Frank Sinatra's song about Chicago, "My Kind of Town," "a the town that won't let you down," seems dated in light of last weekend's shooting spree that left 16 dead and dozens wounded in 53 separate incidents. According to the Chicago Tribune, "The victims were among 82 people shot between Thursday afternoon and early Monday.
Chicago wasn't alone in the Independence Day violence. New York City and Detroit combined for 10 dead in 46 shootings, but let's stick with Chicago where violence in mainly poor African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods has become a way of death.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued the familiar statement that such violence is "simply unacceptable." He blames parents (absent fathers would be more to the point) and insufficient gun laws (of which Chicago has some of the toughest in the nation). Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy suggested that stiffer penalties for gun crimes might reduce the violence. So the way to fight criminals who have no respect for life or law is to pass more laws they are sure to violate?
What would the great civil rights leaders of the past think of their youth today?
Did they sacrifice their time, liberty and, in some cases, their lives so that those who came after them could murder each other in the streets? Would they tell them they should be ashamed? Do these depraved killers even know the meaning of shame?
Consider some of their words, which are more profound than those of a Chicago politician, or a president.
"He who lives outside the law is a slave. The free man is the man who lives within the law, whether that law be the physical or the divine." -- Booker T. Washington.
"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." -- Harriet Tubman
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills." -- W.E.B. Du Bois
In each of these quotes there is an appeal to something beyond politics, government and programs. It is an appeal to the spirit, the part in each of us that instructs, motivates and controls.
On Fox News Monday night, Juan Williams faulted the "black church" for not doing more to rescue African-Americans from cycles of violence and poverty. While he didn't make the connection, I will. Too many "reverends" have traded eternal truths for temporal power. While not ignoring slavery and discrimination, most once preached messages about righteousness, sin and redemption, which brought changes in behavior. Too many modern "reverends" have made their bed with the Democratic Party, which has delivered their people from nothing, and has mostly kept the poor mired not just in economic poverty, but a poverty of spirit.
There may be no answer for this generation of angry, violent youth, but there may be an answer for younger children. It begins with school choice so children in failing schools can get the kind of education that is their only ticket out of poverty. Putting men back in their families where they would be married to the mothers of their children would also produce positive cultural benefits, but that is an area where government has less influence than the church.
Chicago is not alone in its problems with urban violence. The American Thinker magazine chronicled the chaos that swept many cities last Memorial Day weekend, from Cincinnati, to Miami Beach (where 300,000 people, mostly black, gathered for Urban Beach Week, an annual hip-hop festival, that brought "violence, robbery, shootings, carjackings, vandalism, mayhem, noise and trash").
The fault for this lies in many places. The solution is not external, but internal. No one can respect another person's life and property until he respects himself. And that respect comes only through a spiritual awakening, which no politician has the power to create.
(Cal Thomas' latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at email@example.com.)