There is a meat-cutting, face-slashing frenzy going on in New York City, and while we’re discussing the finer points of the head/heart battle between Hilary and Bernie or the dangers of brown shirt versus conservative Republican nominations, we’re ignoring the bubble of anger so laden with pus it’s plummeting downward, not floating up. That bubble is moving perilously close to the black hole that hovers just above street level in the projects and tenements of this town, swooping up teenaged dreams with the suction power of a Shark vacuum cleaner.
This frenzy doesn’t see or care about the differences between Democrats or Republicans, Socialists or Independents. It is mindless, narcissistic, nihilistic and frustrated. You can’t scare it with threats of jail—it’s been there. You can’t plead about future consequences—it doesn’t see any. And you can’t talk about God or spirituality because, in the main, church is meaningless, something grandma and old folks are into. It is hungry, seething with self-hatred and broke. It has no money because there are no jobs, in direct contradiction to government and political statistics that claim unemployment figures are going down. What’s worse is that it’s not afraid to die. It will defy authority and shoot it out with police. It wants to die—or kill. This amoeba of madness has pseudopods that stretch randomly from Brownsville to East New York, from El Barrio to Mott Haven, cutting through the cultural restraints of Black and Puerto Rican family values. It has no logic, no belief system, nowhere to go in the mornings. It just wakes up, eats some Lucky Charms with whatever milk is left in the fridge, and lingers near the doorway of whatever apartments it lives in, laughing at the chumps who go to work for nothing and wishing it could find a quick-fix, miracle cure for money.
It is already individually suicidal, talking back to cops angrily and resisting arrest. It scares police. It scares old people. It scares kids. It is well-muscled and badly educated. And it’s reaching critical mass. When that happens, this city, this nation, will wish that it had thrown money into job creation and education rather than prisons. It will wish that it had not sent so many potentially productive taxpayers to jail and isolation. It will then realize that the terrorism abroad is nothing compared to the terrorism within. And when that individualistic suicidal impulse become contagious, when it becomes collective, it will move to kill itself and take a bunch of us with it. The manner of mayhem will not matter: mass murders, suicide bombings, kidnappings, rape—it will not matter.
And, all of us, Black, brown, red, yellow and white will wring our sanitized hands and wonder what went wrong, forgetting the long, generationally long history of racism, discrimination, benign neglect and murder of those same kids who now face us with empty eyes and loaded guns.
The good book says, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” We’re not producing good fruit. We’re not producing good futures. And nature abhors trees that don’t produce. If we don’t change our evil ways, the bees will not come back. Neither will human values.
Our response will be more police, more jails, more killings. It won’t work. And we will long for the days when all we had to worry about was ISIS.
These kids are not playing around; they’re not joking. They’re ready to die for nothing. The question, the challenge, is whether we’re ready to see us in them, roll up our sleeves and work at producing better schools, better teachers, better cops, better homes and, definitely, better jobs. You can’t kick this can down the road. It’ll blow up in your face.
Felipe Luciano is an Emmy-winning reporter, activist and poet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.