America’s Big Lie: “This is not who we are”

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Vernon A. Williams
Vernon A. Williams

By Vernon A. Williams

The first thing folk want to claim when we find ourselves in the throes of some unfathomable tragedy is, “This is not us. We are better than this.” Well, if Americans really want to ever get a grip on problems plaguing this nation, the first thing required would be to stop living a lie.

Eight senseless killings in three Atlanta spas were followed only four days later by the soulless slaughter of 10 innocent people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Horrendous as those two incidents were alone, the gruesome truth is that they were only two of at least seven mass murders in the U.S. over about a one-week stretch.

In Indianapolis, there have been two mass murders since the start of 2021, including one quadruple deadly assault only days before the Atlanta tragedy. An argument over a stimulus check led a 25-year-old man to shoot the mother of his child and kill four of her relatives, the youngest victim being only seven years old.

In Chicago, during the second weekend of March, there were a total of 40 shootings reported and four killed – including 15 shot and two fatalities at one location in the aftermath of an early-morning party in the 6700 block of South Chicago Avenue. The deadly trend this month is nationwide.

On March 17, five people were preparing a vigil in Stockton, California, when all of them were victims of a drive-by shooting. On March 18, four Gresham, Oregon, residents were hospitalized after shootings just east of Portland. On Saturday, March 20, five people were shot after a disturbance at a Houston nightclub, one suffering a gunshot wound to the neck. On March 20, a gunman in Dallas shot eight, killing at least one. The same day in Philadelphia, one person was killed and five other people shot at a crowded party.

Statistics and data never seem to convey the humanity of our condition in this nation, but when it comes to shootings and gun deaths in this country, numbers definitely don’t lie.

Last year, with pandemic shutdown and all, Indianapolis set a grim record reporting a staggering 245 homicides, a stunning 37 percent more murders than the previous record of 179 in 2017.

In one awful incident, a family of six was slain January 26 in Indianapolis and it barely got a bleep on the national media radar, even though victims included a pregnant woman and her unborn fetus. A teen gunman is in custody.

As out of control as the situation seems to be at times, particularly in certain key areas of the Circle City, Indianapolis was not alone in the meteoric rise of violent crime. Nationwide, more than 19,000 were killed by gunfire in the year in which coronavirus fears dominated the headlines. Time magazine reports that 2020 brought the highest murder rate of the new millennium.

All-time high homicide rates were recorded in Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Louisville, Macon, Milwaukee, Memphis, and New York City. About twice that number came perilously close to record numbers during that period.

In Indianapolis, 89 percent of the homicides last year – that would be 218 out of 245 – were the result of shootings. Eleven deaths were stab victims and a handful of citizens were killed by blunt force objects.

But there is simply no debate that handguns and assault rifles are at the core of this lethal trend engulfing our nation.

Sadly, some 68 percent of those Indy slayings targeted victims 34 years of age or younger (including elementary school children), with 205 or 84 percent of the fatalities being male. And yes, most of those victims were Black – 184 men and 24 women. Comparatively, only 29 white males were murdered in Indianapolis in 2020 along with 14 white females.

Just for the record, Indianapolis is about 62 percent white and 28 percent Black. Obviously, an alarmingly disproportionate number of Black males are dying as a result of gun violence in the Capitol City of the Hoosier State and around the world. While the pandemic may be easing, the epidemic of Black Americans murdered is surging.

People shrug off horrendous violence as being endemic to urban life. That is one of the lies that create a false sense of comfort time after time. It is true that there were more murders in that one incident in Boulder, Colorado, than the city had seen over the previous 10 years. Only nine homicides were recorded during the past decade in that normally peaceful city that includes 33,000 university students.

The sobering truth is that such wanton violence can happen anywhere.

The other lie is that politicians are shocked and saddened and will make certain everything possible is done to thwart any reoccurrence of such a tragedy. The truth is that from local government to state and federal levels, they will do whatever is necessary to weather the public outrage before returning to business as usual. You have to wonder if the grisly grade school slaughters at Sandy Hook couldn’t force gun law change, what could?

So, there will be flags flown at half-mast, slow funeral caravans, weeping, accolades for police bravery, lamentations of lives lost, pontification of politicians, candlelight vigils, hollow promises, and perfunctory prayer.

Like all the others, the Boulder community and our nation will return to business as usual living the lie that “this is not who we are” – that violence is an anomaly in the U.S. when it is, in truth, as American as apple pie.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: vernonawilliams@yahoo.com.

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