Driving home yesterday afternoon, I came across the filming frenzy of blocked off streets, semis, and trailers a few blocks from our house. I had seen the little film placards with “CSI” on them, so I wasn’t surprised to see a bunch of fake Las Vegas police cars parked along the street where they were filming.
After making my way through the production-congested street, I cruised by my good friend’s house a block away to drop off something she had asked us to pick up for her daughter while we were at the Babies R Us. She wasn’t home, so we continued down her street to loop back around to our house. As we passed a house that has been a special hot-bed for criminal activity the past year, I saw some young men going inside, while another guy whipped his large, shiny SUV (with rims costing more than my entire car) around in front of me, stopped to shout something at someone, then tore off. As he blazed away, another car turned down the street obviously belonging to one of the Narcs we know are working our neighborhood right now. He stopped his car suddenly and got out.
I am often struck by how much of life here in L.A. (and perhaps, in most places) is based on illusion. We are a city driven by it. From plastic surgery and airbrushed images to Disneyland and the film industry, we hunger after illusion. So much so, I think, that sometimes what is real can begin to feel like just one more movie clip passing us by. Here today, forgotten the next.
Two blocks were all that separated the illusion (CSI) and the reality. And I felt troubled by the ways that what goes on here in my neighborhood is either tuned out as “tragic” and “unfortunate”, or consumed like entertainment: “Breaking News, Air 7 is at the scene…stay tuned.” And I am bothered by my own implication: I used to love watching CSI (I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a fan of the Miami one), and I wonder how that helped callous my own heart to the very real wounds and suffering around me? How does crime as entertainment stifle our ability to live as people with outrage over injustice? How does our saturation in illusion choke the small seeds of compassion within us? How does violence as recreation castrate whatever is in us that could give birth to a genuine movement for social change?