Author’s Note: This was supposed to be the third (Sixty, the new Forty or Fifty) in a four-part series of personal examinations at the subject decade milestones in our lives. This article is a hybrid of that theme. Why, because I wanted to comment on a very important subject in our community. Guns and violence in our midst.
There are numerous teachable moments in our lives. I would say the majority of them come while we are growing up or maturing if you will. Meaning that over a long span of one’s life, normally from puberty through our early twenties, we are in a living life training mode. It’s like on the job training and for some it could span into our late twenties. Most of us are ready to take on life by the time we reach thirty years of age. Like the comics, writers, philosophers, and prognosticators say as a matter of fact, by that age, we have been through some stuff.
Whether we are talking about love, person to person, friend to friend or even family member to family member relationships, we have participated one way or another. We have experienced events/episodes and should have learned from those experiences.
You and I have also seen those who never seem to learn. Education, race, wealth, or age has nothing to do with it. Some people just don’t get it and the shame of it all? Is that they don’t even know they don’t get it. I heard Marcellus Wiley; a former football player tells an eye-opening story one morning on ESPN. It was about his attitude at a time while carrying a gun for protection as a young football player. In short, he misunderstood a man’s intention that approached him at a traffic light. He immediately wondered who and what was this stranger’s motive. On edge because of prior experiences growing up he was about to shoot a man who only wanted directions because he was lost. Marcellus had a gun on his person for protection. His point, the gun took everything to another level. It’s as if the gun makes the carrier a living hair trigger. He gave his “live by the gun; die by the gun” testimony on ESPN’s The Undefeated. http://theundefeated.com/
I grew up in Milwaukee and had to fend for myself for I had no older brothers. Luckily I had a city full of cousins. Yet, one can imagine the problems I found myself in as a short black man. During that time (the late sixties), most disagreements that led to fights were carried out with fists. Most of those ended with the participants having a drink and laughing about the incident.
Hanging out in the hood, I had a brush with the absurdity of carrying a gun. In my early twenties, I carried one for protection. I also had a quick temper and a sharp tongue to go with youth. At the time, one could classify my occupation as a street hustler/gambler. I made a pittance of living by gambling (pool, cards, and dice). It was a dangerous game gambling with older men who might be losing their rent, grocery or bill money. They’d suddenly get sober, look at me and wonder why they kept losing to this young punk. They thought I was a cheater, never considering I could outlast them. I had no job, wife, or children. When I ate a hamburger, I’d fed the family. Believe it or not, that gave me an edge. I was also very lucky, not only believing but knew I would win some money. Just so you know this only lasted for a few months because no one can make a continuous living as a gambler. As I learned sooner than later, you run out of luck.
In summary, a guy stole some money from me since I had fallen asleep, and drunk on my couch. I woke up, went looking for the guy who’d been identified. I was still half drunk mind you. They say because I don’t remember, I went into a neighborhood late night restaurant looking for this guy. I pulled the weapon out and questioned a couple of his friends while waving it and shouting tell that X$&##&** I am looking for him. I learned about this the next day from people who were in the restaurant at the time. The liquor had blacked out my memory. Chills went up and down my spine as people told me the story. Because I knew if I’d found him that night, I would have jumped on him and may have shot him. He had stolen from me in my house. And he already owed me money. I was that angry about the situation. Let’s also say for the record; God was watching over me, and I didn’t even realize it.
I finally saw the guy a week or so later; of course, he had very little funds. He gave me a few dollars, and we had a drink at the tavern. He promised to get me the rest of the money which as I recall was no more than fifty dollars. More importantly, a few days earlier, someone had stolen my black cashmere coat off a hanger. At the time, I was shooting pool in a tavern. The gun was on the inside of my breast pocket. Even during that time, mature people had a saying about guns. And that was, ‘if your carry a gun, somebody will make you use it.’ I never found my coat or the gun. After that, I never carried a gun on my person again.
That was then, but now society has changed. The streets and hoods have changed, at times making it downright dangerous for anybody at any time of the day. My wife and I vacationed back home in July. After dark the ‘streets’, so to speak, has gotten so bad; you hear a lot of people saying they don’t go out at night.
All through the sixties, we thought of Milwaukee as a family town. There are still people growing up, raising families, enjoying parks and family outings. I saw evidence of the same while driving through the city. The city is still a pretty clean city compared to other cities.
Yet, there is an element of people in Milwaukee and other inner cities with short tempers and who simply don’t care whether they live or die today or tomorrow. In some cases, it’s a result of babies raising babies with no sense of morals. In other cases, they are just pissed off at anyone, everyone and life itself. Some of these youngsters expect to go to jail. Some don’t expect to make it to the age of thirty. That element feels and thinks that the hopelessness is real. Society has nothing for them, so they don’t really care about anyone rights. All they know is they too, want to survive and live the ‘American Dream.’ How to go about achieving that dream is not always the question. Most have family members who have jobs and have carved out a living for themselves in spite of obstacles. They see examples of those struggles in these neighborhoods openly available for scrutiny every day. For some, there is an inclination to take the easy way out of life as if life itself owes them something. They have yet to experience the shock and awe that life doesn’t owe them or anybody else a thing. We have to impress upon them they too have to sacrifice to climb the ladder of success. And…the meaning of success may mean different things to different people. It does not always mean money to burn and ability to purchase expensive objects. They don’t understand it is by the grace of God and family members that brought them this far.
The question for the rest of us as members of this American Society is how we reach them. We need more people on the front lines. Athletes, entertainers, and common folk can band together in groups and provide facilities that can teach them. Churches need to do a better job of outreach to our youth. And yes, there is a role for national and local governments in spite of the tired old rhetoric you hear from the Alt Right, parts of the conservatism spiel, and other politicians. Liberalism is not a fatal disease. The American Dream isn’t designated for any one race or creed. A hand up for one is a step up to a better society for us all. I’m just saying…
We welcome comments on your thoughts as write about each topic point. We can all learn from others experiences as well as our own.
The Series Finale is Next: Seventies are you done?
Peace, make it a day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,
Codis Hampton II
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“In my latest book, Remember Moz, Gracie & John Hampton’s First-Born, I wanted to tell the world about a unique individual. Not because he happened to be my father but to explain who he was, where he came from, and how he evolved into the man he became up until his death. In doing so, I wrote of his ancestor’s roots back to and through the Civil War. The inclusion of his birth and upbringing in the heart of Arkansas, or Jim Crow country, add southern reluctance to learn why our country involved itself in a bloodthirsty four-year exercise in the first place? Then you begin to understand why our parents behaved the way that they did. See if I captured the essence of this paragraph.” Get the book via the Authors Page at http://outskirtspress.com/webPage/isbn/9781478766056
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