"Hey, more than 500 people have been murdered in Chicago this year," says one of my conservative friends. "I can't wait to see what you write about that."
Why? You didn't listen to me the last time. Are you really listening or just waiting for your own turn to complain?
"Jeez, why are you so touchy?"
I'm just tired of hearing your usual one-note analysis and solution: Black people are having too many babies out of wedlock. Hey, do you ever ask what happened to the jobs that used to enable workers to support a family? Do you ever notice how the poverty, crime, opiate addiction and out-of-wedlock birth rates are growing among poor whites, too? When are you people going to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps?
"Hey, you don't think fathers are important?"
Of course, we're important. But where are you going to find all the marriageable black men to fulfill your dream?
"Hey, OK, I'm listening. Tell me what you would do about the killers roaring out of control in Obama's adopted hometown."
Hey, that's President Barack Obama, pal. Respect. Look, 500 murders and it's only September? There's a horrible thing. But it's not a first. Violent crime is like a Zika virus. You don't know when or where it's going to surge but you have to deal with it when it does.
We've been through this before. I was covering Chicago cops as a young reporter in 1974 when murders in Chicago peaked at 970 -- or about 29 per 100,000 -- after rising for more than 10 years. And I remember when murders peaked again in 1992, this time at 943 or 34 per 100,000.
You could almost hear the rejoicing in December 2004, when the Chicago Tribune headlined: "City murder toll lowest in decades." For the first time in almost four decades, there were fewer than 500 murders in Chicago. Break out the champagne.
"So what's that got to do with this year?"
First, it tells you that we've dealt with crime waves before. One reason murders look so high is because violent crime overall, including murder, has dropped since the 1990s. Second, everybody talks about how Chicago homicides this year outnumber those in New York and Los Angeles combined. But a number of smaller cities like Milwaukee and Houston have had big increases this year, too. So far, it's not a national trend, but it's not a uniquely Chicago problem either. There is no single, one-stop, one-size-fits-all diagnosis or prescription.
"Yeah, but you're not talking about Black Lives Matter and kids with cellphone cameras waging war on the police. The cops are afraid to get out of their patrol cars for fear of winding up on YouTube."
Frankly, some of them should fear winding up on YouTube, considering what we've seen on YouTube already.
But I notice you're not talking about how New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled back on the city's aggressive stop-and-frisk profiling policy on the streets last year. Conservatives howled, but so far homicides have continued to decline.
"So you want to coddle the criminals and wage war on police?"
No, quite the opposite. I want to see more cops on the street, working in cooperation with local residents and community leaders. Community policing works, if you do it right.
Unfortunately, Chicago police are undermanned and pulling lots of overtime. The city and state are deep in debt, and, as much as Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about hiring more cops, nobody knows where he's going to get the money except from taxpayers who are feeling pretty tapped out already.
Ah, so, once again Democrats are screwing up our cities.
I know you'd like to make this a partisan issue, but it's not that simple either.
"Hey, Donald Trump recently said Chicago police could solve the city's crime problem 'in a week.' "
Oh, yeah? How? Is he going to give gangbangers scholarships to Trump University?
"No," he says the police only have to be "very much tougher" than they are now.
Oh, gimme a break. This is a guy who claims he knows "more about ISIS than the generals." Now he thinks he knows more than Chicago's police?
"He says one of Chicago's 'very top police' told him and Trump says he believed the guy '100 percent.' "
Right. That would make Trump as gullible as he hopes the voters will be in November.