Monday, October 11, 2004

This weekend, 14-year-old Byron Lee was shot to death while riding his bike near Stanford and 81st Street in South LA. There were two shooters. According to witnesses, the shooters moved up on Lee after he was down and continued firing as he was on his knees and apparently pleading for them not to shoot him anymore. He was hit eighteen times.

Lee, like the shooters, was black and cops suspect that this was gang related, even though Lee's mother says he wasn't ganged up. It hardly matters. These guys wanted him, or somebody else, dead. And they clearly didn't care all that much if he was the intended target.

This shooting reminded me of an incident in Kody Scott's book MONSTER. Kody mentions that he once shot a kid off his bike but doesn't reveal the aftermath. He doesn't mention if he killed the kid or winged him or crippled him for life. Scott also states that he shot a lot of "civilians," his term for people who were not ganged up or associates. And Scott never expressed much remorse.

If Lee's killers are ever caught and decide to write a best seller about shooting people, you have to wonder if they'll receive the same level of acclaim that Scott gets from academics and the media. His book is on the reading list of Race, Class and Gender classes all over the country. The LA Times called Monster, "one of the most disturbingly authentic triumphs of the human spirit ever executed in print."

The same weekend that Lee was executed brought the news that Jacques Derrida died of cancer. Derrida was the father of Deconstructionism, a "philosophy" much in vogue among university professors. The basic belief of this philosophy is that nothing can be known. Certainty is an illusion. It's impossible to pass judgment because reality is nothing more than personal narrative and subjective experience. The personal narrative of the shooters is as valid and free of disapprobation as that of Byron Lee's. In the world of intellectual discourse, shooter and victim are neither guilty or innocent.

The wide acceptance of Monster and other criminal confessionals is rooted in the nonsense of Deconstructionism. A clever professor could prove to Byron's mother that her son wasn't executed while begging for his life. It's just her subjective experience of the event. That professor can also prove that true justice could never be dished out to the shooters.

You could dismiss this nonsense if it were merely isolated to the classroom and lecture hall, the modern equivalent of ancient religious scholars discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The truth is, a lot of this Decon attitude permeates the media, the babbling class and even the criminal justice system. It leads to some horrific consequences. Defense lawyers leaking information to their clients about potential prosecution witnesses. Or academics being brought in as expert witnesses to prove that a visual ID of a shooter is beyond the capacity of the victims. And it even leads to defense lawyers covering up a shooter's tattoos with makeup during a trial to foil a positive ID. After all, guilt is a social construct that exists merely in the unenlightened mind. Intellectuals know better.

These true believers in the absolute impossibility of guilt or innocence, good or evil also show up on juries and are playing merry hell with criminal cases. More on that at another time.


The Bookhouse Boy said...

Wow, Derrida has been catching so much heat recently, you'd think he'd shot a kid off a bike. I just bought a hardcover copy of Monster this weekend, and was proud of the find until you shamed me just a little with this post. Just a little, though. While I agree that anyone who lionizes Monster Kody is a fool, can't someone find the book interesting without losing our mind in deconstructionist twaddle? Perhaps you disagree with me, but it seems like anyone who thinks about crime as much as you do (or I, at, plug plug) is thrilled by things they find morally repugnant?
But great blog. You've found a new reader.

Gone said...

I think very few people read 'Monster' looking for a celebration of the criminal life or to give those participating in it a moral free pass. I seriously doubt the book is taught as a deconstructionist work in colleges. (On that I only have personal knowledge of four college kids at different schools who had the book assigned in ethinic studies, sociology and narrative nonfiction courses, and talks with a college prof friend who has assigned this book for several years. I have sat and listened to students hold very serious wranglings over issues of guilt and moral culpability on the part of the narrator in Monster, and *much* discussion over the absence of his victims.) What makes 'Monster' a fascinating work is pretty simple: gangbangers don't write books. We normal people have no entry into the alien mindset of a fellow human who can be so disconnected from humanity that they choose to live such brutal, uncaring lives. People read these books out of a desire to understand, and yes, they read them in part for the titalating shock value. That is what has fueled popular acceptance of criminal narrative since the days well before the printing press. Monster and its ilk are not new, and the popularity of this form of nonfiction certainly predates the rise of deconstructionism.

I like your blog, but you're aware that among reasons people read your site is for the same reason we read stuff like 'Monster'? You provide insights and details into this alien criminal world. You are providing information, education and clarity that people want as they try to understand. You are part of the overall flow of information you're attacking. You are not a criminal, you are not putting out lurid details, but you appear to be as interested in their world as your readers, even more so because of the extensive work you do turning up information about them. (I mean your regular readers, not your media readers who come here mainly to steal from you.)

Not liking the fact that there is an arm of publishing devoted to nonfiction from the pov of the criminal, and not liking that this industry is so popular is one thing. That's a valid concern and can make for an interesting chat about the rumblings and shape of our society. But to dismiss works like 'Monster' by making a tortured connection to the Deconstructionists is simply way off base.

Anonymous said...

As a remark on the above comment, I read this blog because I live in a neighborhood where some gangs operate, and which borders on long-held gang territory: Highland Park, LA. It's a great place, but there are undercurrents that it's best to be aware of. And these undercurrents don't make it up to the LA Times. I can get some of it by talking to my LAPD Senior Lead Officer, but this blog is another valuable window onto that hidden world.

Anonymous said...

Check this out, thats why ese gangs are in a f_cken war with myates right now. These lame ass porch monkeys are a f_cken joke. Killing this innocent kid because they are stupid niggers. I'm not saying that Hispanic gangs don't do the same but when they do something stupid like this, guess what?? We get dealt with on the inside. That's why we don't go around and shoot innocent kids like niggers do. We have better discipline than myates and it shows. The wars on the calles are only the beginning and when they hit the pen, watch out myateros. Your gonna have your family planning your funeral real soon. Puro Pinche Southern United Raza 13

Anonymous said...

SUR is a JOKE.

Anonymous said...

nowhere did i read he had shot alot of "civilians "intentionally though he did make mention if they were in the midst of a lot of enemy bangers the "civilians" would be wrote off as having had strong ties with the bangers also being shot up not tryna nit pick but somebody that didnt read the book might get the wrong idea about what u said in regards to him shooting innocent bystanders aka "civilians" not saying that he may or may not in real life have given a shyt but in his book is how i am taking it and no i am not being naive because some ppl have that mentality they only want to harm those they have beef wit nobody else and i choose to give SANYIKA the benefit of the doubt in that decision to rep his set the way he did. i dont knwo him personally so i ihave to go by what i read a mans word is his bond in hoods all over the world.