Excerpts: Part 2

Photo by Jack GouldNov. 21, 1997 There's a program in Santa Ana for gang members to have their tattoos removed for free, but they don't have any such program for single moms in their late 30s; she's 38 and just trying to get by. Maybe the book will provide that extra bump in income to allow her to finally have the thing removed. The book has been out since September, and the buzz has steadily grown. It's gone from being carried only at Martinez Bookstore in Santa Ana to being stocked on the shelves of Borders and Barnes & Noble. She's been interviewed on the Today Show and on MSNBC. There's talk of a movie deal. It's all so attractive, this story of a girl gangbanger becoming a cop. It's a great story. There's just one problem: it's not Ruiz's story. Her story involves a lot more than that. Yes, she was in a gang. Yes, she became a cop. But, she'll tell you, she wasn't the first gang member to join the force. Her book, Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz, is really the story of a woman's fierce resolve to succeed in a man's world seemingly designed to crush her: the gangs who put her in the line of fire and laughed while she was beaten by her husband; the police who tried to ignore the beatings and occasionally read insolence in her determination. The first thing her training officer said upon meeting her was not that gang members should not be cops, but that women don't belong in the field. Even the tattoo, supposedly the very symbol of her gang life, is nothing of the sort. Yes, it's on the book's cover and is the reason for the title. But the flaming heart with a sword running through it (which Ruiz designed) was to show her devotion to Frank Ruiz, the gang member she would marry and with whom she would have three children. It was a devotion that caused her father to disown her and that drew beatings so savage from Frank that long sleeves and makeup couldn't hide the damage. What she intended as a declaration of undying love now says something about what women of all backgrounds—Santa Ana gangbangers who marry other gangbangers; South County golden girls who marry famous football players—endure daily.

Steve Lowery, "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's, Man's World: Former gangbanger, current cop, author and single mom Mona Ruiz faces the toughest challenge of her life—the loan officer at the bank"

Dec. 5, 1997 The decision puts an end to a yearlong farce in which the defeated Bob Dornan accused Nativo Lopez and Hermandad [Mexicana Nacional] of engineering a "massive criminal conspiracy." Working with high-ranking Republicans and ambitious bureaucrats, Dornan tried and convicted Lopez in the media. District Attorney Michael Capizzi's announcement, when it comes, will be a powerful rebuff to the Times Orange County, where scandal-hungry reporters passed along without question—and even embellished—Dornan's most outrageous charges. Fans of investigative journalism expect mainstream newspapers to report all the relevant facts—even the ones that diminish a hot story's sensational appeal. But when Dornan cried foul a year ago, the Times positioned itself as an advocate of the ex-congressman's self-serving claims rather than as a neutral arbiter of fact. Dornan's claims were always ludicrous. That they found acceptance in the Times newsroom and soon launched county, state and even congressional investigations is proof of an age-old political truism: you can build a career on the bones of people who can't fight back.

R. Scott Moxley, "Free at Last! Government investigators are prepared to declare Nativo Lopez innocent of charges he stole Bob Dornan's election. We've got just one question: What took so long?"

Dec. 19, 1997 I knelt for long stretches as a 6-year-old. I knelt on Sundays. I knelt as an altar boy at early-morning weekday Mass. I knelt as an altar boy at funerals, my knees bearing the entire weight of my trunk because I was kneeling on a raised linoleum step and my feet couldn't reach the floor to balance me. I'd kneel there, sometimes in stifling heat, with a couple of layers of cassock over my clothes and an incense burner spewing smoke by my side, which made breathing difficult. And I was happy to do it, happy to offer my young, prematurely arthritic knees to the Lord, who was represented before me in all his gory glory. Catholicism isn't for wimps. Ours is a religion of bleeding hearts. I was never very good at remembering my catechism, but I did know that kneeling with my butt off the pew was the least I could do, the nun told me, since "HE SPENT THREE HOURS ON A CROSS FOR YOU!" It all made perfect sense. It was a kind of reminder and penance all in one terribly uncomfortable position. Kneeling reminded me of the pain that is the world and the pain I cause. It reminded me I was duplicitous, scheming, selfish and unworthy. It made me who I am today. It made my expectations low, made me aware that the world is rife with pain and affliction for no apparent reason. Valuable armor in a world teeming with disease, cruelty, Paul Moyer and Kelly Lange.

Steve Lowery, "Suffering Made Easy: Catholicism isn't for wimps—until now"
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