Thug, noun, pronunciation: /THɡizm/ [Early 19th century (sense 2): from Hindi, hag ‘swindler, thief’, based on Sanskrit sthagati ‘he covers or conceals’.
One of the footnotes to the postmortem on the rioting in Baltimore has been an argument over the use of the word “thug” to describe the mostly young rioters, sackers and arsonists.
The city’s African-American mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, used the term, though she later backed away from her earlier comments. In uncharacteristically strong language, Pres. Barack Hussein Obama used it too when he denounced the Baltimore violence.
Megan Garber, in an article in The Atlantic, writes that “thugs” “are [seen as] both victims and agents of injustice, they are both the products and producers of violence, and mayhem, and outrage”. Some of the media, muddling the argument even more, has trotted out arguments for excusing behavior which brought the city to near chaos. CNN has spread a clever piece of wordsmithery, “Rioting is the voice of the unheard”, when its interviewers court dissident and inflamatory reactions..
The fact is that young hoodlums [“a person who engages in crime and violence; a hooligan or gangster”] broke the peace of one of largest and once most prosperous American cities, burning and looting. Furthermore, their action did not elicit from the city’s leadership the kind of response for which a city’s police force is dedicated. It was only luck that there was not major loss of life.
That is why it is incumbent on the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn J. Mosby, now that she has quickly brought forward an indictment of the policemen involved in the death in custody of Freddie Gray, to go after these young miscreants. There is apparently yards of video taken during these violent acts from which the perpetrators can be identified.
Just as one mother, Tonya Graham, took the responsibility for her son when she caught him joining the mob, the Baltimore authorities now have a duty to bring the other delinquents to justice.
That won’t be easy.
There are already many voices arguing that they are victims, that they need help, that they have to be forgiven for their acts of violence against civilized society. Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes has what he sees as their case. “It’s not the right word to call our children ‘thugs’. These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us.”
All that may be true and must be considered if justice is to be served. But identifying these young people, naming their criminality, and bringing them before a court to have their actions explained is necessary if real peace is to be reestablished in Baltimore.
Without the rule of law, no civilized society can exist. Respect for the law has to begin in childhood. And without an attempt to bring these youngsters to justice – for their families’ sake if nothing else – the confidence that is going to be necessary if the destruction of Baltimore’s reputation [and livelihood] is to be restored will not be forthcoming..