So today I was berated by some angry woman for comparing the situation in Kansas City to the situation in Baghdad and calling for Baghdad-like violence control measures to restore peaceful life East of Troost. Of course I exaggerated a little – I don’t expect the troops to break down doors in people’s houses in the middle of the night and perform house-to-house searches and warrant-less arrests. Maybe just a few. My point was that in their current form the attempts to control the crime in that area are not effective. There are many reasons for that from social to economic, but in my opinion it’s mainly the denial that the use of force is the only way to quickly restore the area to at least livable conditions, so some work can begin to further the improvements.
Let’s go back to my Baghdad comparison for which I was cursed at, called stupid and maybe a racist. People of Baghdad did not bring these conditions upon themselves,their city is a war-zone because of the misguided policy of the previous administration in this country. People of Kansas City did not bring this upon themselves, their situation is also a result of years of misguided policies, mis-allocated funds and systemic decline of the school district. Majority of the people in Baghdad want nothing more than the return to peaceful life. I don’t have any doubt that the people of Kansas City want the crime to stop. In Baghdad the only supposedly safe place is the heavily guarded Green Zone; in Kansas City the safe(r) zones surround the crime-ridden area (by the way, lady, you live in the Green zone, don’t kid yourself). In Baghdad the Green Zone is protected by concrete walls and check points. In Kansas City the check points exist in people’s minds. We stay away from these areas if at all possible and the last points of attraction like the Zoo and the Starlight Theater are quickly becoming off limits. There is a curfew in Baghdad. There is a curfew in Kansas City, except here it’s enforced by TV and print news, blogs and just word of mouth. How many times have you heard “I wouldn’t go there after dark” – that’s a curfew if I’ve ever seen one. In Baghdad people are forced to live in constant fear of death, kidnapping, robbery, etc. In Kansas City there is a measurable chance of death, robbery, injury and now even an alleged kidnapping and rape. How do you go to a bus stop where a person got shot the night before without fearing that it may happen again. People of Kansas City may have a theoretical chance of moving out of this area, but most of the time it’s negated by their economic situation.
I think that the recent deaths from “stray” bullets in Kansas City should be the turning point of the crime-fighting effort. Until then one could say that there was at least some twisted reason for the crime such as drugs or money problems or crappy life. Shooting at random people for no reason is a sign that that the time of reasoning, education and financial assistance is over. You can’t reason with people who just shoot their fellow citizens for sport like deer. Even the most hopeful tulip-planting well-wishers should see that. These were not the only two random deaths this year, there were others. Then of course there is the subject of racism. There was a lot of discussion of why the death of a white lady was a bigger tragedy than the death of a black lady at the bus stop few days earlier. It wasn’t. I can’t speak for other people but when something like this happens I tend to think “could this happen to me?”. I don’t normally sit at the bus stop in the dark, so this technically couldn’t happen to me. On the other hand I was at the Starlight just a few weeks ago, I even used to have season tickets, so it totally could have been me getting shot in my car in front of my kid with my brains splashed on the windshield. I think the phrase is “to hit home”. That’s why the deaths of thousands of people in the flood in China do not resonate the same with me as the deaths of 3,000 people in Twin Towers. Chinese victims are no less or no more worthy than any others, but it doesn’t hit home. Few months before the towers went down, I was there inside the lobby and in the courtyard. I have a photo. It could’ve been me. A person can’t experience every death in the world as a personal tragedy, there won’t be any time left to live.
One can say that the citizens should not cower to the crime, this only empowers the criminals, we should be walking tall and not be afraid. I disagree. I am not afraid to die, if anything I am afraid to die slow, but being shot like an animal in the dark will not change anything unless it will inspire a rebellion where everyone will stand up against the relative minority of criminals who are turning this city into a Baghdad-like war zone. And by “stand up” I don’t mean put a sticker on their car or wear a t-shirt. Being an eternal pessimist I don’t think this will ever happen, so the best I can count on is a mention in the Pitch and a plastic flower tied to the nearest tree.
This country is not a stranger to using force to subdue the criminal element. There are precedents, they may be not entirely successful, but they were better than inaction. No matter how many stores, attractions and soccer fields will be built in this area they will not be even remotely successful until people feel safe enough to come out of the Green Zone.
You don’t need to accuse me of having a stupid plan, for one I don’t have a plan, but I am also not in the business of crime fighting or running a city. Of course, I live in suburbia and that automatically makes me a racist idiot, whose opinion doesn’t matter. I am sure it doesn’t, but I am not alone weighing my love for Broadway against my chances of getting shot. So far not getting shot seems like a better choice.