Monday, April 21, 2008

THIS is what people finally get outraged over?

This post is angrier and more profane than unusual. The loveably wacky John Markley who writes about hallucinatory spiders and defending a libertarian society from an invasion of malevolent scorpion men is on break for the night.

A few days ago, there was an incident where the Chicago police shot and killed a wild cougar that had wandered into an inhabited area and alarmed residents. Well, to observe the media, or talk to people, or read the reader letters in newspaper around here, you’d think this is the worst thing any police officer in Chicago has ever done. In all my life, I can not recall this much vocal and vociferous condemnation of the Chicago Police Department.

Now, I don’t know if the police did the right by shooting the cougar or not, and I’ve come to take any claim from a cop who claims he feared for his own safety when he used a weapon with several metric tons of salt. Nor do I blame any animals lovers who feel upset about what they believe to be the unnecessary killing of an animal. What rankles me is that it was this, the death of a goddamn animal, that actually got people upset with the behavior of the police.

(Warning: The optional video accompanying the article about Abbate that I’ve linked to in this paragraph has real footage of brutal violence against a woman. For a text-only alternative, try this article instead.) Last February, when Officer Anthony Abbate was caught on tape beating the shit out of an innocent woman, and the Police Department tried to have Abate charged with only a misdemeanor until prosecutors overruled them, people weren’t as worked up as they are now. An important study documenting a staggering amount of sexual extortion of prostitutes by Chicago police was barely even discussed.

And yet, when the police shoot an oversized cat, all hell breaks loose. This whole affair is rather like ignoring Stalin’s responsibility for the millions who died horribly in the Ukrainian Famine, then condemning him as iredemiably evil because you think his mustache is unattractive. I’m an animal lover, too; I adopted a cat from a shelter 8 years ago, and I prefer her company to that of the vast majority of human beings. But for God’s sake, let’s have some moral perspective here.

And this indifference is certainly not a Chicago thing. All over the country, time after time, law enforcement agents behave outrageously, and innocent people suffer, and sometimes die, in all sorts of way. This rarely provokes more than a few prominent complaints, usually in the form of meek suggestions that perhaps the police could do slightly better next time. Apparently murdering an old woman in her home is less offensive to the tender sensibilities of the American people than the possibly unneccary shooting of wildlife. Nothing in the endless parade of horrors, tragedies, outrages, and atrocities documented by Radley Balko, Charles Johnson, William Grigg, or anyone else seem to upset the general public this much.

When I was younger, a new libertarian reading Hayek and Rand and Rothbard for the first time, I remember believing that the basic instincts of Americans were sound; it was just that they had been cowed, their spirits weakened by the atmosphere of dread the government and its lackeys worked to create and maintain. I still like to tell myself that, from time to time. This sort of thing is a brutal reminder that many Americans have not lost their capacity for passion, outrage, and self-assertion; they’ve just been morally warped by statism to such a degree that those qualities no longer have value.

Loss is a curious thing. The pain of loss isn’t always about actually losing something or someone you cared about. Quite often, “loss” is actually gain- a gain of knowledge, when we learn the truth about a treacherous friend, a faithless spouse, a parent or role model who wasn’t who you thought they were, the girl of your dreams who will never love you back. The only thing being lost is delusion.

And it feels no less real for that.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: