Saturday, May 28, 2005

The mind boggles

In a tribute of sorts, one local drug gang distributed bags of heroin stamped with her likeness and the words "25 to Life."

-- from a May 16, 2005 New Yorker profile of Leslie Crocker Snyder,
a Manhattan prosecutor said to be notoriously tough

Cris read that to me over dinner, as we were going through some old issues of the New Yorker. It stopped us in our tracks. A quick internet search led to the fact that New York (and perhaps other) drug gangs commonly "brand" heroin as some kind of signal to drug sellers and buyers of the provenance and alleged purity of the dope.

Okay, but what the fuck? What is the message in branding your heroin with a picture of the D.A.? Who is the message addressed to? Who is it from? We spent ten or fifteen minutes trying to figure out what it could possibly mean.

Finally we decided it was a kind of battlefield black humor, like a soldier in Vietnam writing 'Born to Die' on his helmet -- a feeble joke among drug dealers that they were highly likely to end up in prison or dead. I wonder what the buyers thought of it, though. I guess they are too busy getting back to their apartment to shoot up to notice.

On reflection, I guess it's no different from me going to a Shell station instead of an Exxon station, out of habit or just because I like the colors yellow and red. What difference does it make what kind of gasoline I buy? I'm addicted to the stuff, and any difference between the competing brands is entirely illusory. They may as well market the gasoline under the names "Species Extinction" or "Oil-Coated Sea Bird." We'd still buy it.

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