About All That Violence in Chicago

AP Photo/David Banks

 

Can I get to a few things first?

Yes: Black people care just as much about “Black-on-Black violence” (or, more accurately, are likely more focused on and concerned with “Black-on-Black crime”) as we are with police misconduct.

And no: the vast majority of African-Americans do not confound police misconduct with professional and ethical police work (especially since roughly 13% of police forces overall are Black, meaning that many of us have family members that are police officers). Necessary-yet-tough police work is not the same as unnecessary-and-covered-up police misconduct.

Yes: Black people (and other dedicated Americans) actually organize, protest, and volunteer every day to eradicate the scourge of criminality and the aftermath of fear and devastation that rocks urban communities. (How do I know? I have participated in many such activities – including in the roughest parts of Chicago and other cities – and even the marches do not always have television cameras involved).

And no: eroding trust and efforts any further with demeaning comments such as tweets about scaling up the unconstitutional tactic of stop-and-frisk due to a “ghetto civil war” simply do not help the situation.

(By the way: the 1980s are calling and they’ve found Mr. Rivera’s relevancy, along with Al Capone’s vault).

Yes: there is so much that needs to be addressed and resolved in areas such as the south and west sides of Chicago. Obviously, these challenges include tamping down the violence that ravishes the spirit, the hope, and often the very lives of its residents.

But no: anti-constitutional populism in American cities that pushes to defund the police or act with no-name, Putin-esque rogue akin to the annexation of Crimea is not the answer to our domestic woes. Regardless of our troubles, we remain a nation of laws with an expectation for civil rights for all (including for police officers and community activists) – that is, if we are to remain the democracy we extol.

What did Joseph de Maistre say so long ago? “In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve.”

What did one notable American president say early in his career? “Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have.”

 The same could be applied all across the board as we look at what is happening in places such as Chicago, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh as well as our varied responses to such atrocities.

Communities that have been traumatized by violence also have been decimated by poverty and lack of opportunities for decades as well. More often than not, these fellow Americans were impacted by the lack of resources before the stench of criminality soaked into their neighborhoods’ collective fabric. Focusing exclusively on the violence –solely viewing its occurrence as a reflection of values with no regard to preceding circumstances – misses the mark for resolution. Further, it risks polarizing this issue as a partisan and political matter when, in fact, the realities within urban America have a direct impact on our performances in education compared to the rest of the world, our waning economic dominance in key global regions, and our national sovereignty because of our military.

Resolving urban decay and disillusionment is a high-minded and much-needed goal, but it is also a pursuit that must be holistic in nature, including a variety of solutions simultaneous to the reestablishment of law-and-order. This path ensures stability within more American communities. These solutions must include education reform — from school choice and other education-based policies immediately to ongoing public-school system reforms that are primarily student-centric.  These solutions must include economic opportunities, including opportunity zones-driven policies and other incentives to connect our fellow Americans to the bridges that lead to self-sufficiency and a higher quality-of-life. These solutions must include the remedies within mental health and other aspects of healthcare that are largely overlooked within urban communities. We are dealing with problems that include generations of Americans that suffer from PTSD and physical maladies due to disproportional rates of exposure to crime, joblessness, broken families, and chronic illnesses. Behaviors will not change until the issues behind the behaviors are both understood and engaged sufficiently.

We must always remember the path that led us to this point. It is a heavy toll to bear. Yet, taking a heavy hand to resolve it only exacerbates the tensions, especially in a nation where the notions of constitutional equality have been so subjectively applied over the years. The wrong approach will deepen the divide, not mend it.

The same pursuit of social stability and constitutional restraint that was found in Lansing and Harrisburg earlier this year, in Oregon in 2017, and in Nevada in 2014 should be extended to law-abiding citizens in these urban communities as well. The “shock-and-awe” approach to quelling lawlessness in Portland and Chicago cannot be done outside of the long shadow of our Constitution and its civil rights assurance, just as the “war on terror” did not allow us to abdicate our moral authority or legal obligations in Abu Ghraib. The First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution matter, especially in a time of crisis. It’s true: the feckless, Karen-shaming elected officials within many cities have been very quick to criticize the Trump Administration on the proposed move to interject a federal presence to calm the violence, all while quietly remaining incompetent in resolving the years-long atrocities in their cities that have led to this moment. Perhaps ironically, this includes Portland, a city that never resolved the racism that actually extends back to the origins of the state.

In many ways, the people now facing a possible constitutional showdown voted their way into this situation by selecting LINOs (“Leaders In Name Only”) for decades. However, we cannot as constitutionalists or patriots cast aside our belief in the rule of constitutional law because of our fears or frustrations. Throughout modern American politics, too many have traded in basic principles for status and power.  Trampling on our constitutional spirit in the process of securing a briefly-held community “peace” – especially if rudimentary issues are not addressed to prevent a resurgence of the violence after this moment passes – is not the direction that America should move in. (By the way: wasn’t the “war on drugs” and Biden’s Crime Bill supposed to prevent another surge of “super-predators”?) Whether we wish to admit it or not, 2020 has yielded this generation’s “crisis of confidence” moment akin to President Carter’s famous acknowledgment some four decades ago. Any move from leadership that seeks to remove the ills that ail us must do so with scalpels, not hatchets. Just as we have seen governors wreck economies with reckless power, we must not also match those inadequacies while addressing domestic tensions – even if both instances seem to be done with the best of intentions in mind.

Resolving the violence found in American cities – especially in this historic year of upheaval and unrest – is a multi-layered and tactical exercise in the very deepest essence of who we claim to be as Americans. It is true: we cannot have freedom without law-and-order, yet we also cannot have prosperity without true liberty – one devoid of oppression with malignant intent or occupation under the misnomer of benevolence.  Many urban leaders over the past 100 years have missed that point, leading us to this moment in time. In 2020, we cannot afford to continue that trend.

It is during these challenging times when we must remember the words of fellow Pennsylvanian Ben Franklin: “(We have) a Republic, if (we) can keep it.”