"I know that not everyone will see it this way but 18th Street was there when i had nothing and they were still there when i did have something."
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 21:17:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: d g (email@example.com)
I am a 18th Street member. I was arrested 29 times last year. I am not proud of it but i am not of ashamed of it ether. I do what ever i have to to take care of my family. I am moving but it does not matter where i go 18th Street will always be a large part of my life. I know that not everyone will see it this way but 18th Street was there when i had nothing and they were still there when i did have something. I am not trying to say that it is ok for everyone to be a Gangmember but for some of us it is the only way to stay alive.
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Dear El Loco,
You say you will do what you need to do to take care of your family, implying that gangbanging is the only way you can do this. Being a gangmember is the only way you know how to live because you have not opened your eyes to the choices that ARE open to you. The barriers we place around ourselves are so much more limiting than the ones life and fortune give us.
As long as you live life as an 18th Street gangmember, you will never be truly free -- no matter what locale you call "home." Living life as a gangmember, you will most likely pay for it sooner or later in a long prison sentence or an early, violent death. (And when that happens, don't blame anyone but yourself.) You don't sound like the wannabe 13-year old gangster and hence should know better. And it doesn't sound as if you are too dense so as to be happy beating others up and getting beaten up for a living. As a career criminal in 18th street gang, what will be your life's work? Is it worth it? Are you unable to find better work? Can you not find something better and more positive to do? It is impossible to change, or are you simply afraid of the unknown? There really are no half-measures: you are either a part of the gang life, or you are not. Arrested 29 times last year? Is living institutionalized how you want to live the rest of your life? I will assume in moving you are taking steps to try and improve your life, but do you think that will change anything in the long-run? Think about it.
There are options available to you; it is you who control your life, and nobody else. And there is a wide wonderful word outside of gangs and gang culture, if only you will open your eyes. People are seduced by gang culture because of its power on the streets or through their own weakness and need; but as vulnerable persons become sick with fever the same way, they can be cured of it. But some people are so incapable of self-reflection that they don't even realize they are sick! They tell alcoholics and drug addicts that the first step towards recovery is not to move from one place to another and drag their problems along with them, but to recognize the gravity of their problem, take responsibility for it, apologize for harm caused, and then move on. In like fashion, I wonder if you will ever have much of a chance of transcending your violent past and moving to a happier future until you declare yourself an ex-18th Street gangmember and leave that life. As a gang becomes almost your whole identity and can subsequently steal years from your life as you get deeper and deeper in, so the journey out can take long years of arduous effort with the risk of relapse ever present. I wonder if you will move to some new city and suddenly find yourself dragged back into the same old, same old patterns of living as new trouble finds you because of old habits. I hope this is not your future, but it happens all the time. It is all about the adult choices you make in how you decide to use the gift of life God has given to you. Think about it.
I wish you much luck.
Very Truly Yours,