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By Reid Wright

It’s quiet now. No cars pass on the road and no trains rumble and click on the intersecting tracks. Only  the chatter of insects and trickle of water in the murky irrigation ditch can be heard. An old cottonwood tree sags nearby, snaking it’s thirsty roots into the ditch. Under its canopy, fluttering plastic flowers are wired to a stump next to a faded baseball cap and a lonely white cross with the name Joseph Angel Garcia.

It was here, last fall where 15-year-old Joseph was taken by his friend John Gamble, 16, who beat him with a rifle until it cracked and splintered into pieces. John then doused Joseph’s slender body in gasoline and lit him on fire. Joseph’s body had to be identified by his dental records.

John left a white bandana with a gang slogan near his dead friend to let everyone know it had been a retaliation killing for when his friend told police on him for a break-in earlier that year.

Just after his 17th birthday, John was tried as an adult and found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping and retaliation against a witness. He will now likely spend a good portion of his life in jail.

It’s not my place to judge, that’s the jury’s job. But when I was that age, we would settle disputes with a scuffle in the dirt after school, or an exchange of insults that began with “your mamma’s so fat …”

Now I visit the juvenile detention center and see  crayola pictures on the wall with smiling stick figures in front of school houses. Only these stick figures have glocks  and AK-47s in their hands.

What is this kingdom of fear we have built for our children?
Every night, John went to bed on a pillowcase with gang slogans scrawled on it. His father was working all day and his mother was in a wheelchair, unable to get into john’s room, where he kept the .22 rifle and a small hand gun.

Joseph’s single mother worked long hours to buy nice things for her boys. On the night he was killed, she got home late and went to bed because she had to work early the next day.

Philosophers from Aristotle to Sitting Bull have dreamed of the possibilities of how far humanity could go if we just focused our effort on making each generation of children a little better than the last. Instead, we focus on making money and chasing false Idols.

There’s no more heroes.

If you meet a kid who needs a friend, spend a little time with them. Let them know there’s more to life than crime and death. These kids idolize so-called gangsters and respect people who do crime and go to jail.

I read the police reports every day, and people go to jail over the stupidest shit: not showing up to court, not paying a $30 fee, taking a lunch break during their trial and not coming back. And once you’re in the system, it’s REALLY easy to get stuck there.

There’s nothing gangsta about this shit.

Anyway, please spend some time with a kid. It’ll mean more than you know.


One Comment

  1. I agree. The children are the future.

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