by RIP RENSE
(May 11, 2005)
“When gangbangers die,
there are no comets seen. . .”---with apologies to Shakespeare.
deep in the clogged intestines of an L.A. Times article about Laura
Bush’s recent visit to the remains of this city was a brief account of her
stop at Homeboy Industries.
For those unfamiliar with
Homeboy, let’s just say
that it is enough to make one believe in the possibilities of love, peace,
human cooperation, sanity, kindness, capitalism, and possibly magic. Father
Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, built a company which employs ex-gang
members who are looking to get out of the so-called lifestyle. Deathstyle,
is more like it. The motto, “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
and mayors throw money and cops and rhetoric at chronic gang savagery,
threw compassion, time and his own money. And how it has worked. Homeboy,
with headquarters in the decaying remnants of 1st Street in Boyle Heights,
is a fabulous success, and has been for many years.
The May 7 Times article
which mentioned Mrs. Bush’s visit to Homeboy was a catch-all, catch-up
feature appearing several days after the fact. This was a soft, Ladies Home
Journal-esque “the new Laura Bush in her quest for a legacy” piece (as the
headline partially read), dumped in the lowly Saturday paper, which is sort
of like sending a juror to a Food Court.
In the real world, the
fact the First Lady stopped in at Homeboy would have been the lead story
on the lips of all TeeVee newsmannequins, and close to the lead story on
page one of the Times. Mrs. Dubya meets Sleepy, Sad Girl, and Joker.
But this isn’t the real
world, this is L.A.. And this isn’t a real newspaper, it’s the L.A. Times.
(Apologies to Al Martinez, Steve Lopez, T.J. Simers, and the occasional fine
reporter and editor there.)
The article dutifully
informed that Mrs. Bush’s new “quest for a legacy” (it was literacy during
the first term, and I guess that worked out well) consists of the “Helping
America’s Youth” initiative. This is also known as the Anti-Gang Initiative,
in which about $150 million* will be allegedly given to “faith-based”
organizations that attempt to help troubled young people---chiefly to
(And embrace Hay-zoos.)
Like some bad parody of
an armchair bleeding heart liberal, the First Lady seems to have gotten the
idea by reading a newspaper.
this---read this article in the New York Times Magazine and then just
started investigating the statistics about boys,” she told PBS’s Jim Lehrer.
“And, you know, I would just come across one in the newspaper and another
and another---something that I read---and the statistics are pretty
alarming. . .About 90 percent of the members of gangs are boys; boys are the
ones who drop out of school, who end up in jail.”
Imagine! Boys in gangs!
Next thing you know, young people might start using illegal drugs, and cars
will be advertised on television! The only thing more shocking is that she
read the New York Times. Well, at least once.
|BUSH FAMILY SECRET? Was First Lady
Laura Bush actually created by Paul Winchell? Winchell, famed for
inventing comedy partner Jerry Mahoney (right), once patented an artificial
During her stop at Homeboy’s silk-screen plant downtown, the Times
reported, Mrs. Dubya was introduced to one Alex Zamudio, a 31-year-old
father of three who lost an eye at age 13, after being shot in the face in a
gang fight. Thanks to Homeboy, he is learning to become a baker, with the
aim of obtaining a certificate at L.A. Trade Tech.
Give the man a medal.
Yet here is the question
asked of Zamudio by our Laurita, little kid syntax and all:
“When you were a child
and you went and chose the path to go to a gang, do you think there was
anything you could have done at that point in your life that would have
directed you another way? Do you think you were just hellbent to go and do
that before you could turn your life around?”
If this reads like the
thinking of a person entirely divorced from hardship, cushioned by a
lifetime of privilege, family, money; a prisoner of naivete and nicety,
there is a reason. It is!
I mean, come on--- “you
went and chose the path to go to a gang?” Aside from grammar fit for a,
well, Texan, what the cabron does this woman think? That a
13-year-old kid raised in primo barrio gang turf, with whistling bullets
instead of chirping birds, chooses a path? That the kid sits down and
says to himself, “Well, Homes, you got a choice, Ese. Orale,
you can be a ‘banger, or you can choose to be a studious young man with a
head full of sense and ambition, and major in pharmacology at UCLA.”
Hijo de la chingada!
And then there is this
little sentiment: do you think you were just hellbent. . .
Get down, First Lady, use
that earthy lingo that tough kids can understand. Yes, you can identify and
empathize with being “hellbent,” right? Laura must have felt pretty darn
“hellbent” when she toked up with her sorority sisters in college. Yes, she
has walked on the wild side, just like the Venice 13 and the Sawtelo Boys.
Chingao! First Lady? First Huiza!
Wait, there’s more:
before you could turn your life around? This must have
been young Zamudio’s plan, all right. “Lessee, first I’ll go hellbent and
join a gang, and that’ll be properrrr. . .then later, after I get my eye
shot out, I’ll turn my life around!”
Zamudio is to be
commended for answering the First Lady with hard truth, no easy thing to do
in the presence of a powerful woman with the clout to help Homeboy
Industries. I wasn’t there, but his response seems to have a ring of
“Everywhere we grew up
was gang-infested,” he explained. “You grow up into that---either family
members or people you go to school with. Everybody you are involved with is
in gangs, so you end up being a gang member.”
Right. Kind of like
growing up among rich Texas oil crooks.
|SMILE! Could Conrad Veidt, star of
the 1928 adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic, "The Man Who
Laughs," be an ancestor of Laura Bush?
One pictures Mrs. Bush with her Romper Room voice and Red Skelton clown
painting smile, asking these questions of one-eyed aspiring baker Zamudio,
and it is one of the weirdest and more disturbing encounters since her
husband strolled hand-in-hand with the Saudi prince down in Crawford.
Please understand, I’d
like to tell Laura I love her. I’d like to forgive her blow-dried Beatles
wig, and the terrifying Jerry Mahoney choppers, and the Barbie eyes, and
that fact that she isn't Jackie (or even Nancy) and chalk this up to good
intentions and out-of-context quotes. But I can’t. Here’s the clincher:
Mrs. Bush also went on
the “Tonight” show during her L.A. legacy quest, and talked to Jay Leno
about using Shakespeare to inspire kids to pick up libros instead of
"They actually love it,”
she said. “Think about Shakespeare. It's bloody. All those things that boys
Yes, when you think of
Shakespeare, you think of mayhem, don’t you, kids? He was the Jerry
Bruckheimer of his day. You know the way Hamlet stabs Polonius behind the
arrass? Way cool. Bloody plus boys equals. . .no more
You can follow Mrs.
Bush’s logic, if you must, but it’s a pitiful journey. Boys like “bloody”
stuff---which presumably entails shooting, stabbing, fighting, not brain
surgery. Therefore, boys like. . .Shakespeare! Therefore, boys won’t join
gangs, because they can read about blood and gore instead of experiencing it
A tragedy of
Shakespearian proportion? No, Shakespeare couldn’t have imagined this. A
society so far gone that children can’t be attracted to. . .a story? To
concepts such as loyalty, family conflict, irony, love in its various
permutations, comedy? Isn’t the play the thing? Evidently, not.
O, happy dagger!
Mental frailty, thy name
is First Lady.
*The war in Iraq has so far cost the U.S. $168 billion, with no end in
sight. In the real world, this money would be spent on making the United
States a nicer country. But this isn’t the real world, this is
Bushcheneyland, in which the problems of Iraq are far more important than
the problems of the United States.
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