Shantel Boler doesn’t care about the arguments for or against gun control anymore. It no longer matters to her what Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to do about the violence in Chicago. And she’s not interested in who Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson blames for all of the violence.
That’s because on Sunday night, Shantel Boler’s life came to a violent end. Her body was found in a bathtub with her hands and feet tied. She was the 13th murder victim in the city of Chicago over a weekend that saw 72 people shot.
Chicago has become a talking point. For progressives, the city’s restrictive gun laws are a model that they think the rest of the country should follow. For everyone else, the city is a reminder that strict gun laws only keep good people interested in defending themselves from owning a gun. The bad guys still somehow find a way.
But in the heat of that debate, we often forget about people like Shantel Boler. She was 32. And we forget about the scores of other nameless victims. 8 of the weekend’s 72 victims were shot while standing in a courtyard. The oldest one in that group was 32. The youngest was 14.
Most attribute the violence to gang activity. Others blame Mayor Emmanuel. Eddie Johnson, the police superintendent, is sticking to the tried and true Chicago argument. He says that Chicago’s gun laws aren’t strong enough. Yes, you read that right. However, the murder clearance rate in Chicago is around 20%. That’s pretty low compared to the national average and it remains to be seen how even stricter gun laws will help Chicago police solve more crimes.
Guns are not the real problem in Chicago. And more government spending is not the answer. Just this summer, Mayor Emmanuel used $55 million in grant money to promote the creation of small businesses in the areas hit hardest by the violence. That money didn’t do much good this past weekend.
Careful thinkers will notice that the root of the problem runs far too deep to be accurately addressed by any government agency, hashtag, or march. Gangs do not just happen. They are often the result of fractured families and poverty. That’s not to say that the leaders and members of gangs should not be held responsible for their actions. They should. But holding them responsible is reactionary at best. Work needs to be done on the front end as well.
That work involves mothers and fathers who are deeply involved in the lives of their children and a community that takes the initiative to address poverty rather allowing government officials to exploit it for personal gain. Proponents of big government do not like this kind of solution because the best they can do to play a part in it is to simply get out of the way. No amount of government grants can keep a family together. Conversely, and we’re seeing this in Chicago and all across the nation, there is a lot that government can do to harm and undermine family structures. But the leaders of Chicago want to look busy. They want to look like they’re tough on crime. So they play the game. And the same people keep on losing.
There is much to learn from Chicago. First and foremost, human life matters. Shantel Boler and the 12 other murder victims from last weekend are not statistics. The 72 shooting victims are not 72 points to help us win an argument about gun control. They are all real people whose lives mattered.
Chicago can also teach us about justice and injustice. The entire city is not under siege by gang violence. The folks who do not live on the south or west sides of Chicago are doing just fine for the most part. But just because terrible things aren’t happening to us or in our neighborhood does not mean that they are not happening. We would all be much better off if we saved our political arguments about guns for another day and stepped outside to figure out a way to love our neighbor. No matter where you live, Shantel Boler was your neighbor.
Finally, there is a lesson to be learned here about the police. It’s trendy today to curse police officers, even to their face. This accomplishes nothing. All it does is make self-righteous mobs who only care about burning down the whole system feel like they’ve done something. But when 72 people are shot in one weekend, these are the same people asking where the police were.
When an officer is out of line, he should be held accountable. There is much work that needs to be done here. But burning down the entire system is not the solution. Instead, we should strive for police officers and leaders who do their jobs with wisdom and integrity. When we see that happening, we should celebrate it. Again, when an officer falls short of that standard, he should be held accountable. But this requires discernment and critical thinking, not mob mentality and tribalism.
In response to Chicago’s horrific weekend, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said, “There is a shortage of values about what is right, what is wrong.”
But that shortage of values doesn’t only exist in the poorest sections of Chicago.
It’s just as prominent in City Hall.
Shantel Boler doesn’t care about violence in Chicago anymore. But hopefully those of us who are still alive will. If we do, we won’t reduce the city to a talking point. Instead, we’ll remember that the 13 people who were killed mattered because they were created in the image of God.
If we forget that, our regard for human life is no better than Chicago’s worst gang-bangers.