Poverty is no excuse for criminal behavior

By Mike Lange

    Last week’s cluster-gaggle in Guilford involving a firearm, knives, a baseball bat or two and a Rottweiler was cited by many as a lethal combination of drugs, alcohol and poverty.
    Granted, alcohol has fueled more disputes than a called third strike in Major League Baseball. An innocent wisecrack under sober conditions can lead to fistfights when one or more parties get into the sauce.

    Drug problems are self-explanatory. Since it’s common knowledge that substance abuse will put you in an early grave, there’s no excuse for starting the habit.
    But for those who want to take the risk, the odds are pretty good that they’ll wind up in court and either pay a substantial fine or do a stretch in the Iron Bar Hotel. If you think it’s tough finding a job nowadays, wait until you get to the line on the application that asks “Have you ever been arrested?”
    Now we come to poverty. Since Piscataquis County is usually near the bottom of the list in average income and the top of the heap in unemployment, you’re in good company if you’re considered poor. And it’s no disgrace.
    Maine is considered to be at the end of the supply line by the rest of the country. We’re in the northeast corner where the growing season is short and the winters are long. We’re accessible by a major toll road and just barely by railroad. It’s a great place to visit for three months out of the year.
    But for every family who has to routinely bail out one of their kids on a pot trafficking charge, there are several hundred who are “making do” with what they have.
    They show up for work on time and don’t call in sick with the sniffles.
    They don’t make much money, but they’re the first ones to stuff dollar bills into collection cans for needy families.
    They drive old cars and pick-up trucks, always sober and at or under the speed limit.
    They’re part of the 100-plus volunteers who showed up for the “Arts Alive” workshop at Piscataquis Community Elementary School in June.
    They attend local sporting events, cheering their team even when the score isn’t in their favor. They don’t harass the opponents or demean the referees, either.
    The Monday night mayhem was not a reflection of poverty nor was it typical of Guilford. Yes, kids hang around empty parking lots and the ball field after dark all summer. It’s what young adults do. Most of them don’t cause any more problems than turning up their car radio speakers to ear-splitting level.
    A few miscreants went over the edge on Aug. 12 and many will be caught and punished. And their income level won’t be a factor when the hammer comes down.
    Mike Lange is a staff writer for the Piscataquis Observer. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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