These Neighborhoods Are Our Neighborhoods

President Obama gave a moving statement in response to the mass murder in Newton, CT. I appreciate the emotion he displayed, who wouldn’t get choked up thinking about the slaughter of innocent children. His teary, yet determined affect expresses the exact sentiment this nation ought to have: a deep sadness at such a senseless tragedy, a willingness to support the Newtown community, and a resolve to figure out how to make what is becoming an all-too frequently occurrence, less so.

There is one aspect of the President’s initial statement on Saturday that stood out to me. Here is the paragraph in full:

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago—these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

At first glance, one of these things is not like the other. Newtown (CT), Happy Valley (OR), Oak Creek (WI), and Aurora (CO) all have in common senseless mass murders committed in serene locales in which people ought to “expect” to be safe. Chicago (IL) on the other hand is senseless violence, presumably by gang members in a “dangerous” locale. Quite frankly, there is less of an expectation of safety and serenity and we are not “surprised” that violence has erupted there.

This of course is not right. It is not just, fair, or responsible that any place in America has an expectation of violence. The president’s inclusion of Chicago in his narrative about senseless tragedies disrupting our nation is welcome because it lets those living in inner city environments know that they have not been forgotten or ignored on the national scene. It points to the need to figure out how to reverse the culture of violence and hopelessness that pervades pockets of American culture. Further, it suggests that the problem is multifaceted and requires a comprehensive solution.

All of these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods. None of them deserve to be forgotten or ignored as we come together to take meaningful action. And I’m glad the president can see that as well.


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