Understanding Chicago’s rise in violent crime – Chicago Tribune

Savages, they call them. Animals, monsters and subhumans, committing violent crimes up and down Chicago, spreading their violence into neighborhoods where it’s “unacceptable.”

A homicide in River North is a travesty, but a homicide in Englewood? That’s a Tuesday.

The excuses are never helpful. Not all poor people turn violent, so we must judge the violent poor people, even though studies tell us the undeniable: Poverty is intimately linked to violence.

It’s funny how the biggest source of theft in this country is wage theft, yet we hardly ever see headlines about that. It’s even funnier how most money has funneled upward during the pandemic, with the rich richer than ever. Even the upper middle class struggle to survive, yet we blame the poor people for their desperation.

We judge the obvious violence as we accept the subtle violence of how the economy works and wonder why society is devolving.

I have to ask: What would a truly equal society look like?

Teachers complain that they can do only so much: A child’s education starts at home.

I don’t disagree, but in a world where many parents are so broke that both people are working full-time jobs and yet can’t provide, what exactly do we expect parents to do?

I did not grow up in a poor household, yet I can imagine what I might be like. When you’re taught life is cruel and doesn’t care about you, the predictable happens: You turn cruel and stop caring about life.

The people in exclusive neighborhoods act shocked when the poor people they want nothing to do with are violently encroaching upon their life’s advantages. What a violation for the people they want nothing to do with to insist they notice they exist! What violence from people who have been violently trapped in poverty their entire lives! What thinking mind could have seen this coming?

Everyone tells the people to be more moral, but morality comes easier to people with money for whom the system works. I’ve never been tempted to hold a gun to someone’s head to steal their property, but that’s because I’ve always had enough — the temptation is never there.

And now we have a mayor who insists that maybe we need to solve the root of the problem instead of just locking people up, and she is hated because she happens to be our mayor during a time that crime is up across the entire country.

I don’t always agree with her, but Lori Lightfoot is not the reason violent crime is up nationwide. It’s the height of simple thinking to believe voting her out will solve an entire country’s problems.

What we need is a world where a kid growing up in a poor neighborhood has a future that doesn’t require crime to make money. We all insist the mayor build it as if many of us aren’t complicit, comfortable in our bougie homes, happy to take a surplus even if it means someone else doesn’t have enough.

We tell ourselves we worked harder, but based on statistics, we are lying. Most people in this country don’t switch socioeconomic classes — they end up where they started.

And we’re fine with this system. Many of us even get off on feeling superior. We are the noble civil hard workers, and those people grinding it out in desolate poverty who snap are nasty savages.

Why put ourselves in their shoes when we can brag that ours are more expensive and act baffled when they envy us?

Why question an economy where we’ve managed to convince people the poor are ripping us all off when in reality it’s the people at the top leeching off the rest of us?

Why question the morality of judging a person who takes the property of a person who can easily afford to replace it, while not judging CEOs paying themselves 300 times more than their workers?

To end the cycle of violence, we must stop the subtle violence of allowing most of this country to live paycheck to paycheck. But that would require more effort than simply throwing poor people into jail, so the cycle continues.

We’ll blame everything but the system even as the system fails in front of us and wonder why nothing’s changed. We’ll judge social safety nets that barely help, praise businesses that underpay workers building their wealth and have the nerve to ask why our society-that-isn’t-a-society doesn’t function like a society.

Forgive me for saying so, but we as homo sapiens — Latin for “wise man” — are pridefully misnamed.

Liz McGrew is a concerned Chicago citizen and retail manager.

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