A common complaint about foreign policy as a topic of discussion is that there’s more of a war going on in the city of Chicago. Americans feel like their “war zone” is being ignored as they struggle with unemployment, hunger, and homelessness in what is really an economic depression.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s death toll rises daily. The gangs are responding more aggressively to each other and the general feeling is that the situation will only become worse as the depression continues. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has spoken out about the senseless violence that has claimed the lives of innocent bystanders, but no one seems able to stop the violence that continues to escalate throughout the city. As the economy continues to stall because of petty political maneuvering, the unemployed population may resort to crime to feed their family. Chicago’s crime is increasing in direct correlation to the high unemployment numbers.
The death toll already exceeds the numbers from the same time last year. People call it “Chi-raq” as a moniker that denotes it is as much a war zone as Iraq is. The only difference is we declared war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet daily the death toll climbs. We are losing more people on the streets of Chicago than in wars we have been in for years. We lose fewer soldiers who signed up for battle. That is unacceptable and a failure of this city. Gang affiliations are rising right now and the gang culture has grabbed the attention of the national media. Gangs participate in crime and support the get-money mentality. That mentality means killing rival gang members to control drug territory.
Gangs fulfill a financial need for the young males involved in them. Money is the heart of the problem. Young males have access to money where they don’t have access to jobs. The unemployment rate is high but it is highest among African-American males, followed by Hispanic males. That means this population of males is ripe for recruitment into gangs. Let’s face it, this is your abandoned population of people. The rest of American may rejoice in less than 8 percent unemployment. However, black males are experiencing unemployment in double digits. When faced with the prospect of hunger/homelessness or dealing drugs, dealing becomes the obvious choice. Gang affiliation is usually an “in” to the connections that are necessary to buy drugs and guns. The guns are used for killing both the guilty and the innocent in the inner city. Violent crime is increasing. Robberies are increasing. Death is increasing. Citizens are gripped by fear.
Chicago is experiencing a decline like the rest of the nation, only different. The inhabitants are in fear for their lives and the crime index is rising. Chicago is the nation’s third largest city yet is poised to surpass all other cities in crime this year. The only way people can feel safe is to start policing their own neighborhoods. The police are overworked and spread thin.
Encourage neighbors to form and join a Neighborhood Watch program. Talk with the gangs and encourage them not to congregate in your neighborhoods. Find ways to offer jobs in your own communities. The saying is: each one, teach one. Reach out to some person you know in need and help them. The fact is, with so many in need and such a dangerous environment, you could be helping yourself.
Angelic Jones is a freelance writer and book reviewer for Austin Weekly News.