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I was asked to consider a friend's son's essay, so I clicked the link. Then, I read. So, I thought, and considered, as requested.
That is well-written, but I give it only 4/5 stars. I know immediately the thesis, clarified further by the second sentence. It offers three possibilities, but ultimately, gives no true cause.
It begins to address availability. This leaves the reader immediately stunned yet compelled to read onward. Why? What is missing?
Reiterating the availability, the reader is left to reasonably presume there was content that may have been there, but displaying it isn't possible. Where is it? Floating eternally?
Questioning no longer, the reader believes he learns what may (or may not) have happened. Three possibilities are presented, and, many readers move on, satisfied, realizing that whatever will be, will be.
Me? I'm still waiting to find out my opinion on what I was not able to see.
Due to Chicago's expected snowstorm, Tuesday has been cancelled. There will only be six days this week.
There will be no school. Homeschoolers will be forced to play outdoors, and public school kids will meet privately, but without any schooling.
All businesses will be closed. Online business will all redirect their websites to my profile on YouTube.
Regretfully, all radio stations will not have their regularly scheduled "Two fer Tuesdays." Those who remain on air may only play one-hit wonders. They are not, however, allowed to wonder.
The western suburban Attention Deficit Disorder group has postponed their meeting featuring a special speaker discussing 'Procrastination'.
Government buildings will remain open. No change in action is required, nor will be recognized.
Note: Wednesday's Groundhog Day weather report is expected to unavailable. The groundhog, sick of Chicago weather, moved last summer to Hawaii where he drinks pina coladas and dances to Don Ho songs with hula girls. At the moment, he is laughing at you.
I caught a mention of the Crips on Twitter. Found it by accident searching the term "Red Bandana," the named of my running column. Surprised me.
The Crips, for those of you who don't follow the American crime scene, are an exceedingly violent and large gang based in Los Angeles. It seems a blue bandana is part pf their team colors, much like school colors, only gangs get more upset about who wears what. The team color of the Bloods, their chief enemy is red. The Crips, just as their competition, are not known for cool headed civil negotiation, but intimidation, threats, and violence. Read more about the Crips here. Read about the Bloods here.
Various gang nonsense seem to pop up everytime I searched Twitter, and I made no connection. I thought it was a line in a song I was unfamiliar with. Might still be.
I responded, "Gotta love that people are still think gang membership makes them better people. Sad, isn't it?" It amazes me. Of course I know some kids think thug culture is cool, and that some young adults are so caught up in it that they sell out their later adult years for a very needed sense of belonging.
It brought me back to the late 1980s and mid-90s when I taught in the McLean Law and Justice Center and did volunteering and advising in Chicagoland. Teaching in the jail and all that came with it changed my life.
Still, today, it breaks my heart to see young men flaunt the foolish gang lifestyle, not realizing that they are making a mockery of themselves. Desperate to find community, most gang members come from broken homes. Fathers are either not present, abusive, or part of a turnstyle relationship. For those leading the gangs, how they are teaching their younger brothers how to waste their lives. Instead offering something positive, they offer hopelessness.
With great irony, you might see a gang member wearing a cross. At first glance, you might think he is a Christian, but nothing in the manifestos reflect anything of the sort.
The Short Version:
I served as a volunteer for seven years in the late 1980 and early 1990s under the chaplain at the McLean County Law and Justice Center (jail), and through the Home Sweet Home Mission, both in Bloomington, IL. I led a class with 12-18 adult inmates, served as a local liaison to the press (mostly regarding gang sociology), visited inmates one-on-one, communicated via letters (particularly those who moved onto prison). I taught a weekly Bible study, engaging inmates in discussion leading toward spiritual and lifestyle rehabilitation. Once released, served ex-offenders through personal relationships, helping them connect with churches, using my contacts to assist in getting a job, leading occasional small group discussions, and otherwise helping with post-incarceration re-integration.
The longer version would involve stories of knowing men inside and outside of jail. I saw men give up lives of crime live a life that's true. I saw others not man enough to turn away from the gang life and either wind up in jail or dead.
The longer version would involve getting into working to help free a man convicted of four brutal homicides because I thought he was innocent. He's free, and I still think he's innocent.
The longer version would go to explain specific adventures helping one young man leave the Black Gangster Disciples, a knife at my throat that was later handed to me by a weeping man, visits to most Illinois prisons and day long visits meeting inmates in the Florida Everglades prison system.
There were tough talks with young men about how God and crime are in conflict, that a true man of God will set down his gang colors and pick up a Bible and learn how live a life that's true. The rebellious ones would try to tell me how the Nation of Islam is the way and related lies. Not only is that blasphemous before God, but even the Nation of Islam condemns the thug life.
I could tell you about the funerals I went to. Saw three people buried. Two men, one women. Missed the funerals of a few others. Or the young men I met facing life in prison for murders they admitted they committed. Or how I played chess with one guy several times a week over the phone through a thick glass barrier. He was full of hate, but could play a decent game.
The best stories, though, are the ones in which a guy earned his GED, left jail, got jobs and married a beautiful woman. That man honored his God, helped his children live a life that did not involve incarceration and/or violence.
How Did this Happen? A Few Details
Sometime during college, I stepped into assist with a Bible study in the county jail. Eric, a friend from church, presumed that because I grew up near Chicago, I must be an expert in connecting with those from a tough background. I knew a little, at best, about any of these kinds of things.
What started as a few week fill-in turned into over a seven-year commitment leading a small ministry. I learned quick, served as a jail liaison to the press on gang issues, and fell in love with evangelism. I worked with adults inmates of all flavors, and became involved in one of Illinois's' most noted cases, a murder retrial looking at whether or not a man killed his wife and three children. I volunteered to do research for the defense. He was released, one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.
Although there's just two paragraphs here, the jail ministry changed my view on humanity. I became friends with rapists, murderers and innocents. I learned that the worst criminal deserves the same fate as I do… all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but to whom will God deny who humbly approaches His throne?
No, I do not respect gangs. I do not respect a man who wastes his life. That is no man. Human, yes, but not a real man. The real man knows he needs to serve God, not the Crips, not the Gangster Disciples, not the Latin Kings, or the Bloods or any of the other gangrene groups ruining an urban citizen's life.
It walks through a few weeks of a boy's life, Valentin, as he navigates his days living with a suspicious, protective grandmother. His dad is caught up in his own life, his mother is apparently found some unnamed trouble, and so Valentin is in the care of his father's mother.
His father visits whenever he falls in love, and although Valentin loves his father, he knows the relationship is, at best, casual. The father is somewhat abusive, but the point made isn't that, but how he simply is not around.
When the father meets Leticia, a young woman half his age, he introduces them. Valentin falls for her completely, while Leticia listens carefully. To him, she is mother potential. He trusts her, but she is the wiser of the two, and finds that though Valentin is an almost perfect child, his father is not.
The pianist across the street is something like Roger in "101 Dalmations," only lonelier. Valentin connects with him, as they both meet emotional needs - the pianist needs a friend, and Valentin needs a father. Through piano lessons, they become friends.
Too often, the films in other languages that are delivered to the USA are replete with messages that either too complex or too adult and controversial for a younger audience. "Valentin," from Argentina, gets it right, with an all-ages appropriate film and a classic sense of purity, without the sugarcoated politically correct Hollywood morality-wrapped-in-a-movie grotesqueness.
"Valentin" carries itself by the imagination of the viewer, who must, at times, suspend a few matters of reality. Real boys are not that wise or observant, not when they are eight. Valentin is never smarmy or has that youthful but bitter street-smart approach. Rather, he is kind and naive, wanting his world to be better, and for those around him to be happy.
Freshman year at Illinois State University. I redefined myself. Wasn't the first time I built my image, but the previous time, I fell into myself. No control. This time, I was in charge.
Smart, taking literature courses, I read Kerouac, Ginsberg, men of words. An intellectual, or I thought so -- attending poetry readings, art shows and other gatherings of the bright and cultured.
But I grew up on the south side of Chicago. So south that I was actually in the suburbs. There, we had foul mouths. The F-bomb, selectively dropped, gave us a class and style among our dumber brethren who could only use the more guttural words like the s-bomb, the a-bomb, the h-bomb, and the ultimately low-brow, j-bomb. Combine them in a sentence, verbing some, nouning others, tossing in the rest as adverbs and adjectives, and viola! One suburban intellect was born, but only if he used the f-bomb with frequent (and by frequent, I mean as often as an Englishman drinks tea) and common parlance. In other words, to use the f-bomb properly, it had to sound natural, unforced and ordinary. Practice helped.
To really say it all well, a speaker needed a beer in the right hand helped, using the left to make whatever absurd point needed to be made. When I was a freshman, Reagan was in office, and the university dialect, in proving itself 'thinking', required an anti-Reagan overtone, with a few snips about Republicans. Of course, being from the southwest suburbs, where being a Democrat was not a choice, but a blood borne infection the entire population embraced (free speech and all enabled all of us to conclusively arrive in the same place politically), I found no issue at all joining the university's Blast the Republicans Party.
A week into school, once September hit, I settled down and really learned what it was all about. My poetry teacher explained she slept with various poets, including Robert Bly. A Marxist literary analysis professor assured us his way was the only way, though my Eckankarist writing professor said otherwise. The philosophy professor, in absolute certainty, blurted out how there was no certainty at all, and that Christians, above all, were idiots. He was a Unitarian.
Back to language.
The f-bomb, I quickly realized, was more of a Greenwich Village intellectuals word. It really was not meant for those who knew other words. We bragged about our liberal minded thinking while dismissing the rest as cretins, or, as we liked calling them, conservatives. What did it matter that we attended Farm Aid while the conservatives were often the actual farmers? Who cares? We were rocking with Willie Nelson. He used the f-bomb, and look at him, speaking against things.
I continued to use the f-bomb, though I wish someone had protested this bomb as well. I was in over my head when I encountered a guy who told me what was needed wasn't a protest, but action. I was a defiant pacifist, and told him so.
How do I, a young and brilliant poet trying to show off my verbal chops, explain to to someone the elucidated light of liberalism?
"F-this," I said, "That f-in' f f is f-off his f-in f f f. F."
I sure showed him some argumentation there. Freedom of speech. Used every word I knew.
The guy I argued with left me without a word and headed to the homeless mission to volunteer with his church while I stayed around to argue some more about poverty and the masses.
News: Roughly 100 occasions of the word 'nigger' will be expunged from Adventures of Huck Finn. African Americans are offended, rightfully. It will be replaced with 'slave'.
A real concern of racism being attacked by petty revisionism? Looks that way, but also out on the hit list are some other familiar favorites.
The Bible will be expunged from the word 'God'. Atheists are rightfully offended. It will replaced with 'earthly ruler'. In some editions, it will be replaced with 'science'.
Other editions of the Bible will also expunge the word 'God.' It will be replaced with 'Mother Earth'. The atheists are still offended.
Moby Dick's use of 'whale' will be replaced with 'leviathan' after complaints from SeaWorld. They said it hurt marketing.
The Victoria's Secret catalog will be renamed just 'Secret' as Her Majesty, the Queen of England has not, and will not allow the use of her family's trademarked name. Rejected also was 'Princess Diana's Seduction Line'. Prince William found it offensive as his own trophy fiance's name was not mentioned.
Harry Potter's name in all books and related products will be changed to 'Phil B. Container', shortened form of 'Filamentous Biomaterial Liquid Container'. In a rare collective, both the Potter's Union and Bald Men's Association denounced J. K. Rowling's horrible insensitivity. It, they said, was because 'Harry' sounds like 'hairy' and, well, they aren't. The Potters felt they were being reduced to pulp fiction.
Fellow top pop writer Anne Rice chimed in against Rowling, as always, with a Facebook post, claiming her son Christopher was offended, and so now she is too, and that it is the Catholic Church's fault. She chose not to amplify her reasoning, but 100 of her followers all agreed, posting accordingly on her page.
Just as the University of Illinois' Illini Chief Illiniwek was forced to retire his name, the Cleveland Indians, the New Orlean Saints, and the Chicago Bears are reviewing their names as mascots. Pittsburgh Steers are facing lawsuits from criminals who, thanks to their illiteracy, feel they are being gypped out of licensing fees.
And Romanian Gypsies, facing daily discrimination and hate speech in Eastern Europe, have requested I do not use the word 'gyp' as it popularizes a common stereotype. They also want to called Roma. They would rather I use 'Jew', but, rightfully, the Anti-Defamation League prefers I do not.
Rumors have suggested also that the New York Giants are rethinking their team name, out of deference to Lilliputians, who, though not real, might be offended and excluded.