Cavanaugh's in the south loop section of downtown Chicago) a news story flashed across the TV screen about a "summit meeting" between the top brass of the police department and some "leaders" of various local street gangs. It seems that people are losing their patience with the murder rate of innocent bystanders as fatherless young males shoot at each other with increasing indifference to the possibility of police interference. Much has been written about this event since then, but none of it from my perspective.
The immediate reaction of the people where I was sitting seemed to be, "anything is worth a try" in this situation. My immediate reaction was to see the futility of the approach. I would have found it almost comical if the stakes weren't so high.
The first thing that popped into my imagination was a vision of Elliot Ness having a heart to heart conversation with Al Capone about the negative impact that his gang wars were having on the citizens of Cook County back in 1926. Had such a meeting taken place, I'm sure Scarface would have been convinced of the error of his ways and given up his life of violence in favor of an hourly wage at the phone company.
It would have been the roaring twenties version of "Can't we all just get along?" as uttered by that great American icon named King. (Rodney, not Martin Luther)
In historical fact, Capone pretended to call a truce after his entourage was shot up in the restaurant of the Hawthorne Hotel, but these modern day thugs haven't even made that pretense. And after all folks, that's all these people are, then and now. Idiotic thugs who have benefited from the only truly successful government created jobs program ever enacted.
That program was "the second great prohibition", commonly referred to as the "War on Drugs" and it succeeded in turning poor ignorant people into rich entrepreneurs just as the first prohibition did. So the law of unintended consequences remains un-repealed.
These gangs of thugs are engaged in a war for the right to peddle mind dulling substances to already dull minded people. And the money to buy these substances comes largely from (you guessed it), the government, in the form of various checks from various programs. Which just shows if you want to stimulate the economy you just keep the money going in circles. See? Government stimulus works!
But where do these armies of pharmaceutical salesmen get their soldiers? They draft them of course. From a never ending supply of young men with no fathers and no education. All subsidized by a system that encourages many young girls to have babies out of wedlock and many young men to shirk the responsibilities they don't even know they have after so many lost generations.
These gangs of thugs are not just from one group. White and Latino people are plagued by them, as are black people, but it is the black community which has been hardest hit by these policies. And anyone who points out the actual causes of the misery is branded as a racist if they are white, or simply denigrated if they are black. Just ask Bill Cosby what happens to your star status when you speak out.
As for me, I am used to being called a racist (almost daily) lately, and I won't pretend it doesn't bother me, but I do my best to get past it. As a member of the Tea Party, an undefined and unorganized group that didn't even exist when I joined it, I was identified as such again this morning on the front page of the Chicago Tribune by a person named Sterling Thompson, who just got his fifteen minutes of fame by proclaiming proudly that "I don't support them (Tea Partiers) or believe they are anything but racist against Obama."
Talking sense to Mr. Thompson would probably lead to the same outcome as the police chief talking sense to the leading gang thugs. Namely, nothing will change. But the rest of us would do well to consider the following statistics compiled by Nathan Glazer (a sociologist who taught for decades at USC Berkley and Harvard) when we contemplate the problems of the gang ruled inner city black neighborhoods.
These stats were cited by George Will in a recent column when he referred to "America's tragic number."
That tragic number is 70% and it is the portion of African-American children born to unmarried mothers.
Another number cited; by the early 2000s greater than 33.3% of all young black non-college men were incarcerated, even in robust economy years. Yet another; 60% is the number of black high school dropouts born since 1960 who go to prison.
There are many more tear inducing stats cited in the article. I urge you to read it. And they all lead me to the same conclusion even if folks like Mr. Thompson think I'm a racist for citing them.
Trying to reason with organised criminals today will yield the same non-results as it might have if it was tried with Al Capone. You may remember that, in his syphilis induced dementia, Al used to go fishing in his backyard swimming pool. Until we can solve the problems of fatherless families and government created black markets in forbidden substances, we might as well be fishing with Scarface as chatting with Gangster Disciples.