Saturday, June 17, 2017
Two stories hit the news simultaneously today. One, a 20-year-old woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for successfully encouraging her teenaged boyfriend to commit suicide by asphyxiating himself in his car. Two, a policeman was acquitted of murder after fatally shooting a motorist five times in the head, his wife and daughter in the car with him. The first victim was white, the second black.
That's almost required information today, it seems. No one says the two cases are directly comparable. In one case, a girl (then herself a teenager) miles away as she tells her boyfriend over the phone to get back into this car and die as planned after he lost his resolve and tried to get out of the death car, the latest of a long series of aborted suicide attempts on his part. In the other case, a policeman in the course of a traffic stop apparently believing the motorist is reaching for a weapon and arguably fearing a possibility of imminent danger, shoots. (Albeit five head shots with a woman and a child in the car.)
In the girl's case, the usual arguments of mental derangement vs. narcissism were argued in court. The judge found her guilty on the grounds that she acted "recklessly" in advocating suicide and did nothing to save the boy's life from self-inflicted destruction. Everyone spoke of a young life (however troubled) cut short, his dreams and future gone, because of the words...only words, mind you...of a selfish girl who thought apparently only of the attention and sympathy she hoped to win in the aftermath of her boyfriend's death. Or, maybe she wanted to end his suffering. We'll never know. Only that he set up the means for his own death, and that he'd done it many times before.
In the case of the police shooting...the usual. The teary-eyed, emotional officer acquitted. Justified shooting, though as always the policeman shot first, supposedly in fear of his own safety. The angry rhetoric flashes across the news, and everyone asks the question that will never be answered: Would he have fired if the motorist had been white? The surviving relatives of the shooting victim shout with anger and pain, of course. But, little is heard from the mainstream public about the life of a husband and father cut tragically short, about his orphaned kid, about his lost dreams.
There's no comparison between the circumstances of the two deaths. What's significant is how courts and society react to each. When a teenager commits suicide, everyone wants to blame someone. The parents don't want to take the blame, of course. It's so much easier to blame another teenager. They are our dependents, after all. So much easier to blame them. If one of them simply insulted the suicidal teen online, that's cyber-bullying. Encourage them to commit suicide, and that's involuntary manslaughter if they choose to go through with it. Punish the other teen. It makes us feel better. But, don't mourn or yearn for justice when a black motorist has his brains blown out by a cop, his wife and kid in the seat beside him. Always sympathize with the cop, and don't empathize with the survivors of the dead man. We depend on the police. We always find excuses for them, especially when the victim is black. We want to feel safe. We want to get our own way.
We claim to cherish life. But, of course we're extremely selective about it. A suicide is blamed on the words of another. A shooting death is dismissed as a policeman doing his duty. The deaths of thousands under the mother of all bombs? That's just part of making America great again.
Is every suicide (every white suburban suicide, anyway) now to be followed by a background investigation of everyone who ever sent the decedent a nasty email? Is every police shooting of a black man reaching for his driver's license to be dismissed as law and order in action? Free speech is a crime, shooting a man is business as usual.
Is this the path to greatness?