Archive for Monday, June 26, 2000

Mob violence seems to be the rule

June 26, 2000


My hometown basketball team won the championship last Monday. L.A.'s Lakers topped Indiana's Pacers, claiming the trophy in a fizzy shower of confetti and champagne. I confess that when the buzzer sounded, I acted a total fool. Cranked Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." so loud it must have registered on the Richter scale.

Yet somehow I managed to express all that euphoria without causing any property damage. So can someone explain why several hundred people in downtown L.A. were unable to do likewise? Why their "joy" devolved into a riot that caused extensive property damage and left at least a dozen people with minor injuries?

Leonard Pitts

Somehow, theyve heard that anything goes. Its time we taught them that anything does not.

I'm sorry, but I can't quite get the "logic" that says, I'm happy my team won, so I'll just throw a brick through a plate-glass window.

This is a relatively new twist. We didn't always celebrate sports victories by torching police cars, but evidently, something in the zeitgeist began to change somewhere in the 1980s. One is reminded of Europe's soccer hooligans, whose bash-and-break behavior has made them notorious on that continent and this one.

If there's a consensus about why that sort of thing is becoming more commonplace on this side of the world, I'm not aware of it. A talking head on television blamed the violence on a lack of impulse control.

Me, I prefer a less academic term: Anything goes.

Somehow, in the last decade or so, this seems to have become the operating credo of certain of our fellow Americans, particularly young, testosterone-fueled ones. It's not just sports rioting that makes me feel this way. It's several other relatively recent acts of mob violence the attack in Central Park that seem to lack any obvious precipitating cause, that spring upon us from nowhere, apropos of nothing in particular.

You watch this stuff happen and you get this ominous sense that some people think they're just dancing at the end of days, getting in a few last kicks before the apocalypse. There's an end times hedonism to it, a bunch of punks gathered emboldened by mob anonymity and feeling as if the rules no longer apply. Can anyone be surprised that things begin to burn? The old order decency, respect, restraint blackens in the flame of the new, crumbles under the heel of thugs who have never known accountability.

I don't mind telling you that I'm sick of it. The connective tissue of community, the thing that binds you and me to the greater we, is at risk anytime we can't celebrate a sports victory or go to a parade together in safety and in peace.

We have a choice, then. We can either stay home or rescue the old "community." The seeds of that rescue lay with the teachers, the preachers and the parents of kids who are, even now, coming of age in rules-free zones, even now learning the steps to the dance at the end of days.

Somehow, they've heard that anything goes. It's time we taught them that "anything" does not.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His e-mail address is

Commenting has been disabled for this item.