A few years ago a former client came to me and wanted me to represent his little brother. He was upset because, as he put it at the time, the young man was a “civilian” and wasn’t in “the game”. He didn’t have a record and was just caught up with some bad kids in the neighborhood. According to his brother, “he (his little brother) wasn’t a soldier” like him, and he didn’t want him to become one.
Anyway, I have since heard that term “civilian” used to describe folks who aren’t involved with a certain lifestyle by folks who are in that life. And I have since heard them address themselves as “soldiers” as well. I suppose that in their own minds, most of the people getting killed in our inner cities are “soldiers” fighting their own meaningless wars for drugs, money, and turf.
That is how the rest of society views them as well. Maybe not as “soldiers”, but
people thugs caught up in a deadly and violent lifestyle who kill each other all too frequently. But we know where they are, and we know when to stay away and who to stay away from. It is why even though we have had 193 murders and counting so far in Philly (not to mention the carnage taking place in other cities all over America) we don’t even seem to notice or care. They are way at the bottom of our consciousness scale. Those killings don’t affect us.
It is why President Obama did not make an official statement about the 274 murders in his hometown of Chicago so far this year, but he had to make one about the shootings in a movie theater in Colorado.
When violence is random and in places that we don’t expect it, we get 24 hour cable coverage and front page news headlines. We know the names of all the victims and the shooter will forever live in infamy. It ignites gun control debates and we ponder and pontificate about the violence of our culture until it fades away and the next tragedy strikes.
That doesn’t happen when we pick up the paper on Monday morning and read about the shootings and mayhem in the streets of pick a city, that’s just the way it is with “those people”. We expect that. It’s like reading the box scores from last night’s baseball game. And, believe it or not, the “soldiers” fighting their senseless and violent battles want it that way. They have their turf and their enemies are defined: Other “soldiers” in the game who know the rules and who, for the most part, play by them.
Sadly, the folks who live within the confines of their battle field do not have the luxury of just moving out or tuning out the violence. They might not be soldiers in the battle, but they are also at war. Unfortunately for them, though, the presidential candidates will not take a break from their campaigns to consider their plight and mourn with the rest of the country. Flags will not be flown at half-mast, and the residence of North Philadelphia, East St. Louis, or the city of Detroit will not be getting a visit from the president.
“Turned on the TV this morning. Had this s*** on about — about livin’ in a violent world. Showed all these foreign places…where foreigners live, and all. Started thinkin’, man. Either they don’t know…don’t show…or don’t care about what’s goin’ on in the ‘hood. They had all this foreign s***. They didn’t have s*** on my brother, man.” ~Doughboy (Ice Cube) Boyz N The Hood
Well Doughboy, Aurora, Colorado is right here in America, but it might as well be in a foreign place to folks “in the hood.”