Chicago went through a whirlwind this week. Many poured their hearts into the Chuy Garcia campaign but money won over people. I’m proud to say that I believed in the cause and was heartbroken by the loss. Smaller victories happened around the city and Ferguson changed the face of their city council but… Still hurts.
A Stitch on Time
Surrealism and cultural distortion are a day-to-day occurrences now. I first noticed the world shifting around me in the Summer of 2012. The CG Project was beginning its second year. It was the beginning of an idea that would lead to my Dual World photo series.
It’s tough to remember how we survived it but I preserved some of the emotions we shared over the last few years through something I called Chain Corpse, a combination Chain Letter and Exquisite Corpse. It was a way for me to connect with people I respect about issues that plagued us all. I hope that you find some value in them now that some time has passed.
Arlen shares his ideas to end gun violence in Chicago in the first entry. The second entry came from me after tragic events in Boston had me looking for comfort. I hope our voices from the past can clear our hearts and prepare us for the next step. Whatever it may be.
Arlen – December 2012
I don’t know how much I blame the media though. I mean, sure, they’re going to sensationalize things but it’s pretty sensational stuff. It’s not every day that this happens. Though plenty of other people do die every day from gun violence in the US, and the equivalent of a Sandy Hook massacre happens every 18 hours.
Too often those numbers come from here in Chicago. Violent crime in general has been decreasing but for the first time in five years the homicide rate actually went up in Chicago this year. Perhaps in part due to the Supreme Court striking down the city’s handgun ban, and the recent appeals court ruling against a concealed weapons ban.
Here in Chicago I think there are several things that would help curb violence. And, spoiler alert, none of them involve more guns on the street (the last thing you think of when you live in this city is “gee, I wish I just had a Glock so I could return fire”). In no particular order, here are three ideas:
1. Let’s impose an extreme tax on bullets bought within Cook County and the surrounding counties, say within a 100 mile range. Like a 500% tax. This would not affect people who hunt in rural areas, nor would it affect those who have weapons for self-defense. Since guns are often illegally sold or distributed but bullets rarely are (because they can’t be used more than once), this might have some positive effect. We can treat this like any other sin tax. And while we’re at it, increase taxes on guns proportionally to how many of that gun is seized by police officers after being used in crimes. In other words, taxes would likely not be increased on hunting rifles, but would be increased on sales of handguns and similar weapons. The tax rate on guns can be recalculated every six months based on updated statistics.
2. Let’s use the funds raised by the new bullet and gun taxes to fund after school programs and other violence prevention efforts. This would be a smart investment. There’s a reason why doctors say every dollar spent on preventative care saves ten dollars in treating preventable illnesses. The violence in Chicago is by and large not the result of mental health issues as has been mentioned so much after Sandy Hook and other recent mass-shootings, but more the result of young people with few opportunities having nothing else to do but join a gang.
Let’s revamp the local justice system to more adequately deal with those who are arrested for gun crimes in the city. Recidivism rates among gang members are alarmingly high and higher than among non-gang members. We need to prevent prison from becoming a breeding ground for gangs. Perhaps we need to think about prison sentencing differently, not releasing gang members based strictly on a sentence given at the time of the crime, but more on the basis of their progress in rehabilitation. This could be done legally by giving offenders extremely strict initial sentencing but establishing a clear framework for accelerated release and giving parole boards more discretion to release inmates earlier based on their progress (this already exists to some degree but a system could be formalized and standardized). Essentially, we need to give inmates a clear path to early release based on progress, giving them an incentive to better themselves and prepare to become productive members of society. Perhaps a point-based system could be implemented. Also, when ex-offenders are released, they should be released with some immediate opportunities for work, perhaps after a work-release program. This will require a close private-public cooperation. It’s clear though that people who are released from prison with no economic opportunities, or worse, even less economic opportunities than they had before going into prison due to their new status as an ex-offender, is a recipe for disaster and recidivism.
Mario – April 15, 2013
Have we grown callous? I hope I’m not learning to cope with tragedy. Five months removed from Sandy Hook and we’ve done little to curb violence. We can hardly agree on what happened that day, let alone something we could have done to prevent it. Even though it was confirmed that the assailant left ten round clips at home, opting instead for multiple thirty round clips that he used to fire hundreds of rounds into 26 innocent victims. Yet we can’t agree that limiting clips to 9, 10 or even 12 rounds could save some lives. Can we even agree on universal background checks?
‘Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her,’ – Michelle Obama
Locally, the shooting of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago youth that was shot a week after playing in her high school marching band at President Obama’s inauguration. She’s one of many children that we’ve lost to gun violence this year but people will remember her name. Michelle Obama spoke about her at an event last week, saying that it could have been her as a teenager. Chicago’s answer? Shut down 54 Chicago Public Schools, shake things up and see what happens.
‘Look for the helpers’ – Fred Rogers
We know little about what happened today in Boston but it was yet another wake up call. This time we weren’t caught completely off guard. Graphics packages are ready to go, we all know the drill now. Social media breaks the story, video clips get shorter and shorter until they become GIFs, tiny clips that repeat indefinitely for us to let the toxic images etch themselves deeper into our brains. For something visceral, you need video shot on a cellphone or at least by someone that can’t process what is in front of them and control the camera at the same time. Voyeuristic clips like these spread with the ferocity of a ball bearing tearing through flesh. Information Gatekeepers filter the interviews and sound bytes into a narrative that will confirm all your suspicions about the Boogey Man himself.
‘Say there ain’t no hope for the youth, truth is it ain’t no hope for the future.’ – Tupac Shakur
How do any of us live with this? If I’m struggling to handle this, what hope is there for an isolated teen, alone in a basement with a broadband IV to the worst humanity has to offer… and that’s without even considering the vitriol on the message boards. What are we to do?
Here’s where it gets interesting. I sent this entry to someone else who was gracious enough to respond, but before I post that mystery person’s piece of the puzzle, I’m giving you all a chance to respond to my piece. I’ll give you all this opportunity to contribute after each installment. Let see how this all plays out.