Bad, Bad Boys
August 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
Bad boys, Watcha want, whatcha gonna do? When the Mutaween come for you? Tell me, whatcha wanna do?
In Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, the authorities routinely cut off the hands or fingers of thieves; the way they see it, the punishment must fit the crime.
In the most recent presidential vote in Afghanistan, two voters in southern Kandahar province – the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace – each lost an index finger. The two fingers sliced off had been dipped in purple indelible ink, an anti-fraud measure, but one that identified voters to militants in dangerous, insurgent-held areas. Rumors that militants would cut fingers off spread before the presidential vote.
Anyone who has at least one working eye can see the ubiquity of graffiti in Austin. Not that we are alone in this respect. The graffiti problems in Berlin and Paris are arguably far worse. But when a cat shits in your boot, so to speak, the fact that cats the world over are shitting in the footwear of their respective owners is of little comfort to you at the moment.
Perhaps, I muse, the threat of losing their index finger(s) might deter at least a couple of the dozens of juvenile delinquents who deface every defaceable surface in Austin with their spray paint defecations. But then, we are not ruled by Sharia law – not yet, at least, unless you are a paranoid uber-Christian conservative — and even if we were, teenage boys are so full of beans and themselves that the threat of such a punishment would fly right over their (dick) head. After all, anyone with a (butt) lick of sense knows that the minds of the male youth of America are ruled by their respective Ball Park Franks.
But still, every time I set out to clean off the graffiti shit in my neighborhood, I get a morbid desire to do a Sharia on the index fingers of Sarge, Deportv and the rest of the offenders. Not that it, like the death penalty, would do any good in preventing future offenses. You don’t need an index finger to spray graffiti, and there’s a new crop of ornery young ‘uns born every day, anyway.
In the process of researching and writing Guytown by Gaslight, I learned that the problems of graffiti in particular, and juvenile delinquency in general, go back to Austin’s earliest days, and things haven’t gotten any better since.
Here’s a sampling of what I found, from back in the “good ol’ days.”
June 27, 1840
DISGRACEFUL. – An outrage was committed upon public property in this place on last Saturday night. A company of evil doers, who like darkness better than light, assembled on Capitol Hill, and after amusing themselves for some time by throwing stones at the Capitol, proceeded to fill one of the cannon with stone. The stone was drove in and might have destroyed the piece entirely. Such acts cannot be too highly deprecated, and we only lament that we have not the names of rioters to publish them to the world. This groping around in the dark to do mischief can produce no good to the actors, and may be the cause of much evil.
Col. Hockley has ordered Capt. Lewis’ company of regular infantry into the fort for the protection of the public property, and if the gates should be closed against the citizens, the rioters will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have rendered this course necessary to the Colonel of Ordinance.
This is the first act of the kind which has disgraced the city of Austin – we hope it may be the last.
October 18, 1848
We are told that some of the “liberty party” have been amusing themselves by firing bullets into the keyholes of the lock on our County Jail door. Be assured, young gentlemen, that this wanton mischief will not secure you impunity in your career.
May 21, 1853
In all Christian communities, the Sabbath is esteemed and observed as a day of sacred rest, when the labors and turmoils of the week being ended, peace and quiet conspire to draw the mind to the contemplation of more elevated joys than those of earth.
The parent of every son ardently desires to see that son walk in the paths of virtue, temperance, truth and knowledge. In this respect, the wish of the parent may be gratified, but if it is not, who is to blame? A walk past the resorts for gambling and intemperance at night, or through the streets of the city on the Sabbath, will give an answer to this question, such as should fill the heart of every parent with deep anguish. On the last Sabbath, in one part of the city, was a gang of riotous boys from six to twelve years of age, engaged in stoning the house of a deranged and helpless woman, whose cries and the yelling of the boys was a disturbance to all the families in the neighborhood; and in another part of the city, on its principal thoroughfare, was to be seen a crowd of boys of all ages, from five to fifteen, two of whom were engaged in a fierce fight, while the others were gathered around, each encouraging their favorite with hurrahs and the usual exclamations attending upon the contest of two muster-ground bullies!
January 27, 1855
A WORD TO PARENTS. – There are a set of idle and bad boys about our city, who are really becoming a nuisance. They frequent places of public amusement and deport themselves in a manner exceedingly annoying to everybody. They are in all manner of mischief. Their parents should attend to them, and if they will not, the city police should.
October 4, 1856
THE BOYS OF AUSTIN. – This place can furnish as many bad boys, according to population, as any in the United States. Several months since a distinguished divine delivered a lecture to the juveniles of the city. A goodly number were in attendance and they seemingly were affected by the words of the reverend minister. Among other things, he dwelt with much force upon the sinfulness of swearing. He insisted they should say “poker,” “pot hooks” and “tongs” instead of taking the name of the Lord in vain.
A gentleman overheard the following comment fall in whispered accents, from two of the young scape-graces.
“Poker, pot hooks, and tongs, did you ever see such a damned old fool? I wonder if he thinks any body is going to throw himself off in any such a way when he is mad?”
April 11, 1857
The scrawls upon the Capitol are numerous and too broadly defined to be overlooked. The attention of the officers whose duty it is to punish offenders for these violations of law is called to the statute and to the condition of the walls of the Capitol and other public buildings.
May 22, 1857
The boys of this city are the most consistent young gents in the world. They start out bad and grow worse with a persistent perseverance truly admirable to one having a penchant to admire the thing. There is no place where the Young American does not pertinaciously show his face and his manners. Go to a concert, and he is there to introduce his treble notes and produce a discord. Wend your way to the house of worship, and you will hear his voice just outside the door, or in whispered accents at your elbow. Attempt to listen to an eloquent speech, and the sentences of the orator are interlarded with the acute observations of various young Ciceros. Attend a theatre, and the words of the actors are drowned by the vociferated original remarks of juvenile Forests. Make one at a public dinner, and you are elbowed from the table by a younger but more voracious eater than yourself. Speak kindly to him and he will curse you — try to remove him out of your way and you stand a good chance to make the acquaintance of a “cheese knife.” Let him alone, and he will run over you “rough shod” — interfere with him, and you get in a row. He is a dangerous chap any way you fix him, and is in many respects very like the “cat named Pole”: good looking, but badly adored, and not to be trifled with by weak-nerved people who prefer cologne to asafoetida.
The question to be answered is, upon whom does the blame rest? Upon the parents most assuredly. If these boys received proper instructions and training at home they would hardly behave rudely and disgracefully abroad. There are many who should feel ashamed of the conduct of their children, and yet they look upon their misdoings as complacently as if they really thought them creditable and something to be laughed at. It is a pity the City Council has not passed an ordinance making it a finable offense for a boy to disturb a public or private assemblage, by improper, indecent, or immoral behavior. Should the marshall be authorized to arrest them, and carry them before the mayor for trial, and when found guilty should the parent or guardian have to pay a fine and costs, it is more than probable a curb would be placed on many young republicans who now make it a point to disturb every gathering they can squeeze their way into.
In default of this, a friend suggests the propriety of noticing these young scapegraces in the public prints. For instance: “On Thursday evening Senator Q. made a very eloquent speech in the Capitol. Belzebub Snigglefritz, the son of Simon Snigglefritz, and Timothy Spasms, the son of Jedidiah Spasms talked all the while and behaved most outrageously. They deserve whipping and the fathers deserve hanging.”
Perhaps that would check the evil and rid audiences of these annoyances. Something must be tried, or the forward and progressive youths will take possession of the town and have things their own way. In the meantime, when good Christians hereabout are praying for rain they might quite appropriately put in a clause asking a riddance from bad boys, small bonnets, aplified hoops, sour old maids and morose old bachelors.
October 12, 1859
We would advise the ladies who may visit the Capitol, not to scrutinize the hieroglyphics on the walls. From what we have seen, and there are some striking characters, it is evident there are boys among us, who have not been “trained in the way they should go.” The defacing of public buildings is common, they are public property, and those who are so disposed, in our midst, seem to have exerted their powers, not only on the Capitol, but all of the public buildings; in drawing the most obscene characters imaginable.