Wam! Pow! The Power of Hard Power

Why doesn’t the Mob run LA in the same way it does New York?  My New York-born grandfather Jack Goulding, Pulitzer-winning editor at the LA Times, thought he sniffed out the story.

He told his children, and his children told me, that long, long ago, when New Yorkers first came to LA – cramming along Brooklyn Avenue in what is now Boyle Heights – many wanted to bring the crime structure of New York with them.

People politics - badda bing, badda boom.

But when the Mob sent some of “their guys” out west, they were greeted at the train station by plain-clothes men. Wearing brass knuckles.

My grandfather said the mobsters were beaten within an inch of their life, and then put right back on the next train east, bleeding and unconscious. They were sent as physical postcards for their bosses that read: this is what will happen if the Mob comes to Los Angeles.

And the American Mob, as it is known, never came to Los Angeles.

I thought of this story this week when reading about the nauseating rape stories dominating my Facebook feed. One is the rape of a Stanford student, and the other is the gang rape of a Brazilian teenager. Both women were unconscious during the assault(s). The Stanford rapist was given a light sentence of six months, which his father called, “A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

That sentence fills me with a rage that knows no bounds, but also one that, perhaps most tellingly, does know bounds. And that is the problem. Women have historically lack and still lack a power mechanism that keeps our physical (and financial and emotional) safety intact. My subconscious thinks, “What can we really do, anyway?” We don’t have any brass knuckles. We have soft power – we have the law, and education, and religion, and righteousness. Which all prove worthless in terms of protection.

In what world is it acceptable that Brock Turner’s father walks down the street unencumbered and unafraid while publicly stating that the forced penetration of an unconscious student was merely “action”? Stipulating that his son has the right to do that, that his son does not deserve punishment for that, and – perhaps most alarmingly – that it was fun? (That was the same tone of the Brazilian rapist’s post, “They left her kneaded like dough, get it? Haha.”)

Why is he not afraid someone will find him in a dark alley, and give him 20 minutes of “action”? And let his ass (literally) know what that feels like?

I’ve always been a flower child. I never thought I’d write like this. But something happened after I had a kid - mainly, my level of human empathy went way up,  while the number of fucks I give plummeted to about zero.  

I am outraged that I live in a world in which men mock female sexuality and female power. And I am heartbroken that no one seems to suffer from this like women do. Is that what 1970's revolutionaries meant by, “Any means necessary?” Is “action” the only language that men like that understand? Do men have to be left amassado to get what this is?

If so, maybe we should hire Mickey and Jimmy. Or Pauly and Mikey. Or whoever those LA tough men were, in the Eisenhower years. Wam! Pow! seemed to have worked. In LA, the Samoans run the docks.