All the miserable biker dudes of Texas

May 31, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Do you know what they were fighting over? Why nine were killed and 170 arrested in a ferocious shootout in a scuzzy cafe in Waco, just across the street from Boot City and Bed Bath n’ Beyond?

Do you know why the deadliest conflict in years erupted between rival gangs of what you might’ve imagined were mostly just a bunch of overweight, crusty, mean-ass old dudes riding around the state on giant Harleys, bored and sunburned and drunk?

Nothing. They were fighting over nothing. Not drugs, not bags of stolen cash, not women, not stashes of gold or meth or diamonds, not who gets to play “Born to be Wild” for the millionth time on the gang iPod.

Yeah, you WISH it was all this cool and sexy and Lost Boys-ish and hey where's Kiefer Sutherland when you need him?

Yeah, you WISH it was all this cool and sexy and Lost Boys-ish and hey where’s Kiefer Sutherland when you need him?

Nothing. “Fighting over territory, just to fight over territory,” according to one expert interviewed over at Slate, which we can meagerly translate as one cluster of bikers “claiming” big, boring chunks of Texas as their very own clubhouse, as indicated by the fact that they had little “Texas” patches on their vests, and the other gang didn’t – or shouldn’t have, but did anyway. And that’s all it took. Or something.

“Sgt Swanton said the fight may have started when someone’s foot was run over in a car park.”BBC News

Sure, it’s childish in the extreme. But that doesn’t stop us from romanticizing the hell out of it, right? To hear the words “biker gang” and flash to something at least remotely akin to “Sons of Anarchy” and its puerile mythology, all macho and badass and cool, shot through with themes of respect, revenge, family honor and whatnot, adding up (in our deluded imaginations) to a dirtier, less pasta-driven version of The Godfather. On Harleys.

What a joke. Like the mafia, like the “rugged” cowboys of the nonexistent Wild West, like war and guns and violence itself, the truth is far uglier, exponentially dumber, and all sorts of frightening in its wretched blandness.

One thing to note: All the guns the bikers used to massacre each other? Mostly legal, by the looks of it. You might say it’s essentially Texas’ own fault that so many bikers were – and still are – riding around the state, armed to the teeth. That’s what you get with ultra-permissive open carry laws. It’s not just young white NRA dorks cruising through Walmart with rifles.

Free bikes! Abandoned! Check eBay.

Free bikes! Abandoned! Check eBay.

There is, alas, nothing much of moral value here. There is no lesson, no rough notions of masculinity or fierce independence to defend or expound upon. There is but to flip through the strangely depressing gallery of biker mugs shots, as you realize these are some terrifically lost, visibly damaged souls leading lives that simply couldn’t be much further from cool, renegade road warrior-dom. Just the opposite, really.

It’s right there, in the eyes. Photo after photo, one after another, the feeling is the same. It’s all just brutally, terrifically, violently sad.

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Mark Morford

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