Monday, April 25, 2005

The Chicago Outfit: Out Of Style

News broke today in Chicago of the rounding-up of figures involved in organized crime in Chicago. Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Organized crime in America, despite the popularity of The Sopranos and other "mobbed-up" entertainments, has been on a steady decline since 1970. It was in 1970 that the RICO (Racketeer Influenced Criminal Organizations) Act was passed by the U.S. Congress. It provided for the prosecution of entire criminal organizations and the individuals involved; this proved to be the beginning of the end for many of the "traditional" crime networks, mainly centered in cities like New York and Chicago.

Why the cultural currency of the mafia in the American psyche? Actually, I think that is fairly easy to trace. Combine the distrust of authority, the desire for personal justice, the role of the traditional family, the immigrant experience and our national love of violence and I think you have it. The reality of these people is that they were once a source of violence and corruption in our cities; now, they have become a rather curious dinosaur of days past. They did once fulfill a function in their communities (protection, mutual aid, etc). They have outlived this and have entered the mindset of many terrorist organizations like the IRA and Hezbollah. They are in the "we bomb/kill/extort/smuggle, therefore we are" stage of their organizational life cycle.

If you notice the ages of many of the people in the indictment, they are old men now. They should not be excused from justice for their crimes. Their ages, rather, serve as a reminder that the "mob" is not nearly as much a concern as once they were. They are history, now almost literally. American cities face different issues in a different time; the Chicago "round-up" is merely tying up loose ends and giving closure to the families of victims.

The sooner we put these killers and bullies behind us culturally, the better off we will be. They are powerless now and they need no encouragement to continue. Let them serve their time so that all can move on.

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