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The Santa Barbara Killings

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(NOTE: I will not use the killer’s name, and I ask that no one do so in comments.)

It seems to me that the vast majority of the commentary on the Santa Barbara killings either completely leaves out or passes over with barely a mention half of the people he killed: the first three.

They don’t seem to fit in with anyone’s cause. They weren’t shot; they were stabbed. They weren’t women; they were men. They weren’t random strangers; two were his roommates and one their visitor. So no one can grab these as support for their own cause.

They didn’t die because we lack gun control (stabbed); they didn’t die because they were women (men); it appears they didn’t die because they were men who were successful with women (no evidence that they were). They died because, according to his writings, he wanted them out of the way and because they were “nerds” and “ugly.” They died because, if one reads between the lines, they were Asian, the subject of the killer’s racist ranting. They died, in my opinion, because of the killer’s self-hatred. (I don’t claim it’s anything more than my opinion, but numerous people have mentioned “narcissism,” and some psychological research links those two.)

George Chen, Cheng Yuan Hong, Weihan Wang.

Three victims of violence. Not gun violence, not misogynistic violence. Maybe racist violence. It doesn’t really matter. As long as there are humans who think their own needs or wants trump others’ right to go on living, there will be violence.

The Rule of Law

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“The rule of law” works only if it is followed by everyone involved in the process, and in far too many cases–and they do include some white defendants (check the Innocence Project if you don’t believe that)–it is not.

Police, prosecutors, AND defense attorneys can be influenced by their own personal bias, can even let it dictate their entire approach. Some police look for the “obvious” (to them) answer, and no further. Some prosecutors want wins, not truth, justice, or fair trials. All defense attorneys want wins–which is their job, after all–but some are willing to smear victims or witnesses, even unfairly or inaccurately, to get the win.

And even if everyone has good intentions, there are some people in those fields who are honest and decent, but not competent to do the job properly. Not to mention, there is the issue of money–budget cuts for police and prosecutors, lack of resources to hire a great defense attorney. Many factors conspire against the process.

But the fact is that the rule of law, even perfectly applied rule of law, CANNOT protect the most basic right, to keep one’s life. Law cannot stop someone from violating another’s right to live. Law certainly deters some potential murderers, because they fear the punishment. But if someone wants to kill another, law cannot stop them. The best law can do, the absolute best, is catch, fairly convict, and appropriately punish the killer. That may (or may not) bring some closure to the survivors. It may feel like “justice.”

But it does nothing, nothing at all, about the violation of the murdered person’s right to live. The only thing that can address that is to stop the killing before it happens. That requires not law, but human change–change in society’s values, change in culture, change in the humans themselves. If we want to stop the violation of the right to live, we must stop people from doing the killing, not punish them after.

(Also published on Facebook and LiveJournal)

Does It Matter Who Did It?

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Within minutes of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Internet was carrying all kinds of speculation about who was responsible. The right wing points at the government, the left wing points at the Tea Party, everyone points at Islamic radicals. Or maybe, after all, it will turn out to be some disaffected teenager who wants to amp up the school-shootings scenario.

Does it matter? Really?

We live in a world in which certain people think they can get what they want by inflicting violence, or the fear of violence, on others.  (Humans have almost certainly always lived in such a world, but today we have instant access to reports of it from all over the globe.) From the mother who threatens to spank her kid if the kid isn’t in bed in thirty seconds to Kim Jong-un threatening the world with unspecified retaliation for unspecified wrongs, from the husband who beats his wife because dinner isn’t ready at the right time to those who kill randomly in acts of terrorism for whatever cause they favor, some humans use the threat of violence or the act of it to try to force others to their will.

Does it matter why they do it? The dead are just as dead, the maimed just as maimed, the terrorized just as terrorized. And for those in that last category, does it even matter whether the threat is carried through? Is it worse to go through a terrorizing experience than to live with it hanging over one’s head?

Of course people think it matters. Most people who do violence or threaten violence to get what they want probably think that their use is justified, or at least excusable under whatever circumstances exist. But onlookers, bystanders, seem to think it matters, too.

But does it? Really?

#Signs of Love

An Alison Kirkpatrick blog

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Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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