Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee became the latest Republican pundit to take a shot at my hometown, Chicago.
And this time, he went after a sensitive subject — gun violence.
Huckabee tweeted in May: “On way to Chicago for speech. Expecting to have to run from plane dodging bullets like Hillary did in Bosnia when under sniper fire! Yikes!”
It wasn’t surprising that Huckabee tweeted something negative about Chicago. Chicago is often held up by Republicans as an example of what can go wrong when “liberals” are left in charge. Why not keep making fun of someone or something — or in this case, someplace — when so many people continue to laugh at the joke?
According to DNAinfo Chicago’s murder timeline (dnainfo.com/chicago/2017-chicago-murders), 748 people were killed in Chicago last year. And I’m willing to bet that Huckabee, a serial presidential candidate, wouldn’t crack jokes in front of these folks.
The timeline does a great job of trying to personify Chicago’s dead, with short bios of the deceased, photos when available, and links to articles about the incidents. It’s easy to have trouble comprehending the sheer numbers — almost 3,000 Chicago homicides since 2012, about as many deaths as from the 9/11 attacks — and easy to forget they are real people with real families, friends and co-workers.
Death isn’t funny. And most people don’t realize that a homicide not only affects the victim’s immediate family, it also affects people in the victim’s neighborhood. Also, Chicago’s violence isn’t as widespread as Huckabee thinks. In many cases, it’s concentrated in certain blocks within certain neighborhoods.
I didn’t find it funny when years ago, as I was walking out of my home to attend a funeral, a friend came up to me and told me a childhood friend of ours had been murdered. That was a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Maybe we ought to take a look at what’s happening in Huckabee’s home state. According an FBI study from 2014, Arkansas is in the top 10 of our country’s most dangerous states. The study went on to say that more than 445 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people in Arkansas. And in many cases where poverty leads to violence, nearly 20 percent of Arkansas’ population lived below the poverty line in 2013, the fourth-highest rate in the country.
Even before Huckabee’s comments, President Barack Obama was constantly blamed for the violence in Chicago despite the fact he and his family hadn’t lived in the city fulltime since before he became a senator.
Huckabee’s comments show that Republicans have no tangible interest in stopping Chicago’s violence or dealing with the city’s systemic issues. Or even helping the states they’ve represented, for that matter.
It seems that punchlines are fun when nothing is done to help the people who are on the receiving end of a cruel joke.
— Evan F. Moore writes Fanning the Flames Since 1978, a syndicated column for GateHouse Media. He writes about the intersection of race, violence and culture. His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune and Ebony. Follow him on Twitter @evanfmoore.