I’m not sure how old I was but my first bicycle came with training wheels. You may know the type if you’re old enough. There were two extra tires attached to the back in order to stabilize me as I peddled down the street. And then came the big day. My father said that it was time to take off the training wheels and let my bicycle be a real bicycle with only its original two wheels to carry me on my voyage. That was a day when I had a great deal of fear and trembling as I watched my father remove the two wheels on which I had come to rely.
We came down from the apartment with my newly stripped bike and my father helped me up into the seat. I practiced mounting and dismounting several times, Dad holding the handle bars until I started to feel comfortable with doing it. And then we took off, my father running at the side of the bicycle as I uncertainly wobbled down the street. The wobbling was less noticeable the faster I went – but my father had a little problem keeping up at the faster speed. And then, he let loose his grip and I was on my own, flying down the street with a big grin on my face.
Off we went to Central Park where I rode around for well over an hour, my confidence in my ability growing by the minute – but always under the watchful eye of my father should something unexpected happen. This was in the days before helmets or body padding the thickness of the Great Wall of China. If a kid fell off a bike there was a high likelihood that there would be some abraded skin – but that was life and if that child were smart enough would review what she or he did wrong to avoid a repeat engagement of the same kind.
Several weekends went by and my father always accompanied me on the biking outings. Even though New York was safer than it is today, my parents were perhaps over-protective of their only child. Or maybe they just took a deeper interest than parents today. If I were to go to a friend’s apartment for a party, Dad always walked me there and picked me up when it was time to go home. Even then there were evil people in the world – a fact that was lost on me but quite evident to my parents based on their own experience.
Well, about three weeks after I first got my taste of freedom, one Sunday Dad and I were off to the park when my father noticed that there was a parking space across the street which would be legal parking until Tuesday. I think our De Soto spent more time looking for a parking space due to New York’s alternate side of the street rules than actually taking us anywhere, so if Dad could grab this spot he was set for two days. (He took the subway to work). So he rushed down the street to our car and left me in front of our apartment building holding my bike and waiting for his return so that we could go off to the park.
As I was waiting his return, a kid, probably four or five years older than I was, ran up to me, pushed me to the ground and stole my bike. I tried running after him but he obviously had an advantage and he reached Park Avenue way ahead of me. He turned the corner when I was still half way to the avenue and by the time I got to the corner he had disappeared. My father saw me without my bike and although he gave up the wonderful parking space to give pursuit, we never saw that kid again.
That was the first time I heard the word “Thug.” My dad used it to describe this boy’s actions both to me and to the police. But, needless to say, the young criminal got away with his theft and I never saw that bike again. If I were to make a guess, I would say that my assailant was Hispanic – probably Puerto Rican as most Hispanics in New York at that time came from that island. Dad didn’t use the term “thug” to describe him because of his ethnicity but because of what he had done. Theft and pushing little kids around was thuggish behavior – then as now.
The recent protests in Baltimore and elsewhere throughout the country have caused this word which I considered long dormant to resurface into the vocabulary of our media and politicians. Obama used it to describe the criminals who earlier this week looted the CVS pharmacy, destroyed 144 cars and set fire to a row of apartment houses. But there are some in this country who want to make the use of “thug” the center of our focus on what is happening in our inner cities – likening it to the pejorative term, “N*gger.”
Using the term thug proves to their minds that America is indeed a racist country. What a waste of time – and, sadly, a large percentage of the media, either because of their extreme aversion to asking pithy questions or more frighteningly because they are unable to formulate them, is perfectly happy to play this game. Media, give it a rest already.
There are some people in this world who are thugs, plain and simple. They take advantage of others whether it’s through rude behavior or worse, behavior that is rightly illegal. Destroying a car is an act of thuggery; throwing rocks at other people, police or otherwise, is an act of thuggery; setting an apartment building on fire is an act of thuggery; stealing a little kid’s bike is an act of thuggery.
Thugs should go to jail. Hopefully, unlike the Mayor of Baltimore who apparently ordered the police to “stand down” as the rioters had their way under the theory that, “It’s only property,” those in positions of authority in cities where these demonstrations transgress the line from peaceful protest to outright thuggish behavior will take the appropriate action. Society as a whole, black and white alike, would be better off with these rabble rousers under lock and key rather than roaming our streets and endangering our populace.