Although Prohibition brought in an era of gangsters that have become Hollywood legends such as Al Capone, modern gangs appear to be far worse. Certainly the Prohibition gangs were bribing officials and smuggling drugs, but I have not heard of them being as nasty as the infamous MS-13. From what I’ve heard about MS-13, their initiation rite involves being beaten for 13 seconds by 13 people which is very near lethal. Gangs embrace the raping of women and the murder of innocents, which is why President Trump keeps bringing MS-13 into immigration battles. The problem with Mr. Trump’s view is that MS-13 used deportations in their recruitment and given many gangs focus on rape at the onset of puberty many of these gangsters are US citizens.
I have known people who have been associated with gangs, though I know not everything those gangs entailed. I have also met a few people who managed to get out of gangs. From the people I knew who got involved in gangs, I’d say they got their start in middle school primarily for the drugs. Their parents were hardly around and there was divorce in the mix. Those gangs were definitely involved in vandalism and drugs, but hopefully not murder and rape. My hometown did have periodic shootings that were attributed to gang activity, but every shooting I ever heard about involved a member of one gang killing a member of a rival gang rather than an innocent bystander. It is interesting that the people I have known to have escaped gangs attribute their escape to Christian missionaries and they have gone on to their own ordained ministry or been married to ordained ministers. The key here is that getting people out of gangs requires offering services where gangs are known to be active and giving people a sense of belonging. Thus it is a tragedy when budget issues lead to the closure of things like after school clubs and other youth programs. I have even heard of art classes being successful at diverting potential terrorists abroad.
On a related note, I have heard of widespread drug use amongst teens in small towns. Small towns are problematic because there are few if any of the things teenagers like to do within their boundaries. The stereotypical teenager used to be someone who went to the movies, went bowling, went to the mall, or did things outdoors. Now teenagers in small towns are essentially left to playing video games or surfing the internet and there aren’t jobs to sustain them. Dealing drugs can be quite the lucrative business even if it is also potentially lethal.
As my posts are demonstrating, our issues are often intricately intertwined and require armies of people willing to specialize in specific parts in order to accomplish anything. For gangs, we must ensure our communities have adequate supervised activities to cope with the realities of single parents in low wage occupations. We must have schools where kids from difficult environments can be taught how to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. We need brave police officers who can penetrate these gangs and help us prevent gangs from growing through rape.