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Crime Fiction

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Crime Fiction

Maybe because I was born in 1970 and it was the first great mystery of my life, but the D.B. Cooper case has always fascinated me.  I guess I'm not alone.  It's been all over the news of late, after a woman claiming to be his niece came forward implicating her uncle.  Although when I said to Justine the other day that they may've found out who D.B. Cooper was, she was like, "Who's that?"  Justine was born in the 1980s, and by then there wasn't much news about the man who hijacked a passenger plan somewhere over Seattle and parachuted with 200K into the dark Pacific Northwest night in the middle of a raging storm.  Many maintained D.B. Cooper died in the fall, especially when money matching the serial numbers of the ransom was found decaying on a riverbank by some kids years later.  D.B. Cooper wasn't even the actual name the man gave when claiming he had a bomb but the name of a suspect, later cleared, that just stuck.  I'm not going to recount the whole goddamn thing. You can Google "D.B. Cooper" if you want to know more about the guy.

We love it when criminals get away with it.  OK, maybe not everyone.  And certainly not all criminals.  But I do.  Not the real creepers, the murderers and those who do unspeakable violence.  I'm talking mostly your classic bank robber types from the movies, like Heat or even Oceans Eleven (but not the two crappy sequels), where the violence isn't real, and the peril innocent people are put in isn't real; through the illusion of film, the only part that resonates is that of the common man trying to come up in life, pitted against nameless, faceless corporations and authoritative institutions.  I mean, who wasn't rooting for Hannibal Lector?  (In Silence of the Lambs, of course, not the the crappy sequels.)  And the man was a goddamn cannibal.

Like I said, not everyone wishes to be the bad guy.  I knew dickish kids who, when they played cops and robbers, wanted to be the cops.  And you know what?  They grew up to be...cops.  They also grew up to be dicks, and I'm not saying those two things are necessarily connected.  Most guys are dickish.  I've known far more criminals than I have cops, and most of them scared the shit out of me.  Still, when I was kid, I wanted to be...Captain Kirk.  Because I never played cops and robbers.  I usually played Star Trek.  Not sure how that correlates, or what it says about me. That I'm a reckless egomaniac with a messiah complex and strict adherence to his own brand of morality and honor.  But that doesn't sound like me at all.

I'm probably thinking about this now because after reading the delightful hijinks of D.B. Cooper sticking it to the man, I read the article about the mentally ill guy in SoCal who was beaten to death by the cops.  If you didn't see it, here it is:  And there's nothing funny or romantic here.

Now the easy thing would be to pile on against the cops who did this.  Which would be pointless.  It's indefensible.  And it's obvious.  Besides the fact that I can't believe cops still do this shit knowing everyone has a cell phone camera, it hits me because I spent some time living outside, and I knew some people with schizophrenia, and I had friends who were beaten by cops; we saw some really bad things.  But we were also doing bad things, and there is such a climate of hatred and mistrust and danger out there, police confronting violence and possible death on a daily basis, that it's not inconceivable how this happens.  Indefensible?  Yes.  But not inconceivable. And these days, if somebody steals my shit, yeah, I'm calling the police, which at one time was inconceivable.

It's nice to have a point to these things, to be able to tie it all together.  It's what the reader expects.  So if I have to do it, I guess it's this: I'd rather live in the world of D.B. Cooper.  Which is romanticized by the soft haze of nostalgia, where there were no victims, and a masked man gets away with the bank's money. I don't want to live in this world, where mentally ill homeless men are beaten to death by the cops and it's videotaped and then everyone wrings their hands and acts horrified that this could happen, but it will only happen again.  Because one world is fiction.  The other is all too real.  Fiction I can manipulate.  The real world and its violence and hatred?  I can't do shit about that.

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