Thugs seek legitimacy by holding a summit


I can understand why various thugs who lead street gangs have gathered in Chicago for what they call a "peace summit." It's a smart public-relations move.

They know that the TV crews will come running to capture their goofy babblings.

That means they will be seen by their followers, who will feel important and gain a greater sense of identity, which is part of what gang membership is about. At least that's what sociologists and the other deep thinkers tell us.

Even more significant, they will reach a huge audience of young, potential gang recruits. Some kids will see them and think: "Hey, if I join the Insane Idiots, maybe I can grow up to go on TV, too."

In big TV markets such as Chicago, by making the news shows, they will get hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free advertising for their product, which is gang membership.

And I can understand why the TV news shows go along with the farce. With little effort, they get to fill 30 seconds or so with some colorful guys who are called "prince" or "king" or the "the high hoo-ha" and wear flamboyant robes and beanies and make somber pronouncements about their "agendas" for peace and brotherhood among the "nations."

They know that because the reporters don't want to be accused of lacking sensitivity or being bigots, none will say:

"Excuse me, High Hoo-Ha, grand ruler of the Insane Idiot Nation, but what is your real name and have you ever done time for blowing someone away with an automatic weapon?"

Or: "Say, Prince Whoozits, what's the going rate these days for a kilo of heroin in your town?"

And maybe: "Tell us, High Hoo-Ha, Prince and King, can't you guys ever have a shootout without accidentally zapping a few innocent toddlers?"

Instead, we will hear about their "agendas," which will be filled with sociological babble they learned by listening to public radio or talking to their parole officers.

But what I don't understand is why they are taken seriously and given the time of day by politicians, civil rights leaders and legitimate community organizations. Doesn't anyone look at the headlines or the 10 o'clock news?

Every year, the thugs who attend the "peace summit" declare that they are calling a truce, that there will be an end to the urban warfare.

Then what happens? Some kid is walking to school and makes a detour to the morgue. An old lady sitting by her window catches a stray bullet in the head. A guy wears a jacket with the wrong colors or wiggles his fingers incorrectly and his mother has to call the undertaker.

And the drugs flow. That's where the prince, the king and the high hoo-ha make their money. That's what most of the gang shootings are about: Who gets to sell the stuff that toasts out the brains of the junkies.

But when they gather at their summit, the prince, the king and the high hoo-ha say they have nothing to do with that sort of thing.

Really? If they aren't doing it, who is? Maybe the cops should be on the lookout for strange green men from Mars.

But some politicians will show up and jabber about the potential for good deeds by these hard-eyed summiteers.

After all, a guy might be a killer and a dope merchant, but if he and his gangbangers can bring out the votes, a political leader must look at the big picture and think of a greater good. Such as using the thugs to get elected.

Of course, there's nothing new about this. There have always been some politicians who were in the pocket of the crime syndicate.

But at least they had the delicacy to do it on the sly. And if a politician was caught attending the wedding of a Mafia boss' daughter, he would slap a fedora over his face and scamper away when the cameramen showed up. He didn't make speeches about the potential for good that existed in the heart of a hit man.

Nor did the crime syndicate bosses hold "peace summits" to declare: "We want to send a clear signal to America that we are gathered here to heal the family." That's what some Prince Whoozits in a beanie just said.

The traditional mobsters wouldn't say something like that because they knew that America wouldn't believe them. Besides, it would be bad for the morale of their troops, who might think they were going to be out of work.

But here we have an even more murderous crew holding a "summit," unveiling their "agendas" and making somber pronouncements for the media.

I know that Chicago is a convention town, and we try to be gracious to visitors.

But maybe, just this once, we should fingerprint the conventioneers.

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