I heard a news story today about a Salvadoran youth, interviewed after his second failed attempt to escape to the US in order to flee gang violence. PRI story by Jude Joffee-Block. José has never been part of a gang, yet lives in hiding, because rival gang members believe anyone outside their own gang whom they don't recognize must be from another gang, and if you are from another gang, then you must be killed. "I don't know who you are." Ergo: "I kill you."
|Where is the way out?|
Think of José as your tall, thin son who wants to study and do well in school, but a group of bully jocks won't let him open his locker. Then imagine the bully jocks have guns and they will kill him for opening his locker. The call from the principal will not be to tell you that your child has a stomach ache. Now multiply that boy struck down in the school hall in your mind by at least 1 million.
What struck me deeply in Joffee-Block's excellent report were the similarities between the senselessness and diabolical reach of this violence and what is occurring in the Middle East with the rise of the terrorist army.
|Passing them by...|
We have known about the proliferation of Central American gangs for at least two decades. As we have shipped our citizens, our billions, and our weapons to the Middle East, our nearest neighbors face destruction from within. Globalization should not rid us of the notion of nearness. Real estate is about location, location, location. Countries are real estate, too.
I cannot understand why there have been no "summits" held with our neighboring countries to address this life-and-death issue, nor do I understand why the United States has not leveraged its yet daunting power to influence or incentivize Central American governments to act on this problem. There are bound to be economic answers, as well as sociocultural ones. Evidence is plentiful to support the theory that poverty and lack of opportunity open the door to the organizations of gangs. The response to the Central American children fleeing to our country has been bureaucratic."We'll process these cases faster." So far, no talk of funding or of addressing the root problems. Meanwhile, we continue to send our borrowed billions to the Middle East, et al. I cannot help but wonder what difference--what truly positive, life-supporting difference--some of those billions could have made in El Salvador, the child murder capitol of the world.
There is no question that steps must be taken to right the wrongs occurring in Iraq, Syria, not to mention Ukraine, Africa, and other problem spots on the globe. But is it wrong to ask the question, "What about that little boy at my neighbor's house? The one who's hungry, afraid for his life and alone?" If we continue not asking that question, there will come a day when we realize that our location has revealed that we are all in the same neighborhood, the one that used to be nice, but whose values have dramatically decreased. We'll realize that our neighbors have nowhere else to go, and understand then that neither, neither do we.
Text copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.
Images copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.