Theories of Relativity

M.C. Escher's "Relatlank
M.C. Escher’s “Relativity” as interpreted by Legos.
It is colder than a witch’s tit in a brass brassiere outside. Judging by the emails I have been getting, many of you have joined me in coughing up bowling ball sized replicas of Spongebob with every other breath. And, if you’re like me, you’ve started naming the more unique samples. My favorite so far is Elroy. But there’s lots of competition left to go. Nevertheless, being included in the Brotherhood if International Phlegm Spewers is the highest honor I’ve gotten while writing this blog, so I am deeply touched. Or that could be the meds talking. What do you think elfish bunny people? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Well, I think that’s what I thought too. I don’t remember what I thought before I heard your thought so it must have been the same thought you were thinking before I thought what you thought. Right?

Right.

You’ll be thrilled to know that the DeNovo Scientific Journal (who?) has proof, PROOF I TELL YOU, that Bigfoot is real. The proof they cite is limited to items that have only been seen by the howler monkeys that live in their heads and they decry how “mainstream science” wouldn’t give them a fair hearing.

Ahem.

Several year ago I was at a symposium on archaeology. Nothing earth shattering, just an update of some discoveries in South America. During the course of the presentation questions were allowed and one gentleman wanted to know why they were ignoring the proof that aliens had been involved in the structure they were discussing. The scientists on stage could have rolled their eyes or called security or any one of a hundred dismissive things. Instead they patiently talked to him, showed how where his facts were wrong (that would be everywhere) and quietly laid the ground rules for what science requires. While it was clear that the man wanted to believe what he’d been told he also could see he had no rational basis for those beliefs any more. He quietly took his seat and the meeting went on without one single person making fun of the gentleman. That is how science works. Not by humiliation or fear but by logic and facts.

Which brings us back to Bigfoot. Not one scientist outside of the little group who own the website has seen any of the alleged materials or subsequent data. That is not proof of anything … well, other than the fact that they really need to hire a web designer. That site looks like hell.

In other odd genetic news, Edith Casas has married the guy who (allegedly) murdered her twin sister. That has got to make family reunions fun.

Other people who should consider getting out of the gene pool include Aydrea Meade, who decided to liven up a school assembly full of, kindergarten though 8th grade, kids by performing a full strip tease and Joe Rickey who bitch slapped a stranger’s toddler for sitting on his mommy’s lap. Police were called in both cases. And arrests were made in both as well. So there is some hope.

But not much.

Cops in Florida arrested Nedra Byrd after they found her ten year old son naked and drunk wandering the highway. The kid’s blood alcohol level was .108. For some perspective, remember that .08 is legally drunk for an adult. Yes, she’s in jail.

I bring all of this up to make a point. We are drifting further away from a people who take responsibility for our actions and instead look for excuses for our behavior or beliefs. If something doesn’t fit our niche, it gets ignored. If our habits harm others, that’s nobody’s business because they are our habits and no one else’s. The constant cry to get government out of our lives is always followed by ways government should get in other people’s lives.

Don’t touch mine, it’s them that need policing!

And on and on we spiral down the drain.

It’s gotten so bad now that parents are begging their kids to stay out of gangs only to find out that is no longer an option. My friend Sandra Trevino shared this nightmare with me.

Once the kid is tall enough, they’re in a gang.

If it had been any other high school, you would know this story by now. Had some other “kind of school” logged a year that saw 29 current and recent students shot, eight fatally, “we would all know the name of that school,” says radio show host Ira Glass in a new episode of “This American Life” on NPR. “If you grafted those facts onto another high school — in a wealthier place, maybe a suburb … it would be national news.”

But it wasn’t another school. It was Harper High, in Chicago, during a year when the murder rate in that city climbed to 506 while it plateaued or fell in New York and Los Angeles. Three “This American Life ” reporters spent five months in that school last fall, and beginning this weekend, Glass hosts the remarkable two-part program that results from their immersion.

One early section of the first hour finds reporter Linda Lutton laying out of “the rules” of Harper High. It is a chilling lesson. Parents everywhere think they set the do’s and don’ts of their children’s lives: Do your homework, don’t talk to strangers, don’t join a gang. Parents in places that aren’t like Harper tend to think that parents in places that are somehow slack in the rule department. “I would never allow my child to …” we say when the news report mentions that the latest dead student was a member of a gang. And then we go about our day feeling safe.

But as Lutton makes clear, the parents of Harper don’t make the rules, and the kids don’t really “choose” to follow them. She says:

When I ask kids what their parents don’t understand about gangs these days, they say it’s this: their parents tell them not to join a gang — as if there’s some initiation to go through, some way to sign up. Today, whether or not you want to be in a gang, you’re in one. If you live on pretty much any block near Harper High School, you have been assigned a gang. Your mother bought a house on 72nd and Hermitage? You’re S-Dub. You live across the street from the school? That’s D-Ville.

There are more than 15 gangs in the neighborhoods around Harper, she reports, and while being part of one puts kids in danger, it also keeps them safe. You don’t dare walk to school, or anywhere else, without the company of a gang. And, no matter what your parents say, you don’t find a way to stay neutral. As Aaron Washington, a police officer assigned full-time to the school, tells Lutton:

It used to be if you played sports or you were academically better than the average kid, they didn’t bother you. Now it’s different, it doesn’t matter. If you live here, you’re part of them. You know, you live on that block, or you live in that area, you one of them. The way they get to school, they have to come to school with one of these factions, one of these gangs. They gotta come to school with them. They don’t have a choice.

The reality took the journalists of “This American Life” by surprise. “I’ve done other reporting on gangs and neighborhoods like this,” Glass said in an interview from his Manhattan office. “I am not new to this subject. But what we learned was how little we knew.”

Among the many moments that made this clear, he said, was a conversation the team recorded between the father of a murdered teen, and the boy’s friends. That dad, Glass said, did “all the right things, everything that every parent really does, like signing the kid up for citywide football leagues and trying to keep him out of trouble.” But the friends tell the father — gently but definitely — that the gangs are stronger than any parent. “You reach a certain height and people start shooting at you,” Glass said. “You are in the game.”

Added Alex Kotlowitz, who has made a career of writing about life in “bad” neighborhoods, and who reported through the prism of Harper’s on-site social workers, said this series made him see that just as parents can’t protect their children, they can’t heal them, either. “In the wake of Newtown,” he said in an interview from his Chicago home, “we asked all the right questions. Why did this happen? How do we help the children who witnessed and were traumatized by it? What is going to happen in Newtown going forward?”

And yet, Kotlowitz said, “we don’t ask those questions at a place like Harper. Virtually every kid in that school has seen someone who was shot or knows someone who was shot but we have never really dealt with the issue of trauma in the inner-city.”

Instead, Kotlowitz said, we leave parents and children, teachers and students to navigate terrain that is impassable. And we convince ourselves that their presence there is somehow their own fault.

“What this illustrates in a really vivid way is that all of us hear on the news that a kid got shot and he was a gang member,” Glass said, “but we really don’t understand what they mean. The feeling we have that well, that couldn’t be my kid? You hear these stories and realize, yes, it could.”

I know it’s fun to rush to judgement but the problem is not always “them.” More often than not it’s us. It’s us who shove aside the pain and suffering of others since it’s not happening here. Not yet, anyway.

But it is.

Where do you think those inner city gang bangers get the money for the guns and those stylin’ rides? Government subsidies? No. They get them from nice suburban kids who drive their soccer mom’s cars into the city to buy drugs and whores. And, yes, it’s your kid I’m talking about.

And those gangs collect debts just like the mob used to. If you can’t pay, you set them up in an area where they can find others who can. Your area. Your neighborhood. That’s already happening. Or did you think that uptick in suburban home invasions was due to aliens?

Face it folks, the bad guys and the idiots are winning and we’re letting them.

Jus†ice, Stress from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

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