I just posted another true story called Cops on Ice, though maybe that’s not the best title since it was only one cop. It’s pretty silly and pointless. I’m not trying to make any political statements with it or anything like that. In fact, I wanted to say that this story has not been a notable factor in my decision to be an anarchist, and has nothing to do with why I don’t support police. It’s just a funny little story that happens to involve a cop being a human. That’s all.
So I’ve been thinking about the guy I watched get shot in front of my apartment a few weeks ago, and more specifically, about the guy doing the shooting. I’ve been running over what my buddy said about how most people who shoot each other in those situations are being driven by fear… it’s not about hatred or a love of death and killing or even of wanting to look tough (though I believe wanting to look tough is a symptom of fear and certainly played a part in the shooting I witnessed). My friend’s theory was that this guy purposefully missed the target because he was afraid of killing someone. So my thought is that the only logical reason to shoot at someone if you’re also terrified of killing that person, is if you’re scared of something else.
I think in this case, it was fear of being weak and vulnerable. The shooter thought that if he didn’t pull out that gun and “show off his big dick” as my buddy put it, he would be seen as an easy target for violence and he would be more likely to be killed or injured later on. In his mind, at least in the heat of that particular moment, he felt it was self defense. Sure, perhaps there was nothing immediately threatening him, but he felt threatened by that sense of weakness and the idea that someone could hurt him later if he did not make a preemptive strike.
When I look at it that way, this shooter doesn’t appear any worse than any police or military officers. They work under the exact same concepts. Police regularly pull guns on people without having any immediate threat.
I myself have had police point guns in my face at point-blank range. Once when I was an innocent bystander and once when I was arrested for marijuana when they knew I did not own any weapons. If I had made one false move in those two moments, I would not be here today, and after being through the experience twice, I know it’s tremendously easy to make a wrong move in that moment, because your instincts are telling you to go all John McLean on them and grab the gun and fight back, but your logic is telling you no, simply submit, and you have only a fraction of a second to get your decision making structure worked out or else your brains are going to be splattered across the sidewalk. When the police kill someone who makes a false move like that, nobody cares; they just assume it was their own fault for moving improperly.
I think it’s quite likely that the shooter has been through similar situations… or at the very least, he’s watched it on Cops. We’ve all been told that this kind of thing is necessary for a safe society.
So how can we really blame him for doing the exact same thing? He simply learned from the very people we uphold as heroes and from the general concept our society has that preemptive strikes are morally acceptable. What would charging him with attempted murder or reckless endangerment even do? It wouldn’t do anything to quell the fear that the next gangster might have in that situation, and in five or ten years when he’s back on the streets, how will it have addressed the deeper psychological problems that caused him to fire that gun? In the end, all the law enforcement and prison system will teach him is that he needs to show off an even bigger dick.
So I think I may have over reacted to the so-called “murder” that I witnessed last week. The news stories I’ve read made it sound a lot less serious than what it looked like from my apartment, and sounds like the guy actually survived despite being shot in the face. I remember watching him being shot at least a few times, and seem to remember hearing around 15 gunshots total, then he was just lying there and I watched him as closely as I could for several minutes before the police showed up and he sure wasn’t moving. I never actually saw him getting hit, but he was maybe fifteen feet away and I couldn’t imagine how the shooter could have missed that many times, so I guess I just assumed there was no way he could have survived.
I talked to a friend who told me that gangsters and gun-toting drama queens like this usually don’t shoot to kill in these situations, that they usually aim high or low, and their real intent is, as he put it, “to show off their big dick,” and just scare the crap out of someone, but in reality the shooter is usually the one who’s scared because he’s probably never killed anyone before and especially not with all those witnesses. I guess that kind of psychology never occurred to me. If I pull out a gun and shoot someone, I would intend for them to die. I’d be afraid if I wounded someone they’d just come back for me later. But I’ve only shot a gun a few times in my life, and certainly never at a person, and I’ve never had any real desire to own one, so I guess I have no idea of the psychology of people who actually carry guns and would do something like this.
But there’s still a few things that bother me about this whole thing. First was when I went into the bar the next day for a burger and heard the bartender talking about it. Apparently she had called 911 before shots were ever fired and tried to convince the police to come in and break up the fight, but they had refused, saying it was too dangerous, even though the bartender, bar owner and a number of other innocent witnesses were all right there. Instead, the police waited down the street a block or two away for all the shooting to be done with so they could catch everyone while they were fleeing the scene.
I’ve told people this part of the story and everyone has seemed very shocked by it, but to me it makes perfect sense. The cops aren’t there to prevent crime, they are there to punish crime after it occurs, and naturally they are going to choose to protect themselves before they try to protect innocent victims, which I think would be the same for just about anyone.
But I often wonder if part of it is the fact that police want these types of things to occur, and purposely waited because they wanted a crime to be committed. The more gang violence that goes down, the more secure they are in their jobs and the more people support them. It also makes the gangs more likely to target each other than to start targeting police. Law enforcement really has no logical reason to try to prevent crime from happening, and crime prevention, quite simply, is not anywhere in their job description.
Besides, if cops were really interested in preventing crime they would have become teachers or social workers or YMCA counselors or foster parents. Those are the people that are truly making our streets safer.
I was afraid right after I watched that guy get shot that this would shake up my belief in anarchism and make me second-guess my distaste for police and law enforcement, since these are the kind of events people always cite as being examples of why we need police, but that certainly did not happen.
The other thing that bothers me is the fact that the news articles I read did not match up very closely with what I saw. Apparently the police reported that there were 40 people, all wearing white t-shirts. I remember 10-15 people, only a few of them wearing white t-shirts. They also weren’t clear on how many shots were fired, and one article seemed to imply that only one shot had been fired. I don’t see how these things could be possible. I don’t think I hallucinated all those gunshots, and I don’t see how 40 people could have all gotten away in the two–possibly three–vehicles I saw drive away. I didn’t see anyone fleeing on foot, though I suppose I could have missed a few, but there’s no way I could have overlooked 20-30 people fleeing on foot.
So either I completely mis-remembered the entire thing and essentially hallucinated, or the newspapers are not taking responsibility for the things they print, or the police are flat-out lying to the news reporters or just making stuff up to get them off their backs.
If I hallucinated the whole thing, that means that any witness to any crime could have the same problem and can see things in a way that’s completely separate from reality and not have the slightest idea that they were hallucinations brought on by raging emotions. This is one reason why I believe there is always reasonable doubt in a court conviction.
But I don’t believe I hallucinated. I think the newspapers are just trying to sell their papers so they can help feed our economy and make money for themselves, so they have to print a story before anyone else does, and the police are just tired of dealing with them; perhaps they’re tired of telling the reporters the story and having them mis-interpret it and have just given up, so they just tell them whatever.
Then people read all these articles and use them to form their opinions and world view… or they read stuff like my blog, where I have unwittingly exaggerated even more than the reporters I’m scolding 🙂
About 45 minutes ago, a little after 1:00 AM… I had just finished watching the final episode of Lost a few minutes earlier while spending a couple good hours on the exercise bike when I heard some fighting across the street from my apartment at the bar and grill where I occasionally eat dinner. This is pretty normal at this time of night. People frequently congregate outside the bar and scream and yell at each other, though I normally can’t understand what they’re saying. This time it was one or two women screaming “nigger!” repeatedly at some other guy with a whole mess of other people, maybe ten or so, pushing and yelling at each other and basically acting like children, which again, is quite normal.
I hopped in the shower thinking nothing of it and had the water running for probably less than a minute when I heard what I thought was a gunshot, though I couldn’t be certain. It just sounded like fireworks, as I’ve never really been around gunshots before. I jumped out of the shower and ran to my backpack, since that’s where I normally keep my phone, but then remembered I’d plugged it in to recharge so I ran to the wall and grabbed it then ran to the window, all the while hearing more gunshots. I looked out to see the group of people had moved further into the parking lot and one dude with a little pistol was firing shot after shot into another guy’s chest from maybe fifteen feet away. Somehow I didn’t even stop to consider the possibility of stray bullets or anyone wanting to eliminate witnesses.
Then everyone scattered, driving away with screeching tires, leaving the one guy lying motionless on the pavement.
During all this I was trying to navigate into the dialer program on my phone, then for some reason I tried opening my address book, as though I have 911 in my contact list, then had to go back to the dialer and delete the old number I’d previously dialed, then called 911. Then I sat on hold for two, three, maybe five minutes, and by the time someone answered the police were already pulling into the parking lot.
Then I realized I’d spent all my mental energy trying to dial that phone and hadn’t really taken stock of everything that was going on. I didn’t get a description of anyone. I couldn’t remember what kind of cars they were driving, I didn’t count the shots, nor the number of people. There were two, possibly three cars. All I remember was there was a lot of people and a lot of gunshots. I’m pretty sure the shooter was wearing a clean white t-shirt, but even that I can’t be certain of. I saw at least one shooter; there could have been another, but the one guy with the gun didn’t seem to be trying to protect himself.
I always thought that if I found myself in a situation like this, I’d just be calm and take everything down, but it just doesn’t work like that. In my defense, though, I’ve never been big on catching the bad guy. In that moment I just wanted to make certain that the guy got medical attention as quickly as possible, even though I’m pretty sure it was a lost cause.
It was like something out of a gangster movie and I’m still in shock as I write this. I already wrote an email to work telling them I was coming in late and I’ve poured myself a stiff drink… which is probably ironic since no doubt it was alcohol that contributed to this.
I remember just a couple weeks ago someone inside that bar was telling me that fights never broke out around there, that it was a surprisingly peaceful bar, and I spoke up and had to differ with him, telling him that I live right across the street and regularly hear dramatic fighting around this time of night.
And one other ironic thing was that I was at the local sex club earlier tonight for a writers group meeting and was hearing people in the next room getting tied up, screaming, getting whipped and spanked and all sorts of crazy, dramatic noises. I remember from my membership orientation, however, another new member asking one of the directors what the craziest, most fucked up non-consensual thing that had ever happened in the 11 year history of the sex club after having over ten thousand members walk through their door. The director answered something like, “There was this one time that a guy came in and was hitting on all the ladies and he smacked a girl’s ass without her permission, so she complained about him. When someone went to give him a warning, he slapped her on the ass, so we banned him for life and he left without a major incident. That’s about the worst thing I can think of.”
I’ve been thinking about the irony of that for the last two years that I’ve been a member at the CSPC, wondering what kind of stories you would get if you went in to any bar in America and asked the same question. And yet there are so many people who want the sex club shut down for moral reasons, while there are countless bars in the country that are no different than the one across the street from my apartment.
I think I’m gonna go in there tomorrow night and have a bacon-cheeseburger and a gin and tonic, and what do you want to bet they’ll be serving just as much alcohol as they always do?
It’s 3:05 now, and I’m still wide awake, still not thinking clearly.
The other day I was telling a story about a time when I was going to lunch with a bunch of co-workers and we tried to cram too many people into an elevator. As everyone was trying to jam in, I tried to tell them that we were over the weight limit, but everyone insisted it wouldn’t be a problem. When we finally got everyone wedged in, we found that the doors wouldn’t close. This as an example of blind faith as we all felt that just because there’s regulations and inspectors, elevators must be foolproof, therefore we didn’t really need to take personal responsibility for their appropriate use.
Then the person I was telling this to mentioned that someone we both know believes that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. This is based on his theory that the government wouldn’t allow them to be sold if they were actually harmful. This is what you would call blind faith and this phenomenon is one of the core reasons I’m an anarchist. Many people don’t recognize the dangers this kind of faith represents in the long term.
This faith in government constantly shapes our culture in ways that can quickly get out of control. Laws in a democracy are written based on public opinion, not on facts or science. A huge proportion of our society then bases their opinions on law, and also largely ignores facts and science. This creates a reciprocal effect that sends our society down a path that has nothing to do with logic and opens up opportunities for shady businesses and special interest groups to manipulate the process to their own benefit.
This type of thing can be seen in many other areas. Global warming obviously is affected because people believe that if we were really headed toward massive environmental disaster, the government would be doing something about it. People believe that obesity is not a serious health concern because no one is thrown in jail for being fat. People who support the drug war and want marijuana smokers to be put in prison are no doubt people who have never known a marijuana smoker nor studied the actual effects of the drug or how legalization has worked in other parts of the world. They simply have blind faith that their government would not create cruel and unfair laws.
People in our society tend to base their opinions on the laws, and the laws are based mostly on their opinions. As we allow this cycle to continue, we will move further away from a safe and logical organization and closer to increasingly dangerous and volatile social situations. Just one more reason to be an anarchist.
I found this little bit that I wrote a few years ago when sifting through my old scribblings.
If a person runs from the police, many people use this as evidence of their guilt of the crime to which they are accused, but I believe this prejudice to be gravely mistaken. An innocent person, when confronted by the police with a crime is caught off guard and bombarded with numerous confusing emotions. He does not have time to think rationally, leaving him more likely to choose something like fleeing from the law. A guilty person, on the other hand, has had a significantly longer period of time to consider his choices, is well aware of the possibility of being confronted by the police, and has already decided the most practical course of action, which is to either work with, manipulate, or lie to the legal system.
The second problem is that an innocent person often has no knowledge of the actual crime, and therefore has no idea what sort of evidence might be presented against him, or what people might say, so he has a greatly reduced ability to create a believable defense.
I heard on the radio the other day about a group of 40 people who were suing the city, saying that they received unfair tickets given out by the automatic photograph system at red lights. It costs $100 for running a red light, and they felt that it should be closer to $20. The judge, however, felt $100 was not an unfair ticket price.
My first instinct was to side with the judge and if not for my anarchist ideals, I wouldn’t have thought twice about this. People really shouldn’t be running red lights, and $20, which for me represents barely more than half an hour’s work, or even $100 seems like an insignificant sum in exchange for putting people’s lives in danger for someone’s impatience.
My anarchist side, however, sees a couple problems. First is that half of these people, if not more, are not running red lights on purpose. Like most people, they had no intention of doing anything wrong, and would not choose to do it again, with or without the ticket. Accidents happen and people make mistakes. The judge knew this. We all know this. If this weren’t true, we could just raise the price of a ticket to a thousand dollars, maybe throw in a merciless beating from a police officer and we could put an end to people running red lights once and for all. Ultimately, tickets are not intended to promote public safety. They are intended to make a profit.
The other issue is the differences in wages and salaries. The judge is probably paid a good $140,000 a year to pass judgment over the lives of others and act like he knows the difference between right and wrong better than everyone else. $100 is completely fair to him. It’s less than a slap on the wrist. But he forgets—or refuses to admit—that many people do not make $140,000 a year. Just six years ago I would work a full shift, finding myself sticky with sweat, and have barely fifty bucks to show for it. Some people work for that kind of pay and have kids to feed. A $100 loss can cause very real problems for those people. The average judge simply can’t understand that, and sometimes I can’t understand it either, after just a few years of making good wages. Working for a living seems like a whole different world, so I can understand how judges and lawyers can so easily lose all compassion for the difficulties that normal people face. This is just one of many reasons I believe the core concepts of criminal justice and tickets are inherently unfair.
The other day I heard someone talking about a time when he was on a jury. He said, “It was one of those cases where we all knew he was guilty but just couldn’t find the evidence.”
This frightened me because everyone else seemed to nod as though they know the situation… but I’m wondering how is that even possible? If you don’t have evidence, isn’t that just a modern witch hunt? During the real witch hunts, the persecutors felt every bit as strongly that they were right.
Do people just look at someone and see their cold-hearted expression and simply decide that they’re guilty?
I can think of a lot of situations growing up where a teacher or babysitter would think I did something and decide I was guilty based on my facial expressions or inability to defend myself verbally; and they were wrong every time.
The problem is that there are certain people that just look guilty, who have that guilty persona about them… quite frequently they are guilty of something, but not of what you think they are. I think I may have been one of those people growing up. I always felt as though I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t know what. I wanted to be a good person; I wanted to follow the rules, but every once in a while I would get in trouble for something I didn’t understand, or something I flat out didn’t do, and it made me bitter, angry and scared, which showed up in my face and body language, confirming for everyone that I was guilty.
The other day in my post about the IRS I mentioned that sometimes it seems like every day I find another reason, piled on top of my already endless list of reasons, to be an anarchist. Today was no exception.
I noticed a couple times a headline about a Seattle bus tunnel beating. Normally when I hear the word ‘beating’ I think police brutality, but the front page didn’t mention that, so I thought, “Well, gee maybe this will be the one time where the authority figures are not the bad guys.”
Reading on, however, I discovered that the authorities had been present at the beatings, in fact three of them stood and watched as a fifteen year old girl was violently beaten. They called 911, but did little else to help her because of their policy of non-interferance. They were following the rules, the same rules that are supposedly designed to protect us.
We rely psychologically on the security guards in the bus tunnels for our safety. We wander around the tunnel without worrying about things like this because we think that security is there to protect us, and we choose not to intervene in things like this because as a society, we have placed the responsibility for that onto the authority figures. If not for the security guards and their rules and regulations, that girl could have found someone more reliable to protect her, like a random stranger.
The video reminds me of the time the police tried to convince an acquantance of mine to kill me by telling him a bunch of lies–and a few truths they promised to keep secret. He recruited a friend who attacked and beat me in a manner very similar to what you see on that video, with the multiple, full-force kicks to the head. Fortunately my beating occurred in a shady biker-bar with no authority figures. Instead, a couple drunk college students intervened and possibly saved my life.