In Ramah, a voice is heard, crying and weeping loudly. Rachel mourns for her children and refuses to be comforted, because they are dead. Jeremiah 31:15
Last week a spate of four deaths in our Chicago high schools was blamed on gangs and guns. Last year, the public high school killings totaled 27, and already this year 18 have been killed. As one commentator said, "It's war on our Chicago streets and in our schools." Kids held up signs saying, "Stop Killing" and "Can't you see we want to grow up?" As we approach the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq war that moved us into devastating violence, we must take stock of our failed policies in Iraq and at home. Our current approach is not working.
Dr. Carl Bell, an expert on youth violence, talked about what prevention will take. He said young people need a sense of connectness, access to medicine and counseling, self-esteem and a sense of community. They also need to be able to communicate when they need help. Mayor Daley blamed glorified gun violence on tv and used as entertainment. So many opportunities for alternatives to violence.
Just think of what could happen if we got out of Iraq and redirected that $400 million A DAY we now spend to revitalize quality public education for all, create alternative life giving work experiences, training and jobs for disaffected youth, enable universal health care. Enabling youth to complete school, find meaningful employment would staunch the one way train to prison (which also costs us $25,000 per person annually). We have the resources. Do we have the will?
Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.