Will Santa Go To Chicago This Christmas?

Posted on Fri 12/23/2016 by


20090506_mcfee_2009By Dr. Robin McFee ~

Will Santa go to Chicago this Christmas? Maybe…but only if he can wear body armor. To be sure, there’s nothing funny about Santa needing to wear Kevlar TM when he goes to certain areas of the Windy City. In fact it is tragic. But for law enforcement and likely some in EMS, body armor is more than a fashion extra in Chicago, and other major cities, it is a potentially life-saving necessity, and way of life. As an aside, one has to wonder would the death count in Chicago among children, young adults, and other innocent bystanders decrease if Santa left kids Kevlar lined backpacks instead of toys, and winter coats had stab-resistant plate inserts?!

Sadly the remedy for the killing fields of Chicago may be more than Santa, or a Christmas truce can pull off. I wonder, do gang truces exist on Christmas morning? Will the bloodshed slow down this Holiday Season in Chicago or Baltimore or Detroit or…..?

Societies like nations die from within….

chicago-350x250To be sure, what is going on in Chicago is more than a national embarrassment – assuming you read about it beyond a few sites like FSM or occasionally in the Tribune. Criminal beyond the average level of corruption of Daley and Capone infamy, take a good, long look, because a city near you or me could be next. Communities are dying from within, but poverty is only part of the problem. This is not about race, either, although some try to make it part of the divide. Chicago gun violence primarily is black on black…such bloodshed should no more be tolerated than white on black, or black on white.  And more gun laws aren’t the answer; Chicago already has some of the strictest in the nation.

The sad reality folks throughout the city seem okay with the persistent decay amidst a not insignificant section of the metroplex; it is inconceivable that the majority of a community would contribute to or remain culpable in the creation of children condemned to lives of lack or danger or criminality, and incomprehensible that it is politics as usual in those communities. Tolerating such an existence, preferring it would seem to accept subsistence, or adhering to a stance that resists fresh air and help – it boggles the mind.

Ironically Chicago is also full of great universities (think adolescents with energy and ideas and sense of volunteerism), and people of wealth and generosity; people of all races, creeds, faiths, and ethnicities. Could Santa tap into these folks and catalyze greater outreach and collaboration?

Regrettably Santa, in his autobiography, as told to Jeff Guinn, notes that his powers diminish the closer he gets to war and violence. Too bad, because if ever this saintly bishop is needed, it is in the war zone of our inner cities. And make no mistake about it…many of our cities have dangerous areas that are war zones. I guess Santa will need our help!

Is it right to kill on Christmas? 

In the book Home and Away by Dean Hughes, one of the characters in the story who is in a fox hole while German artillery shells threaten, asks his fellow soldier “is it right to kill on Christmas?” It is a profound question – and one I have no doubt frequently was asked in real life by many soldiers on both sides of the conflict. But one has to wonder, has that question even come to mind by the folks doing the killings in Chicago, and similar urban war zones? Have we developed citizens who no longer share a common humanity? Have we changed so dramatically since the 1940s when soldiers accustomed to death tugging at them every second could give themselves a humanity check, a morality check, a decency check amidst a bloody battle? What is wrong with society 2016 that our fellow Americans are racking up carnage that all but the most coldhearted Jihadists would denounce; do gang bangers ever wonder “is it right to kill on Christmas?”

So why focus on Santa and the killing fields of Chicago? Because I, like you, care about children. Having run programs and a free clinic for underserved kids, it becomes abundantly clear children need protection, role models, and to believe in something affirming, like the kindness manifest by an older man in a red costume. Clearly a father figure is needed in many inner cities – not a judgment, but a medical and public health assessment.

Kids need to align with ideals and enterprises greater than themselves. For example the spirit of giving that is represented by a “jolly elf” in a red suit, or folks ringing bells in the cold trying to encourage strangers to drop money in a red kettle, or congregations of various faiths sponsoring dinners for the poor, and sharing meals to shut ins on Christmas day or Marines collecting toys so children can have a Merry day.

Yet in Chicago, and other cities where the streets ring out with gunfire instead of church bells, and the only red stuff seen on the curb is blood, not red bows and tinsel, it would appear children of all ages lack an environment of affirmation, or role models who are more intent on giving than killing or acquiring or bullying, or perhaps just surviving.

The generation that ought to be building businesses, graduating from college, starting careers, and making a life are in the cross hairs across the urban battlefield. They ought to be the positive role models for the children looking at them.

Some might argue that lack of good jobs leads to violence. Even bad jobs socialize people, and that is where the message of work gets lost in the false narrative of money. Employment is about learning to play nice together, to participate in an enterprise that leads to skills creation, a work ethic, and glimpse into a wider arena. It is about living within a structure and discipline. All good things! Yet politicians conflate income with employment. To be sure you need money to live, but young people need jobs to learn how to live within a community. That a gang banger or drug dealer makes more money is not the point. That going to school and delaying gratification so that college, grad school, and a great job where law enforcement or the undertaker aren’t part of the equation, is the path to a life well lived. But most folks in failing communities were not mentored well, and repeat the poor choices of their predecessors. It can change. But until it does, Santa may need to give Kevlar TM

Moreover, no matter how philanthropic an entrepreneur, or corporation, who wants to take the risk of opening a business in a danger zone? And would there be an employable potential workforce?

Chicago, perhaps more than most cities, has become emblematic of a killing field. The loss in human capital is tragic, as is generations who do not utilize their God given talents, but instead are marginalized – sometimes through their own doing, or poor choices, and other times because of poor leaders more intent on power than progress. Decades fraught with failed policies of corruption, partisanship, cronyism, and folks laying blame on everyone and everything except focusing on the real issues, and necessary policies that can help solve the failure that the Windy City has become. It is a failure of will, of integrity, of morality, and of imagination. And sadly the magnitude of failure – graded in body count and emergency room visits – is perhaps too big even for Santa to fix.

Adults killing adults is certainly bad enough. Most of the victims of Chicago’s epidemic of bloodshed are from the age of 18 to 35, and mostly from gang violence, they are the immediate role models for kids in the vulnerable communities. When the youth of a city lives in danger of being shot, or makes the bad decisions of being a shooter, something is truly wrong with the leaders in that community, and the broader political environment. And with the communities themselves, too! Kids don’t come out of the birth canal wanting to kill or be killed, and they don’t get child size weapons along with booties and bonnets en route to the nursery.

Homeland security often focuses on terrorism, criminal cartels and the emerging risks of home grown, but foreign inspired attacks. To be sure these efforts are important. But if one were to count the deaths from just Chicago alone in the last 10 years, the loss of life would rival virtually any terror attack of note against our nation.  No nation can prosper if a significant proportion of urban centers are decaying.

Family security and homeland security will continue towards a downward spiral of insecurity, especially with cities like Chicago, and Baltimore (and one can readily predict many other cities will follow suit), unless we alter the false narratives that the politicians and much of the media propagate, instead of being courageous and sharing a better vision for the folks living in the most dangerous regions. And that better vision comes with a price, too.

In days past the media acted as a voice for social good; now they seem mere PR agents of the powerful, with few exceptions. The death and injury count from Chicago ought to be front page news in every paper from USA Today to the Boston Globe and LA Times….the constant reminder should inspire a deafening outcry.  To be fair, the Chicago Tribune online posts city staggering death toll stats and injuries from guns, knives, and other weapons.

Will Santa go to Chicago this Christmas?

Even if he did, would anyone notice ducking behind the tree as the gun shots ring out on Christmas morning?

At this most holy time of year – whether talking Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza – when family matters most, and kindness is the theme of the Season, we might want to look at regions of our nation where the memo was just totally missed, and start collectively working together.

Children need good role models, and ongoing, loving supervision, encouragement, stability, parenting, inspiration. Unfortunately we live in an era where children are giving birth to children -that breeds poverty, truancy, bad behavior. Children left to their own devices, the notion that no one is watching is one of the reasons gangs emerge. They fill a void. They serve a purpose. They are a form of family. Unfortunately instead of milk and cookies, it is guns and knives, drugs and prostitution. Not exactly good role models! Maybe we need an army of Santas to change the dynamic and replace the gangs?

Young adults also need alternative narratives (like self sufficiency, like education is the key to getting out of poverty, like helping others is a better use of time than hurting others, like joining a church or mosque or synagogue is a better use of time than wearing colors at the local crib. Sadly the old tropes of the left continue to be peddled, and in the process the body count goes up. Fact is, we are well beyond the blame game, but sadly the powers that be fail to grasp time is running out. Solutions, not excuses are required. This includes community leaders rolling up their sleeves and inspiring neighbors to volunteer time and talent – in the schools, with vulnerable kids, in rehabilitating homes, in pushing back against gangs, in building networks with enterprises – law enforcement and business – to help revitalize the community. But it will take lots of people working together; without that, there will be no change.

Are we too late?

Are we too late? Is the culture of violence so entrenched, and the communities at risk so co-opted, or afraid, or inured to their own circumstances, to the decay in morals, resigned to dangerous housing, unconcerned about failing schools, and oblivious to the all but destroyed family structure that they have given up on taking back their streets, their homes, their families, and like Pandora’s box hope is forever locked away?

Can anything jumpstart the spirit to community, to implement the changes in behaviors necessary to protect the young and vulnerable, the willingness to build relationships outside the community and invite change agents? Can even the spirit of Christmas, or Santa inspire? Perhaps Santa should hand out copies of A Christmas Carol en mass in Chicago. Dickens underscored the notion that Christmas is a beginning, not an endpoint. Consider as his final act of redemption, Scrooge promised to live the spirit of Christmas all year long. Good advice. Chicago and other inner city kill zones won’t be fixed by one act or one elf. Fact is, not even Santa can lead the change needed. That will have to come from some courageous people, willing to risk much to help others.  Lots of people are needed to play the role of St. Nick, and help make happier the lives of children and families living in the war zone of Chicago and other cities. The real question….Will folks from the community step up, or sit by and wait for someone else to wear the red suit?

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is medical director of Threat Science – and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, who consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons – WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, numerous law enforcement and corporate entities after 911, as well as pandemic advisor to federal, state and local agencies, and corporations during the anthrax events, SARS, Avian and swine flu epidemics. Dr. McFee is the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and is a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 500 invited lectures since 9-11, created graduate level courses on WMD preparedness for several universities, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.

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