When will it end? I know I am not alone in asking that question. The recent shooting at McDonald’s has those words sounding like an echo to all in Evanston who have been asking it far too long. And that question resonates with an even more unsettling one: Who will be next?
Last November, Peaceable Cities: Evanston and the City’s public library initiated efforts to create a community conversation about violence, with the vision of hometown Evanston becoming peaceable by the year 2020. That is nine years away! More recently, MOMS.o.s (Saving Our Sons) has raised a new voice, raw with the agony of the loss of their African American youth. Both efforts are saying the right words but the McDonald’s incident says more, much more needs to be done. Violence among us is tragic; it abuses the security – and the pride – of the entire community.
What is also tragic – and unacceptable – is violence among our youth, which seems to be where it most occurs. What goes on in young minds when they heft a piece of deadly metal they have no business having? And how do they get it in the first place? The insanity of guns in such hands should be even more unacceptable than violence itself. What goes on in a young mind that chooses violence to speak for itself? Is there any way to recognize and short-circuit such madness?
Some say the answer lies in the homes; others in the schools; but pointing fingers does nothing; nor will waiting for a new generation, or even 2020. Something more has to happen now, this month, this year. Not just by those who still bleed from the violence done to their families, but all of Evanston, united and acting directly, positively and somehow involving its young.
Theorists say that social change begins with “the enactment of a negative” – not just saying “No!” but giving it life by taking action. Violence and the City of Evanston need to become mutually exclusive and the only people who can make that happen are its citizens. Merely wanting to do so is not nearly enough; actually doing something is what is needed.
Why can’t Tree City U.S.A and a Nuclear Free Zone hometown become Civility City and a Gun Free Town? Why can’t Evanston streets be safe at all hours and in every neighborhood? Meetings matter, certainly, but actions are muscle when words prove to be not enough. Evanston united can create a “Violence Among Us Not Tolerated” campaign with signage at its borders, in its schools and all over town. The City with the help of its citizens, parents and peers can collect all unregistered guns. The Chamber of Commerce can create a Civility City logo to spread throughout the town. Meetings need to involve or at least represent the entire community and create strategies to find ways to make “Enough is enough” mean what it says especially and specifically to the youth among us.
The teen years present parents, schools and community their greatest challenges – and responsibilities. That is why the “No!” needs to be said and heard in every home and classroom, by everyone who cares about their city. When ‘No!” stops short of action, even the loudest shout becomes a fading echo. Evanston cannot let that happen.