|Gangs Have Our Libraries Under Siege
by Doug McIntyre [radio
Every library has a section devoted to crime novels, but leave it to Los Angeles to have libraries that are crime scenes.
Over the past 18 months, city libraries have reported 1,500 incidents; mostly minor, but with an obscenely high number of serious assaults by gangbangers, including robberies, beatings and shootings. In Los Angeles, books don't need dust jackets, they need flak jackets.
Historians study lost civilizations looking for the exact moment when ancient peoples hit the tipping point - when the fatal flaw in their society reached critical mass and there was no pulling out of the tailspin. From ancient Rome to the Soviet Union, nations have taken their final bow from the stage of history. When some future historian sifts through the ash heap of Los Angeles, perhaps he'll note a city that couldn't even provide a safe haven in its libraries. When librarians need combat pay, we risk making a fool of ol' Charlie Darwin.
This latest canary in a coal mine should shake us out of our collective apathy. When the Nazis started burning books, the "civilized" people of Europe got the willies, but did nothing. When the Taliban blew up thousand-year-old statues of Buddha from the mountains of Afghanistan, destroying their own cultural heritage, the world yawned.
When L.A.'s Garfield High School was nearly destroyed by arsonists, the usual public hand-wringing took place, and little else. Now we learn the Mark Twain Library at Figueroa is a free-fire zone, caught in the sinkhole of a city capitulating to gang culture.
Let's not delude ourselves about what's happening here. The city of Los Angeles has surrendered to the gangs. There are still some small pockets of resistance, a few isolated yelps of protest, but we have largely accepted the degradation of colors, tagging, banging and bling.
Schools and libraries are under attack. Physically. I mean, actually taking live rounds! Our young men display their buttock cheeks publicly like brightly colored baboon butts, hoping to attract mates. Our young women dress like hookers, which makes me wonder what hookers are wearing these days.
These are not just the complaints of a crank (although they are that as well). These are canaries in the coal mine.
Instead of crushing graffiti, we tried to manage it, about as successfully as we managed traffic. We ceded public space to the spray-paint can, and then scratched our heads when the "artists" didn't color within the lines.
As reported in the Daily News, a tagger/tattoo "artist" named Anthony Sena was gunned down outside Needle Pushers, his Valley Ink place of employment. Sena's short, sad life only became controversial when his friends memorialized him by spray-painting a 30-foot mural on a Reseda liquor store wall.
The canary in the coal mine shudders because Sena's death mural is the controversy, not his life.
This city produces far too many Anthony Sena tragedies. Taggers are the advance scouts for gangs. Tagging is not an innocent act; it degrades neighborhoods, creating an ugly climate of fear and hopelessness. What's the point of cutting your lawn or pulling weeds when your house is surrounded by a sea of abandoned sofas, broken bottles, razor wire and spray-paint splattered bus benches?
It saddens me to read LAPD Officer Ed Moreno of the West Valley Division's Gang Impact Graffiti Detail tell the Daily News he has come to passively accept the unacceptable. Describing the Sena mural, Moreno said: "Nothing on the wall says gangs."
Everything on that wall says gangs! Everything in Los Angeles says gangs. Even the runaway freight train of commercial development is attributable to gangs. Rightly or wrongly, the public has abandoned public parks - they represent land lost to bangers. The middle class has moved to Mall World, where park benches are watched by Westfield/NSA hidden cameras and Blackwater private security is a just a rape whistle away. Public safety has been privatized.
When schools and libraries become free-fire zones and young lives are snuffed out in front of tattoo parlors with cutesy-pie names making light of smack (Needle Pushers, get it?) and it's considered an honor to have your life memorialized in spray paint on a liquor-store wall, the canary in L.A.'s coal mine is on life support.
If the people of Los Angeles don't act, we'll take our place alongside those who accommodated the book burners in Germany and the Taliban Buddha bombers. We have a choice - library cards or toe tags. What's it gonna be? CRO
first appeared at L.A. Daily News
2006 Doug McIntyre