Bloods and Crypts and gang warfare--inner city reality. I hate to see the signs of this negative presence.
It strikes me that when life turns hopeless, a growing number of urban youth turn the entire matter into a video game-like experience.
Busting a cap up against somebody's head seems no more difficult than firing away with the aid of a joystick after dropping a couple of coins in a game machine.
While there is absolutely no justification for the violence often accompanying this urban fact of life, it does seem useful to ask, "How did we get here?"
What's up with all of this?
It is really difficult to come close to the beginning of any semblance of understanding if you view the situation through middle-class eyes.
The turmoil experienced by urban youth is driven in part by the economics of the social context. I would argue economics plays a large part.
We live in a very material world. Cities epitomize the material. The kids who reside in the cities of the U. S. don't get an exemption from this cultural reality.
We can talk all day about "the importance of spiritual values," but the fact remains, young people are shaped by our marketing, consumer-dominated, material society.
Think about it.
Television, advertising, music, movies, print media, billboards--everywhere any of us turn we are being sold on something and our need for it. In fact, we are all bombarded on a daily basis, so much so that we've come to expect it. [For some reason at this point my imagination takes me to the annual Super Bowl commercial competition!]
Identity is transactional in the U. S. today. To be somebody, to enjoy not only the "good life," but the hip life, you have to own, use, possess, consume.
Hard to do if you're broke.
Hard not to compare yourself and your circumstance to folks across town who seem to "have it all goin' on," especially when your neighborhood is a mess and no one wants to pay any attention to it, except possibly to tell you how dangerous and bad it is.
Complicate the entire picture now by adding in the mythology of the drug trade. You know, the notion that you can make "big money" running drugs--one of the inner city's cruelest lies. The only people making real money in drug trafficking don't live in the ghettos of American, you can be certain of that!
With limited funds, opportunity, hope and healthy community, those who buy the unrelenting sell of American consumer culture band together, sometimes in gangs, but usually just as kids full of their music, their "look" and their swagger, without much direction or purpose.
What's needed here is serious intervention. Of course, many of us who are trying to interrupt the cycle are trapped in our own ways by the same materialist curse!
What's the answer? Where is the way through?
Relationships. Friendships. Honest conversation. Risking it by simply reaching out. Placing oneself in unusual circumstances and venues to simply communicate that there are people who care and that there is a better way.
I suppose I'm talking about a new kind of spirituality crafted and experienced with the help of many of the very values and lifestyle choices that can challenge the urban scene today.
Those who make the effort to understand, to connect, simply to be present--those folks will matter in a big way.