Two worlds: celebration and tragedy

Just before Blackhawks fans gathered to celebrate hope fulfilled, a lifetime away another kind of hope was extinguished.

As a comment on a newspaper website put it, “This has to stop, people.”

Malcolm Whitney, a 16-year-old guard on the Hyde Park Academy basketball team, was shot dead in his family’s South Side home. The young man’s older brother was charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

According to a newspaper report the 19-year-old told police he was playing with their father’s gun, taunted his brother with it and it discharged in a struggle.

This wasn’t a gang turf war killing, or a drug deal gone bad killing, or a man angry at the mother of his child killing, or a robbery in progress killing, or an innocent person caught in a crossfire killing, or a case of mistaken identity killing.

But the circumstances and consequences are just as tragic: Another life lost in the other Chicago far from the cheering at a championship sports rally.

Every Monday morning we can awake in the suburbs, turn on the radio and hear what the weekend body count was in the city. It’s easy to become numb to the news and feel more frustrated over Chicago’s baseball teams than Chicago’s murder rate.

That’s their problem in there, the thinking can go, and their job to solve it.

But isn’t any life lost everyone’s problem? Isn’t it less a city-or-suburban issue and more a human issue that affects everyone everywhere? Aren’t all human beings impacted in one way or another by the death of a young man with as much promise as Malcolm Whitney?

Forget basketball. This was an honor student with a 3.8 grade-point-average on a scale of 4.0. Nothing says that he couldn’t have discovered a cure for whatever ails us … cancer or diabetes or heart disease or AIDS or pick your own personal disease of concern.

If Malcolm Whitney couldn’t, maybe the kid killed in a drive-by shooting could have or maybe the kid killed for looking the wrong way at the wrong person could have.

Heck, maybe one of those children who didn’t make it out of his teens could have pitched the Cubs to a World Series championship if fate gave him a chance.

OK, so I’m just venting aimlessly here. Seriously, though, this cycle of violence does have to stop, and it can drive you crazy that nobody ever has been capable of stopping it.

I remember growing up in the city and watching the 10 o’clock news one night. A reporter asked a young man identified as a gang warlord what a gang warlord does. The youngster looked at him like it was a dumb question and said matter-of-factly, “I make war.”

That was in the 1960s. In the 1980s, Simeon basketball superstar Ben Wilson was killed on the street near the school. Now in 2013, Malcolm Whitney dies inside his family home on the South Side from gunshots to the head.

Left behind is a helpless feeling. Like, I’m a writer of sorts and would like to write something that would help persuade people to stop killing each other. Instead, words escape me and I keep waking up to hear that more people, young and old, died before their time.

So as Blackhawks fans celebrated in Grant Park, a teenager’s family and friends mourned mere miles south in the city’s other world.

Whatever the circumstances — accidental or intentional, gifted basketball player or high school dropout, in the city or in the suburbs — this really does have to stop.

But will it ever?

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