Mahoning Valley Lost and Found

I love the Mahoning Valley and try to promote it. But I am not blind to our problems. From time to time they are so apparent we have to be honest about them. As far as time is concerned I want to travel back into time for something I read on one occasion for the opening of a radio talk show I co-hosted in Youngstown. Sadly, this is from over a dozen years ago and the problem still exists in Youngstown and Warren and our suburbs are not immune from it either. It’s not something I want to write about but it something that I can no longer avoid talking about.

Mahoning Valley Lost and Found

Found, on the south side a body. Found on the north side a body. Found on the east side a body. Found on the west side a body. Found in Mill Creek Park a body. Found in Crandall Park a body. All dead on the same virus…..bullets. The good news  is it’s less bodies than last year.

Lost, family members, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters, classmates, friends and neighbors. Lost, businesses and people who would invest in our area. Lost, dignity, pride, caring, values and any sense of community.

I know fellow suburbanites that say they only go to Youngstown if they have to. They say when they do they run stop signs and red lights. It’s funny how when these same folks see a wreck on the highway they slow down and gawk. When we had a tornado there were traffic jams of rubberneckers getting in the way of rescue workers. So I say, suburban rubberneckers slow down when you’re in Youngstown or any inner city and get a good look at the damage. The damage you left behind when you moved to the suburbs. The damage of the abandoned boarded up homes you left behind. The damage to inner city communities by the neighborhoods turning into nothing but absentee landlord rental properties. The damage to inner city schools because middle-class taxpayers fled the city. Slow down rubberneckers and look  at not a disaster made by Mother Nature but a disaster made by human nature. Look at not the wreckage of a vehicle but the at the human wreckage.

Speed through the inner-city on your way back to the suburbs but don’t think you’re immune from the carnage. Your suburbs contain more drugs than the inner-city and you too have crime. A woman was found cut up in pieces in Brookfield. A woman in Howland killed her husband and cut off his head. A girl’s body was found in McDonald. Her killer lived with his parents in Liberty where he had another teen girl’s body under a tarp in the backyard. His parents both had good paying jobs at GM and a nice house. In other words crime happens everywhere even in areas people think are safe.

Two young men killed in Youngstown were the son’s of policemen. Obviously, the police have problems with not only the young men on the street corner but the young men under their very roofs. Parenting is the hardest job in the world but one of the easiest to get, no training required. We now have kids who are raising kids. Can it be far off when we see high school newspapers with birth announcements? With all of the suburban school shootings maybe the high school  newspapers will soon have an obituary page.

When I was a kid you did stupid or dangerous things because you felt young and invincible. Now, I hear kids talk about how with all of the gang violence they don’t expect to live long. How do we overcome this fatalistic, nihilistic attitude? Kids aren’t dumb and can see the fact that some of them have absentee fathers that don’t even pay child support. They can see a society that wants to try them as adults and get tough on crime by locking them up and throwing away the key.  No rehabilitation involved just revenge.

The war on drugs is a joke. We can’t even keep drugs out of prisons. Speaking of prisons have you noticed how Youngstown has gone from making steel bars to an area of prisons with steel bars? We are now to profit from  our crime. That is the message we have gotten from the state and federal government. It’s not a solution to our problems but a place to incarcerate our problems. As far as jobs, if we want our sons and daughters to stay in the area they can either be prisoners or guards. The former Islay’s factory had an ice cream parlor for a community gathering place. It is now a U Haul truck rental that serves as departure place for former residents.

I’ve heard all the B.S. about how our area could be better. I’ve heard the conservatives that say businesses won’t locate here because of our strong unions. I laugh in their faces and say, “Like Delphi’s IUE that has three tiers of wages and came close to setting up a fourth.” I’m the most union guy you’ll meet but today’s unions are concessionary boards and the best friend the companies could ask for.  I hear people say we’ve had democrats in office in this area to long and republicans could turn it around. In Upstate New York the economy has been struggling for years. Like Youngstown they have been given prisons. People in Upstate N.Y. say their area has been run by republicans for years  and if they’d vote for democrats things would be better. What I’m saying is by now we should have learned neither of the two political parties has the answer for our areas or nation’s problems.

A big part the problems we face in the area and nation is high school drop out rates. I hear people say if we had prayer in school things would be better. When we had prayer in school didn’t our nation still have wars? When we had prayer in school and it didn’t change anything we just made sure the prisons also had bibles. The bibles didn’t close the prisons. Prayer in school and school uniforms are band-aid approaches for better education and for keeping kids from committing crimes. The truth is that these inner-city kids have been written off because they have committed the crime of poverty.

Conservative politicians aren’t that interested in public education because all they care about is money. If schools were a business they’d be throwing all manner of corporate welfare at them like they do for corporations and Wall Street. Progress is measured by what affects Wall Street not Main Street.

I realized we don’t care that children in the Third-world are  working in deplorable factories making products for us. That is because we don’t see them. On the other hand we can pick up our area newspapers and see  the horrible crimes happening in our communities committed by our youth. Of course parents need to be accountable but aren’t we all brothers and sisters? Shouldn’t we also be our brother’s keeper?

The downside to our present day capitalism is that people are expendable, even when they are children. Capitalism has good and bad like any other economics system it’s what we do with it that matters. We need to demand a more just human economy that satisfies the basic needs for all. The best deterrent to crime is a job paying  a livable wage. Where are these jobs going to be in our children’s future?

I’m hoping someday soon we can say, Lost: Crime and the sense of no future that the young in our community felt.

I’m hoping we can say: Found: A peaceful, just and thriving community anyone would be proud to live in.

Well, it’s been over a dozen years since I wrote the above and someday still seems far off.

The violence in Youngstown and Warren affects the suburbs. It’s time to realize that those of us in the suburbs can no longer be spectators.  We have to join in and advocate for justice by asking questions and searching for answers.

Outlandish: Feels Like Saving the World

Look Into My Eyes

“The real significance of crime is in it’s being a breach of faith with the community of mankind.” ~ Joesph Conrad

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