled “Empathy is Actually a Choice: it’s not that you can’t feel it, you just don’t want to.” I think that idea is indicative of a larger trend and leads to a complacent democracy. We criticize our government and elected representatives for not doing enough, but do we do anything about it? Do we call or email them, or even go to vote? Many times, when I talk to friends about gun violence in Chicago and the cycle of poverty, they agree that a change is needed but insist that “I can’t do anything about it.”
The idea that one person cannot make a difference has hindered our country. Yes, the thought of an individual against “society” incites the image of a lot of red tape, but as I have said in previous articles, the individualism that we feel is only a facade. I often look back at history and miss the art of community organizing that individuals like Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. were so good at doing. We do have power, we should feel for those problems that are facing our country and world, and we should act on them. What is the point of having a democracy if not for moments such as these? That feeling of helplessness should not characterize America, the home of the free and the brave.
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