… it’s hard to blame the young man looking for some purpose and meaning. He’s been wronged. He’s hurt, lost, and vulnerable, and wants to feel the opposite of all of those things. You might as well hand him an envelope full of cash.
A Chat With a Refugee.
I once had a chat with a co-worker who happened to be a refugee from Afghanistan.
We talked about religion, terrorism, America, and gangs. I can firmly suggest that if you ever want to have an interesting conversation, chat with a refugee from Afghanistan about these things.
“Some of these kids grow up in these poor neighborhoods in America and still have no idea what it is like to live in a third world country. I would have killed to have lived in any of these neighborhoods when I was a kid.”
Imagine you’re a poor young man, growing up in the middle east. Imagine some westerners from the U.S. military kill your father. You’re old enough to know something isn’t right about the situation, but young enough to not fully understand it. You know the world is a complicated and dangerous place, but don’t know much about the world outside of your world.
Now, imagine you’re a poor young man growing up in the United States and a police officer kills your father in an altercation. You’re old enough to know something isn’t right about the situation, but young enough to not fully understand it. You know the world is a complicated and dangerous place, but don’t know much about the world outside of your world.
Right and Wrong.
As a disclaimer, this isn’t me taking a stance. I am not suggesting terrorism exists in a vacuum and is only further created by U.S. intervention, nor am I saying police are all inherently bad and every one that has police interaction will be wronged.
I am saying things are much more complicated than right and wrong.
Purpose and Meaning.
What are you supposed to believe when you’re a young man and your father is killed? Suppose your father is part of a terrorist cell or a gang. You either are bitter and resentful toward the lifestyle that killed him, or the enemy that killed him.
Enter purpose and meaning.
You’re young, vulnerable, confused, and your father just died. You think you understand why he was killed but nothing is making sense. You’re perpetually walking on shifting sand at this point, and looking for some solid footing.
You’ve been wronged, and while revenge might not be the ultimate course of action, there is a life that can offer you safety, security, camaraderie, purpose, and meaning.
Sometimes, it’s not about the offer. If you’re a young man and your father was in a terrorist cell or in a gang, it’s a part of your life, too. It might be that you pick up where your father left off. In the gang world, these are called turret babies, or baby gangsters – they don’t know a life outside of gang life.
Other times, the gang or the cell uses that emotional turmoil as a recruitment tool, and it’s hard to blame the young man looking for some purpose and meaning. He’s been wronged. He’s hurt, lost, and vulnerable, and wants to feel the opposite of all of those things.
You might as well hand him an envelope full of cash.
Right and Wrong.
Right and wrong are like purpose and meaning, in this sense. They aren’t always black and white. It isn’t always obvious what the solution is. And sometimes, the solution isn’t even the most ideal solution, but it is the most expedient and (for the moment) the most emotionally fulfilling one.
Expediency does not always equate to the best course of action. You can build a house on sand and it will last for a little while. But a strong foundation takes time and preparation.
We should be doing our best to ensure our young men have purpose and meaning. What they find purpose and meaning in will be based on what foundation we build under them.
A foundation that is not solid will inevitably be destroyed. Those who were living on it to will cling to anything that gives them some stability.