This American Life on Gun Violence in Chicago

“Is this a safe neighborhood?”  It’s a question Maggie and I can expect to hear when friends from out of town visit our home in Hyde Park, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.  In fact, our neighborhood is quite safe.  The nearby presence of the University of Chicago ensures the streets in our neighborhood are regularly and obviously policed.  Our son plays in the park across the street and we walk for groceries and other errands at all hours of the day or night.

Hadiya Pendleton Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times, January 31.

Despite the safety of our specific neighborhood, the question is not surprising.  Gun violence and murder is well-known in our city; the news from the south and west sides of Chicago is grimly portrayed on a nightly basis.  Last month the young Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in a park one block from where our church gathers for Sunday worship.

Talking about this violence can seem futile: conversation does little to honor the dead and wounded nor are most of us interested in the long, complicated discussion about the systemic and historic causes for the bloodshed.  It’s easier to turn away or propose simplistic solutions.

It was refreshing then, to listen to This American Life’s two-part series (part 1 & part 2) on gun violence in Chicago.  For five months reporters – including the legendary Alex Kotlowitz – spent time in one high school that has experienced far more than its share of death.  The perspectives from administrators, students, parents, teachers, and support staff go a long way toward a more nuanced and humble conversation.  Their stories invite the rest of us to pay close attention.

regular podcast listening (2)

Last week I pointed out three of my favorite podcasts. Here are my other three favorites and a few that I have recently discovered.

  • All Songs Considered. This is the one podcast I will never miss. I don’t have time to listen to each episode of every podcast I subscribe to, but I’ll always find time for All Songs. The half-hour format combined with host Bob Boilen’s crazy knowledge about music makes this an engaging and quick listen each week. If there is a better way to discover new music I don’t know about it. I discovered my current favorite, Bon Iver, on an All Songs show about SXSW. The producers of the show also put together an eclectic live concerts podcast that is often worth the listen.
  • This American Life. I’m a raving fan of this show. Ira Glass and his fellow contributors are story-telling wizards. They have the ability to take ordinary people’s experiences and tell them in a way that peels back significant (at times transcendent) layers of meaning. The most recent example of this comes from an episode earlier this month. The Giant Pool of Money tells the story of the current credit/mortgage crisis in a way that completely held my attention for an hour. Seriously… check it out for yourself.
  • New Community Covenant Church. As I was transitioning from my job/community at PCC to my current role in Chicago, I spent time listening to NC3’s sermon podcast. Listening to Peter and Michael preach to the church we would be joining was helpful for me. The caliber of preaching is good enough that I would recommend it to anyone… just be prepared to be occasionally uncomfortable. Peter preached about politics our second Sunday at the church and had just about everyone squirming at some point during the sermon. Nice.


ira glass of this american life

I subscribe to a few different podcasts that get automatically downloaded to my mp3 player. One of these is the public radio program, This American Life. It is hard to describe TAL to those who’ve never listened to the one hour program. Each week the host, Ira Glass, introduces a theme. Over the next hour the listener hears a handful of stories that touch on this theme. A quick glance at the themes from August reveal Unconditional Love, The Spokesman, and Blame it on Art among others.


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