Tuesday, February 12, 2008

war zone

Photo copyright 1992 Gazelle

Lately I've been watching the Ken Burns PBS doc "The War," and something which struck me powerfully (among other things) is that according to the film, an estimated 50-60 million people died during World War II, and of those, 405,000 were American. Almost all of these were military. Very few civilian Americans died or even experienced the war firsthand since a real threat to our mainland never materialized. The USA hasn't had to endure all out war on our soil since the American Civil War. We're spoiled that way like few other nations.

When the LA riots broke out in April '92, I in all my youthful stupidity decided to explore the heart of the lawless center of the city. I drove around and took some photos, none very good because the chaos and absence of any authority scared the hell out of me - I cautiously viewed most happenings from afar. The mood that first full day of the riots was what I imagine a war zone to feel like, although there was the added element of gleeful looting here and there. At a few locations, firefighters were hard at work without any police back up. Some rioters fired weapons at them. At most locations there was an eerie quiet, punctuated by bursts of angry property destruction. On MLK Jr. Blvd., I watched a young black woman as she feverishly attempted to smash the storefront of a small business with a brick. No one else was in sight. At one point she looked my way, and I swear she looked like a crazed zombie. Anyway, you're probably wondering what my point is. I'm not sure - it's an amorphous string of thoughts I'm experiencing. I would not recommend that anyone seek out a war zone, but I would recommend that everyone take into account that most of the world will continue to experience violence and chaos on a regular basis right on their doorstep.

You know that feeling of dread and fear and near nausea that you've probably experienced at one point or another in your life? Well, that's probably what most people are experiencing in the middle of a war zone...

burn hollywood burn


ras said...

How old were you in 1992? I remember skating a vert ramp in Lakeland, Fl at that time. There was a guy who was friends with Sublime's manager (who was from Florida) and they had some tape playing on the jambox with that riot song. I also remember the vibes being quite tense at school. I was a senior in high school and our school was quite diverse. Weird to think about it now. Props for even showing up with the intention to document -you could got burned.

by the way, love to ask you some questions about camera equipment (DSLR)

Gazelle said...

Hey ras -

I was 26 when the riots broke out. Those were tense times for sure, and with LA the root causes of the riots have not been addressed. Get ready for round three coming soon...

According to Wikipedia, 53 people died during those riots. You're right - one of those could have easily been me.

I'll shoot you an email re: cameras.

Foulweather... said...

I've lived in a war zone and there is also a strange sense of liberation being on edge all the time... my grandmother used to tell me the same thing about WWII. Anyway- did you at least help that woman put a brick through the window?

Gazelle said...

As to the sense of liberation you mentioned, a lot of vets talk of how they became killing machines in battle, even though they were taught ideas like "thou shall not kill" their entire lives. I guess everyone gets numb at one point and that would be liberating after fear and paralysis.

As to the woman, I think she would have tried to put me through the window if she got the chance. In sum, it was not a good time for a lily-white boy like myself to offer assistance.