So, I've been pouring over this week's articles about the horrible shooting that happened in Scarborough, trying to put together some thoughts or words on what the hell is going on. I read and I read, this one from the Globe, this one from the Post, hell, even my least favourite NOW magazine...but I still couldn't make any sense out of what happened or what it means.
And then it hit me...this is what people mean when they talk about "senseless violence". Sometimes things so terrible happen, that any meaning at all is lost in the static. But...we can learn something from all of this.
First of all, we once again learn that Rob Ford is a reactionary moron, who really doesn't understand much. I'd call it ironic that this shooting happens the same week that Ford is the ONLY person to vote against funding for mentoring and gang prevention programs for at risk youth in Toronto, but its too heartbreaking to be ironic.
Are we really so naive to believe that "tougher penalties for carrying a hand gun" are going to make the only difference here? Especially when all research shows that mandatory minimums and throwing more people in jail for longer actually make things worse, not better. Why, when something like this happens do we have to suddenly develop "selective deafness" ??
That being said, Adam Vaughn isn't really helping much either, what with his stigmatizing and high energy rhetoric of "seething, if not raging despair in some of these neighbourhoods." I mean, come on...how would anyone in this community who's trying to build a better life read this and not feel small and patronized?
Thus, as seems to often be the case, the answers lie somewhere in the middle of all of the partisan posturing. Given that deporting gang members (as Ford was
Connected to this is how we as a society choose to support and work with those who are most disadvantaged among us. No one asks to be born into poverty, nor are they born to be gang bangers, it's what happens along the way that matters. So yes, Mr. Mayor, funding for social programs that give kids something to do after school and in the summer makes a difference. You call it "handing out free money", but we all know it's really giving people a chance to build their own, better life.
Oh, and by the way, the best social program is not just "a job". See, if you've never had an adult mentor in your life who had a legitimate job, or you weren't raised by someone who instilled in you the skills you'll need to hold down a job, then you actually need a social program's help. Hell, even people who had all these things need help, hence why there are scores of job search supports and retraining programs. Sometimes, we need to start before even those things and fund mentoring and other social programs.
Most of all, letting this become an "either/or" conversation about social programs vs. getting a job, betrays the city and exposes municipal leaders as opportunistic and gutless. When I say gutless I mean having the guts to look at the range of options and opportunities, from left to right and back again, that could really have a positive impact on reducing violence in Toronto.
So to all those elected to make Toronto a better place I say: remember that the next election is years away and go do some damn work. And to everyone trying to make sense out of the senseless, let us not get distracted from the real goal here, to ensure that everyone in our city can grow up, live and thrive without fear and violence.
*** UPDATE (8:50am July 20, 2012)****So, clearly I wrote this last night, before the horrible shooting in Denver at midnight. Obviously, this will likely be the beginning of a longer conversation about guns and gun control on both sides of the border. Or at least it should be. I'm having an even harder time making any sense of what happened in the Denver case, so please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below. I'll be saying a little prayer for all those in both shootings who still struggle in hospital today.
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