When I was in high school, there were a lot of times when the bullies would come up to me and let me know I was in trouble if I didn’t do this or that. They always made it a little uncomfortable, but never to the point where I felt endangered.
After seeing this story about a 16 year-old Chicago boy being bludgeoned to death by alleged gang members for reportedly refusing to join a gang, I’ve got to wonder what’s going on in the world that I don’t understand.
As a parent, I would never advise my child get into a gang, because it leads to a dead end life. But now, I might have to rethink that position. Because, in this particular case, not joining a gang resulted in dead, not dead end.
Gang’s have always been about “turf”, about owning something when you didn’t own anything, about having status when you had none, about having safety when chaos was all around you. But, they were always somewhere else. Not anymore.
I used to feel insulated and isolated from gangs, living in my town of 12,000 people. Now, I see the occasional gang writing on walls, although our city is quick to clean this stuff up. I see it in the newspaper, with major drug busts happening in small towns, with tentacles reaching from all points of the continent.
The solution to this problem doesn’t lie in law and order, although that is an element of it; it lies in economic and social opportunity, where one of the choices is prosperity. It lies in education, not ignorance. It lies in making available all of the opportunities that most of us have.
We need to develop a culture of success in areas where the poverty is the highest. We need to build the best schools with safety and security ensured when the student walks to and from the building and in the building. We need to educate and offer opportunity. We need to be tough, and vigilant. In short, we need to be affirmative.
The cost of developing a gang member, or career criminal, is way more expensive than developing a contributing member of society. Gangsters don’t pay taxes. They don’t create jobs, unless you’re thinking of prison jobs. Gangsters don’t cure illnesses. Gangsters don’t develop solutions to our energy problems. Gangsters don’t put anything on the positive side of the ledger. They could.
There are examples of countries who have ignored the problem to their demise. Somalia is ruled by gangs. Mexico’s gangs are better armed than their military. You might argue the Taliban is a gang in Afghanistan.
This is no longer an inner city problem. We can no longer think this is something “they” have to solve. It’s our problem. It’s time we deal with it.