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Three Days of Hatred and Mayhem: Musings on the Value of Life, Human Rights, Freedom and Justice Three Days of Hatred and Mayhem: Musings on the Value of Life, Human Rights, Freedom and Justice
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2016-07-10 12:49:15
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A Dallas Policeman after an all-night gun battle with Micah Johnson On Thursday July 7

On Tuesday the 5th of July in Baton Rouge, Lousiana,  Alton Sterling, a black man selling videos in front of a hardware-store, was pinned down to the ground by two policemen and then killed in cold blood. The next day, on Wednesday the 6th of July in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, another killing by a policeman ensued; that of Philando Castile who, in the presence of his girlfriend and her terrified four year old girl, was killed inside his car while trying to retrieve his driving license. Both outrageous incidents were live streamed and subsequently shown in the news on national TV, and widely announced by the media.

This was subsequent to a series of similar incidents the nation has witnessed in the last three or four years, where many of the victims were unarmed, or were actually walking away when they were shot. Some seem to have been killed simply because they dared to talk back to the officer, who responded violently. Some of those officers were indicted and even tried and prosecuted but few, if any, have been punished, pointing to some kind of problem in a justice system where blacks are three times more likely to be incarcerated or killed than the rest of the population, and this despite the fact that we have a black President occupying the White House. Some wise men, of the ilk of a Donald Trump, would say, it is because of it.

Then on Wednesday night July 7th, while a peaceful march and demonstration on the above incidents was going on in downtown Dallas (only a few blocks away from where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963) a barrage of shots from a sniper with an assault weapon rang out bringing down three policemen immediately. The shooting and counter-shooting, all shown live on national TV, went on all night.  It was like watching a crime reality show. At the end there were five policemen dead and seven severely wounded. These three incidents can only be characterized as mayhem and lawlessness pure and simple, executed with guns, which of course are innocent, necessary, and beneficial for self-defense as the NRA continues to insist.

Just as it happened with the phenomenon of mass incarceration (we are now the preeminent country for number of incarcerated citizens, mostly black), a reality show is soon to appear on Fox News dubbed Murder Police: a police  animated series described as “the thin blue line what separates civilization from chaos.” What the heck, if we make light of the whole issue, make it humorous, perhaps it does not have to be seriously debated and discussed and we can carry on with our normal routine lives dedicated to making money, sports, and amusements galore.

Predictably, this tragedy was promptly followed by words of commiseration and sympathy from pundits and “experts” alike, memorial prayers, improvised monuments and flowers, vigils and eulogies by clerics and religiously inclined people, crocodile tears galore from sentimentalists and utopians alike, eulogies, political comments by politicians urging healing and reconciliation; what can only be characterized as a confused circus scene, pointing to a nation that seems to have lost its moral compass and its very identity. Much more rare are the voices of reasonableness and common sense; those advocating a serious analysis followed by a rational dialogue and a logical prognosis on this urgent matter which has to do mostly with civil and human rights. They exist but few pay attention to them.

I’d like to offer a reflection or two of my own on this matter. Not that I too have much hope of being listened to. Many better men than I have been crying in the desert lately and have been frustrated and stymied; but at least I will later on be able to tell my grandchildren that I was not one of those who saw what was going on and said nothing, and did nothing.  To be sure, a writer’s pen may not be as powerful as a gun but it has been known to be persuasive at times and to have more lasting effects. At least so we may continue hoping, for the alternative is to give up in despair.

The first thing to observe and reflect upon in this event in Dallas, it seems to me, is the identity of the shooter. His name is Micah Johnson and he was 25 years old. One would expect him to be a criminal type with a long police wrap sheet. But low and behold he had no criminal record. In fact he was a decorated veteran of the US army who served in the army reserve for six years (2009-2015), went to Afghanistan for two years and earned a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other awards. Moreover, he did not live in a crime infested underprivileged part of Dallas but in an upper scale suburb (20 miles away for the center of Dallas): Misquite. Now, this seems far from the “unhinged psychopath” portrayed in the media. In fact, branding someone a psychopath or unhinged, absolves a journalist or a politician or a sociologist, even a novelist, from having to do some hard thinking and research on a perpetrator’s background to determine his precise motivation.

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Micah Johnson: a Decorated Veteran of the US army

I remember a young student in one of my beginner philosophy classes, who made an intriguing comment on the ethics of war under discussion, and how intentionality can make all the difference, that one’s intention in going to war should never be that of killing for the sake of killing but that of defending one’s country, preventing a greater evil, protecting vulnerable people, or even more nobly, to defend democracy, or freedom. His comment was this: “but professor, when I was trained in the marines I was told that to be a good marine I had to become a perfect killing machine.” I must confess that I was taken aback by the comment.  

Thinking about it, it would make sense to assume that Micah Johnson too was trained to be a perfect killing machine. It is safe to assume it since he more than proved it: he took on by himself an entire police department and managed to kill five of them and wound seven others; all facilitated of course by the fact that lethal arms suitable for a war battle are readily available in the US with the blessing of the NRA and the politicians beholden to it for their election.

But let us continue with the speculation: we train a perfect killing machine and then send him half-way across the world to fight for freedom and democracy, quite often ending with the sacrifice of his life. This “killing machine” then comes home expecting to enjoy the fruits of the values he fought for: freedom and democracy and prosperity. Instead, to his great surprise, he finds himself treated as a second class citizen, deprived of civil and human rights, respect and dignity by a justice system which is biased and divisive. He concludes that he was tricked: he went to fight to get for others around the world what he himself lacks at home.

The question arises: what would we do, were we in the same situation; would we be angry? The question is not asked to condone the violence of the misguided disturbed young man did, which remains despicable and reprehensible, but as an attempt to understand his motives. Why did he think that, in his own twisted way, he was doing justice. Was it because he saw no justice being administered and so misguidedly took things in his own hands?To simply say that he was unhinged and leave it at that, is just too easy and solves absolutely nothing.

There is a final thought to contemplate and it is this: the young man, after having been cornered and afforded the opportunity to surrender by the police, was not finally killed by a man pitting the skills of one warrior against those of another, but by a robotic bomb who literally blew him up and destroyed him. In war one would call such an operation “overkill.” One kills, not with a precise bullet skillfully aimed and delivered, but by  dropping a surprise bomb on the individual. And of course, just as guns remain innocent and neutral, the robot also remains innocent and neutral, possessing no ethical conscience and feeling no guilt or regrets. No need to put it on a trial and prosecute it. The perfect killing machine, the robo-bomb, has just performed its job, the job of a killing machine. He does not even know that it is just a robot doing the same thing that some human beings also do, willingly or reluctantly, at times feeling guilt, or hatred or resentment,  and at times feeling nothing because they have already dehumanized themselves.

Plenty of food for thought here, but I suspect that the inanities and the boring specious arguments will go on in the media; those seem to be more entertaining, require less thinking and gather better ratings. 

 pol03

The Bomb-Robot that administered swift justice to Micah Johnson

 

 


       
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