On the Atlanta courthouse shootings

Sometime back in the ’80s, PJ O’Rourke wrote a little Q&A trying to explain the savings & loan crisis, and began with the greatest opening interview question in history:

“What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?”

Apologies to those of you whose sensibilities may be offended by that, but that was exactly my reaction when I heard about last Friday’s shootings at the Fulton County courthouse. As you no doubt know, an accused rapist went berzerk, grabbed a deputy’s gun, killed a judge and a court reporter, ran down EIGHT FLIGHTS of stairs, killed a deputy on the street, then carjacked apparently half a dozen cars, killed a U.S. customs agent, and finally surrendered Saturday morning after taking a young woman hostage and, apparently, talking religion with her for ten hours.

So here’s the thing. Annarita is often down at the courthouse (she’s an attorney, for those of you not yet on the Christmas card list). She had a motion pending before the very judge who was killed. So as you might gather, the thought that my wife could have been in the midst of this horror is a sobering thought indeed.

But beyond the effect on my family personally, here’s the thing that galls me–and much of the city of Atlanta: this whole goddamn massacre was preventable. Certainly, this was a once-in-a-decade event, but the culture of cronyism, incompetence, greed, and shortsightedness that permitted it runs deeper than the clay here in Atlanta.

Look at the facts. You had a five-foot-tall, 51-year-old grandmother–the deputy–escorting a 6-2, 220-pound former linebacker who, just last week, had been caught with a couple homemade shanks (made from sharpened door hinges) on him. And it was just revealed today that this entire fight–ambush, really–was caught on a security camera that was supposed to be watched by two security guards, who–if they’d been paying attention–could have alerted cops. And somehow, even after killing two people, this lunatic managed to make it down eight flights of stairs and out a door with only token resistance. At long last, the system of cronyism that put unqualified people in positions of considerable responsibility had been exposed. And while the bastard that pulled the trigger bears first, last, and ultimate responsibility, there were plenty of people whose bad decisions and laziness certainly left doors unlocked, metaphorically speaking.

At times, it seems the city of Atlanta has only two kinds of politicians–indicted and soon-to-be indicted. The corruption extends back generations here. The legacy of the civil rights pioneers who risked their lives to kick out the entrenched cracker aristocracy has been inherited by a horde of self-righteous opportunists who have become what they beheld, misusing city funds, installing morons in positions of power, and crying racism whenever any of their numerous misdeeds are questioned.

If there’s any good that could come of this tragedy, it’d be that the idiots who allowed this to happen, all the way up the line, would feel the sting. More likely, there’ll be a lot of handwringing, a couple low-level flunkies will get canned, and the firewall that protects the bastards from the blowback of their incompetence will remain standing.

So spare a thought for those who lost their lives this weekend–and join me in hoping that everyone who’s guilty here gets exactly what they deserve.

Jay

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