Orbiting Zorkon: Gun Violence in Milwaukee

The parts of our city where all the shootings go on has become another planet. We orbit reluctantly, wishing that something sunnier was our gravitational force. Not violence and death and children dying on playgrounds because adults have made each other angry.

Today a 10-year old girl who was just playing at the playground in her neighborhood in the middle of the day on May 21st died from gunshot wounds suffered when she somehow got caught in the crossfire between two young, very angry men. If there's a sadder story than this one with the bereft parents, the young men certain to live their lives out in prison, and a long summer with an empty playground, I can't bear to hear it.

I've lived and worked in Milwaukee for forty years and I've never been afraid to go anywhere, never felt threatened, and have never been treated badly or even rudely in any of the neighborhoods that demographers would label 'at-risk' or 'economically depressed.' I'm a white woman in a highly segregated city. When I drive up to an agency and park my car, I'm likely to be the only white person in sight. But for years, what's worked for me is I act respectful, I get respected.

Now I think it doesn't matter how I act. It isn't about me.  Or this child on the playground or really anyone who gets shot these days. Nothing that any victim does can explain the consequence of getting shot.

There has been much talk lately about how gun violence is a public health issue and that, in order to fully understand its epidemiological dimensions, we need to do a dissection of each incident to determine the precipitating factors, the relationships, why and when the shooting occurred, get to the reasons that will explain the violence, the thinking being, I guess, that if we can figure out the reasons, then we can address the reasons and reduce the violence.

I don't think there are reasons.

I think there are guns.

There are guns everywhere. Everywhere. You better believe it. Right now, in Wisconsin, people are walking around with guns in holsters like this is the O.K. Corral. The folks who went through a $50 concealed carry class walk around in a haze of superiority because their gun lust got sprinkled by respectable fairy dust. Two sides of the same coin to me, the guy who takes a class so he can put his new gun in a fancy holster and parade around town, his jacket artfully arranged so everyone can see that his gun is ready, real ready and the guy whose second or third hand stolen gun is wedged in the lowdown of his pocket; it's a dick festival in either case. Call it what it is.

The phenomenon of the dick festival is responsible for a lot of human agony. Tell me right now while you're reading this how many world wars were started by women? How much insane oppression has been propagated by women? How many mass shooters have been women? Still counting on the fingers of one hand, aren't you? By the middle of June of this year, there were 30 children who had been shot in our city. One of them died today. She was hit by two young men who were having a mad shootout in the neighborhood.

Our mistake is in our devotion to the analysis of gun violence as if we can just figure out the wrong turn on the decision tree, we can fix everything. We can't. We can't because we can't change how young men see the world. We can't change how immature they are or for how long or how impulsive they are and unable to think through the consequences of their actions. Not all, but many. Most. If you are the mother to sons, you know that it is one long holding one's breath from the time they are 18 until they reach 30. In between they are boys in men's pants and it's scary as hell. Pray that in their craziness, they are unarmed and their friends are unarmed and everyone survives to grow up and join a bowling league.

I miss my city. I miss thinking that if I act respectful, I'll get respected. I miss thinking I can go anywhere and be with people and talk to them about things that matter. I miss not worrying about getting shot. And that's crazy. And I guess I also miss leaders who will say what needs to be said.

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