Out of hand

In the last month or so, 4 cyclists and about 10 pedestrians have been killed by motorists in the City of Chicago and near suburbs; a handful of these deaths have been hit-and-runs. On the other side of the coin, there have also, in the last month or so, been about a dozen shooting deaths, and nearly 4xs that number of injuries, in the area as well. Things here are going nuts. In terms of the shootings, experts have said that this is normal for the city at this time of year, when the weather begins to get warmer and people start hanging out outside more, but I can't see how you could ever attach the word 'normal' to such careless disregard for the life of another human.

Just as disturbing is this rash of reckless driving and death, and the increasing phenomena of people fleeing from the scene - leaving their victims dying in the street or on the sidewalk. How could you possibly plow into another human, feel them go either over or under your car, and keep on driving? How can you live on without telling another soul? As far as I know, none of these people have been caught yet, so apparently they're keeping their secret close to them.

What's worse than all this? Quite possibly the reactions to all this death from Chicago-area residents. Read any of the forum topics about these tragedies, and all you see is hostility. There is a lot of hatred going around on all sides that is disturbing. Motorists and pedestrians saying they're glad when cyclists die in traffic because they're a nuisance; cyclists and motorists talking about what a nuisance pedestrians are and how those killed were probably J-walking; everyone making broad statements blaming victims because other people who choose to get around town like they did happen to break traffic rules - guilt by association. While I am all for taking responsibility for one's actions and can see the arguments being made as valid in the cases where cyclists, pedestrians, or motorists were killed doing something illegal and risky, I can't understand some of these forum people's inability to see BOTH sides as being at fault. A drunk driver kills a pedestrian, yet people are actually arguing whether or not the pedestrian was crossing illegally and ignoring the purple gorilla in the room that is the fact that the motorist was doing something horribly irresponsible that is well known to be a great risk to both driver and everyone around them. I don't know of many cases where a J-walker has killed someone by crossing the street illegally, but I do know of quite a few where people have illegally driven under the influence and killed others. It all boils down to seeing key words and knee-jerk reactions: cyclist killed - well I hate them because they all cut me off in traffic and don't stop at stop signs, so I hate this person that died. Southside - these people were ___ race, so of course they weren't acting like people of ____ race, so I'm sure they were up to no good. Motorist - These people roll around in their gas-guzzling SUVs and don't care about what happens to anyone as long as the kids get to soccer. And on and on...

In the end, arguing about laws and behavior masks the more serious problem that lies underneath: we, as a society, no longer have any consideration for the safety and health of others. Now we live in a 'me' culture where people are willing to put other lives at risk daily to save a couple minutes on their commute, or silence a neighbor who talks too much, or solve interpersonal problems through dialog rather than violence. I am inconvenienced, therefore I have the right to act out to get my way; my daily worries and obligations take precedence over those of others. Me. By turning the victim, or the one who killed the victim into a stereotype that doesn't personally apply to me, I am able to separate myself from the mentality that led to tragedy - my needs are more important, it's OK take risks to meet them.

Better law enforcement is not going to fix this 'only child' mentality that is ruling the streets, but what will? If we can't get people to start seeing those around them as more than traffic cones and barricades to be shoved aside, where are we headed?

A cheerful question to think about on a Friday afternoon, but I guess it's the cumulative effect of reading the news all this week. I guess that's why I tend to avoid it.

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