A longtime feud between teenage girls is apparently behind a shooting that left the city with its youngest gunshot fatality this year, and a mother and her baby in critical condition Wednesday. The gunfire that killed Ramirez L. Smith Jr., 15, and wounded his pregnant mother was preceded by three skirmishes involving his sister that began at Northwest High School on Tuesday, then escalated throughout the night.

This entire story hits too close to home for a couple of reasons: one, Northwest High School is my alma mater; and two the park where the penultimate confrontation occurred is a stone’s throw from where I moved from a year or so ago (in fact, one of my former neighbors was interviewed for the article). I’m still waiting for the politicians to begin railing against the pandemic “culture of violence,” but that might only be trotted out for school shootings. We’re forced to ask whether we, as citizens, or our elected representatives are neglecting public safety and quality of life issues? What can we, the average person, do to help stem the tide of violent crimes among young people Indianapolis? We keep waiting for folks, politicians, churches, and community leaders to do more than talk. There comes a point where talk is cheap. When you’ve done all you can do to draw attention to a problem and have to come up or join in with a solution.

While it is easy to demonize our “culture of violence” (from our atomized nuclear families, to what passes for our entertainment, and our glorification of guns), those things don’t address the individuals. Our young people often seem determined to sabotage themselves before they get started. Take, for example, the culture of disrespect. Sometimes, when all you have is your name and your rep, your pride becomes of critical (if not overwhelming) importance. Disrespect becomes an assault on one’s sense of being. Couple that mindset with a cultural affirmation of fighting to display toughness, anger at their general situation, and violence as the only problem-solving mechanism at their disposal, and you get incidents that lead such horrific endings.

Yes, we face a systemic problem and education is the only silver bullet we have, especially when combined with the dual values of moral and economic responsibility. We need to begin buying into a worldview that promotes dignity, work, marriage, family, and healthy community. We all have our roles as parents,, leaders, church members, and, frankly, adults to point young people to a better way of living. We need to be giving our teenagers some reason to pursue a full way of living beyond the consuming and materialistic mentality they are being programmed with.

As I’ve said before, there is something … broken in our culture. There is a love of violence, a seething anger that bubbles just beneath the surface. Maybe we–the people, the community–need to do more to stem the tide of violence where we can and bear our share of the burden. It will be a difficult road because in some ways it goes against the grain of our culture. Around the corner from our old house was a burned out husk of a house with the word “snitch” spray-painted on the side. Still, I’m reminded of the two most important laws, echoing the law experts of Jesus’ day, are to love God and to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Yet we continue to fail to be good neighbors – we keep looking for loopholes of “who is my neighbor?” So the true question we have to ask ourselves is how can we be better neighbors?