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To live and die on the South Side

Dear Editor:

Olympic star Jesse Owens was scheduled to make an appearance at George Williams College in Chicago about 1955 for a YMCA event but he failed to show up. I remember my disappointment seeing his name taped to the back of an empty folding chair. As disappointed as I was at that unexpected turn of events as a youngster is probably just as excited as youngsters and gang members were Saturday when Bulls stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Basketball Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas showed up at St. Sabina parish for a game of kid’s Peace Basketball. A great idea but…

Same day, same Gresham neighborhood, 7 p.m. and a 29-year-old man was shot and killed, one of four people shot between 2:45 p.m. and 7 p.m. across the city this Saturday. The point being that Peace Basketball in a drug-prohibition, drug-war world won’t stop the violence. The truth is that without ending drug prohibition and the criminalization of drugs that begets more drugs, gangs and Al Capone violence, no set of solutions can restore peace to Chicago neighborhoods.

That was the message brought to Chicago early this month by one of Time magazine’s 2011 “Man of the Year” protesters, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, along with two bus loads of drug-war survivors representing over 60,000 people killed in Mexican drug-war violence in the past six years. Javier’s trans-American Caravan For Peace, his Chicago press conferences, and his march through Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods calling for an end to the drug war to stop the violence did not attract basketball stars, famous Chicago clergymen, trauma physicians, Chicago’s police brass, political leaders, or convince television directors and news editors at local Chicago affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC, or WTTW-Channel 11, to broadcast the Sicilia message: nothing can stop the violence so long as drugs are outlawed, criminalized, unregulated and uncontrolled; nothing can stop the violence without the legalization and regulation of dangerous drugs.

However, all the same television editors who quashed or downplayed Javier’s message directed the broadcast of the story of celebrities attending a peaceful basketball game played at a Chicago parish, even as bullets and death continued to rain down in the real-life world of violent Chicago streets nearly simultaneously.

One of Sunday’s dead bodies was taken to Advocate Christ Hospital, but no trauma physician from Advocate was willing to attend Javier’s press conference to call for an end to the drug war to stop the killing. I asked.

Presidential candidate and the former-governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, wants to end the drug war to stop the violence across America but his call will not be broadcast or heard either, because the candidate and/or his legalize-drugs message are not on the media radar screen and are not significant in voter polling, a fact raising the proverbial question, which came first the chicken or the egg.

Which would be the more effective course to reduce Chicago violence: Derrick Rose and peace basketball, or Javier Sicilia and legalized drugs? Something to think about if you are charged with the job of preventing violent crime or bringing important public issues to the public’s attention, or if you just care about kids.

James E. Gierach
Palos Park
Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition (LEAP)