And now this.
A pair of police shootings, followed by the murder of five Dallas officers and the wounding of seven others.
We go to bed in shock over the killing of one man in a Minnesota suburb and wake up to find that a dozen law enforcement professionals were gunned down at what was supposed to be a peaceful protest.
More pain, for the families who have lost the people they love the most in this world. And for all of us.
Once again, all the familiar elements — race, anger, violence, fear, guns — come together in a toxic mix that threatens the foundations of our society. With much of the horror recorded on cell phones and broadcast immediately around the world.
Once again, our attempts to make sense of any of this fall short, and pathetically lead to more questions.
This is shaping up as a truly horrible year, and we still have six months to go.
It was just last month that the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle presented a long story on our area’s LGBTQ community. Before our print edition with the story went to press, the Orlando atrocity took place and I felt compelled to address that degree of hate, and how it affects all of us.
Now we are seeing that things can get worse. I’ve seen it before.
I have profound memories of 1968, when I was just a year out of high school. Dr. King was shot in April, and that was followed by terrible riots on Chicago’s West Side. Bobby Kennedy was killed in June. The August riots at the Democratic convention were followed by Richard Nixon’s election as president. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War dragged on, taking a dreadful toll of young American lives and devastating that far-off country.
Things are different now, of course. Technology has exploded so that anyone with a smart phone is capable of reporting the news instantaneously and along a network that was merely the stuff of science fiction in 1968.
That, by itself, has meant a major shift in how we see the good and bad things that happen in our world. A few years ago, the shooting of a black motorist in a little-known suburb in the Twin Cities would barely have been noticed. Now it can become an international story within hours.
It’s clear that this latest trauma is all about race. The governor of Minnesota said the Falcon Heights shooting would not have occurred if the motorist was white. According to Dallas police chief, the suspect in that city’s shootings said he wanted to kill white people.
Race remains the thorniest challenge facing our American civilization. I do believe I have seen progress since I was a kid on Chicago’s South Side, but race – more than any other subject – will still lead to more differences of opinion than anything else. It is also a subject that is waist-high in stereotypes that are not true, but continue to be believed.
At this point, let me say something good about the H-F area, but with a couple of caveats.
Down here, we are proud of our diversity and know that we are better off because it’s here. I personally believe that I am fortunate to be able to live in a place where black people and white people live next to each other and genuinely like each other. Our three sons learned invaluable lessons by growing up here, and are better prepared for the world because of our diverse environment.
We get to experience this in numerous little ways. Since Flossmoor’s Meijer store opened last month, I have shopped there several times and am always impressed by the diversity of the customers and staff. It is a totally mixed crowd, people of color and people who look like me, but we are all happy to be under the same roof. There is, truly, no difference between any of us. We are just people looking for food (or other items) and glad there’s such a good selection. It feels like a communal experience – I know that might sound silly but I think it’s true.
Does that mean we have a perfect situation down here? Of course not. But we have a head start in getting along with each other. There are lots of towns in the Chicago area – some not far away — that do not have our diversity, and don’t want it. They are places where I would never want to live.
Our communities, though, are still a work in progress. As they continue to evolve, we need to be aware that living together takes work. It should never be taken for granted.
We just saw the worst happen in Minnesota and Texas. We have to work every day to make sure it doesn’t happen here.