"The more things change..."
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State of the Union
          It seems as if every edition of my local, daily newspaper contains at least one reference to young men being shot, wounded or killed. Somewhere in the article there is usually a sentence that reads, “Police believe the shootings were gang related.”
          Most people have learned to avoid certain areas in their community that are suspected of being inhabited by gangs and their members. Most have learned that the wearing of certain colors in certain gang populated areas is a danger in itself. The wearing of a red shirt or bandana in a blue color gang area could cause an offender unintended bodily harm.
           Weapons have morphed from the now puny .22 caliber pistol to the AK-47 Kalishnikov assault rifle. Most cities of any substantial size have experienced the horror of drive-by shootings: Young boys’ and girls’ lives being torn apart by a passing automobile carrying armed teenagers bent on revenge, destruction and death.
          Some cities have felt the carnage of a drive- by shooting in a residential area which resulted in the deaths of innocent occupants – and, in some cases, innocent toddlers whose lives have been ended by a series of machine gun bullets.
          I can barely imagine a parent of an armed pre-teen or teenager asking their child to, “Be home by 10 p.m., son, so you can get a good night’s sleep.”
          How curious it would be for a single mom to say to her .45 Magnum toting son, “Be home early, son, we’re baking chocolate chip cookies tonight.”
          As the anxiety in the world grows. As more marriages end in divorce. As the enmity between races and religions grows. As guns become easier to obtain. As parents forsake their duties. As children learn from adults that settlement of disputes can more easily be secured by pressure on a trigger – we will be faced with an increased number of youngsters bearing arms, roaming their neighborhoods in search of other youngsters wearing the wrong color shirt or bandana or crossing the wrong boundary street and becoming a target.
          Our daily newspaper is filled with reports of the dangerous youth among us. Listed here are some of the reports.
          “LOS ANGELES - Following his conversation the Mayor issued a statement in which he said, “We have here, unfortunately, a bad situation as the result of the formation and activities of youthful gangs, the members of which, probably to the extent of 98 per cent or more, were born right here in Los Angeles. They are Los Angeles youth, and the problem is purely a local one…I want to assure the people of Los Angeles that there will be no side-stepping and the situation will be vigorously handled. There are too many citizens in this community, some of them good-intentioned and a few whose intentions I question, who raise a hue and cry of racial discrimination or prejudice against a minority group every time the Los Angeles police make arrests of members of gangs or groups working in unison. They all look alike to us, regardless of color…”
          “LOS ANGELES – Community leaders held meetings in an effort to get the city “back to normal” and to present evidence that the (gang) street battles represented a symptom not of racial discrimination but of an increasingly serious State-wide juvenile delinquency problem.”
          “LOS ANGELES – Punishment of the guilty in crimes of violence, “regardless of what clothes they wear” was demanded today by a Citizens’ Committee appointed by the Governor to investigate the outbreaks of the last ten days. Bishop Joseph T. McGucken of the Catholic diocese here, declared the streets of Los Angeles “Must be made safe for service men as well as civilians, regardless of national origins. The Governor stated, “Youth is peculiarly sensitive. To be rejected by the community may throw the youth upon evil companions.”
          “LOS ANGELES – Public indignation seethed as warfare among organized bands of marauders, prowling the streets at night, brought a wave of assaults and murders. Gang activities constitute an important part of the juvenile delinquent problems…Next to “desire for adventure and employment” the Police Department lists gangs as the chief cause of delinquency.”
          “LOS ANGELES – Motives for gang warfare are ridiculous in adult eyes but sometimes lead to planned and bloody fighting. One youth rallied his gang when a member of another East Side band made disparaging remarks about his automobile. A knife fight almost resulted when a member of one gang bumped into a member of another…Many of the gang fights reported in newspapers have been planned conflicts with clubs, rods, lengths of pipe, knives and even guns, planned much like a football contest would be.”
          There was a time when parents held the upper hand. A child wouldn’t dare defy his or her parents. A parental edict was obeyed – or else! Today a parent has to be aware of the bulge in their teenager’s shirt. You can hear an interested parent questioning his pre-teen age son by asking him, as he enters the house, “Is that gunpowder I smell, Billy?”
          Oh, by the way, the news items listed above are reports from the Los Angeles area in the year - 1943. “The more things change…”
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