The Common Good

Is It Too Late For Us?

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

John Moore/Getty Image
Rachel Berger (L), and Greta Waag embrace while visiting a makeshift memorial in Newtown. John Moore/Getty Images

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In 2012 more than one hundred young people were killed by gun violence in Chicago. More than a hundred. If you start adding up the numbers, there was a time there in the summer where Chicago was more dangerous than Afghanistan. Well, parts of it were. It's a big place, you know.

As tragic as the shooting was in Connecticut —and I am truly not interested in minimizing the grief or outrage — we have to wake up and realize that more children are killed every year in the U.S \and we seldom cry in outrage. Not as a nation. There were marches in protest by Chicago churches

The news media covered the march but not the murders. 

The novelty of ecumenical leadership in a protest movement garnered more attention than the actual deaths of children in the streets of Chicago. 

Still, the nation was silent. Why? Why was there no outrage? Why no cry? Is it that we can absorb the emotional toll as long as it's one child at a time? You know, just one or two at a time is fine. We can handle that. It's when someone kills 20 children at once that we pay attention. It's possible that this is what is at work. 

Yes, I think we also need to look at the socioeconomic realities of the gun victims, too. We will need to address our own racism. We know South Side Chicago is dangerous. So, we're not surprised that children die there. It's sad, but not surprising. It doesn't shock us. Now, move the same level of violence to the affluent suburbs and, well, you get my point. 

The suburbs are little American utopias. We love our suburbs. We believe them to be safe, an escape from the madness of violence and drug use (read: the history of white flight). It seems that the illusion may have well been shattered. I hope it has. I hope the illusion has been shattered. We need it to go away. 

The truth is that this degree of violence is not new. We've been shooting our children for a very long time. We've been letting them kill one another for a long time. (Connecticut was a child-on-child crime; the perpetrator was not old enough to drink.)  We call it "gang violence" in South Side Chicago, of course, and not "unemployed, bored children with guns." We are biased. In the suburbs, it's all chalked up to "mental illness." In the city it is "bad kids" or some such thing. There are no bad kids in the suburbs and there is no mental illness in the cities. 

Right. 

We have lost too many children already. We have watched them die for too long. We have watched them kill one another for too long. It's not about guns, not really, but it is about us, our comfort with violence, our comfort with the death of children in the streets and schools of our communities and the world. We're comfortable with collateral damage in Afghanistan. We're comfortable with gang violence in Chicago. We're numb or accustomed to it. 

It's us. So, I ask you ... is it too late for us? Is it already too far gone? Will we simply become used to suburban violence along with the city violence? 

I am afraid we will. We are comfortable with violence. I am not blaming television or movies, video games, or sports. We create these things based on our comfort with violence. We turn it into entertainment. We make it a game ... and not the other way around. 

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

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