You had to act, because no one else would. (James Ellroy)
Ownage is fast and overwhelming domination. It’s the assertion of one’s will over another, one’s life over another. It’s the bullet right below the eye, yes, it’s murdering someone’s ass to death, but that’s not all it is. It’s “fuck you, that’s my name”; it’s “how come a lowly civil servant like me just caught you?” It’s Clarice Starling, her psyche savaged by Hannibal Lecter, slamming her face closed, putting it all past her in a moment, and saying “tell me his name, Dr. Lecter.” It means the same thing, every time: you do not own me. You do not control me. I own you.
I grew up on moments like these, and I’m grateful for them. I’m grateful that in my hardest moments, my most difficult decisions, my culture gave me this model of action, that my heroes weren’t the ones who bemoaned the world’s complexity. They knew that complexity, they didn’t deny it, but they understood you had to choose, act on that choice, and live with it forever. I called on them, and they told me: choose. Act. And live with it. And I did.
Want to see me stand up and cheer my head off? Want to hear the loudest “fuck yeah” you will hear? Put on The Shield‘s season five episode “Man Inside” and we’ll watch CCH Pounder’s Claudette Wyms go up against a serial killer. She has nothing, no evidence, no witnesses, and her own immune system is caving on her. All she has is one piece of knowledge and her will, the thing that makes her never, ever give up. I’ll let you watch what happens. Suffice it to say, she owns. And she pays the price. It’s thrilling, and deeply humanizing, because you see in those moments what we’re capable of; you understand that, as ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER said, anyone can own. Anyone can choose the life of a hero.
Today, I saw someone own in our world. In Baltimore, Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six police officers with the murder of Freddie Gray. She blew past all the equivocations, and said “To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment.” She asserted herself, asserted her will over six police officers; she declared that no matter what the past has been, you don’t do that shit here, not while I’m around.
Reporter: what will prevent another Freddie Gray? Mosby: Accountability. R:There hasn't been any for so long. Mosby:You're getting it now.
— stacia l. brown (@slb79) May 1, 2015
You can hear in her voice the same assertion that drove Claudette, Clarice, the men and women of Shawn Ryan, James Ellroy, Kurt Sutter. You hear in her voice, read in her words the same kind of absolute determination and acceptance you hear in Apollo 13 from Ed Harris: “Failure is not an option.”
I wish her well. Because there is no going back from this, and she’s playing a risky game. Ownage does not allow for half measures or compromise. She will have to take this as far as she can, or be branded a hypocrite and a coward, and the attacks on her have already started; also, for very good reasons, it’s difficult to punish people under the law. Still, she cannot avoid the path forward. Anyone can choose the life of a hero, but once you choose it, you can never choose anything else.