It's been said that sometimes we need to travel the world to find what we had at home all along. On the 24th of December, my host brother described to me the events of the two prior nights when he had ventured out to protect his older brother from circumstances that have elevated since I last spoke. Apparently the one Nicaraguan gang member has turned into five: two from Nicaragua, two from Los Angeles, one from El Salvador and all from Mara Salvatrucha.
Had Sergio not gone back that night, Pablo would be in the hospital, if not dead. Thank goodness I had failed to convince him to stay home that night. However this whole situation has turned from preoccupation to irritation as anger and frustration filters through my emotional sieve.
I want to blame Pablo for his uncontrollable habit of irresponsibly drinking, but the realization that addiction is a disease, not a choice, makes me reconsider. I really have no idea what his life is like or the type of problems he has. Sergio tells me he holds in a lot of pain due to reasons I won't make public, so he drinks to run. I'm in no position to judge that.
I try to blame the gang members that have been threatening us, but knowing the history and social evolution of this gang, I know it's bigger than that. Often referred to as "Los Hijos De La Guerra" (The Children of the War), Mara Salvatrucha originated from refugees and the children of refugees fleeing from the El Salvadorian civil war, settling in California. As what happens to most displaced people relocated into ghettos (and ghettos are neighborhoods of racial segregation, NOT to describe something poor or malfunctioning), they form some kind of community organization against the xenophobia of the already settled demographic.
These common traits appear in all gangs, from the Irish gangs of the 1840s to the Bloods and Crips more than a century later. And behind all gang formations is some economic driving point. For Irish gangs it was the potato famine, a result of religious and social oppression. For the Crips (Community Revolution In Progress), it was deindustrialization. For local gangs in Seattle (and yes there are gangs in Seattle), like the Rascals or LRBs, it is often traced back to the communist wars of Southeast Asia. It is never as simple as just a bunch of punk kids that were born bad.
Knowing this makes me want to blame exploitation, those conflicts over ownership and distribution. It makes me blame the impurity of greed, regardless of skin color. But that doesn't absolve individual choice. People still need to be held responsible for their actions.
So I run around confused, desperately searching for something to be angry at, something to help explain this and ultimately I end up angry with my own life. Angry at the lack of struggle, angry that I didn't have something still too difficult to overcome to distract me from these thoughts my mind create.
But the point of Sergio's talk was to learn to appreciate my own life. The point was to be thankful of the sacrifices your family make that allow you to be in the position you are in today, as my own family has done. I realize now that being angry at my life devalues these sacrifices. It tells them their efforts were in vain. But there is some worth in struggle, some value in pain, maybe this is mine. I'd be lucky if that's all it was.