Let it burn

Have you ever been so frustrated by crime or the inability of law enforcement to make a solid difference?

Many of us have when the police get some drug dealers off the street and it seems like two more pop up in their place. They return to the streets, defy the police and have no concern for the neighborhoods where they set up their crime headquarters.

What do you do? What can you do?

This was just one of a few storylines in the fourth season premiere of NBC’s “Chicago Fire.”

When a neighborhood tires of a boarded, vacant house being used as a drug den, a fire engulfs the house and they blocked the street to prevent the fire department from doing its job. They shouted, “Let it burn!” because they were frustrated and desperately wanted things to change. The delay in putting out the fire resulted in one death and nearly one more in the house next door.

And while the man who nearly died didn’t blame his neighbors, the firefighters did not understand how anyone could prevent firefighters from doing their job or have such blatant disregard for human life.

That’s the thing: blatant disregard for human life.

Depending on where you live as you read this post, you may not see the problems I’ve mentioned. The struggle is much more real than many believe. I don’t remember the number of vacant houses on my own block and the number of times I might have seen a drug deal go down. I don’t know how many times I have overheard conversations showing how little people respect each other. The worst is when I see addicts of one substance belittle someone struggling with an addiction to another substance.

People laugh and point fingers, but no one dares help. And if you do try to help many times you are chided by the older people who say it’s a waste of time and it’s obvious by their condition the person doesn’t want help.

People don’t even have their basic human dignity anymore. It is taken from them at every turn from higher than normal prices for groceries, housing and the needs of basic living. A vicious cycle which keeps people impoverished is what it really is.

I read a very short bio on St. John (Don) Bosco. The bio said he realized the difficulty in making good decisions when a person doesn’t receive proper education. So he set out to educate the poor in trade and spirit. I was hopeful after I read the bio because it spoke right to the question I had been pondering since shortly after the riots, “Do poor conditions lead to poor decisions?” St. Don Bosco certainly thought so and this mean there must be a radical shift in the way we reach the poor and impoverished each and every day.

This isn’t about being political as the problem transcends all boundaries. Rather it is about living the Gospel and treating people as Jesus would have.

“Whatever you do to the least of these,” right?


Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.