I have a friend who lives in a less than pristine part of Houston, where gang activity runs rampant. The cops visit her apartment complex at least ten times a day. Coming from a small rural town in a relatively safe area, it’s a little jarring for me to be in such an environment. To see people “posted up” wearing the same colors, hearing fights get out of hand, it’s a bit much. However, I was just beginning to be as comfortable as I could with it--maybe comfortable isn’t right--more like I had accepted it as a reality.
Then one night we are sitting around, my friend and I, watching a movie in her apartment. I’m not sure what time it was, but it was after dark, probably around 11 or so. Suddenly, just as I am about to leave, a tirade of gunshots rings out, must have been twenty or thirty, evenly spaced, from several guns. While this is happening, and afterward many people are yelling, and generally hysterical. The scariest part was, it sounded like it was very close, like a few doors away. Needless to say, I waited a while before leaving, and even then I was pretty nervous.
Then last weekend, I was over there again. Again we’re hanging out, it's after dark, this time the balcony door is open a bit. Again, an outburst of gunfire, this time you can distinctly hear both a pump shotgun, and at least one handgun. It sounds a little further away, but still really close. Then wheels screech off, and just like before I am left trembling, a little from pure shock and fear, but mostly because I couldn’t help but think about innocent people, or children, or bystanders. People--maybe wives or girlfriends of these guys, or their kids or family members--who were caught up in this life.
Some people are quick to judge. I am not necessarily one of those people. I won’t do what many well intentioned liberal-minded folk do and put myself in their shoes, and say I understand why they do it. Why they join gangs, or sell drugs, or kill each other. But I know it is more complicated than most people are willing to admit.