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174 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE The number of shootings in Chicago has grown to such proportions that it is almost too big to take in and try to act on. Seeking to resist the events being seen so generically that individuals disengage from identifying and responding to the problem, the Chicago Sun Times sponsors an online news site called Homicide Watch Chicago, which “is dedicated to the proposition that murder is never a run-of-the-mill story … all murders represent a degree of human suffering—direct and indirect—that cannot be ignored. Our goal is to tell the story of every murder in the city, so that together we might fight the tendency to view homicides as just another rising or falling number, like mortgage rates or batting averages.” For now, Chicago’s shootings are largely confined to a few neighbourhoods on the city’s south and west sides, they often involve individuals previously known to police, and the victims are primarily African-American and Hispanic. For those resistant to the words of John Donne, there may be some morally terrible solace to be drawn from this: though Donne would disagree, they may believe that for whomever the bell tolls, it does not toll for them. Consistent with Hobbes’s concern about violence and insecurity being found where a central power is missing or weak, presently Chicago’s violence is greatest in areas where the authority of his “Leviathan” is at a low moral and physical ebb (though it is difficult to trace a cause and effect—is its weakness what allows the violence? Less consistently with Hobbes’s theory, is there so much violence that the state has become weak?). Certainly what is the case is that relatively few arrests are made in Chicago’s shootings. Indeed, some reports suggest that police—wary of being accused of abusing their authority or using unjustified force (as in the notorious police shooting of Laquan McDonald)—have kept a relative distance. It is often not to the police that victims or witnesses in certain shooting-ridden neighbourhoods turn. The government that in a Hobbesian analysis is to provide order and structure may not effectively be there to do so. It is not only present-day Chicago, of course, where an American population is under siege. Higher than Chicago’s per capita homicide rate is that of cities like New Orleans and Baltimore. There is something particularly shocking about Chicago’s plight, however, when you consider this could happen even in the hometown of the last U.S. president. By the time of last year’s horrors, he—not that Chicago-specific matters fell strictly within his presidential mandate—had the better part of two terms in office to improve the social conditions from which the violence in part emanates. If the forces that Hobbes identified can prevail even in Chicago, they must be strong indeed. As noted earlier, resistance to “law and order” platforms may derive in part from discomfort with the various means that “law and order” advocates


March Pages 2017
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