I am a gang member

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I am a gang member. In my neighborhood it seems everyone is. I can’t remember when I wasn’t in a gang. I’m not bragging or anything; that’s just the way it is in my neighborhood.

My gang controls a certain territory. I don’t know how it came to be our territory; I think we sort of conquered it. Gang wars do happen. Like if another gang challenges us in our territory, or if we need to sell more stuff or need something else in another gang’s territory, or if one of our members is attacked or killed. Usually we have no choice.

Fortunately, we seem to be the best armed gang in the neighborhood. Usually that’s enough, but not always. Sometimes other gangs get so fed up with us that our superiority in weapons turns out to be a hindrance. So it goes.

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We lose gang wars occasionally, but our overall dominance usually remains. That’s what counts. The decision to go to war is made by our gang leaders. Even if we disagree with the decision, gang loyalty prevails. That loyalty is crucial to the survival of our gang.

Most of what you’ve heard about gangs is actually true. Like we do have gang colors. They mark our territory but also help create a sense of pride among our members. Also, there seems to be an agreement between the gangs that no one uses the same colors. It works pretty well.

Disloyalty is not tolerated. Sometimes just raising questions can lead to harsh treatment. Sounds tough, but it’s necessary. It’s usually the gangs that are tight that dominate the neighborhood. And it’s almost impossible to leave the gang. I don’t know anyone who got out who wasn’t forced by circumstances to join another gang. That’s life in the neighborhood.

The only thing most people have wrong about gangs is the terminology. Even though we sometimes use the phrase “presentation of colors,” our gang colors are called “flags.” Gang loyalty we call “patriotism.” Gang membership is “citizenship.” My neighborhood? Planet Earth. My gang? The United States of America.