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 A San Francisco man died and another person was injured after the
driver of a black car drove onto the sidewalk and struck them Sunday
afternoon in the Ocean View neighborhood, according to San Francisco
police.
[Full Article]
[Follow-up]

This is the small back page headline for yet another act of violence in my neighborhood.  For those that know where we live, try not to freak out when you read the article 😉 

While our neighborhood is for the most part pretty safe, we are certainly in an area where violence can erupt at any moment.  And yes, 10 years ago the "view" was pretty rough – the house we now live in used to be a crack house – but for 300 out of 365 days of the year we feel pretty secure.  On the other 60 days or so the possibilities for violence can be very real for us.

Depending on
the level of gang and drug trafficking it can be as simple as seeing folks just "Hanging Out" on the corner to the realities of death.  A few years ago a young man was killed across the street from our
house, every month there seems to be a shooting attributed to our
district, and the drug dealing – the incessant drug dealing – across the street from our house ebbs and flows with the tide of supply and demand.   With all of this I must ask myself, "What am I going to do about it?"

A few weeks ago a friend of mine shared an experience of violence in a neighborhood similar to ours.  There was great conversations about what Christians are to do in the midst of such fear and violence.  Obviously the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech raises issues about violence in the United States, but when it comes to our particular context, I have also been thinking about this issue in light of our roles as people of faith in communities where violence is more than the norm.  One of the reasons that the Virginia Tech shooting was so shocking was that this is not a place there one expects these kinds of things to happen.  If this were to have happened in a communities where shootings may happen more often, the shear number may have been shocking, but the occurrence, not so much.

Now I am in no way trying to lessen the tragedy about Virginia or Houston, but the global and media reaction does beg the question, "Why do we not have the same kind of outrage, concern and discourse  about places where violence is the norm, shootings happen with regularity and children with little chance to move out of their situation live a life always on "the edge?"  I’m just asking . . .

Now I have no easy answers about this and I do realize the issues of urban poverty, cycles of violence and class and race issues are complex.  I also realize that many of these types of communities have some great aspects about them  But still, in the face of such a blatant atmosphere of violence, what are we as Christians going to do?  There are neighborhoods and sites around the country much worse than mine and yet, for the most part we have turned our backs on them.  We blame the victims, we view these communities of somehow deserving what happens to them, we abdicate a social responsibility for the welfare of the common good, we buy into an insidious social darwinism.  Shame on us.

And yet again, here lies the problem, a kind of middle class progressive angst: where what we believe comes right up with what we actually do.  Do we place our children in public schools, where do we spend our money and yes, in what neighborhoods will we live? Will we put our life decisions where our mouths are and more importantly will we place our family’s lives in the path of our beliefs?  Again, no answers, just a questions with which every self-avowed Christian social progressive must struggle. 

Robin and I struggle with these questions living in this neighborhood every time we here gunshots, a shooting happens or there is a new rotation of deals at the corner store.  Robin and I don’t have to live in this neighborhood.  Yes, we love our old home, but we do have the means and resources to move – and we have thought about it – but there is something that compels us to stay. 

Now we are in no way trying to be martyrs, we do not want to place our children in any unnecessary harms way and I am not looking at being some outspoken vigilante of justice and peace.   I think we are more apt to stay because I feel like I would be giving up on a community if we left.  For us to leave, we are saying that we cannot be a part of a change, an improvement in the community and if we are really fortunate, new life.  Still we struggle . . .

While I do not begrudge the many people in our life that choose to live in better neighborhood – God knows most of my cafe time is in them – but at some core level, I think we are called to be in the midst of communities that have is so many ways been forgotten.  This can happen by our actual presence, our giving of fiscal resources, our advocacy within systems of power and most importantly a daily remembrance of communities who need our solidarity.

If you want some other perspectives on this, Dodosville offers a perspective on why our society should not be surprised about these acts of violence; Ladyburg offers a practical pastoral insight, my mom rants a bit on the What If’s of the V. Tech Tragedy, and click on over to DJ Chuang’s site for some helpful posts.
 

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