Louisville's Own "San Bernardino" Year

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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HBC Crosses on Lawn

Look at this picture.

This is the church I attend. Every year on the second Sunday in Advent, we hammer crosses into the lawn in memory of persons murdered in Louisville in the past year. Each cross represents one life ended by violence.

Look again. Do you see the sidewalk going up to the front door, in the middle of the picture? Some of the crosses are to the left of the sidewalk, and others are to the right. You are probably thinking, “So what?” Here’s the what:

In the many years we have been doing this, we have never had to put crosses to the right of the sidewalk. Until now. We had to use that extra part of the lawn, because there were so many murders in Louisville this year. Eighty. Almost two a week. And counting.

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The oldest was 75.

The youngest was 17.

Seven were in their teens, and twenty-nine were in their 20s. Thirty-six of our children killed before they turned 30, before their life had hardly started.

Eighty families facing their first Christmas without a loved one. Eighty families torn apart by violence. Eighty families whose grief is all the worse because it is so unnecessary, because it didn’t have to be this way, because it shouldn’t have been this way.

If someone had taken eighty people from our city and lined them all up in front of a wall and shot them, our city would be in shock and mourning for weeks, for months.

And yet, that is exactly what happened. Just not all at once.

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I thought long and hard about the title on this article. I didn’t want to sensationalize the story, and I didn’t want to cheapen the San Bernardino story by using it in the headline.

And yet, if those eighty people had all been killed at once, instead of spread out over a year, we would be screaming for action, for changes, for research and laws and programs and funding. We would be holding our elected officials accountable, and asking questions at community meetings, and holding rallies and vigils and petition drives.

But because they were killed one here, and one there, they became just part of the ongoing noise of living in a city. Their deaths got some coverage in the media, there were comments about the increased homicide rate, but that was about it.

It’s not right, Louisville. It’s not right. We can’t allow ourselves to become numb to the violence. We can’t accept this as normal. In each of our communities and as a city, we have to challenge this, we have to name it and see it and fight it and fix it.

There are no easy answers. Violence is a complex problem that needs multiple solutions. But that doesn’t mean that we can throw up our hands and quit. Neither does it mean that we can retreat to our well-worn platitudes and positions. We need everybody, no matter their politics, to come together and work on this.

Eighty murders in one year. Eighty lives gone, that didn’t have to be gone. Will we fix this, Louisville? Will we work together to deal with it? Or will we just look at the bright lights and shiny objects, and try not to hear the weeping in the house next door?

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