Gangsta Kitsch

St. Louis Magazine has a story in its June issue (not yet online) about St. Louis gangs in the 1920s and their wacky whackings. Written in sepia-prose and laid on a parchmentesque watermark, this piece romanticizes a bloody bunch of men and their battles to control crime, which included mail truck robberies and control of the illegal drug market, which meant alcohol trafficking.

Contrast that with gangs today. Rap music, particularly gangsta rap, idealizes the lifestyle, and I suspect most people who turn to St. Louis Magazine to find dining plans or interior design ideas don’t care for gangsta rap and probably hate and fear the thought of current gangland violence.

Is the difference in gang perception based on race? That is, does middle America prefer its gangs Irish instead of another, differently-colored minority?

Maybe a little bit, but I reckon it’s more the long, long ago in galaxy far, far away aspect of it. Egan’s Rats and the Cuckoos, whose the survivors have died of old age by now, aren’t a current threat to law abiding, SUV-driving folk, but today’s gangs are.

Someday, I imagine our descendants will read about drive-by shootings with the same amused interest, thinking “Shooting from a car with a nine millimeter pistol! How quaint!”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories