One Weekend

Power to the Peaceful.  The Overpass Light Brigade with a message of peace.  Madison, Wisconsin.  Photo by Callen Harty.

Power to the Peaceful. The Overpass Light Brigade with a message of peace. Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Callen Harty.

One of the things I regularly do is look at news online. This morning I saw that a man had been shot and killed in a hotel parking lot in my city of Madison, Wisconsin. It doesn’t happen often here, but it does happen. Madison is a relatively safe city, but there are a number of murders every year. A short time later I saw that a man had been shot to death in Milwaukee, a city which the last several years has had a large number of killings. Later in the morning there was a report of a woman shot and killed along a road in Beloit, Wisconsin. In reading another article on a Seattle television site I saw that two people had been killed in Seattle overnight. Then four more in Chicago, and I thought, this has to stop. Somehow this has to stop.

This is one weekend in America. It is unfortunately likely to be a typical weekend in America. The thought occurred to me that if I checked the newspapers of the most populous cities in the country I’d probably see a couple dozen more murders listed, and I was unfortunately right when I decided to go ahead and do that. Here is what I found in a cursory glance at the newspapers from the 25 most populous cities in the country. Keep in mind I pretty much just looked at the front pages and in some cases the local news section. It may be that I missed some.

  • New York, New York (New York Times): No violent crimes that I could find.  I’d be surprised if I weren’t looking in the wrong place.
  • Los Angeles, California (L. A. Times): One man shot and killed in a motel parking lot in Pomona. Another man shot and killed his wife in Jurupa, injured someone else, and then later committed suicide (police did not release details on how he killed himself).
  • Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Tribune):  At least 40 people were injured and four people killed in Chicago over the weekend from gunfire, including a man who was shot and killed through the door of a bar in Brighton Park and an 11 year old girl who was shot and killed at a slumber party.
  • Houston, Texas (Houston Chronicle):  A teenage boy was shot and killed in a Houston park late Saturday night.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Inquirer):  I couldn’t get to the articles without a subscription, but saw the following headlines under “latest news”–“Paraplegic fatally shot brother”, “Three dead in city violence streak”, and “Body found in Pennyback Creek”.
  • Phoenix, Arizona (Phoenix Sun):  Man in Tempe officer-involved shooting died.  A man died and another was wounded in a shootout in Glendale.
  • San Antonio, Texas (San Antonio Express-News):  A man was shot in the head early Sunday morning and is in critical condition in the hospital.
  • San Diego, California (San Diego Union-Tribune):  No deaths reported, but the following items were listed–A San Diego State University student was stabbed at a frat party and survived.  A woman walking alone was assaulted and survived.  Another person was stabbed at a swap meet.
  • Dallas, Texas (Dallas Morning News):  Elderly woman found dead in Garland; being treated as a homicide.
  • San Jose, California (San Jose Mercury News):  Four injuries reported in separate shootings, including a ten year old girl.
  • Austin, Texas (Austin American-Statesman):  No deaths reported.  One report of a woman assaulted on the Riverside campus.
  • Jacksonville, Florida (Jacksonville News):  No deaths noticed.  A man was shot in the heel on Saturday night.  Another man was reported shot on Sunday.
  • Indianapolis, Indiana (Indianapolis Star):  Man arrested in murder of his wife, who died of a head injury; he was also accused of stabbing his son.
  • San Francisco, California (San Francisco Chronicle):  Two people died in Sausalito after a report of shots fired.
  • Columbus, Ohio (Columbus Dispatch):  One man died and a woman was injured in a shooting at a Hocking Hill cabin.
  • Fort Worth, Texas (Fort Worth Star-Telegram):  None noted.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte Observer):  A man was attacked with a concrete block.
  • Detroit, Michigan (Detroit Free Press):  A man was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight between his wife and another woman on Saturday.
  • El Paso, Texas (El Paso Times):  None noted.
  • Memphis, Tennessee (Memphis Daily News):  None noted.
  • Boston, Massachusetts (Boston Globe):  Four injured in separate shootings.
  • Seattle, Washington (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):  Four officers injured and a suspect killed in a shootout in Kent.  A man was arrested in a double homicide in which a man was found by a river with severe head trauma and a woman was later found with similar injuries.
  • Denver, Colorado (Denver Post):  One person injured in an Aurora shooting.
  • Washington, DC (Washington Post):  None noted.
  • Nashville, Tennessee (Nashville Tennessean):  None noted.

Not counting the murders I had previously noted in my home state of Wisconsin what I found was 24 deaths and 65 injuries from violence reported in the 25 most populated cities in the country, all from this weekend. There was the occasional concrete block, a couple stabbings, a couple traumatic head injuries, but the bulk of the violence was due to shootings. We are living in a war zone in this country and we need to do something about it. Importantly, though, it’s not just the large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. It also includes places like Madison and Beloit, Wisconsin, and smaller cities all over the map. This was just one weekend. There are 52 weekends a year and 52 weeks of Monday through Friday as well. There are hundreds more medium to large cities that I didn’t look up, thousands of small cities and towns. It is just a small glimpse into the violent culture in which we live. Most of us don’t hear about murders in places like Nashville, Jacksonville, or Milwaukee unless we live there, let alone smaller places, but this kind of violence is happening across the country every day of every week of every year.

I don’t have any suggestions. I don’t know what to do to stop us from sinking further into violence, but I know that we cannot live like this. I know that something must be done to keep us from falling into a dystopian American nightmare where we are afraid of our neighbors and fellow community members. I wish I had an easy answer, but clearly it needs to start with an examination of the gun culture which permeates our nation. I believe in the Bill of Rights, but I also believe in the right to pursue happiness without the fear of getting shot and killed by random violence. We need to take a hard look at what is going on with our violent culture.

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About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Both are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he has been an actor, writer, and director since 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events.
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