Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Corral Ain't Okay

Apparently, the big fad among young people around town is to indiscriminately blast everyone and everything in sight at the slightest provocation. I'm a little alarmed, mostly on account of the fact that I myself am something of a young person (though feeling less and less so after reading this week's headlines), but I didn't get the memo.

Well there's that, and then there are the bullets whizzing all over the side of town I work on.

You'd be hard-pressed finding anyone to argue that the drive-by shooting of 17-year-old Karamee Collins last night wasn't senseless. Sadly, you could find about 20-30 people, by police estimates, who would argue the recent string of nine shoot-em-up-don't-hit-shit gun crimes aren't outrageous, reckless, and foolish beyond belief.

But they're just idiots... 20-30 heavily-armed idiots with terrible aim who spray dozens of rounds willy-nilly around Loreen Drive as kids are coming home from school.

Police haven't be able to figure out for sure what's at the root of all this senseless violence, but there are some pretty good theories. When a 17-year-old is shot, it's likely he was shot by other 17-year-olds over whatever petty dramas 17-year-olds get fightin' mad about. The theory about the nine shootings is that there are four groups of people duking it out in a ridiculous Romeo and Juliet scenario spun rapidly out of control, to the point where they think it's become acceptable to walk down the middle of Allied Drive shooting the windows out of random apartments as a means of exacting revenge.

So brace yourselves. Now that we're in the midst of a spike in gun crimes, the old hot air machines will be firing up shortly to deafen us with insipidity. The anti-gun nutjobs will begin crying these tragedies could have been prevented by stricter gun control. The pro-gun nutjobs will start screaming a concealed-carry law would keep these thugs cowering in their basements instead of shooting up our streets. Both sides will lose all connection with reason.

And if the people of Madison are scared enough, they'll listen to whoever's solution is most outrageous.

I'm going to hazard a wild idea and say the guns are not the issue here. Guns are simply tools, a means to an end. People were killing each other for millennia before the first human had the idea to propel fragments of metal at other humans using a mix of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur. Having more guns on the street will not lessen violence. Having fewer guns on the street will not lessen violence.

The shootings in Madison are a product of a problem with our society. This isn't a problem that's caused by television, or video games, or rap music. Those are all just symptoms of the problem.

The problem is there are some segments of our population that are so far out of touch with their humanity that they can momentarily justify using a gun, or a knife, or a bat to solve their own, smaller, insignificant problems. They've lost sight of the big picture of humanity as a whole and allowed themselves to become just a caricature of what they see on television and video games and rap music, because it's all they've let themselves know.

The young people who shot Karamee Collins didn't do it to protect their own lives. The 20-30 heavily-armed idiots running around the south side could lay down their arms and safely live out the rest of their days.

These criminals are acting out of line because of some perceived, irreconcilable wound to their pride, a pride which they've let become bigger to them than the sanctity of human life. And they'll suffer for it, but not before they exact even more suffering on the people around them.

But this problem of people losing touch with their humanity, it's not just limited to poor black neighborhoods on the south side. It runs through every strata of society. It lead a handful of Enron execs to try and steal billions of dollars from their employees. It lead two students to slaughter thirteen of their teachers and classmates before ending their own lives. It even lead an entire democratic nation into an immoral war. And the ends never justify the suffering that accrues along the way.

Collins was Madison's first murder of the year after a particularly bloody 2008, an inevitability given the way bullets have been flying. As my mom used to say, I guess it was only a matter of time until someone got hurt. But when I open the newspaper tomorrow or Friday and see police have released a "motive" in Collins's murder, I'll be hard-pressed to overcome the feeling of dread that will well up in me.

I know no matter what these foolish kids thought gave them reason enough to kill Collins, it will make me want to cry for them.


Tim Morrissey said...

Another great post, Dusty. Brilliantly written. I'm jealous!

But note that Loreen Drive (etc) is WEST-side Madison, where Thuy, not Boss Bruer, is the alder, and that's a HUGE difference. South-siders have put up with this stuff since the mid-80's, and finally the city addressed the problem and renovated what used to be called Sommerset Circle (it's "Parker Place" now, off Badger Road) and generally cleaned up the place. There are still a lot of issues in the old Burr Oaks neighborhood, but while all that stuff was simmering and boiling over in the 80's and 90's, the west-siders were apparently content to look away.

Now that it's in THEIR back yard, damn, they're pissed! Listen to Thuy constantly harangueing the cops about "more protection". Exactly what Boss Bruer was doing on the south side 15-20 years ago!

Your analysis of the problem is right on, particularly the part where you opine these young folks don't have the common sense to realize their problems don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world (to steal from a favorite old film).

Damn, this stuff is good, Dusty.

Anonymous said...

I check your blog daily and always enjoy reading your entries. But today's post brought tears to my eyes. You so clearly hit upon the issue that these are kids who have lost touch with humanity and we are all to blame for that . . . . it makes me very sad.

John Statz said...

I agree that violence happened before guns, and would happen with a knife or whatever. Unfortunately, guns make it a lot easier to cause a lot more damage in a shorter amount of time. People wouldn't be able to just throw multiple knives through random windows, a "drive-by knifing" of sorts. Also, to knife someone or hit them with a bat you have to be up close and personal, a lot more intense to do the job and most would back down. I think that the problem with guns is that they provide that extra disconnect from humanity. Its just easier for someone to pull the trigger without thinking of the results, especially if they can just fire randomly at a house without seeing who they might hit inside. Guns ARE a part of the problem. Not all of them, but handguns have no purpose other than to kill other people, you don't hunt deer with a handgun. I sympathize with the 2nd Amendment, I really do, but I can't help but think that fewer guns on the street would equal less violence. Maybe I'll be proved wrong the first time we hear about a "drive-by knifing" or a "school batting massacre".

Dustin Christopher said...

If I'd've had more time tonight, I'd've popped in Casa Blanca.

Thanks for the encouragement, guys. I'm humbled, especially knowing that I ruined Anonymous's day. Anon, I'm sorry, I owe you a beer or something. Or a creepy Ed Gein trailer (see latest entry).

John, a couple points... firstly, handguns -- you say they serve no purpose but to kill humans. I have a great uncle who carries a sidearm when he hunts boar in Africa. I believe it even saved his life once, or at least a fairly unpleasant goring. But no, you don't generally need a handgun for hunting unless you're trying to take a chunk out of something that's got a decent shot at taking a chunk out of you.

So yeah, most people that own handguns don't use them for hunting. And you're right to a certain degree that a gun makes it easier to kill someone. But blaming the gun is taking the easy way out.

Here in America, we have a higher rate of gun deaths than most countries... those that have stricter gun control laws than we do AND THOSE THAT DON'T. That tells me the problem runs deeper than anything any law can impact.