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Dear Santa, 

There’s a very good chance I haven’t made your nice list this year. In my 89 years on this planet, I’ve yet to make that confounded document, and I don’t feign confusion as to why that is. I am who and what I am, and I’ve never pretended any differently. The world might not like me and you may not see fit to bring me that hula-hoop I’ve been hankering after more decades than I care to count, but I’d like to think that readers understand my purpose in this world, and why that function is, in fact, a necessary one.

In light of my function as truth-teller—a role I cherish and take more seriously than most people might realize—I’d like to rescind my earlier requests for a hula-hoop. This holiday, all I’d like is a little clarity, something to make the task of sifting through society’s refuse and lies a little less onerous, a little less soul-crushing.

I’m not going to address the terrible thing that happened that sparks my desperate desire for the warm blanket of reason. Maybe later. Not now, when heads are hot and hearts are crushed and fingers are flying around faster than reindeer, assigning blame at everyone and everything that sits still for more than a couple seconds. I don’t have the wisdom to sum this up, to put it into perspective. And I can’t pretend to. I’ve rarely felt so unequal to the task set out before me, to summarizing, mocking, illuminating, trivializing, praising, chastising our shared history.

So I’m going to stick with what I know; I can’t handle as much territory as jolly ol’ Saint Nick. If someone’s willing to buy me a pack of flying reindeer, I might be willing to try. But for now, I’ve got one county and some rather harsh words for our DA. Because maybe, fighting for justice in our own backyard is a start.

I seem to remember a popular parable about a good Samaritan, a man who stopped to help a traveler who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Kinda like the guy driving through SLO on Jan. 20 who was reportedly attacked by a pack of drunk jocks. Whether the traveler in our particular story would have survived such a pummeling—generally, being outnumbered by up to seven or so to one in a fight isn’t considered very good odds—on his own is unclear. It’s unclear, because Austin Sarna happened to be nearby and witnessed what went down. I don’t know how many people would do what Sarna did next—though I certainly hope that if I’m ever being hit and kicked, someone will do the same for me—but Sarna reports confronting the group, demanding that they leave the driver alone. Because he was greatly outnumbered, he’s said, he withdrew and brandished a knife from his bag and repeated that the group needed to leave.

Instead, according to court documents, they attacked him, wrestling him to the ground and pinning him there while at least two of them punched and kicked his face. That’s when Sarna started slashing for his life, and the pack of thugs fled.

Now, Sarna is facing felony charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. And the pack of drunks who by all accounts attacked the guy driving down the street, and then jumped Sarna when he tried to intervene? Well, let’s just say Christmas seems to have come early for them. Whether that’s because they’re local boys—Trevor Tice, the one who ended the evening cut and bleeding, was a three-time CIF finalist wrestler for Atascadero High—or the DA was simply free-basing when the time came to make a decision about how to handle this case is unclear. One member of the pack told police they had all consumed somewhere in the ballpark of 10 shots of vodka apiece. And when you have a pack of violent, drunk—which seems like a bit of an understatement considering the amount of alcohol they had consumed—bullies prowling the streets late at night, it’s just a matter of time before something bad happens. Of course, without Sarna’s intervention, it could have been something very, very bad. To make matters worse, the public defender’s office had to recuse itself from providing an attorney for Sarna on account of a conflict of interest with the victims. Meaning that the public defenders office had already defended at least one of the “victims” in a separate case.

     I can’t seem to remember the part of the parable in which the good Samaritan is sent to jail for helping a guy who was getting roughed up. Maybe I just wasn’t careful enough in my reading? Or maybe our DA saw an easy target in a 22-year-old transient from Vallejo who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, from the driver’s perspective, happened to be at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Maybe looking into problems potentially pinnable on a pack of local good ol’ boys was just a little too tough for the DA. We wouldn’t want him to run the risk of being unpopular locally, would we? Because that might interfere with his odds of getting nominated to homecoming court.

So who really belongs on the naughty list, based on the official accounts of that night: The guys who got drunk and picked a fight with a stranger before attacking the person who tried to come to the stranger’s aid? Or the guy who put himself in a dangerous situation in defense of a stranger? ∆

Shredder’s sort of a Samaritan, but rarely good. Send parables to [email protected].


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