THE BLOG
06/19/2013 03:53 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2013

Paying Attention to the Other Chicago

If you're not sick about it, you're just not paying attention.

This was the headline I read Monday morning and over and over again throughout the day: 10 Dead, More Than 40 Wounded in Most Violent Weekend of 2013. This was the headline that made me pay attention.

Writing for DNAInfo Chicago, reporters Erica Demarest and Emily Morris offered a pitch-perfect summary of life in Chicago these days:

"Despite the most violent weekend of the year -- which left 10 dead and more than 40 people wounded -- Chicago police continued to tout lower murder numbers compared to last year's statistics.
The majority of the violence took place between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, when six people were killed and at least 15 were wounded in shootings, police said. Overnight from Sunday into Monday, at least nine others were injured in shootings. Other shootings Friday and Saturday killed one and wounded 16.
On Monday, two people wounded Sunday died of their injuries.
In an email, Chicago Police Department spokesman Adam Collins said that as of 12:44 a.m. Monday, there were 'eight fewer shooting incidents this weekend compared to the same weekend in 2012.'"

Just thinking about it -- 10 dead and 40 wounded -- had my stomach in knots. We call the Boston Marathon bombings terrorism, but this... this we don't even bother to name. I don't bother to name.

I don't live in that Chicago. I live in the other one, where we're all excited about a new bike trail and foodie culture and, yes, the Blackhawks.

The days fly by and it is so easy to get lost in them: the logistics of kids and work and household chores. Most of the time, I live in the vacuum of comfortable family life, wherein there is enough money and too much food and everyone is healthy. We insulate ourselves in ways both accidental and intentional: sheltering our young sons from broadcast news, living in a neighborhood where the closest thing we have to criminal menace are college kids gone wild. It is so, so easy not to pay attention.

Sometimes, I tell myself, it is even virtuous. I am raising good kids, doing good work, making contributions where I can: isn't that the best I can do, to live a productive life? I could destroy myself in angst about any number of the world's injustices, but what purpose would that really serve? And, anyway, who would get dinner on the table or manage this client's communications strategy?

I struggled for a long time, after reporting on the AIDS orphan crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, with the moral justification for my posh, American existence. I came to a point, sometime in my early 30s, when I accepted that, really, there was no justification. There simply couldn't be. Certainly, there was no way I could say I deserved all I had. And, since then, life has become unspeakably richer - marriage, children, a business, a book. The best I can do, most of the time, is merely to strive to be worthy of it all.

And then.

10 Dead, More Than 40 Wounded in Most Violent Weekend of 2013.

That's not in some war-torn other hemisphere with history and mores so complicated I can't hope to untangle them. That's a couple of miles from my house.

We pride ourselves on being the kind of city family that really lives in the city. Our kids love Chinatown and Pilsen and Little Village and Devon Ave. and the IIT campus and the Swedish-American museum and Navy Pier with equal fervor. Their entertainment comes, for the most part, from public institutions, like the park district and the library. They attend a public school. Even as I type this, I shiver, but it's true: urban violence will touch them one day. They will see something. They will know someone. This horror that I am shielding them from will find them. It will.

There are things I can do, of course, to further protect them. There is a whole economy of private schools and private sports leagues and private play places designed around ensuring that they experience only the best of what Chicago has to offer. We can continue to live here without really living here. We do have that incredibly, unfairly privileged option.

Or we can leave.

Either way, I am staring at that headline and knowing that I am going to spend the rest of my life trying not to pay attention to it.