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Emily Tarantino

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Public Enemy Number One
By Emily Tarantino
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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this is actually a persuasive essay I had to write for my advanced placement Engllish class last year...

“Public Enemy Number One”? Sure, one could call Alphonse Capone that if they disregard his early life and all that he did to help society.

It’s hard growing up as an immigrant during the early nineteen hundreds; a time when foreigners were considered to be “the cause of high crime rates; [and] as a source of economic instability (Iorizzo24).” Capone grew up trying to become a good U.S. citizen around the rowdy neighborhood of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where gangs are plentiful and ready to poison the mind of an impressionable young immigrant looking to fit in. Capone stood out because of his Irish neighbors, and his Italian accent and placement in the religious minority of Roman Catholicism. With Irish gang members harassing Italian women and girls, Capone felt it his duty to protect fellow Italians and created the gang called the Navy Street Gang, the first gang he was a member of. If having the responsibility of protecting the women from the Irish wasn’t enough, Capone dropped out of School at age fourteen to help support his family (Iorizzo24). Then, most likely viewed as a foreign, mischievous school dropout, Capone, without the help of the government or fellow immigrants, had to support his family and regulate the misdeeds of other gangs. To the world he only committed brutal murders and dealt in illegal underground dealings.

Capone received the nickname in 1930, when a “public enemies” list was printed in newspapers nationwide, on which Al Capone’s name glowed in first place. Contributing to his placement on the list would be varies executions he performed and his blatant disregard for the prohibition law placed on alcohol. One famous execution that caused people to view him as a “social parasite” was the St Valentine’s Day massacre (Wikipedia). The goal of the massacre was to kill Bugs Moran, a rival in another Chicago underground gang. Capone failed to kill Moran in the 1929 shooting, but he and his gang killed five of Moran’s men, in a Chicago garage (Wikipedia, americahistory). Though he accidentally killed a doctor and a reporter who happened to be in the garage where the murders took place, Capone could be considered a crime fighter. He, though maybe not with this intent in mind, eliminated five causes for “the high crime rates (Iorizzo24)” in Chicago. People saw him as a man who “ran Chicago with blood and guns (Angelfire)” but what they did not realize is that Capone was actually eliminating fellow criminals, and if one stayed on his good side and appreciated what he was doing for society, was keeping the streets safe.

Throughout his life, Al Capone was seen as a threat to society and attempts on his assassination were plentiful. Though the amateur shooters’ endeavors to kill him were futile and he was never seriously injured. Those who tried to kill or gave the orders to kill the infamous gangster were probably not aware of the charity work that they would have eliminated from the world. Capone was seen as a “lovable outlaw (Wikipedia)” due to the compassion that he showed toward strangers and Italian immigrants. This “community leader” that many viewed only as a murderer started a program to help fight rickets, a calcium deficiency that caused bone problems in children. He started the tradition of milk ration distribution in schools (Wikipedia); something the government and society did not seem to notice the need for.

So far, it seems that the true public enemy was the government, whose goal it was to remove Alphonse Capone from existence, thus removing a true crime fighter and leader of charity organizations. And he was still seen as a menace to society after he opened soup kitchens in Chicago’s poor sections. His aid in cultural growth did not seem to aid him in return, either. It is hard to understand how the people could disregard what Capone did for the world. In the Cotton Club, Capone’s nightclub, he helped introduce superstars like Bing Crosby and Charlie Parker (Wikipedia), to the world. He was a supporter of sports, specifically boxing, which he participated in and supported the local favorite fighters (Iorizzo 66). Still see him as a public enemy number one?

Capone’s downfall? Lack of income tax payment (americanhistory). Capone, to remain under the radar of the law enforcement, had evaded income tax, allowing him to better conduct the distribution of illegal ales, and the planning of brutal murders such as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. The government could not seem to find enough evidence that Capone had in fact wreaked the havoc they accused him of (Americanhistory). They then focused on his finances, and nabbed him on a seemingly petty crime compared to the brutality he inflicted on the country. The vicious killer was placed behind bars for seven years, where he went mad. He later died of a stroke and pneumonia. Before he died he committed one last crime and ordered the murder of Eddie O’Hare, another social parasite who had been helping Capone but had also been the one to cause his demise (angelfire).

Upon analyzing Alphonse Capone’s life, one could see clearly that, yes he was disregardful of the laws, but he was also the enforcer of the law. In addition to holding the position of a law enforcer, Capone contributed to society and charity. “Public Enemy Number One”? NO. Not if one sees what Capone truly did for this country.

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