Pico-Union, El Salvador, Drugs, Poverty, etc.
18th street gangmembers throw hand-signs
"Can't feel sorry for one's self, can't be irresponsible and run
away because problems do not obey distance, time or space...We get
used to the places where we grow up, no matter how scummy, how desperate,
how futile and dark life may seem to others."
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 02:05:53 EST
To: Richard Geib (email@example.com)
Subject: so you left (leaving?)
I ready your 'baby boomer in a Lexus...". Interesting, to say the least.
I'm a Salvadoran who lives in the area you described. I see what you
described day in, and day out. Some people dream of leaving, like you
did (or will do). I want to change things, somehow. If I can just get
enough people motivated to change things, and not cop out, runwaway,
give up. Life is hard, but believe me, it's harder in El Salvador. Can't
feel sorry for one's self, can't be irresponsible and run away because
problems do not obey distance, time or space.
I wish you much luck in your struggle to
improve things in Pico-Union. I used to feel as you do, but only half
of me is idealistic while the other half is realistic. I took a long
hard look at the dynamics of that community and I concluded that I
could work as an inner-city school teacher banging my head against
the wall futilely forever, or I could simply go elsewhere where life
is not so cruel and harsh. It was one of the better decisions I have
ever made; I do not regret the time I spent in Pico-Union. I do not
regret leaving. They will be killing each other over nothing long into
the future. I hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am.
I am not sure about El Salvador, but I
have visited and lived in enough places in the world to know that it
is better elsewhere. Luckily most people do not have to choose between
El Salvador and Pico-Union (especially if they study in school and
stay out of trouble). Drugs, gangs, etc. might be a problem encountered
to one degree or another everywhere, but they are sure encountered
less in certain places compared to others.
Again, good luck. And watch yourself on
Very Truly Yours,
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 1998 00:37:25 EST
Subject: Re: thank you
Thanks for answering back. I understand what you say, and it is very
true. I'm not out to save the world, working with gangmembers is a thankless
job, but if at least one life can be saved..."what goes around comes
around". I speak from experience. I learned the hard way I have to believe
in myself first, I have to believe that I want to change, before I can
make the change. I have to believe that before I can tell others there
are other ways, otherwise my talk would be b.s. You seem to be a person
who became quite disenchanted by working in an environment that was as
negative as the inner city. I guess if we took a gangmember and put him/her
in an environment totally different than what they're used to they would
long to go back...maybe? I'll leave that to the sociologists who love
questions like that. We get used to the places where we grow up, no matter
how scummy, how desperate, how futile and dark life may seem to others.
In some times in my life I've had to be at my darkest moments to realize
that somewhere in that darkness there is a flicker of hope. Just like
the theme of Alcoholics Anonymous, "one day at a time", I believe that
things can change "one person at a time". I wish you luck in your endeavors
and I just wanted to let you know that I wrote you because I feel so
sad to see people with your talent and education leave places where you
are needed so badly. Again, I wish you luck. God bless you.
"We get used to the places where we grow up, no matter how scummy,
how desperate, how futile and dark life may seem to others. In some
times in my life I've had to be at my darkest moments to realize
that somewhere in that darkness there is a flicker of hope."
"The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the
From: JCINTER (JCINTER@aol.com)
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 02:51:58 EST
To: Richard Geib (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: I just saw my email
I just saw my (past) emails to you on your new URL, and just wanted
to comment, Mara Salvatrucha is the gang I've claimed (I say this
because I found it rather ironic that you chose the picture you put
on the URL).
I also wanted to comment on what you wrote about gangmembers who
change their lives in prison through religion, I have observed that
the change is usually temporary (especially if the change came about
while the person was under custody). I truly believe that the only
true way a person can change is through education. I was also in
custody of the State for a while, quite a while as a matter of fact,
and let me tell you, that neither religion nor fear made me change.
My change was brought about by a combination of things, most importantly
the realization that I am not the "piece of shit wetback" I was once
called, or the "fuck-up" people said I would always be, and also
by ignoring the fact that I was unwanted in more ways than one. Inner
strength comes from an educated mind, I thank God for having me blessed
with a mind that has literally saved and changed my life.
Also, for the ingrates that live here and resort to insulting this
country, they ought to think that this country may not be perfect,
starting with Pico- Union and Koreatown ;), but where else can you
talk shit about the government, the people, the system/establishment
freely? In El Salvador, you'd get shot, or thrown in jail. Besides,
if they hate it so much, why don't they just go back or go someplace
I believe people are blessed to be able to at least get a free
education in this country, something which is so indispensable, so
priceless, and so underrated.
Joseph Addison once said: "Education is a companion which no misfortune
can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism
can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad an introduction. In solitude,
a solace, and in society, an ornament. It hastens vice, it guides
virtue; it give, at once, grace and government to genius. Without
it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage."
"Education is a companion which no misfortune
can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,
no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad an introduction.
In solitude, a solace, and in society, an ornament. It hastens
vice, it guides virtue; it give, at once, grace and government
to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I learn something every time you write
me almost without exception. Tonight you have prompted me to think
about the profound nature of an education in its broadest sense - and
one taught only rarely in schools today, I can say from experience.
As a teacher, everyone I hear in the profession talks about learning
skills so as to be marketable worker, a citizen of the democratic polis,
etc. I always thought a liberal education should be so much more. You
found that out independently and I congratulate you. The autodidacts
are so often the freshest and most inspiring of the intellects.
In return for your inspiring quote from
Addison, I give you one from Epictetus shorter but no less true: "Only
the educated are free."
Very Truly Yours,