In a previous essay, I alluded to the concept that gun violence is only one symptom of a complex and pervasive underlying socio-economic disorder. Controlling access to guns is treating a symptom of an illness while overlooking the underlying infection.

The complex insidious syndrome is driven by poverty, economic oppression, bigotry, greed, ignorance and hate. It spawns an underground economy of drugs, human trafficking and gang wars, and tears the social and moral structure of our communities.

A multitude of ills devastates the poorest, most economically-deprived communities. Criminals bankrupt local merchants and leave neighborhoods without grocery stores. Communities surrounding the blighted areas are subjected to an insurgency of marauders who expand their operating territories.

Socio-economic oppression limits opportunities, both within and outside the boundaries of a neighborhood. Investors are not willing to risk capital in crime-ravaged environments. Bigotry casts a shadow of futility upon one’s striving efforts and results in discouragement and capitulation.

Underfunded schools turn out underachievers incapable of functioning in a competitive job market. Overburdened social services fail to deliver adequate health care and impact children’s development. Living in squalor erodes the collective morale and mental health of a community.

Socio-economic woes lay the foundation for frustration and angry protests, but murders in domestic violence and personal conflict cannot be linked to economic desperation. They exemplify one’s taking the “low road” in problem-solving and indicate a breakdown of morality.

The immorality of thieving, burglary, robberies and murder is obvious. Crimes stain the moral image and esteem of victimized communities. A stigma of failure hangs over both parents and spiritual leaders for not instilling moral values for social living. Indignant protestations over crimes highlight the ineptness of the so-called leaders as they remain stuck in accusatory righteousness and offer no solutions.

In the past six months there have been several incidents in Chicago wherein religious leaders and community activists called for murderers to turn themselves in. They had some success.

Several murder suspects surrendered to the police. But that was after the damage had been done. Similarly, in Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, the murderer Raskolnikov’s conscience overwhelms him with guilt and moves him to confess his criminality.

As a step toward prevention, I challenge the social moralists, parents, teachers and preachers to revise and intensify their approach in building the ethical and moral foundations of their communities. It would be better if a potential perpetrator’s sense of morality would awaken in time to prevent a murder.

Improvement of socio-economic conditions for the impoverished is a daunting task. Increasing the minimum wage does nothing for the unemployed or the unemployable. An intense, long-term commitment by investors, economic developers and government agencies is required.

As long as desperation persists and as long as violent predatory striving is acceptable or ignored, lost lives will not matter.

Fred Natkevi

Oak Park

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