Friday, April 28, 2006

Dying to Belong

“Needy people are dangerous.”
-J. Sensing

When I was in high school I remember a little experiment I carried out. Now I was not a drinker and didn’t really party. I had some pretty strict grandparents. I did go out and have fun, but without the drinking that seemed so popular in our school.

I wondered often what the appeal of it all was. After all, beer really didn’t taste good and hangovers leave you nauseous and broke. One day I asked one of the “partiers” if they really enjoyed drinking.

Turns out this person did not. I began to wonder how many others felt as she did. So I asked.

One after the other they said the same thing. And more importantly they told me they went out drinking because their friends were doing it. Here’s the catch. None of the kids I asked really wanted to drink. They just did it because they thought everyone else wanted to. They did it because they didn’t want to be considered a geek…like me.

If they had ever sat down with one another and been honest imagine the revelation they would have had. But they felt they needed approval more than anything else. Being needy was dangerous.

A few years after high school, while working on the rescue squad, I pulled one of them out of a car. Dead. And still clutching a whiskey bottle in his cold hand. His buddy in the back of the car died too.

There is nothing more terrible than the smell of alcohol and blood mixed together.

I counsel with gang kids all the time. I’ve done it for years. And you know what?

Time and time and time again I hear the same thing. If they’ve been in the gang for very long they ALL say the same thing.

They don’t want to do it anymore.

But they don’t speak up because they think their friends do want to gangbang. Imagine if they ever sat down and discussed this. But they won’t and you know why?

Because in gangs being considered a geek or whatever isn’t the worst thing. FEAR is. Fear of being punished. Fear of being killed. Sadly sometimes the fear of being an outsider is more powerful than the fear of dying on the streets over colors. These kids “need” to be accepted so bad they are dying for it.

Some of my gang kids will read this. Other gang kids will read this that I do not know. And secretly most of them will agree. They don’t want this lifestyle They don’t want to die in the streets. They don’t want their family killed by stray bullets. They don’t want their kids to someday do what they do.

But most of them will never say it out loud.

If the gang has to control members by fear. Then what does that say about the gang? If you need acceptance so bad that you would die for it, what does that say about the life you lead?

Terrorists control their members with fear. So do cults. So do a lot of negative, destructive, and deadly groups.

Fear of being looked at as a punk. Fear of being punished severely for wanting out. Fear of being killed by rival gangs and by their own gang.

If by being in the gang you live your life in fear…then you are not living. If you “need” to belong so bad that you end up in a wheel chair, in jail, or dead you are living dangerously. The gang leaders need you too. They need you to make them rich. And if and when you die or end up in jail, they will find someone else to take your place. And in that respect, they don’t really “need” YOU at all. Just someone to use.

If you need so much that you sacrifice everything…You are dying…and the dead kids piling up in the morgue prove it.