Our casual acceptance of violence and death says a lot about America

gty_capitol_shooting_LL_131003_16x9_992.jpgI’m somewhat heartened that I’m not the only one asking why Miriam Carey — the woman shot to death by DC Capitol Police yesterday afternoon — had to die, and why we all seem to be okay with it.

I’m not okay with it. If Carey had mental health issues like I’ve heard rumored, the first failure of our society was that it didn’t notice that she was sick needed help. Its second failure was that it didn’t care. Its third failure is that she had to die for it.

Nothing about this tragedy is okay.

As I speculated yesterday, almost none of what happened was appropriate. Michael Lyman, an expert on “use of force” guidelines and criminal justice professor, told USA Today that all the extra security in and around the capitol actually made the excessive response less justified than if it’d happened someplace else. No members of Congress or anyone in the White House was in danger, and these types of incidents happen every day in the United States and they hardly ever have to end in one-sided shootouts.

He also said that “shooting at a moving vehicle is against all nationally recognized protocols” because of the danger it poses to the public. A car can be a considerable threat, but that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of authorities to act in a way that doesn’t increase the chance that somebody will be hurt or killed.

We’ve been trained for more than a decade to accept excessive response to situations that don’t justify throwing away common sense. Be it unnecessary wars in the Middle East to unprecedented and probably illegal domestic spying, or the gradual militarization of local police, people with more power than courage and intelligence have been conditioning the public to cheer it on and not ask questions.

I disagree that resisting the police should be a death sentence no matter where you are in nation, whether it’s around the capitol or anywhere else. There are usually signs posted around sensitive installations that proclaim things like “THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE IS AUTHORIZED” merely for being in the wrong place. It’s debatable whether such a policy is justified or even constitutional, but that’s a pointless argument. (If anything, military are far more disciplined about shooting people perceived as threats than police have ever been.)

We’ve been so warped and tortured by the fear of terrorism, threats of foreign nuclear attack, and civilian rampage killings that this kill first and cheer it on later attitude has been extended beyond military installations to the streets that surround the supposed heart of our free democracy.

We go from one war of opportunity to another without the slightest concern for the civilians we murder directly with drones, or the hundreds of thousands of lives we ruin through the economic turmoil and social instability that always comes from political sanctions. We brag about how many people we execute during presidential debates while most civilized nations in the world have long sense banned the practice as inhumane savagery. We respond to rampage killings by holding gun rights rallies and then cut government funding for incurable disease research, so we can afford more wars. We cheer on the police gunning down unarmed women in cold blood with military-grade weapons and tactics and have standing ovations for that in the halls of Congress.

Naturally, we also ban things like assisted suicide for the terminally ill who would rather not spend the last few days/weeks/months of their lives suffering uncontrollably.

And this is a country so arrogant that it brags about being exceptional. Perhaps we are an exceptional nation in this world. Exceptionally fucked up.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

Latest posts by Paul Tenny (see all)

Leave a Reply