ACCORDING TO LIZ - Karen Bass inherited a city rich in violence. Violence on the streets. Violence in people’s homes. Violence in the movies.
And violence in the protests against police violence.
It’s a police issue, a race issue, an addiction issue. It’s a domestic issue, a gender issue, and also one of power and poverty.
For many years the approach has been to turn a blind eye as much as possible to violence in the home and address any outside with more violence.
It’s a social issue, and a cultural issue. Violence begets violence.
It cuts across all levels of wealth, race, education and status.
While running for Mayor, Karen Bass made clear that she understood public safety was a priority but that it meant different things to different neighborhoods. That some Angelenos wanted increased visibility of police patrols, even in places where defund-the-police activists held sway, while in other areas people wanted to build trust and cooperation between the LAPD and the community.
She said it was “time to tailor crime response to the needs of individual communities.”
Even more than that, it is high time to retailor our culture to stop encouraging and normalizing violence.
On her campaign website then Rep. Bass spelled out her vision on addressing public safety:
- that breaking cycles of crime requires going beyond law enforcement to provide coordinated prevention, intervention, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and other social services
- that arresting our way out of the problem doesn’t work
- that when people are able to put food on the table, send their kids to good schools, and pay their rent, they are less likely to commit crimes.
- that crime prevention will saves lives and property and save taxpayer dollars
- that investing in social services and job programs will help quash economic inequality, keep at-risk youth off the streets, and give outreach workers the support needed to get people experiencing mental health and behavioral crises back on their feet
- that Los Angeles has not made the necessary investments to secure a strong enough social fabric to ensure that people’s basic needs are met
- that police officers should not have to double as social workers, conflict negotiators, and medical responders without appropriate training to address every societal issue that results from the tears in the fabric, whether it be mental illness, addiction, homelessness, or poverty
- that investing in comprehensive prevention to take on the root causes of crime by fortifying and expanding the prevention systems has already proven to reduce violence, interrupt gang involvement, and increase family health
In certain cultures, care for others rates above individual success, and wealth is a symbol of selfishness.
Bass acknowledged that public safety requires a comprehensive response. “You have to address the root causes,” she said. “You have to address the health and social, the economic issues that lead to our problems.”
Those root causes are endemic violence, glorified by not only our media but in the games we let our children play, in the violence at home and in the office where men disrespect women as part of a culture of being one of the boys. That killing and maiming are rich fodder for jokes.
If our culture teaches our values, what does that say about what Americans value?
The Mayor’s budget was presented as a reflection of our values and an investment in the City’s most critical needs. Eunisses Hernandez thought it didn’t go far enough and registered the lone vote against its passage.
However, hidden in the public safety funding although dwarfed by the billion plus going to the LAPD, is money for the Office of Community Safety, run by Karren Lane, Deputy Mayor for Community Empowerment.
She is tasked with prioritizing investment over punishment and has a strong background in working with communities and youth to improve education, child welfare and criminal justice reform, to break the cycle of violence and crime. But the problems go deeper.
Last December gun-toting mama Republican Lauren Boebert could not protect her teenage son from his father. Whether what occurred was physical or emotional, it was clearly violent if it resulted in a 911 call.
And that mama would rally, not to defend her son but the abuser, to preserve the family unit says all. Not about Boebert the politician but in how our society perceives and dismisses violence. In this case the authorities dug a little deeper because the family was well-known for having multiple guns in the house.
Even when Jayson Boebert threatened the process server bringing him divorce proceedings, his presumably soon-to-be-ex-wife jumped to his defense.
Geena Davis, star of Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, established her Institute on Gender in Media to lay bare the lack of gender diversity in Hollywood. And whatever else was being marginalized – be it race/ethnicity, L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+, disability, age 50-plus or body type – and how.
Television and moves, even the news was projecting a warped version of reality to men, women and children.
The more recent murder of 26-year-old Gabriella Gonzalez in Dallas by her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend seeking revenge after she had an abortion highlights the dangerous intersection of pregnancy, abortion bans, and intimate partner violence. Homicide is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death in the United States, and like other causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, it disproportionately affects women of color.
Violence is a community health crisis.
Violence doesn’t stop at city boundaries.
There are the little aggressions – ones that men are mostly oblivious to but shame many women on a daily basis. The hoots and leers are not simply signs of admiration but an objectification of women as bodies to be undressed. It’s another form of the slave market, another loss of control of our own bodies that the Supreme Court just wrote into law.
Taken further, the growing prevalence of pornography normalizes rape and assault, and male domination. Porn is power. Porn is violence.
No? Every act depicted is coerced, whether by threats or money is immaterial. The subjects who claim that they enjoy “performing” are uniformly victims – primarily of abusive childhoods where they held no personal self-worth other than flaunting their sexuality for others’ titillation.
These further violations would not occur without the market, without the demand that drives the profitability of the porn industry. Where there is money, there is a market. Where there is a market, there are people willing to forego any scruples and capitalize on it.
And this normalization of sexual domination and abuse has created too many Trumps in our society and those around the world. As shown in study after study, some men are so narcissistic that after raping a woman it never occurs to them that they have committed a crime.
In her 2022 memoir, Geena Davis elucidates a value absorbed as a girl: Defer. Go along to get along. Everything’s fine.
Well, Madame Mayor, everything is NOT fine. The violence rocking Los Angeles is rooted in the normalization that gendered power and the objectification of women is fine. It’s not.
This may be too big an issue for any mayor to address even in multiple terms, but Mayor Bass, you might consider chucking the hand-wringing over micro-aggressions and double down on what can be done to expose the culture of violence and abuse, of power and victimization, that underpins the worst Los Angeles has to offer.
As a black woman from moderate means, you have both the background and the bully pulpit to say “Wake up, Los Angeles!”
People interested in the development of discriminatory mindsets and gender bias in particular should read The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz.
Lauren Boebert filed for divorce from Jayson earlier this month. According to an affidavit from the process server, Jayson Boebert “started yelling and using profanities, and told me that I was trespassing and that he was calling the Sheriff’s Office” when he was served with the divorce papers. “I told him I was leaving the documents on the chair outside of the door, he closed the door then let the dogs out.”
Jayson Boebert has a history of arrests, including when he pled guilty to public indecency and lewd exposure after he exposed himself to a 16-year-old girl and an adult woman at a bowling alley. Lauren Boebert, then 17, was a witness.
He was also booked for a domestic violence charge in February 2004 against Lauren Boebert, a year before they married. A spokesperson for the Garfield associate county court clerk said that he “did unlawfully strike, shove or kick… and subjected her to physical contact.”
Three months later that year, Lauren Boebert allegedly scratched Jayson Boebert’s face and chest and trashed his home, according to a police report, leading to charges of third-degree assault, criminal mischief, and underage drinking. It’s not known what happened with those charges.
Lauren Boebert has long faced criticism for her views on parent/child relationships. Earlier this week, she claimed that children are the property of their parents, an authoritarian understanding of family relationships.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)