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July 19, 2005

Return of the Coalition of the Damned

The Coalition of the Damned has taken up their cause again. The last time was for Devin Brown, and the time before that for Stanley Miller. For them, this is another publicity bonanza and yet another justification for their crusade for the inevitable absolute underdog. I am not without sympathy for their grief, but I despise them for what they might do with it.

Somebody has made the argument that the LAPD is not sensitive, that it doesn't understand all these cultures. That if the LAPD would speak more languages then this kind of tragedy would be avoided, but because they don't it is evidence of their hostility.

What is Pena's culture? Perhaps it is the culture that says, when the father decides to wave the gun around the family business and threaten the lives of a family member, it is his right and privilege as the head of the house. When such things happen, the police should mind their business and nobody will end up dead. Put Pena didn't teach that cultural lesson well enough, because his daughter Ilsy didn't buy it. She called 911. She betrayed Pena's culture and undermined his authority and said no, this is not family business, this is police business. She rang the bell.

I'm trying to imagine some place on the planet where there is a good deal of support for the notion that the people should win in armed conflict with the police. Hmm. Iraq, I gather, has some of that. But surely Pena realized where he was. I wonder why the Coalition doesn't. Perhaps they believe that Surrender is not an option. It is easy to know what dialing 911 means. It is similarly easy to understand that the police don't lose gun battles, and few in this country think that they should. So when the SWAT truck comes and they demand that you surrender, what should you do? Maybe Pena thought he was Scarface.

Pena used to be one of those irregulars of the sort which go by the popular name of 'insurgent' these days. He knew how to shoot and reload and he wasn't afraid of facing down the LAPD. He also had another secret family across town. Doubtless there will be some of our best friends telling us how much of an aberration Pena is. It's only fair that we believe them but some will have their doubts. Evenhandedly, Chief Bratton will explain that SWAT doesn't generally shoot kids in the head, but surely some will have their doubts. I tend to believe both stories - this was the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong thing happened. An aberration.

I am intrigued by the clash of cultures which is inevitable here in Southern California, especially the imminent collapse of liberal sentiments in the face of the Second and Third World arrivals from Mexico. There are successful families from that country who have and will continue to survive in a context where six children per family is normal and college education superfluous. These are people we are all bound to live with, but the presumption that we will change them is, I think, somewhat preposterous.

Our expectations of normality are tightly bound with our expectations of law and order. When a family member calls 911 to break up a family dispute, it becomes public business. When that bell rings, there are no guns allowed, and the bell cannot be un-rung. If there is some reason why only one person in a family of immigrants understands perhaps that is the one who should survive the grisly gauntlet Pena has chosen to lead Los Angeles through. Ilsy rung the bell and it saved her life.

Posted by mbowen at July 19, 2005 06:48 AM

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I Wish You Ill from Cobb
Every man's death diminishes me, but for Tookie, not much at all. God forgive me but some days I wish he could take his supporters with him. [Read More]

Tracked on November 29, 2005 10:50 PM


Mike, that you for saying what no one has said: A life was saved that day. The one who had the courage to call for help. There is good when it's searched for. Unfortunately we don't "see" what is right before us. Instead we focus on what no one can change. Mom

Posted by: Anonymous at July 19, 2005 03:36 PM