Anyone who has ever read the novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky knows that there is no crime that goes unpunished. Dostoyevsky’s well-known novel is called Crime and Punishment. Our sense of justice tells us that wrongs ought to have retribution. But that’s not the way it always works, is it? Fast forward to 2022, where rising numbers of crime and violence show Philadelphia to be on track for a record-high homicide rate. Where a lot of these crimes are going unpunished.
While the country struggles to deal with the violence in the Capitol on January 6th, the country is also grappling with an increase in political polarization that has divided families, friends, and institutions. The country is also struggling with lingering effects of the pandemic, a high inflation rate, unprecedented gas prices, and increasing reports of gun violence. Voter fraud has taken center stage in the news, along with abortion rights and gun control. The Uvalde, Texas school shooting that killed 19 elementary school children and two teachers is the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook.
The pandemic has taken a toll on America, in ways that we cannot fully articulate.
In years to come, history books will explain the story we are all living.
The country is both appalled and numb by the shootings around the country. Debates over the right to life has many Americans fearing that the political pendulum is swinging away from the freedom for women to have control over their own bodies. Added to this mix is the fact that many people now fear the end of same sex marriage. The country is in a period of upheaval. Big cities and small towns feel it.
The violence in Philadelphia is related to larger events in other parts of the country. We cannot separate the crimes from the emotional toll that the violence is taking on the people in our cities. The polarization in American politics has become like the great divide. Many people are remembering the passing of Roe vs Wade, only to have it revoked. Many are remembering Watergate and comparing it to the January 6th Committee. The death of George Floyd has become a symbol for racial inequity and discrimination that has been in this country since its inception that began with the American Indians. The death of George Floyd, and Brianna Taylor among others, has also become a symbol for all things that are not just fair. Say her name, says the chant.
The increasing crime rates in Philadelphia is reminding us that If history repeats itself, we are witnessing and experiencing the cyclical aggravation of pent-up tensions and withheld emotions. It reminds us that Philadelphia shares the backdrop of American upheaval. Many people in and around Philadelphia are afraid to go into the city for fear of being shot or gunned down. People from the suburbs no longer feel safe driving into the city for a night out. Residents of apartment building fear taking out the trash. City residents still remember the loss of Jessica Covington, a woman who was killed while unloading the gifts she had just received from her baby shower. She was 32 years old.
Philadelphia, once named the city of brotherly love by its founder William Penn, is increasingly becoming both epicenter and example of some of the nation’s worst violence. And the violence within our city is both reflecting and reflective of the colossal upheaval on the national front.
Soaring crime rates and homicides in Philadelphia have many Philadelphians skeptical about wandering the streets. This past July 4th festivities were interrupted by the shooting of two police offers, which quickly halted the concert, festivities, and fireworks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. While Philadelphia is not alone in these spikes of violence that appear to be predominantly racially driven, Philadelphia has the unique status of having made a mockery of the words “Brotherly Love.”
Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell. For history buffs, walking the cobblestone streets and visiting Independence Hall is a Ben Franklin-esque treat. The crack on the bell draws many visitors into the city. But the Liberty Bell is not all the city is known for. Cheesesteaks, the Rocky Steps, and the Mummers Parade are just a few of the other draws. But the cost of coming to visit our city is starting to outweigh the benefits. Fear and outrage, anger and fatigue are starting to take a toll on the mental health of those living in and around Philadelphia.
There are no justifications when it comes to questions of violence and of crime. Why bad things happen to good people is just part and parcel of the human experience. But life is not fair, and we all know it.
There is no punishment that can ever accurately fit the current crimes in and around Philadelphia. I am hoping that the cliché that time heals all wounds will one day give us the ammunition to both understand and address this violence. Until then, I will continue to watch my back when I run into the city for a cheesesteak or soft pretzel. And I will hold on to the glorious vision of Sylvester Stallone, as he ran up the Rocky steps in triumph.