This city's one hundredth murder was committed yesterday on Centennial St.
If the present rate continues, Indianapolis will meet or exceed last year's total of 137 murders. Eleven a month, plus. In comparison, the towns in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery or Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas don't seem to be getting such a bad deal.
Wrong. --There are significant differences, and not merely the worse odds of a one-in-three hundred chance Jackson's townsfolk get. In both of those stories, everyone's complicit, even those who, in the LeGuin, leave, having done nothing.
Real life isn't fiction; Indianapolis has a whole array of people doing something, from police trying to solve crimes (and possibly, every so often, catch trouble before it escalates to felony) to the preacher camping out in a hard-hit neighborhood. A stunt? Sure; but it gets attention on the problem. It's better than doing nothing.
If it were all bad guy-on-bad guy crime (it's not; robberies gone worse, stray shots and mistaken targets account for no few deaths), that might not be so awful -- except bad guys have families, too, families that are bent by the crime. When killing someone is a legitimate -- or at least very possible -- way to resolve problems other than an imminent threat, don't be surprised when it spreads from generation to generation, brother to brother to friend. And when the law creates underground markets, don't be surprised to find them run by the lawless.
There's a theory that police exist not so much to protect society* directly as to protect criminals (including the merely suspected) from the rough justice that they would otherwise face from their fellow-citizens, and thereby protect society from its worst impulses. It is nowhere more obvious than in those transactional spaces outside the law and the remedies sought by involved parties when goals conflict or deals go bad. Those "remedies" tend to spill over; the blood gets tracked widely. Ten dead a month -- how many of the criminal victims who comprise the majority would have "had it coming" in the justice system?
* They're not there to protect you personally -- ask the Supreme Court! Oh, they may do so in the normal course of their duties, but they are not obliged to.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
9 months ago