Growing up in Nebraska can be a lonely and hard thing. Earth and sky are elements made for crushing. Each Nebraska horizon beyond the urban core presents only two images you learn early to avoid and they are both found on the visceral level where trembling and genetics meet blood creating the canvas of dreams and the kindling of hope: Bunches of blue sky crouch and stretch above just out of reach, teasing you over and around in what you imagine the ocean must look and feel like; maturity comes in dry pieces you kick and hold in your hand as dust while down beneath your boots rusty slivers of infertile earth scatter telling of dreams ending in sharp shards and hope dead and undone by a landscape that forgives nothing but rain.
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In the February 1, 2005 edition of Law Enforcement Technology, writer Liz Martinez investigates Gangs in Indian Country and offers the following insight:
Native Americans have some of the highest poverty and addiction rates in the United States and a rapidly increasing population, along with some of the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest educational levels. Because the reservations are in remote areas, the opportunities for jobs and industry are virtually non-existent.
Coupled with the fact that many young people have lost touch with or never known their native languages, customs or religious traditions and are exposed to the relentless commercialism of mainstream America–yet are without the wherewithal to achieve most of the commercial ideals–and the white-hot anger erupting among American Indian youth and manifesting itself in an explosion of gang involvement should surprise no one.
Gangs create bonds of belonging for those who feel outcast, lost and disconnected.
Helping to find ways to retie the disconnected to the positive moral core of society must become a paramount human mission reaching from suburban corral to urban core to rustic reservation.
Another example of “Pretentious City Pretend Art” is Claes Oldenburg’s Torn Notebook currently found marring the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Claes Oldenburg created some magnificent and provocative pieces of art over his career but Torn Notebook is not one of them. I have felt that way from the moment the monstrosity was first described in the local Lincoln newspaper many years ago.
Here’s why: The good people of Nebraska have an identity crises.