The murder was a "random" and "possibly gang-related" walkby shooting on the levee by Jesse Street (which is the next neighborhood across the river from here -- the one called "River Flats" which is our most notorious "bad" neighborhood now that Beach Flats is somewhat cleaned up. Zack lives in that neighborhood, and so did we thirty-some years ago, though the neighborhood wasn't nearly so desperate then).
The stabbings were in an apartment around the corner from me, both by the same person furing a party Saturday night. I didn't hear the ruckus though I was home, and that worries me, since I'm trying to be aware and I go to the porch to investigate every sound (that forty-five year-old Kitty Genovese
case haunts me still).
The police are now saying this is a mysterious rise in violence after years of declining crime. I say it's not mysterious at all.
It's the inevitable result of systematic Republican and so-called "moderate" Democrat policies over the last twenty years. Policies that explicitly promised
to "starve the government" and people went for them repeatedly out of what? personal greed, thinking that this grandiose plan of destruction would save them a little chump change in taxes? personal animosity towards those people they perceived as benefiting from a "bloated bureaucracy--" the poor, the disabled, the old, the young, the bureaucrats
who process their drivers' licenses and cut the checks for their roadwork and design the improvements to their intersections when they complain about them? The teachers and the doctors in public clinics? I honestly never understood who they were so mad at.
Let's see what the starvation policies have done.
Reduced bilingual education to the point of effective zero in many schools, leaving only vestiges of it in other schools. So our many, many second-language learners are ata loss in their classes.
Reduced preschool subsidies and public preschool programs so that more of the kids enter school unprepared to get anything out of it (there's more to this later on, wait for it).
Reduced money to schools overall (each year claiming they were giving the schools more in some weird little plan or other while cutting the money greatly in other areas), forcing expanded class sizes, forcing schools to drop the electives that keep kids in school -- including the vocational programs that help young people ease into careers with or without college -- making it impossible for schools to buy enough new books or keep librarians (and libraries!) and classroom aides, or even to keep the schools maintained. Even to keep the schools physically safe. I've been in more than one classroom with wonky wiring and massive leaks, not a good combination! Most schools no longer have their own school nurse or psychiatrist, and if you think those are luxuries may I remind you that tuberculosis is coming back? And that it's been known for a long time that many problems young adults have -- that cost society dearly, if we're not going to care about the young people for their own sakes -- are visible in childhood, if there's anybody there to look at them.
Reduced community access to health care and mental health care.
Cut funds to higher education, forcing community colleges -- which at one time were as good as free -- to raise fees to the levels that used to be the norm for four-year colleges. When you consider that the community colleges have been the vehicle to get low-income and underprepared students ready for four-year colleges, and also the place where vocational education happens, it's a real blow to social mobility and to hope itself
when you take easy access to community colleges away from people. Also forcing the state university and the University of California to raise fees, cut scholarship money, and cut programs(two separate systems. You can thank another Republican, S.I. Hayakawa, for the confusing name change of the State College system -- he was a professor of semantics before he was a politician, see, and he thought it would make people take the state college system more seriously if we called it a university system. All it does is confuse people.
Meanwhile, in the same bag of destructive tricks, we have: "let's deregulate everything! Let's have a free market and a smaller government!" and while we're at it, "Let's reduce worker protections, environmental protections, and consumer protections!"
So. Health care costs go way up. Housing costs go way up. Income, adjusted for inflation, goes down
among the people who already have a struggle to pay for things. Unemployment rises as jobs are eliminated or contracted out -- and the contractees find themselves working harder to make less money with no benefits -- homelessness increases, families crack under the strain, people have to travel farther to work, leaving their older children with nobody to talk to when they come home from or drop out of school -- which they're doing at a much greater rate due to the above and more stuff I'll get to in a minute.
Enter the Texans and their "no child left behind." This is actually another financial attack, and not just becuase it witholds funding from struggling schools that can't pass the entirely bogus tests produced not by educators but by profit-making private entities (did you know that? All the tests that American students have to take to succeed in life are created by unregulated
private companies, including the SAT that everyone has to take to get into college, and including all the new tests mandated by NCLB). Because this requires proprietary "curriculum" materials aimed at supposedly-but-not-really preparing students for the tests, and proprietary "workshops" aimed at supposedly-but-not-really preparing teachers to teach to the tests -- which are written by people who have nothing to do with the schools or schooling, in case you missed that.
So the content of the school day is now mandated not just by the necessity to pass a test that has nothing to do with what students should be learning developmentally or with regards to their future, but by specific requirements to use specific materials and methods developed by people who don't even know what it takes to learn things at specific levels of development or even in general. There's no time for anything relevant or interesting or helpful. Students are bored, anxious, and hopeless.
They're dropping out in droves.
There's nothing for them in school or out of it. Nothing to aim for, nothing to hope for, nothing even to tide them over because the traditional kid jobs have been snapped up by laid-off or desperately moonlighting adults. Their parents are depressed and either overworked or out of work and not available enough either way.
Enter the big-time gangs. They're replacing the almost-inoccuous kid gangs of years past. Why?
You know, they're just entrepreneurs -- "find a need and fill it." White-collar workers want their coke, and desperate people want their weed and their junk and their meth. So they've got a market.
And they've got a much bigger need to fill. The need of young adults to have something big to do. Something risky, something social, something bigger than themselves. They want to be loyal to something and someone, they want to have a plan that stretches farther than four-twenty in the afternoon, and they want to challenge themselves.
The big-time gangs say "you want to be one of us? You got to burn your bridges. You can't be one of us until you've killed somebody to prove yourself and to make it impossible for you to go back on us."
And there you have it. And I'm late for work, so that's all for now.