June 10, 2009

The Normalization of Violence, Torture and Annihilation

Here's a story to brighten your day:
A YOUNG boy is still "barking" for his dog to come home after police tasered, then shot dead, the family pet on their front porch.

US police in Cincinnati killed Jack, the Bullock family's Chihuahua-mix pet, after an officer was bitten on the hand, WCPO reports.

The small dog had been Tasered, then shot at twice by police.

A third gunshot killed the dog.

Scott and Sharon Bullock discovered the dog's blood and three bullets on their porch after returning from a funeral last Friday.

They called the local police station and discovered what had happened to Jack, who was a birthday present for their 12-year-old son.

They said they were told that two officers had cornered the dog, when it began biting one on the hands. Police said the officers had "no option" but to shoot the dog.

Mr Bullock said his five-year-old son was distraught by the killing. "He 'barks' for him," Mr Bullock. "He'd 'bark' and Jack would always come to him, so he's outside going 'Bark bark bark,' hoping he's gonna come back.

"It's heartbreaking."

His wife said the child had cried himself to sleep after the shooting.
Here's another version of the incident, which includes the police department's explanation and defense of the alleged necessity for lethal violence. It concludes with this:
Last night the family told 9News they wondered why the officers didn't call the SPCA to catch the 5 lb. dog.
A couple of armed, adult police officers -- and a five-pound package of deadly terror. Death was obviously inevitable. Better it was the dog, wouldn't you agree?

I read several news reports about this story. The key aspects of the incident are undisputed. Why on earth didn't the officers call the SPCA? That organization is expert at this kind of thing. Occasionally, a dog or other pet will have to be killed, but that outcome is comparatively infrequent. Or perhaps I should say, it used to be comparatively infrequent. Maybe the officers didn't know that Chihuahuas are generally high-strung -- but a basically functioning adult should realize that if two grown men, who are strangers to the dog, corner the animal, trying to capture and subdue it, the dog is going to be more and more scared. And it will fight back with everything it has. (This tends to be true of all animals, including the human variety, as I had thought almost everyone understood.) What these officers did was precisely the wrong thing to do -- assuming that a peaceful, non-deadly outcome was the goal.

But was it? You might well wonder. It reminds me of a different incident I recently discussed, involving a similar dynamic: "[I]n the great wisdom of the [Transportation Security Administration], a final solution was needed. Total destruction certainly fulfills that requirement." In that case, the frightening agent of terror was a piano -- not just any piano, but a custom-made concert grand belonging to a world-famous musician. But "the glue smelled funny." You can never be too careful. Annihilation is easiest. When nothing moves any longer or even exists, you needn't worry about possible dangers.

From time to time, I check news reports about taser incidents, which is how I happened across the Chihuahua story. Perhaps you don't care all that much about a little dog, even though he was clearly delivered straight from your worst nightmare. So how about a 72-year-old great-grandmother?
A feisty 72-year-old great-grandmother was tasered after a police officer pulled her over for speeding. The Travis County, Texas dashboard camera captured the altercation between officer Chris Bieze and Kathryn Winkfein that happened last month.

Bieze said Winkfein was physically "non-compliant" after he pulled her over for driving 60 mph in a 45 mph speed zone on her way to Austin, Texas.

The video, which was released this week, shows Winkfein refusing to sign her speeding ticket.

She then got out of her pick-up truck and then the confrontation got nastier.

"Give me the f--king ticket now," she said. "Get over here now," Bieze replied.

Bieze then shoved the woman. He said it was to keep her out of traffic whizzing by.

"You're gonna shove me?! You're gonna shove a 72 year old woman," Winkfein said. But Bieze would do more than just shove Winkfein.

"If you don't stand back, I'm gonna tase you," he tells Winkfein.

"Go ahead, taser me," Winkfein replied.

"Stand back or you're going to be tasered! Put your hand behind your back," Bieze warns Winkfein.

After warning Winkfein a half dozen times, Bieze makes good on all of those threats.

"Get on the ground! Get on the ground," Bieze can be heard yelling as Winkfein screams."Now put your hands behind your back." "Put your hands behind your back or you're going to be tased again," Bieze continued.
Here's one more taser story:
The son of a prominent KSL employee died Tuesday in Washington County after a police officer deployed a Taser when the man ran down a road in what authorities called an "agitated" state.

Brian Layton Cardall, 32, was traveling with his wife south on State Road 59 near Hurricane on Tuesday afternoon. According to KSL.com, the vehicle pulled over to the side of the road when Cardall, who recently had been struggling with mental health issues, began having an "episode."

Cardall left the car and ran down the road, and his wife called police, said Washington County Undersheriff Jake Adams. A Hurricane police officer who responded to the scene deployed a Taser on Cardall, who lost consciousness, Adams said.

Cardall was treated at the scene but he was pronounced dead after being transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St.George, Adams said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office did not immediately release further details about the incident.
One of the defenses of the increasingly common use of tasers is that tasers are preferable to guns; after all, the argument goes, guns are more dangerous and likely to kill than tasers. Tasers are safer. Except, as Cardall's death and many other taser deaths prove, tasers are often deadly, too. As far as the 72-year-old woman is concerned, I'm sure more than a few people will be heard to say, "She can't complain. She asked for it." And she did say, "Go ahead, taser me." So she deserved what she got.

A lot of people said exactly that about the taser incident involving Andrew Meyer, which occurred while John Kerry blithely stood by and did absolutely nothing. No one else who was present did anything to stop it either. And a number of people who said Meyer got "what was coming to him" were self-identified liberals and progressives. See "Obey or Die," for the details. The final part of that essay provides several typical examples of commentary on the Meyer incident.

In an earlier essay in that "Final Descent" series, I discussed in some detail "what a taser is and what it does." By way of summary, I wrote:
In brief: tasers can kill people, or cause very serious injury; tasers are "commonly used...to gain compliance" -- from people who are usually unarmed and who pose no serious threat whatsoever; and tasers are frequently used on suspects who have already been subdued and immobilized.
Recall the police officer's complaint against the 72-year-old woman: she was "physically non-compliant." She had to be made to obey. So he tasered her -- which means, he used torture to force her to do exactly as he demanded (if you doubt it's torture, I again direct you here), torture which easily could have seriously injured or even killed her. Thus, my title: "Obey or Die."

Let's note the broader aspects of the culture in which this common deployment of violence, torture and death occurs, all of which is utilized to ensure compliance and obedience. Bullying and violence are among the chief "virtues" embraced by the United States generally. These are among the major lessons taught to our children -- and they learn those lessons tragically well.

After itemizing some of the basic lessons imparted by our culture in "Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction: Our Children Have Learned Well," I observed:
The greatest virtue is to feel nothing, or as close to nothing as possible. There is one exception: you can feel unreasoning, unfocused rage, and you are free to act on it. You may lash out in any direction you choose. The innocence of your victim is irrelevant.

Our government acts in this manner repeatedly. Our political leaders all applaud it, and offer a lengthy series of "justifications" for our unending national cruelty.
Our national leaders are fond of telling us that war is always "a last resort." This, of course, is a lie, one of the most terrible lies the United States regularly employs as it continues its campaigns of destruction, while it embarks on new ones. The U.S. government has repeatedly manufactured threats where none existed, often creating them out of absolutely nothing. This particular history stretches back more than a century, and it continues today with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whatever country next finds itself in the crosshairs of America's imperial agenda.

And most Americans don't care all that much. How often do you hear or see mention of more than a million innocent people murdered in Iraq, a genocide of historic proportions by any minimally civilized standard? With less than a handful of exceptions, all national politicians have supported and continue to support this criminal war and the occupation of Iraq. For the last couple of years, the Democrats could have defunded the barbaric occupation of Iraq; they refuse to do so, for they support this program. This also means that, in the last election, tens of millions of people, all those "good" Americans who are so noble and peace-loving, voted for a war criminal. It didn't matter whether you voted for McCain or Obama: both of them were and are war criminals. But almost no one will tell you that. And it's not just me who says so, but the Nuremberg Principles, the very principles which the United States was once largely responsible for devising and which the U.S. never hesitates to apply to everyone else, but never to itself.

Many Americans, including many of those progressive organizations that once claimed to be anti-war, today enthusiastically support the Empire's wars of aggression and domination -- now that Democrats control the machinery of death. These people were never anti-war: they were against wars run by Republicans. They're murderous, lying, hypocritical bastards. And the Obama administration regularly continues to issue threats against Iran, North Korea and anyone else who refuses to do exactly what the U.S. demands.

Very few people object. As this essay and many others attest, I unequivocally condemn the growing use of tasers. What happened to the individuals in the stories noted above, and to the dog, and to all those people and animals in many similar stories, is disgusting and unforgivable. But a great many people have very little basis for objection. Far worse crimes are committed by the U.S. government every day, and the Obama administration acts to ensure that additional crimes will be committed for years to come.

Not only do most people do nothing; they support this system of violence, cruelty and death. As I often ask: why do you offer support in this way? The overwhelming majority of people wait for someone or something else to change events that they contend are out of their control, disregarding the fact that voting for a war criminal is not the act of an innocent bystander. When one is confronted by evil of the magnitude represented by the continuing actions of the U.S. government and military, to argue that fewer murders or the better camouflaged use of torture is an "improvement," or that Obama represents a "lesser" evil, is to reveal the bankruptcy of a person without a moral compass. In addition, Obama has already demonstrated that his crimes may well equal or even surpass those of the previous administration, or those that might have been committed by McCain. And if you are willing to accept and support evil on this scale, what crimes won't you accept? Where exactly will you draw the line? When torture is openly utilized within the United States itself, on a daily basis? When torture and death visit your next-door neighbor -- or you? As these taser incidents demonstrate, we've already arrived at that point. So much for the "lesser" evil.

To wait for someone else to change events and dynamics of this kind also badly misdirects the focus from the widespread nature of the problem, and from where change must always begin. As I wrote at the conclusion of "Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction":
Our children learn all this, and many more lessons of the same kind. Of course, they are often vicious bullies. Our government is a murderous bully on a scale that beggars description; most politicians are bullies; the majority of adults are bullies to varying degrees. Why wouldn't these children be bullies? It's what they've been taught. In the most crucial ways, it's all they've been taught.

These children are the perfect embodiments of the central values of our culture. They have learned well.

But, many people will say, this is monstrous. We must teach these children that such behavior is deeply wrong, and that they must change. To all such people, I reply: Then change yourselves. Change your values, and change the way you think and act. Children will see those changes, and their own behavior will alter accordingly in time.

Change yourselves. Start today. Start right now.