Ballad for a Fallen Soldier

The theme song to “The Wire” plays in the key of life on my mental piano as I look at what they call life. I’m not sure if you’ve been watching the story that’s not on your nightly news, but the world is going one way and many of the young folks that look like you and I are going the other. Libraries are closing and no one’s hiring, but gangs are recruiting and hopelessness is setting in. All the while talking heads are babbling about mosques, marriages and millionaires, while our children are going nowhere fast.

We can blame them individually, blame the parents, blame the teacher, blame the preacher, hell, blame it on the boogie; but the responsibility has to be shared and acknowledged if any progress is expected to be made. But how do we make progress when standardized tests are the gatekeepers to graduation and libraries are closing by the city? So, the blame is quickly shuffled to the school for not doing their jobs and teaching the babies. Yet, the parents have to share that blame for not reinforcing the skills being taught in the classroom.

I guess it’s hard to check homework when you’re out working two jobs to make ends meet. Yeah there’s some of that going on, but there’s many more mommies not around and daddies long gone, leaving these kids to navigate the world on their own. So we can’t really blame them for playing the hands their dealt…though sometimes you gotta gamble and change your cards. However, that’s where this generation seemingly differs; they seem to lack the basic skills for survival in the rugged terrain of the ghetto.

No ambition, no hustle. No classes, no jobs. No dreams, no hope, just a pocket full of anguish and no idea of how to get to the rest world. I can’t imagine facing the world with that on my chest every day and the rest of my life seeming so far away. Looking at your life thinking, “Damn, I’ma be a failure, surrounded by thugs, drugs and drug paraphernalia.” With limited options, even less resources and no stimulus plan to heal the hood, these angry young souls loiter on boulevards and make enough scratch to smoke a little weed and drink a little Hennessey, but somehow guns are readily accessible and they’re figuring out how to use them. 2Pac was dead on; these fools are busting shots like they lost their minds, like 25 to life never crossed their minds. When you live an empty existence, what difference does it make if you die or spend the rest of your life in prison?

So on the block they stand, head on a swivel, looking for whatever may come. Whether that’s a few dollars, the police, a female, a rival crew or a working man just finishing the day. However, that last person virtually goes unnoticed, because he’s not a threat or an asset and his life makes little sense out there where positive imagery is nonexistent. These are the children of crack of rap, but neither is raising them to be men. Where rappers like Jay-Z could at least serve as a rag to riches model for them, they shun him for grittier rhymesayers that lack his sophistication and continued maturation. They can’t relate to Jay-Z’s music because their exposure is so limited that the things he’s rapping about are completely over their head, therefore out of the realm of their possibilities. Their aspirations even come with a cutoff score.

The world keeps moving. They alternate standing still on the sidewalk or a porch or just in their own way. I see them, you see them, but everyone ignores them. So, blame them individually, blame the parents, blame the teacher, blame the preacher, but blame me, yourself, a system that creates the bleakness and the hate that despair produced.These are the casualties of the war on Urban America, but they won’t be naming no buildings after them or building any memorials for these fallen soldiers.

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