When a person has a disease, they have a choice of whether to treat the disease or simply treat the symptoms of the disease.
Treating the symptoms is often easier and less painful in the short run. A person with pneumonia might feel fine for an hour or a day after taking some cough syrup, but unless the disease is knocked out at the core, that person will just continue to be sick with worse and worse bouts, and perhaps die from it.
Sunnyside has a disease.
A lot of towns and cities across the nation are also infected with the disease of gangs, but for some reason Sunnyside has a particularly visible case.
We've been doing a decent job recently of treating the symptoms of gangs: the violence. Our police have been tackling the gangs with intelligent force, making them retreat and go partially dormant. The police deserve a lot of credit for the work they've done.
But gangs feed on the young, and the police alone cannot root out the cause of the problem. If we leave the gangs entirely to the police, the city will remain a battleground. Our officers deserve better support than that.
We need to do our part as a community to fight the recruitment of our children into gangs. We need to use a massive dose of preventative care to stop the disease at its core.
Sunnyside is lucky to have organizations in place that are working on the preventative part of the equation, but they need more help than can be provided by government funds and goodwill alone.
We have to stand as individuals, neighbors and a community to give children better options than gangs.
Each one of us must do what we are able, whether it involves volunteering for an hour or two a week or more, helping a neighbor with a stray garbage can, keeping an eye out for negative activity or just being there for children. We need to open doors for each other, look each other in the eye and smile and greet our neighbors.
My view of Sunnyside as an outsider is that this city is incredible. The people are strong and hard-working and there is a potential in Sunnyside's youth that people here under-estimate. This city has a lot going for it.
Children around here join gangs mostly out of boredom and a search for a place to belong. Let's give bored children a safe place and something to do. Let's take all their energy and passion and focus it on improving the community while learning new skills. There is no limit to where our children can go. After all, one of Sunnyside's children reached the stars. Let's help our children find their dreams.
As individuals, let's make this a community and take back Sunnyside. As the police motto says, "I believe in Sunnyside" and the school district theme say, "Together. We will."
I believe in Sunnyside, and if we stand together, we will take this city back from the fear, the violence and the gangs.