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By Robert A. Vella

In his 1974 novel, The Wanderers, author Richard Price tells a brutal story of life growing up in the Bronx circa early-1960s.  Rival gangs – driven by machismo, ethnic hatred, and sexual desire – fight for territorial supremacy within the impoverished housing projects of that New York City burrow.  Price’s well-developed and intriguing characters run the gamut from triumph to tragedy while each struggles individually to cope with the unpleasant reality of their lives as well as the inescapable tumult of adolescence.

One of the many subplots to the story is an examination of gang leadership portrayed in conjunction with the menacing presence of neighborhood bullies.  Whether intentional or not, Price reveals the utter futility of the psychological obsession for dominance.  In the end, all the bluster and inflicted pain mattered not in the larger context.  Aggression can achieve short-term gain, but the long-term costs are prohibitively high.

In today’s real world, two such geopolitical gangs are playing a similar but far more dangerous game over the waters of the western Pacific.  Just as the protagonists and antagonists in The Wanderers were impelled by dubious and conflicting motives, so too are the leaders and bullies of the U.S. and China.  They are engaging in a juvenile contest for territorial supremacy which sooner or later must turn violent, and which will have serious consequences for their respective gangs.

From The Christian Science MonitorChina scrambles jets as US Navy tests navigation near disputed island:

Beijing and Hong Kong — China scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday as a U.S. navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea, a patrol China denounced as an illegal threat to peace which only went to show its defense installations in the area were necessary.

Guided missile destroyer the USS William P. Lawrence traveled within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied Fiery Cross Reef, U.S. Defense Department spokesman, Bill Urban said.

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