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Tidbits and Mindbytes

Small bits of words crammed together to form thoughts, with a taste of opinion.

Month

December 2011

Hey! Something Non-Bible to Read :D

I found that I have my History Paper, It’s particularly delightful! Please Enjoy!

The Gangster Phenomenon Strikes America at the Heart.

We’ve all heard, read, and watched movies about gangsters and mobsters. This means the image of the gangster and mobster have invaded the minds of Americans. There is a good reason for these criminals to have overtaken the psyche of America, as they had risen to power at a time of multi-cultural struggle and social insecurity. Obviously, crime existed before, but it became a more profitable business when alcohol was prohibited, because it strengthened the muscle that an organized crime gang could flex during the 1920’s and 1930’s. But as it flexed, Americans became more intrigued with the concept of the mobster who lived a life of crime, danger, romance and popularity. Through this dichotomy, it created a paradox that has stuck in the American psyche.
            The history of organized crime really began in the early 1900’s when America really began to grow through extensive immigration, and new peoples who arrived to the already established English society of America felt insecure. Prejudices against immigrants led them to group together, and form gangs for their own protection. Some of the more notable groups to do so were the Sicilians from Italy who grouped together a majority of the Italians. But there were other gangs: Irish, German, Jewish, and many other culture groups who were excluded from the already established “American” society of white peoples. They would band together and form policing agencies for themselves. They weren’t just the Italian or Russian crime syndicates that we always imagine as the source of the problems. No, the American mobster was a multiethnic crime problem, and this was all aided by the Prohibition era.
            Organized crime groups developed slowly at first, as the immigration wave intensified.  However, it was not until the 1920’s that the explosion of organized crime, with popular gangsters and mobsters, swept into the national psyche. These factions of people came from the smaller and established groups of people who, initially, were protecting their culture and their friends. Why did it happen during the 1920’s?  This was due, in a large measure to, the passage of the 18th Amendment, shown below:
“The Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) of the United States Constitution established Prohibition in the United States. The separate Volstead Act set down methods of enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which “intoxicating liquors” were prohibited, and which were excluded from prohibition (for example, for medical and religious purposes). The Amendment was unique in setting a time delay before it would take effect following ratification, and in setting a time limit for its ratification by the states. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919.” (Wikipedia).
With Prohibition, American’s began to utilize the crime organizations that were plentiful in the 20’s to obtain alcoholic beverages. In responding to the demand for illegal beverages, the gangs and mobs were ripe for success. It was a simple supply and demand issue, and leaders of mobs seized the opportunity.
            When Prohibition came in, there was little enforcement on the state and local levels. It was not a popular amendment with many. Bribes were paid out to those sectors of government who would turn a “blind eye” to the rum-running and gin mills by those engaged in the illegal importation and distribution of alcohol. There were few in law enforcement positions in the 20’s who desired the Prohibition of alcohol like the Federal Government, many of them broke the law themselves by imbibing alcoholic beverages. Thus, people of society were willingly giving up their ‘morals’ of  obeying the law, and fully utilized the gangster’s connections and abilities to supply them with alcohol.  But again, there were individual gangs competing against each other for the income. Therefore, what we see of the twenties is very much true. The gangs themselves were battling it out on the streets with each other for dominance of the trade.
This illustrates the deep impact mark the gangster had left on the American psyche. With their muscle as power to gain illegal liquor and their ability to obtain liquor outside of the country, gangsters were powerful businessmen. The reason gangsters were so powerful was not due to the law, but due to the fact the people were not obeying the law and were demanding things that were illegal. Power equals money was an equation born out of the era of Prohibition. Small time gangs gathered so much resources and began to form their own  style of government by their willingness to kill their competition. This is the antithesis of the American government with its specific laws and regulations. The criminal underworld thought laws were made to be broken, especially during Prohibition. American society lost its inhibition towards the seedy dark side of the Underworld, and used them as a resource to feed their own desires.   
“But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There would be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it. We must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers of law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating crime.” Herbert Hoover, Inauguration 1929
We can see the state of affairs as of the 1928 elections, and this inauguration speech by Herbert Hoover clearly illustrates the problem with the Prohibition era, and who was really at fault. The American people themselves were also accountable for the power that the gangsters had been given.
            The Roaring 20’s illuminated the deep desire for illegal activities which further aggravated the American Gangster phenomenon during the 20’s and 30’s. Prominent figures such as Al Capone, “Lucky” Luciano,  Dutch Shultz, and “Legs” Diamond were captivating the media, but then in 1929 the Stock Market Crash and the Dust Bowl in the harvest lands of the Central United States occurred, and with that came the rise of a politician into the highest seat of policing power, J. Edgar Hoover. As the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he requested and was given more power which allowed for more Federal flexibility. That flexibility allowed the FBI to extend their efforts to curb the criminal underworld, as they were being tracked down through means recently granted by the Federal government. This forced organized crime into becoming the Underworld that it is today.  Previously, organized crime had operated very openly.
As the 1930’s rolled in the crime lords were seeking to go into better investments. Economic collapse created a desperate, lack of cash society. Bank robbing and murder increased, and with that increase there was almost a romance with outlaws, similar to the gangs of the 19th century such as the James Gang. For example, people like Bonnie and Clyde and Pretty-boy Floyd were often admired almost as if they were Robin Hoods. With city officials being bought off, or threatened, Chicago became a huge hotspot. Due to its location, one could easily move into three other states at once. There was also easy access to Canada, allowing gang leaders to move almost with impunity.
In 1933 Prohibition was repealed. Despite being an utter and complete failure, it did reveal much about the true nature of the American people. By the time of the repeal, the gangster was now fully established, and had new ventures to move into. Gambling, drug trafficking and most importantly racketeering became the new investments for crime in the 1930’s.
“In the 1930s the word “racketeering” was used to describe the involvement of organized crime in legitimate business. With the ending of Prohibition in 1933, the underworld turned to labor unions as a field to exploit. During the intense industrial strife of the mid-Thirties, gangland hoodlums assisted labor in its struggle with management, but underworld figures later infiltrated the administrative structure of the unions to gain control of their finances.” ( Labor Racketeering,” Annals of American History.)
Unions were formed by the people of the working class that were tired of the abuse of laborers in the factories, mines and other areas of life. They formed because the big kingpins were unresponsive to the needs of the workers.  Economic insecurity fed the need for organized labor. However, many business owners (supported by government many times) imported “union-busters” to break up labor meetings and strikes.  The violence they unleashed caused workers to turn to gang leaders for protection. Besides just being a union, they soon found muscle and protection through organized crime and paid gangsters and mobsters for power, protection and enforcement of existing labor laws.
Now, gangsters were often heroes to the common working man.  They provided them the protection that the Federal and State Governments did not.
“The bootleg wars ended with the re-legalization of liquor, but the mobs did not fade away. The leading mobsters had already seen that greater cooperation among the mobs brought greater profits for all. After 1934, the organized crime syndicate made it possible for all the major mobs to work together, and with less violence. In one form or another, these mobs are still with us today.” ( The Bootleg Wars, C. Gingold)
The mobsters were now beginning to unite rather than fight each other. A common goal, a common enemy who was the FBI, and shared venues provided the recipe for the reconstruction of the underworld infrastructure. Instead of being just small gangs, they started merging into factions that would have longer lasting and longer reaching effects.
            With all these evils, one would think that this vast composite of all crime would have little-to-no structure, in the sense of it rules written down like our constitution that could be used to govern their syndicates. Yet, like any big group they were very organized and very structured. Gangsters and mobsters of the 1920’s and 1930’s were a social structure and government unto themselves that provided and cared for each member of their ‘society’ or gang and enacted revenge upon other gangs. Even so, there were punishments for offenses against one’s gang, and most of them, of course, outside the reach or control of society. Death was saved for higher offenses, but losing a finger or limb was common practice of punishment. Fear really ruled the organized crime syndicate. But there was also great gain in being criminal.  Many of the people involved with organized crime were legitimate business owners. Their ‘legit’ business procured their commodities through ‘illegal’ means and sold them for better prices. As previously stated, the gangster or mobster  provided enforcement with large backing by a large syndicate now, such as the Mafia or the Mob and they ended up being the muscle for the businessman as well–if he joined the right union or paid the right person.  The concept behind the organization of the underworld is this: “The bigger and more powerful the organization, the more protection it can afford to members. It can guarantee territory and mediate disputes for their members; it did in the early days of Prohibition…” (p. 96 Homer). These methods kept tabs on members, and would also produce loyalty (often through fear) to one’s own gang. It became another family. It’s struck a chord with those Americans who often had left behind most of their family in their native countries. Often today we see this frequently portrayed in the movies and it is part of their attraction to many people. It offers them a sense of belonging.
            The FBI, during the 1930’s caught the heads of the ‘organized’ crime in many ways. Al Capone on IRS charges, Dillinger was shot, and many others were tried and sentence to the penitentiary. Did this stop of the criminal activities of the gangs?  No, because it is tied into how the gangs were setup and how well adapted into society the gangs became. The more invisible the members, the more legitimate they appeared, the better they survived in society after prohibition. Their structures provided solutions for if their leaders were removed through legal or illegal means, or made use of special systems that allowed them to communicate with them while they were serving their sentences, through many types of secret communications. This organization helped their shady business to continue on through modern times. With that much wealth came many risks, not the least of which was the Federal government becoming more and more involved in investigation of the syndicates. Money came into the organizations rather rapidly, but how long it stayed was not guaranteed as they had to pay off people, mediate, and secure titles or positions for their people. The modern image of the gangster with millions to billions of dollars is all dependent on how large their organization is. A relatively small one will not only be likely to have less money, but also be more limited in how effectively they can or cannot act on behalf of their members.
The 1920’s allowed the growth of power and influence for the gangsters, and the 1930’s showed just how secure they were in society due to their influence and structures. They became more and more subtle as their crimes were growing. Why did America fall in love with the image of the mobster and gangster? Perhaps because they were doing the things many people wished they could do. They were playing real life cops and robbers, and often (through the media) seemed to come out on top of the battle. Perhaps because the desperate financial crisis of the 1930’s made many imagine that the gangs were really more like Robin Hoods, avenging the poor and attacking the rich.  Even though organized crime was constantly being beaten back by the FBI and other government agencies, they can be seen in some ways as the predecessor to our modern pop star with all their taboos. However it may be, American’s opened the door to the amount of power and control that the Underworld has on the public. They were the ones who gave them the power by creating the demand for their alcohol in the 1920’s and their deep desire for protection, security, and unification in the 1930’s. In some ways, the crime syndicates were seen as the “poor man’s savior”.  With the current state of our nation, many people today may sympathize with the people of the 1920’s and 1930’s. They may also feel the same urges to use mob powers to gain their own control and wealth during these hard times, thus it is apparent that the appeal and lure of the criminal underworld still exists.
            After the 1930’s, organized crime went underground. Gangsters, mobs and mob leaders were ever present and growing through the 1940’s.  They resurfaced in the 1950’s and from then on they were an ever fixed mark on the mind of America.  Organized crime had become more sophisticated and subtle, hidden within seemingly legitimate businesses. Who were the big bosses, and how infested was America? By this time, the underworld had already become dominate in many ways, particularly in casinos and gambling.  They were powerful and bigger than ever. Their venues may have been altered; they were no longer bootleggers but they were corporate and well-organized.  They have blended into society, which has peaked even more interest in organized crime.  Our American minds seem drawn to a reminiscent version of the mobster, viewing them as a heroic and ‘romantic’, false images that have never been true.
A deep web of political battles for territory and power ensued in the 1950’s to help establish the roles of the criminal underworld, but these battles were not published on the news any more–only in the movies that American citizens occasionally watch. Today, the Mafioso may not be ‘Godfather’ style at all–he could just be like the banker at the street corner. This is the impact of the ‘mobster’ that we now contend with. The syndicates have infiltrated into society through legitimate business.
The romantic image harks back to the risky few like Al Capone, who was more about the show than anything else. He got caught due to careless actions and a desire for public recognition, but his organization survived.  The leaders below Capone helped his gang last although he himself was put away. Small gangs, like the Dilinger gang faded out because Dilinger was the sole support and leader. Capone’s gang probably has survived still today because his syndicate was better organized. The people of this country may not even be aware that his gang is not ‘dead’, just underground and less flashy. During the 50’s to present day, the mobster was flushed out into the public sphere little by little with exposure in court and the media. We’ve all see the Al Pacino movies with gangsters and mobsters looking like slick people. This impression of the modern mobster has developed over time, as legal actions have forced them into being more underground and sophisticated. However, no matter how many of their leaders or members are captured or prosecuted, their presence and power continue through.
 America’s love triangle with the gangster is also growing. There is a strange attraction to their life that draws us in, and we find ourselves wondering what it would be like to be a mobster or gangster. We have romanticized the gangster into blown up proportions that show how much they have really impacted our Social Psyche. For example, there are now TV shows openly featuring real mobsters and their families such as “Growing Up Gotti” and popular shows like “The Sopranos”.  We pay  people who claim to have been gangsters, but now they rap music! The term gangster is now loosely applied these days as well. Its referred to in music and dress. We still seem to admire those who are more likely to be part of the actual syndicate.  Las Vegas is a popular destination of many Americans, though most of us are aware of the connections between gambling and organized crime.  The American gangster has most definitely blended so well into American society that we don’t even bother to think about them as a source of problems anymore.
When organized crime stepped into the arena, part of society fell in love with them because they were in dire straits and they needed a ‘hero’.  The hero was actually a villain who was taking advantage of them, but was able to camouflage much of their real persona. Now, we’ve got a bigger problem than ever, and we cannot shake our old romantic feelings that we have towards the gangster image.  We have a love for them in the same way that many people had toward the James, Younger, Dalton and other gangs of the late 19th century, but yet we know they’re criminals and need to be stopped. It has been a while since we’ve had a big exposure of the underworld syndicate world, but it still exists there. Organized crime will continue to flourish in an atmosphere of modern indulgence toward the idea of the gangster.  The gangster image of today breeds contempt for law and order, and a sympathetic view of criminal activity.


Works Cited
Critchley, David. The Origin of organized Crime In America: The New York City Mafia 1893-1931. New York, NY: Routeledge, 2009.
“Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/18th_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution (accessed November 16, 2011).
“Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation
Finckenauer, James O.   Mafia and Organized Crime : A Beginner’s Guide. 2007. N.p.:
                                       Oneworld Publications, 2007. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
Haynes , Roy A. ” The Success of Prohibition,” Annals of American History.
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Homer, Frederic D. Guns and Garlice: Myths and Realities of Organized Crime. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1974. (accessed November 28, 2011).
Hoover, Herbert ” Inaugural Address,” Annals of American History.
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” Labor Racketeering,” Annals of American History.
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“Organized Crime – History.” Net Industries. http://law.jrank.org/pages/1624/Organized-Crime-History.html (accessed November 6, 2011).
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Witwer, David. “The Rise of Gangsters.” Cobblestone 27, no. 4 (April 2006): 8.

Illumination on Something so Simple…

Luke 10:38-42 & Luke 11:1-13
The Scripture at the end of chapter 10 is the story of Jesus’ first visit to Martha and Mary.  At this time, Martha was so busy making the preparations that she got irritated with her sister Mary. Martha goes to Jesus demanding that Mary be put to work, but Jesus reminds Martha that Mary is doing the needful thing at the moment and He wasn’t going to deny her this. Then chapter 11 passage is where the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  But then Jesus goes on, tying that prayer into seeking, asking, and receiving from the Father in Heaven. It’s not necessarily for earthly things, but specifically for the Holy Spirit which provides us with the direct connection to God, and through that connection we receive wisdom, grace, mercy, compassion. The intent of this passage is to show how we are to communicate to God, and for us to have perseverance and patience in asking God, in seeking God, and when we are knocking on the doors of Heaven.  And we are to continue in these, for God rewards us far better than any earthly father who knows how to give good gifts.
            With finals and having issues in other realms of relationships, these combination passages really brought something back to my mind and heart. Through all the clutter, and distractions coming to the Father to seek assistance in these areas ought to be the priority. And we need to be constantly praying because it prevents our distractions from overwhelming us. God gives us the Holy Spirit which illuminates and reveals information, and gives us strength when we need it. We need to be praying even during the busiest moments of our lives or in the quiet moments of preparation. We need to be constantly knocking on the doors of heaven, and always asking God for help. The flip is trusting in our own faulty intellect that will gain us nothing but unrewarding effort and bad health.

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