We can stop this
8th July 2014 · 0 Comments
Another summer evening erupts in gunfire, only this time it happens on what the world considers to be our stage, Bourbon Street. In the midst of summer celebrants and fun-seekers from all corners of the globe, bullets flew into a crowd injuring nine people this weekend.The story has now made national headlines.
As residents, we know this is only part of the story. Murders, however impossibly prevalent they seem, are slowly falling from outrageous to merely atmospheric levels. But one murder is still too many for any community. While the mass casualty events in public places like Bourbon Street whet the lede writers’ appetites, neighborhoods throughout our city experience violence at a steady clip that otherwise is largely unnoticed by the media. Just last weekend, while news cameras descended on Bourbon Street, at least two other shootings smashed peaceful evenings across our city, with several other incidents still awaiting classification by police.
There is no frustration or cynicism too great to prevent our community from continuing to confront this bloodshed head on. All of us have a stake in peace. All of us recognize that violence touches all aspects of our community. Yes, these individuals responsible should face the full weight of justice. But what of the inevitable next bullet? How do we stop that next tragedy? And when do we say that is the last time we will shed tears for another fallen son or daughter?
The cauldron birthing this violence has inspired reams of diagnosis. Culture, poverty, drugs, incarceration, hopelessness, immorality, the proliferation of weapons, the breakdown of familial bonds, an understaffed and under-compensated police force, a medieval prison. In truth. all of these ingredients contribute to violence.
As with so many genuine crisis with so man aspects, too little is being done too slowly, no matter how robust the efforts might be in any one aspect. There is no one public official, no single instigator, no singular social policy that can be blamed. It is a problem so deep, so stubbornly resilient to reform, so intangible that even great actions to cull it provoke frustratingly imperfect results.
I do not speak of hopelessness. Instead, I write of the greatness of the challenge. This invokes the inevitable rhetorical charge: the solution only lies in our powerful communal action.
Every aspect of every policy must be colored by its affect on our job one: disrupting violence wherever possible. There are truly actions we may all take. Everyone has a role to play. Mentor a child to open their world to possibilities. Engage in the political process to hold leaders accountable. Promote dialog among neighbors to build strong community bonds. Participate in policy discussions that promise to decrease needlessly draconian and wantonly expensive imprisonment for nonviolent offenders. Promote educational opportunity by serving on a school board or volunteering to enrich children’s lives.
Consider the impact of poverty on our community and commit yourself to local investment in small business and, if you are a business owner, local job creation. Commit to helping those who have veered off the right path a second chance by helping ex-offenders reenter society. And finally, challenge yourself to cast off cynicism and channel your frustration toward solutions wherever you go by embracing political compromise in order to serve our community’s greater good.
Make a commitment to giving all of us a chance to see an end to the bloodshed. Make peace our cause in everything we do.
– Karen Carter Peterson
Louisiana State Senator
La. District 5
This article originally published in the July 7, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.