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Our Romance With Gangs

Neither Capulets and Montagues nor Hatfields and McCoys, most crime gangs are composed of complete idiots

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 09, 1995.

Ten years ago I interviewed then Boulder Police Chief Jay Probst about gangs here in Boulder. The now common graffiti around town was new, then, and the Crips and Bloods were new words, and I was curious. “No gangs,” said the Chief, just punks from Denver. I believe he also used the term wannabes, also a new word.

Today, a man convicted of murder announces that it was gang related, that the robbery of a movie theater was an attempt to acquire cash to pay a drug debt. Sentenced to life, this individual gets front page coverages in the inevitable “exclusive” interview, and his thoughts and implications are given grave attention.

As you know, alas, I spent four months in jail with many of the same ilk, and not surprisingly I have formal opinions on gangs. For the most part, they have the definition, organization, and presence of a junior varsity baseball team in the off-season with nothing to do but drink. I find it very hard to be impressed with young men from pre-teen to thirty-five who dress as an all-gay chorus from Peter Pan with matching and ironed hankies wrapped around their heads and black Bermuda shorts revealing ugly and either pale white or severely blemished legs. They may be mesomorphs with bulging biceps but they look stupid beyond ken. Most of them, if sufficiently drunk, can in aggregate put together enough courage to shoot a rival gang member in the back if he had the misfortune to glance at someone’s sister or girlfriend. Or, production note: For those of you who think the women of gang members resemble Stacy Dash and other products of rap videos, visit someone in jail and look around.

It is true that cliques and gangs exist, but by the street level the average intellect is so low nobody with any brains would trust them with a burnt match. It is a cliché that America’s youth finds its only affirmation in gangs, not in church or family, but it is ill understood that the benthic depths of society produce such refuse that even the serious gangs laugh at their bombast and pretence. A gang worth worrying about is not concerned with color code dress. But it’s a good way to deceive and manipulate press and gullible public.