Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm Starting Not to Recognize My Own Town

I'm going to mainly focus on national issues on this blog, but I have to say something about my hometown first, which ties in to a much bigger issue. I am from Vicksburg, Mississippi (yes, as in Siege of Vicksburg for you history buffs). Vicksburg is a pretty boring town, where most people know most other people and seem to get along pretty well (once again, there's a lot of history to explore and museums and exhibits and whatnot, but for most people my age - and even some who are much older - history is not the most interesting subject, especially when most of us have grown up around it, more on that at a later date). Or, at least that's what it used to be. All around me, my town is morphing - literally changing right before my eyes. Common decency is getting harder to find, and common sense has begun to follow. Conflicts last longer, tempers and fuses are shorter. The most trivial arguments lead to fights, people getting jumped, stabbed, or even worse, gunplay. Not only that, but the streets are less safe. Robberies are occurring more and more frequently, assaults, break-ins, and even murders are following. Just last week, the Vicksburg Post reported that the rate at which city teens are being arrested has doubled from last year. Yes, the town seems to be in the early stages of a turn for the worse, and while I still feel safe most places I go and do not want to be overly dramatic, I believe that we have to take notice and take action now before things get irreversibly wrong. Teenagers and adults under drinking age seem to be the source of many of the problems plaguing Vicksburg right now - meaning that my generation is responsible for the unwanted change that I see in my hometown (which leads me to the national issue). Across the nation, Generation Y seems a lot more reckless and ignorant than we should be. Los Angeles is boasting astronomical juvenile crime numbers, Chicago has had nearly 40 teen homicides this year alone. We're beginning to spin out of control, and it's about time someone said something about it. No one can really hold us accountable for these things until we begin holding ourselves accountable first.
Nas probably said it best in his song "Purple" off his Lost Tapes disc:

"These hot-headed youngsters
always gettin' in trouble
reactin' before thinkin', they easily irritated
and murder's premeditated
it's a fact that we sinkin'
when we should be climbin
in a nutshell
it's just jail
Drug sales, liquor and diamonds, niggaz rewindin
instead of movin forward, to blow up so what's the science?
People shoutin, police pushin the crowd
And on the ground's a young soldier, with meat hangin out him
Am I hallucinatin off the hazin?
Or did I just see a nigga shoot another nigga's face in
It's a ugly nation, cops circle the block with mug shots
Photograph pictures of, suspect faces..."

Let's explore some of the reasons (not excuses or justifications, mind you, but explanations) for what we're seeing. These are in no particular order, by the way.
  1. The absence of fatherhood in general, but especially in minority and low-income homes
  2. The stronghold that the mainstream media has on our culture, and our desires to be socially accepted at almost any cost
  3. The resonance and reach of the "Stop Snitching" campaign (not to mention the absurdity). Basically, the mentality is as follows: "I've been robbed, but I wouldn't dare talk to police because I wouldn't want them to possibly arrest the person and recover my stuff. Also, others might actually stop robbing people if they knew that victims would cooperate in efforts to bring the criminals to jail. Wouldn't want that!"
  4. Either our inability - or perhaps, our refusal - to think things through and consider the consequences before making decisions
  5. The effects of the instant gratification we have always known from our consumer products and machines and the fact that many of us are beginning to expect the same instant gratification from people, relationships, disagreements, and the like.
  6. The fact that many of us shun knowledge, refuse to read, and neglect to value education or learning in almost any form
  7. The older generations do a lot more talking about us than talking to us, which simply leads to more resentment and a wider generation gap. This, in effect, makes the problem worse and prolongs the development of a solution.
There are many more than seven when you think about it, but these are the ones that I will address. Once again, none of these are excuses and when it comes down to it, we've got to develop and keep higher standards for ourselves and make the right decisions. We're capable of so much better. So many legal and social battles have been fought and won for us to live in the unique times and have the special opportunities that we have today. Perhaps because we did not have to fight for them and never went without them, we fail to realize just how important and special these opportunities are and how fortunate we are to reap their benefits. We owe it to ourselves to change this, rise up, and reach our true potential.
This is getting pretty long, so I'll break one of the listed concepts down each day until I get to the end.