Various stories of gang members being in the armed forces seem to be popping up everywhere over the last week or so. Not just in the blogosphere, but in local and national media outlets as well. “The public” is expressing shock and dismay that such a thing could occur, according to many of these reports. As usual, “how could this happen?” seems to be the question of the day. My question is, how could this not happen? The Army is just a really big gang, after all.
Before highlighting the similarities between a street gang and a government authorized gang, let’s look at how our armed forces are responding to this sudden awakening:
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004.
Meanwhile, NBCSanDiego.com reports-
Army recruiting headquarters in Washington, D.C., dismiss the claims as urban myth. An Army spokesman said army background checks are extensive and weed out gang members.
You’ve just got to love that 🙄
It was only a generation or two ago that criminal prosecutors and judges would give young street thugs the option of “volunteering” for the military in order to avoid a prison sentence. Why did they do this? Because kids joining gangs were assumed to be looking for stability and a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. They needed a way to channel their violent tendencies. These young men were attracted to the gang lifestyle because gangs provided these things. Judges sent them into the Army because it provides the same thing.
To see if there’s a difference between a gang and an army we really need to define our terms. According to the American Heritage Dictionary:
- A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.
- A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.
Army– A large body of people organized and trained for land warfare.
- A large body of people organized and trained for land warfare.
- A large group of people organized for a specific cause.
Aside from the characterization of the former as “crimnals or hoodlums” I’m not seeing much difference. And considering we know judges have a history of “sentencing” adolescnt hoodlums to serve in the army, I’d say the difference is non-existent.
What if we compare some of the more common descriptions of what a gang is and what gang members do-
- Gang members where specific clothing to identify themselves as part of the gang. Does the military? Check
- Gang members are mostly male. Military? Check
- Gang members force others to bow to their will at the point of a gun. Military? Chcek
- Gang members follow orders from their superiors without question or suffer severe consequences. Military? Check
- Gang members define a territory as their own and violently repel anyone not showing allegiance to their organization. Military? Check
- Gangs prefer to deal with members who “step out of line” internally, essentially having their own justice system and code of conduct. Military? Check
Hmmm…. Maybe I’m going at this backwards. Let’s try looking at what the military does and see if gangs follow suit-
- Soldiers recruit young people, often visiting school campuses to get them to join even before the new recruit is of legal adult age. Gangs? Check
- Soldiers travel to other regions en masse and establish bases in order to further the goals of their superior officers. Gangs? Check
- Soldiers defend the people in their community against outside threats. Gangs? Check
- Soldiers are trained in the use of weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat skills. Gangs? Check
- Soldiers must undergo a grueling initiation and “prove their worth” before becoming a full member. Gangs? Check
What have I missed? I’m not seeing any differences here. The only thing to differentiate the two is that the majority of Americans believe that the their gang, the military, is working for them. Therefore it’s okay for them to go where they want, do what they want, and slaughter innocent people.