Someone, in this Huffington Post article, has put into words, what has been troubling me for a long time. I feel that the apathy of law enforcement or others toward the well-being of someone that has been “neutralized” by lethal force is screaming a message about how we attribute value to human beings. I am trying to discern what the nuances of that message are.
For the record, I condemn any attempt by any of the assailants to harm or kill. I do not condone any of these actions. I also am not, for the purposes of this discussion, portending to analyze whether it was appropriate or necessary for lethal force to be used to neutralize the threat posed by the assailant. I am strictly focusing on the actions, or lack of action, on the part of the law enforcement officers, to care for the well being of the assailant, once the threat by him had been neutralized.
Prior to recent incidences in the US, two examples that grabbed my attention occurred in Israel. In numerous instances last year, Palestinians, who purportedly tried to stab Israeli soldiers or civilians were shot. Apparently the soldiers shot to kill. Indeed, numerous Israeli leaders had publicly urged them to do so. No medical treatment was given to the Palestinian assailants after they were shot. In one notorious incident, an IDF soldier walked over to a Palestinian assailant, after he lay critically wounded on the street for several minutes, and shot him again to ensure that he was dead. In online discussions, I observed many persons defending these actions.
Yet, during the same period, two instances occurred where Israeli citizens attacked and stabbed fellow Israelis. Efforts were made to overpower the assailants and take them into custody. Once in custody, they were given medical treatment, and a trial in a court of law.
What does this say? That all persons have inalienable rights to life and to trial in a court of law, as long as they are one of “us?” However, if they are the “other,” perhaps even the “enemy,” they no longer have these human rights?
Perhaps it starts at the level of capital punishment. How often have I heard phrases like this? “@#$ _____! Deserves to be shot! Don’t waste my tax dollars taking care of him for life!” Perhaps, it trickles down to other levels. Take for instance the mass incarceration in our country. I find that if I mention anything about prison reform, or any concern about trends of incarceration, that the response is often very dismissive. “They didn’t get in there for nothing. Let them pay for their sins.” Without judging the justice behind the sentence of a particular criminal, I simply ask broadly, “Does a person give up his or her inalienable rights to life and humane treatment, because of wrong actions or choices?”
I wonder whether the absolute dualism in the pseudo-violence of movies and video games has contributed to this shift in paradigm in our culture. In the “western” movies and continuing into the current video game culture, there are good guys (us) and bad guys (them). There is no accounting for the bad qualities that “good” guys may have, nor the humanity, or even good qualities, that the “bad” guys may also have. The enemy is totally bad, demanding elimination. He is efficiently eliminated, and especially in video games, his presence simply ceases to exist. Nothing remains to be taken care of. There are no repercussions to affect family or friends. As a matter of fact, it is in the elimination of the enemy that the “good” guys gain any reward or advantage.
In any event, there seems to me to be a shift in how we view the person lying on the street, who has been shot by officers. I believe that, if they are to have integrity, persons who claim to be “pro-life” should be voicing concern about this.