By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
Several years ago, at the height of gang violence that racked Chicago and confirmed that city’s reputation as a haven of unrelenting street crime and youth violence, a term emerged; One shot. Two drop.
The meaning is all too obvious; every act of lethal violence created, at that moment, two victims; the person shot and the person(s) who did the shooting.
Incarceration, not to mention guilt and community alienation can be just as permanent as death or injury at the point of a gun.
And, as we are all learning far too well, every person who “drops” has a constellation of family members, friends and social connections across, and often far beyond, one’s neighborhood and communities.
As many of us might experience directly and personally, sometimes there are conflicts that seem to never end.
Multiply that by a thousand or so, add in poverty, limited options, frustrated opportunities and dozens of insults on a near daily basis, and limited models of successful problem solving, and you have a recipe for chaos and destruction – and the beginning of a sense of the self-perpetuating atmosphere on many of our nation’s urban streets.
The person who pursues revenge should dig two graves. – Anonymous
As we have seen on a local basis, and certainly in our major urban centers, most of these “shots” emerge from some context of revenge.
And yes, if any “shot” is “successful”, little, if anything is gained – except more victims – and the increased likelihood of further revenge and murder. And grieving for more families and schools and neighborhoods.
In other words, nothing of any positive nature is accomplished.
So the most important action is the intervention of the next “shot”.
A single “shot”, in virtually every case, has repercussions that, in most cases, never stop.
Revenge and grief, thanks to that single “shot” become permanent, embedded features of communities already burdened by economic, cultural, and often racial, challenges.
One has to wonder what goes through the mind of someone who finds and procures a gun for a teenager.
To put it simply, nothing good could come from the use of a gun in the hands of a teen.
And nothing does.
Violence and grieving are perpetuated – if not accelerated. Lives, and careers, and promising futures vanish, never to be revived or restored.
Nothing is accomplished. Nothing is resolved.
The geometric growth of crime and street violence is relentless.
One shot becomes two.
Two become four.
Four becomes eight.
Eight becomes sixteen.
Sixteen becomes thirty-two.
Thirty-two becomes sixty-four.
Sixty-four becomes one hundred and twenty-eight.
And the cycle continues until no one, no school, no grocery store, no neighborhood or church or community event is safe. That is where we are going – if it is not where many of us already are.
Who and how?
For the most part, politicians, law enforcement and even parents seem to stand helpless, if not paralyzed, as these events continue to unfold in front of them.
Media talking-heads and political leaders wring their hands and pontificate and even shed a tear or two in front of a camera.
But who does anything?
Politicians, law enforcement and parents may not know what to do, but plenty of adults seem to be working overtime to convince young people that shooting each other is a good idea – and equipping them to do it.
Guns are expensive and, for whatever reason, there seems to be an endless supply of adults willing, even eager, to get guns into the hands of teenagers – and motivate them to use them as recklessly and destructively as possible.
No one is safe. And, for some apparently, that seems to be the intention.
Oddly enough, the NRA, for most of its existence, had always held as its first, if not only priority, firearm safety. Where are they when we need them most?
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
How are any of us, from children to parents to neighbors of all backgrounds, ages and interests supposed to live our lives, conduct our business or, as we have seen all too often, gather together?
The bottom line is also the most obvious – no one is safe unless everyone is safe.
And nothing will change unless everything changes.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” presumes freedom of movement and freedom to gather as we would like.
But “life” itself is up for grabs in our current climate where every one of us is a potential target (accidental or intentional) in a perpetual feud over territory or colors or gang affiliation or revenge or anything else that exposes us to the unexpected – and often final – and random – act of violence that could emerge from the next corner or passing vehicle.
In such an atmosphere, none of us can freely pursue business opportunities, entertainment or anything approximating “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
No one is free unless everyone is free.
Nothing is more fundamental than the right of free movement and association.
Going to a game or a parade or church or to our local grocery store should not be a death-defying act.
We, as parents, as teachers, as neighbors and much more, need to keep our children safe – and with them – every other child and neighbor.
It all starts (or ends) with one shot.