Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Challenge of Mediating Gang Violence

Here's the Challenge of the Week: I've been invited to participate with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission to attempt to mediate the on-going, decades old gang violence which plagues our City. Apparently, there are about 50 civic leaders who have been meeting weekly for over a year, and are making little headway. A native of Los Angeles, I attended High School in the early 1970's in Inglewood. It was the beginnings of gang-affiliation, and even race riots. By the time I graduated, we found ourselves more divided and segregated than before the busing began: a failed experiment of forced integration. Unfortunately, these young gang members are now second generation: the children of my contemporaries. And unfortunately, most every family knows someone who has personally experienced violence or death in the name of solidarity amongst the members of a gang. I read an interesting folk wisdom story today that said: "A gun is not an arrow." What was meant by this is that an arrow is a good warning: "don't behave that way, because it can sting or wound". A gun, on the other hand, is usually fatal: no opportunity to change behavior, no warning. Perhaps, with a lot of help from spiritual sources, I can play a role in driving home that lesson. As they say, "you've got to hope for a fist-fight" in these situations. If we can get them to de-escalate, and approach conflict in a less drastic way, perhaps we can get a chance to sit them at a table to discuss their decades old misunderstanding. It's a challenge, but I'm thrilled by the opportunity!

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