No. 643



Here is a question, and you might want to think about the answer for the next several years. How far is up? The correct answer is, as far as you want to go. Now, here is another question that is much more personal. How long will we, the American people, tolerate the violence, bloodshed, illegal drugs, gangs, murder and other forms of crime before rising up as a mighty force to do something to stop it, or at least drastically reduce it?
I can remember a time, and I’m sure you can too, when we did not see the reports of carnage and bloodshed on television and in the news, almost on a daily basis. For all accounts, it’s getting worse but, again, when will “WE THE PEOPLE” take drastic measures to do something about it?
To be sure, there is no simple solution or we would not be fearful to venture into increasingly larger areas of our major cities and even smaller communities in many cases. Personally, I would like to see Congress put more money into fighting crime than many of the pork barrel projects that get buried in large spending bills near the end of the session. What good does it do to build a highway leading to nowhere, if we get shot when we get there? The people in law enforcement and the legal community tell me that most of our crime is caused by illegal drugs. I have no doubts this is true, but there is a larger question here that has been asked millions of times:
Why are so many people hooked on drugs? We will never get any help from the drug pushers. As long as there is big, easy money to be made, they are never going to stop selling drugs.
So what then? To my way of thinking, we need to do everything we can to take illegal drugs off the streets, but we need to spend more time and money on treatment programs and local rehab facilities to help those who are already addicted. When we combine these measures with education, which begins with literacy, we will begin to make a difference. The people who are hooked on illegal drugs are failing in life. For people to succeed and feel they have value and self-worth, they must work, have a sense of purpose and feel they have a bright future. Here is something our politicians need to hear, over and over again. For able-bodied people, you cannot help them with a handout. To be sure, most people do not need a handout, they need a hand up.
It’s often said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For young people in every community who are failing, there is a lure to join a gang. These are young people, some just children, who have no sense of family. The gang becomes their family. Once initiated into a gang, it’s as difficult to leave as it is to get off drugs.
Here in our community we have a police chief who is proactive when it comes to gangs. Some time back he called a meeting of community leaders to develop a strategy to deal with the presence of gangs in our community. I was invited to attend, because he sees our “Bookcase for Every Child” project as part of the long-term solution. Getting children hooked on reading at a very early age is better than having them get hooked on drugs later.
At this point, please allow me to show you what happens when illegal drugs and gangs get completely out of hand. Granted, this is a large city, but the city of Philadelphia, Pa., summoned 10,000 men to a meeting in October 2007 at the Liacouras Center to rally black men -- not only in mass, but in unity -- and forcefully take back the streets from the grasp of violence. As you may know, the city of Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” The rallying cry for this large audience of men was that it was “A New Day.” The speakers at the meeting included the mayor, police chief and members of Congress. They all gave stirring speeches where they proclaimed, “It’s a New Day.”
Those in attendance were anxious and willing to be renewed and to attack the senseless murders that have occurred in the city, including the 406 killings that happened in 2006. Over the past 10 years, 2,889 black men under the age of 34 have been lost to violence. This rally had the chance to not only capture and captivate, but the rare opportunity to move people to actually act and do something about the violence. But it didn’t happen. Not yet! Maybe that hinges on the turnout for the subsequent orientation sessions scheduled for the next two weeks in area high schools. But it didn’t happen at the Liacouras Center.
These words and statistics were penned by Terrance McNeil, a columnist for the Temple News who gave me permission to share them with you. What we all need to think about in relation to crime, illegal drugs and gangs is this -- “Denial Comes Before Disaster.” We cannot afford to sit back in our comfortable homes and wait until it becomes more of a crisis.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)