The Blame Game, Home Edition
November, 2010

Welcome to Salinas, where you get a free ticket to our daily lottery of violence and death. One each for adults, youngsters can take as many as they want.
Human nature being what it is, we have to blame someone whenever things don’t go our way. It’s a privilege of our personal perfection. So, whenever something goes hideously wrong in our neighborhoods, we dive right in, blaming everyone and his brother. 

But blaming has its limitations. 

Blaming the police, the first place we go, is just stupid. It’s like blaming the fire department for not putting out this year’s Christmas Eve fire before it happens. What do you want, a cop in front of every house?

Blaming schools for not raising our children properly is another absurdity. They have a tough enough time teaching kids how to read, now we expect them to add gangster awareness and self preservation to their curricula. Those are some of the same kids who come to school loaded with cell phones, drugs and guns. Churches, guardians of right and wrong, are mostly missing in action. Generally speaking, hardly enough young people find religion to make much of a difference. Vigils and marches for peace are noble and perhaps cathartic, but sadly ineffective.

Why some people blame a “community” with as many youth, sports and anti-gang programs as Salinas has is a mystery. They can’t help a kid who thinks they’re the enemy.

Blaming politicians always has merit but, come on, politicians? They all promise to end crime. They study commissions and commission studies. They justify their own blame games. But we’re still waiting.

This just about leaves us with the blame for weird, dysfunctional families that don’t do a very good job of raising kids. Look around the table at Thanksgiving and you’ll understand.

To almost everyone, loving, protecting and teaching their children are the most important things in life. Many parents would die for their kids if it came to that.

Others, it seems, would rather let their kids die for themselves. Instead of correction, they let them drink and use. Instead of protection, they let them play in the streets  with kids from other familias. Instead of vigilance, they’re in denial about their kids’ friends and pastimes. Maybe they think it’s cool. This has been going on long enough that we now see the disgrace of generational family values that include traditions of fear, hatred, retribution and violence.

Two days after my last column appeared, warning about gang bangers shooting each other on the street, it happened again. And again and again after that. Now, a few more Salinas teens will never go to another football game, grow up or hold their grandchildren. Hundreds of lives are devastated. Yet many families will protest that these were “good kids.”

Here’s a clue: a kid in a gang is not a good kid. A few decades from now, after an empty life in a lonely prison cell. those good kids are going to wonder what they were thinking. They’ll realize they weren’t thinking at all, and they’re going to want to blame someone. But there will be no one left to blame.

Remember the song, “Teach your children well,” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young?  That’s what started playing in my head when those kids got shot walking home from North High last month.

Simple enough advice. Pay attention. Ask them what they’re up to. Warn them when you know better. Spend time with them.
Don’t put yourself in a position to defend your “good kid” when it’s too late.