Happy VD from the City of Big Shoulders, where on this date in 1929 a team of Cupids working for St. Scarface famously shot lead arrows through the hearts of Bugs Moran’s boys in the back of a Northside garage. That incident spurred worldwide headlines and 84 years later continues to be fodder for Hollywood storytellers. Fast forward to 2013: for Chicago, 7 murders constitutes a light weekend and a page A4 notice in the Trib; we’ve in fact experienced the equivalent of over 7 St. Valentines Day massacres since January 1 (for all the latest Chicago mayhem box scores, drop in at HeyJackass.com).
There’s a kind of perverse pride Chicagoans take in the city’s romantic image as a gangster-ruled, bullet-riddled No Man’s Land. Tell a Parisian taxi driver you’re from Chicago, and he’s likely to respond “oh, Cheecago! Al Capone, bang bang!” You almost hate to tell him that bloody garage and Dickens & Clark is long gone, replaced by some upscale Lincoln Park retail boutique. The Roaring Twenties romance may be gone, but the murders remain – despite some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws. They’ve migrated from Lincoln Park to Austin and Grand Crossing. They’re still about gangster turf. But the stakes are ever-diminishing; where the Chicago gangsters of previous generations fought over the control of millions of dollars in liquor (and drug) trade, the typical 15-25 gangster Millennial now dies in a dispute over wounded pride. A banal Seinfeldian massacre about nothing.
What to do about it? I despair that there’s really nothing people can do about it. Candlelight vigils don’t work, and you can’t make guns illegal-er. You can roll your eyes about Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but he was frankly the best of the electable alternatives. The city is drowning in pension debt, its schools have a 40%+ dropout rate, and of the public school graduates who go on to college, 70% need remediation. It no longer attracts businesses and bright young college grads, who understandably look for greener pastures in Dallas and Austin and Atlanta.
In the end, Chicago doesn’t have a gun problem – it has a Chicagoan problem.