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Al Martinez

No Magic on the Mountain : Just how do they determine who is a gang member and who isn't?

April 04, 1988|Al Martinez

I note with interest that Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Valencia amusement center for white people, is stopping suspected gang members at the gate in an effort to ensure the safety of non-gang members who visit the park.

Wide notice has been given to the center's policy of searching and/or refusing entry to those who might cause problems for others.

I don't mean stock swindlers or perjurious government leaders, by the way. They represent an acceptable element of American mischief-making that limits itself to lying and stealing.

We're talking here of kids who lack the guile to make money at real crime and who might, at any moment, turn an otherwise peaceful arena of family fun into a primitive battle zone.

No one wants to survive a bone-jarring, 3-G carnival ride only to be gunned down at the cotton candy wagon.

The idea of curtailing gang violence isn't altogether a bad one in a city where drive-by shootings have become almost as common as silicone transplants.

But, how, I hear you ask, can a security guard at Magic Mountain be certain beyond doubt that the man he's barring at the gate is indeed a gang member?

Good question.

Unfortunately, however, no one at the park is willing to reveal his methods, so we are left, alas, to speculate on our own.

To begin with, refusing entry to those who appear to be gang members isn't good enough. Appearance is often deceiving.

I, for instance, could easily pass as a twisted Cuban terrorist and be refused admittance at Magic Mountain on the basis of my potential for hijacking a roller coaster and demanding that it take me to Havana.

Fat chance. I don't even like roller coasters.

Similarly unreliable is the method that identifies gang members by their "colors," which is to say some obvious symbol of their wicked allegiance: "Eastside Assassins" emblazoned on their scruffy jackets, for instance, with "Death to the Gringos" underneath.

Simple enough if we could rely on gang members to dress as they ought to, but they are an unpredictable lot and cannot be trusted to act according to their class.

Worse, cholo chic has become a popular style of dress among young people who are not members of gangs themselves, but who have taken to wearing gang colors.

Often in affluent areas, for instance, you'll find white teen-agers getting out of their BMWs wearing silk sport coats with "Encino Effetes" emblazoned on the back and "Death to Data Processors" underneath.

Denying them entry on that basis portends real trouble.

You might get by booting minorities out of an amusement park on the basis of evil intent, but you start kicking out the white bread, brother, and a lot of the magic, which is to say the gross receipts, is going to spew out of the mountain.

I'm sure all of this, however, has been taken into consideration by park security forces, and the aforementioned methods of gang identification rejected as unsuitable.

They have also undoubtedly rejected the use of dogs to sniff each suspected gang member for drugs and rubber hoses to make a kid talk when a guard knows sure as hell he's a vato loco in disguise.

But, if all of that is rejected, just how do they determine who is a gang member and who isn't? What is the secret method by which they are able to circumvent due process by recognizing beforehand exactly who is guilty until proven innocent?

I think they've got a Wizard on Magic Mountain.

There's someone up there with psychic powers beyond those anyone could imagine, someone that Toto would never find pumping smoke behind a concealing screen, someone real, someone grand, someone all-knowing.

Normally, the Wizard probably declines to use the powers God gave him, but he finds now he must. Gang violence has gotten out of hand. They aren't just killing their own anymore. They're killing you. They're killing me. They're killing us .

The Wizard is afraid.

Hell, man, we're all afraid. But history is full of the kinds of response to fear that defames human dignity and suppresses human rights.

A fear of devils, a fear of witches, a fear of communists, a fear of infidels, a fear of pagans, a fear of madness, a fear of disease, a fear of each other.

The dead have been piled like cordwood down the bloody centuries and the living encaged like animals in violent efforts to protect us from them , by whatever means.

It's time we learned. Fear isn't good enough anymore to justify actions specifically prohibited by enlightened documents. Fear, as a weapon of public order, is more terrifying in its portent than gangs.

Magic Mountain is seeking simple solutions to a difficult problem and, so doing, is failing to perceive a danger that precedence imposes. Denying the rights of one is to deny the rights of all.

Thomas Jefferson put it differently, but the truth remains as bright today as it did 200 years ago. There is no magic in a free society, and there are sure as hell no wizards.

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