Opinion

Trump Was Right About Chicago

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Posted: Nov 04, 2019 12:01 AM
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Trump Was Right About Chicago

Source: AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Dennis Prager once said, “There are those who fight evil, and there are those who fight those who fight evil.”  

We’ve not only seen this in the warped attacks against Trump after he ordered the killing of the satanic ISIS leader, but in attacks he got after trying to address the triumph of violence in Chicago.  

The Chicago Tribune reported that 2,313 people were shot in Chicago in 2019, mostly on the South and West sides.  Since you get more of what you reward and less of what you punish, the numbers are not surprising in a city that coddles its criminals and handcuffs its police.

The Tribune’s data didn’t include all the shootings that happened days after Trump’s visit:

On Halloween, a 7-year-old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was critically wounded by a gang member dressed in a “Jason” mask. The shooter, 15, yelled a gang slogan before firing seven shots. Two shots hit the little girl in the lower neck and chest.  

That night, a man was killed after being shot in the head and upper body on Chicago’s Southwest side. A 27-year-old man was shot while walking down a sidewalk on the Far South Side. In that same area, a man was shot in the face and multiple times in the body while he sat in his car.  

Earlier on Halloween, a 30-year-old man was shot several times on Chicago’s West Side. A day before Halloween, a man was found shot to death in West Humboldt Park. Earlier that day, a 22-year-old woman was shot as she entered a business on the South Side. Seven people were shot across Chicago on Tuesday.

Chicago’s bloodshed is what triggered Trump’s blunt critique of the city’s likable Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson, who publicly boycotted the president’s speech at the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

At that event, the president unveiled a new commission committed to getting to the root causes of big-city mayhem. Of all events, this is the one Johnson picked to go “MLK” on the president.  

Given the stubborn culture of violence plaguing Chicago for decades, Johnson’s impish theatrics are a tragedy. Theatrics is not a change agent. 

Like so many, Johnson mistakes Trump’s contempt for evil as racism when blacks are committing the mayhem. They loudly condemn Trump to get cheap accolades but whisper against criminals of color. 

I got to see some of Chicago’s problems firsthand when I was stationed there in the ‘80s. My job was to promote the Marine Corps in media and through community projects.  

Back then, Harold Washington was the city’s first black mayor. His rival Ed “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and Jane Byrne were still political players. Oprah Winfrey had just moved from Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to WLS-TV to host “AM Chicago,” the show that eventually became “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” It was not yet syndicated. 

Barack Obama, after graduating Columbia University, was one of Chicago’s fresh-faced community organizers. Mike Ditka’s Bears were on a streak to win Super Bowl XX. The Bulls had just added Michael Jordan to its roster.

I loved Chicago. It was a city that bustled with the best in media, sports, food, business, education, arts, entertainment, and thriving churches. 

It also bustled with inner-city violence.

During my first two weeks, I went through a Marine initiation, of sorts.  Since I had a “cushy job,” my commanding officer said I needed to get a taste of what his “grunt” recruiters go through. That meant wearing “Dress Blues” and going door-knocking.  

I had no idea those doors would be in Chicago’s most violent, gang-infested housing project: Cabrini Green. I was shocked that once I stepped out of the van, the Marine driver quickly drove off, turned a corner, and disappeared.  

Cabrini Green is where, in 1981, then-Mayor Jane Byrne and her husband moved into a 4th-floor apartment of a Cabrini extension building for three weeks to dramatize the problems there. Thirty-seven shootings and 11 murders had taken place in the first three months of that year. Within hours of Byrne’s move, police raided the building and arrested several gang members who were planning a shootout. Her good intentions only advertised the blight and danger.

I had never even heard of Cabrini Green, but it was chilling to see the decayed scenery – to walk in and out of the dilapidated high-rises. They were neglected, broken and dangerous. Graffiti and gang symbols dirtied the building and marred the cracked walls along dark hallways to the rickety apartments. Elevators, which reeked of urine, were inoperable. Balconies were fenced.  

I had many conversations, but the most memorable was with a young girl who was wild, loud and friendly. She was born and raised in Cabrini so, for her, this was home. But she hated the crime and the bad reputation it gave her hometown. She desperately wanted the police – or anyone – to do something about the violent young men menacing Cabrini. Her family was intact but poor. Most of Cabrini’s problems, she said, came from broken families with no father, and a mother who either worked and was never home, or was on drugs.  

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“Somebody need to come over here and do somethin’ ‘bout these boys,” she pleaded. “They ain’t men!  They think they men – killin’ people – but they ain’t. They boys! You need to come here and teach these boys how to be men.” 

That, to her, was the root problem: Fathering and policing boys. It still is.

More than three decades later, Oprah is a multi-billionaire. Obama – after two terms as president – is on a path, some say, to becoming America’s first billionaire ex-president. Chicago’s Super Bowl XX quarterback Jim McMahon, who now suffers from onset dementia, is 60. Michael Jordan is a billionaire. Harold Washington and Jane Byrne have died. Ed Vrdolyak is 81. The Cabrini Green housing project was demolished in 2011.

But the self-defeating culture of poverty and violence bequeathed to new generations still flourishes in Chicago. 

The causes of stubborn inner-city violence are still rooted in the failure to father and police boys. Fathers are great at being “police” in their homes, but police make horrible fathers to the violent fatherless. Their role is protection and law enforcement. Period! Government can never do for communities what communities must do for themselves.  

The victims of Chicago’s violent culture would prefer that police strike terror in the hearts of criminals so that fathers of 7-year-olds in bumblebee costumes will never again have to scream: “My little girl has been shot!”