II: Peace Promotion Can Work

 
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(Part I discusses the conditions and causes of Chicago gun violence.  Part II addresses the choices required to reduce and prevent gun violence in Chicago, and to “build the peace”.  They may be printed separately or together.)


All of the measures now proposed in the US to “stop” the gun violence are insufficient: gun laws, more police, surveillance, greater social control in black communities, mentoring, more jobs, better parenting, or after school programs.  Some may help prevent future violence, but they will not reverse the pattern of domestic gun violence.  They are partial, inadequate responses to systemic failures.  

 

Gun violence is not a mere “epidemic” that can be “interrupted.”  A street “ceasefire” does not remove the fire power.  Guns are one thread of a fabric of economic, social, political and cultural factors that are central to the Culture of Violence in the US.  Of all the delusions about gun violence few are more ill conceived than the call to “stop the violence.”  Violence is socially rooted in human development and cannot be “stopped.”  It is the bread and butter of the United States.  But it can be reduced and prevented. The alternative, peace, is not merely less war or killing, or even a negative non-violence, but in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a “beloved community.” 

 

This begins in what Eleanor Roosevelt, talking about human rights, identified as the  “small places.”  National or state gun debate and regulation is very secondary.  This is obvious at Harper High School, visited by Michelle Obama.  In five months eight students died and twenty-four were wounded. In the most violent communities, it simply is not enough for parents and students to “stay focused,” as preached by Michelle Obama.  The conditions that allowed the First Lady, among the “fortunate few,” to attend Princeton and Harvard no longer exist in many urban black communities.  Unfortunately we know far more about waging war than building the peace. In Chicago, at least three initiatives are essential.

 

First, the Mayor must reconsider his ill conceived and outdated corporatists crime control and Violence Containment policies and instead

link growth to community development and human well-being initiatives.

His administration, as did Mayor Daley and Maggie Daley before him, must join the community based build the peace efforts in Chicago.  The budgets of neighborhoods, communities and cities must reject the ill-conceived Violence Containment strategies that are so counter-productive. The alternative is to mainstream a culture of peace that insures individual, family and community well-being.  This kind of leadership is essential in all cities with extreme violence.

 

Second, what are needed in the most violent communities are Community Development and Investment Banks  (CDIB).  But it would be unlike either the World Bank International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the US$50 million Public Safety Action Committee Mayor Emanuel and the First Lady Obama are funding in Chicago.  By contrast, Millennium Park in Chicago cost $457 million!  However, the primary goal should not be downtown “safety” but human development and well being.  Community well being indicators must be insured for the most violent neighborhoods.  A CDIB, controlled by communities and local business, not municipal government or “global city” corporations, would work with every family, school, and neighborhood in select communities suffering from extreme violence and dispossession. This is a complex social, economic, political and cultural challenge, not merely an individual choice.

 

Whole neighborhoods and communities must be transformed, breaking the inter-generational transmission of violence. This is not accomplished by only creating more choices for some individuals.  It includes working with every individual, family, school, health care provider and other basic institutions in a violent community.

 

Third, is peace education.  The Chicago Public Schools should promote a K-12 Build the Peace Curriculum.   In the words of Maria Montessori, “to reach peace we must teach peace.” It is not enough to reduce and prevent the violence; we must promote the values, attitudes and behaviors of peace.  The content and form would be integrated into the existing physical, natural and social sciences, the humanities, and applied to everyday family, school and community activity.  This should be linked to the pioneering thirty five year old Chicago Build the Peace Committee, in conjunction with the United Nations Annual Day of Peace, June 21st.

 

Gun control could only be effective within the context of human well-being, community development, violence prevention and peace building.   Gun violence is only one poisonous fruit from a poisonous tree.


April 15, 2013