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.