“Unsettling Norm”: Lethal Response To Affronts

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Two Chicago teens were buried this week; both were killed over a meaningless insult, reports the Chicago Tribune. The paper says “experts say the deaths show the extent to which lethal force has come to be viewed as an appropriate response to minor affronts, a new and unsettling norm fueled by anger, economic inequity and a general acceptance of violence in parts of today’s society.” “It’s nothing more than behavior, but now it’s normal behavior,” said Dr. Gary Slutkin, head of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. “Right now, it’s normal to shoot.”

Such homicides don’t happen because of drug dealers warring over street corners or gang rivalries. They are the deadly endpoint of petty disputes, of quarrels, fistfights, and confrontations that somehow escalate into shootings, stabbings, and beatings. Homicides stemming from altercations account for one in five slayings this year through August. “These are the ones that are the hardest to prevent,” police spokesman David Bayless said. “They’re largely driven by an altercation where emotion gets hyped up.” Walking away from a conflict is seen as a sign of weakness, said Rev. Robin Hood of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Those living in the tumultuous atmosphere of gangbangers and drug dealers don’t dare earn such a reputation. A program called CeaseFire is trying to change the way people think about violence and dispute notions that killing is socially acceptable. “What we’re trying to say here is, it’s abnormal to shoot someone,” said CeaseFire community coordinator Tio Hardiman. “There’s nothing normal about it.”

Link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0409090315sep09,1,2899415.story?coll=chi-news-hed

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