Here’s a concept for you:
All that violence out there on the streets of Kansas City? It’s not just a police problem. It’s also not just the mayor’s problem, or the City Council’s problem or a problem reserved for people who live on the East Side.
The scourge of violence is a problem for us all — even those of us who live west of Troost and west of the state line and who live our lives relatively unaware of the daily mayhem that’s become so routine around here.
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Many of us wish they could. But this problem is far too complex for a solution that simple.
After all, violent crime continues unabated in this city, year after year, decade after decade. The Police Department has tried all kinds of ideas aimed at curtailing gunplay. Ideas such as “hot spot policing” and the No Violence Alliance. Ideas such as Career Criminal Units and beefing up the number of street cops.
The ideas come and go, but the problem remains.
“The police,” Simon said, “certainly have a role in it. But preventing violence, reducing violence, changing the culture of violence, that’s a much more difficult problem. It isn’t going to change until people stand up and say, ‘We’ve had enough.’ ”
By the way, that doesn’t mean some of the people. Kansas Citians on the East Side have been hollering about this scourge for decades. This problem calls for a broader coalition that includes people whose 3-year-olds aren’t necessarily in danger of dying at the playground as a result of a stray bullet.
Robert F. Kennedy, who sadly knew something about the impact of well-aimed bullets, once talked about the interconnectedness of violence. He did it in an often overlooked 1968 speech that he delivered in Cleveland the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In somber tones, he insisted that whenever any American is murdered, “the whole nation is degraded.”
Victims, Kennedy said that day, come in all shapes and colors and from all walks of life. All of us are vulnerable, all of us have a stake in the issue.
“No one, no matter where he lives or what he does, can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.”
Kennedy said violence can come in the form of indifference from our major institutions. This form of violence, he said, leaves children hungry and schools without books and homes without heat in the dead of winter.
“Violence breeds violence,” Kennedy said. “Repression breeds retaliation. And only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls.”
This, then, is a call to overcome our own indifference, to get out and meet people who hail from communities that are different from our own. That’s the way to place faces of real people on the not-so-distant concern of street violence and forge new connections and sensitivities.
Maybe that happens by attending a black church. Or signing up for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City or Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. Or volunteering at Mothers in Charge, a support group for parents who have lost loved ones to homicide, or Turn the Page KC, the mayor’s well-regarded reading program.
These are small steps, to be sure, aimed at helping us grasp one main idea: When it comes to violence, we are in this together.