Two things have hit my radar recently: cancer and New York City’s 2013 year-to-date homicide rate. Of course they’re completely unrelated, but I’m going to comment on both of them. The former rips at me in a very personal way, while the latter is a matter of objective observation. I’ll start with New York City.
According to a Huffington Post piece, NYC has experienced 156 homicides through the end of June of this year. Today is the 188th day of the calendar year. So, if the trend continues for the remainder of the year, NYC can expect about 303 homicides.
Using city population estimates from 2012 of 8,336,697, this will translate to a homicide rate of about 3.63 homicides per 100,000 people. Well done, New York City; WELL DONE!
Now, let’s compare this to my hometown, a thriving metropolis by the name of Wilmington, Delaware: estimated population of 71,292 people.
We’ve had some atrociously high homicide rates over the past several years. In terms of absolute numbers, they’ve routinely produced averages ranging from the high teens to mid-twenties. And in terms of per 100,000 rates, they’ve averaged anywhere from the low twenties to low thirties.
But alas, our homicide numbers are down for 2013 as well. Through the end of June, we’ve experienced six of them. This number does not include this year’s infamous single episode court house shooting that killed three people.
I’m not including these three deaths because one of them was a suicide while the other two were anomalies that would serve no other purpose than to skew the rate. You may read more details here.
Our newly elected mayor is tickled pink over Wilmington’s homicide numbers being down. He seems fond of bellowing throughout the city that he’s the mayor, that he’s a “leader,” and that leaders make decisions.”
I’m not disputing that he’s the mayor; everyone knows it because it was in all of the local newspapers. But not everyone is convinced that he’s a leader. My personal opinion is that he represents mediocrity’s best, but I do wish him the best.
Regardless, my point is that Wilmington, Delaware’s 6-homicides have to be viewed in the proper perspective. And once we do this, it turns out not to be such a great accomplishment in relative terms.
Using the same criteria as above, if Wilmington’s trend continues through the rest of 2013, we can expect about 12 homicides. And reducing them to a per 100,000 population rate, we end up with a homicide rate of about 16.8 per 100,000.
Put another way, NYC’s population is about 117 times larger than ours is. Yet our homicide rate is about 4.5 times higher than NYC’s is. In fact, if the rates were reversed, we’d be looking at between 2 and 3 homicides for the year, while NYC would be staring down the barrel of about 1,400 homicides for the year.
We know why Wilmington has such a problem; The News Journal and an investigative reporter (Cris Barrish) spelled it out in no uncertain terms over the course of a couple of recent investigative pieces. Hopefully the effort won’t be negated by politics as usual.
Now on to my point about cancer. I’m completely awash in the stuff. Multiple members of my family—both paternal and maternal sides—have died from it. In late 2011, I lost my 60-year-old sister to it, and if his doctor’s prognostic calendar holds true, I’ll lose my 68-year-old brother to it within the next couple of months.
Cancer is pervasive in this country. According to the American Cancer Society’s latest tabulation (2012), based on ALL invasive sites, males have a 44.81% chance (approximately 1 in 2) of developing it and a 23.08% chance (approximately 1 in 4) of dying from it.
It’s a little better for females, but nothing to get complacent about: 38.17% (about 1 in 3) chance of developing it and a 19.39% (about 1 in 5) chance of dying from it.
Of course, these numbers represent the chances of developing and dying from ALL cancers. Each specific strain, however, carries its own chances of developing it and dying as a result.
I cannot speak for all cancer victims. But for those that I’ve helplessly watched die, none of them went out without a fight. And the same held true for my sister and is holding true for my brother.
I’ve heard it said that we cannot know in our youth what we will come to realize later in our lives. I had always assumed, based on natural causes and unforeseen accidents, that as the eldest sibling, I’d be the first to die.
Not so for me. In fact, unless I drop over from a sudden heart attack or get creamed by a semi, etc., I will have been the first-born and the last to die.
And while I have children of my own, all of whom have given me limitless reasons for living and wanting to continue living, it still sucks big time to have watched all my siblings die before me.
It gives me great pause to imagine what it’s like for a parent to watch a beloved child die, or what my maternal grandmother went through as she watched 4 of her 6-children die before she died.
And there is one other saying that I’ve heard used variously by one clueless windbag after another: “Adversity CREATES character.” This is pure low-grade fertilizer.
And in the way my sister battled her cancer to the end, as well as the way my brother is now battling his, both have been living proof that adversity IDENTIFIES character.
I just hope that when it’s my turn, by whatever means I’m to go out, I don’t ruin the tradition.