Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Willfully Blind?

Last night on Fox News, at the end of the Hannity and Colmes Show, they ran a live feed of a car chase (from L.A. of course), showing a car going about 30 miles per hour or so, surrounded by police cars. Just as they hit the top of the hour, and Greta Van Susteren came on, the perpetrator surrendered. Now we had Greta, Hannity, and Colmes, along with a few guests all miked up as the perp was taken into custody. He exited the vehicle, docile as could be, following instructions, lying down in the street, first here, then there, then, when all was exactly as the (unheard) police officer was evidently commanding, the LAPD moved in to cuff the fellow. As the police came upon him, I gasped, as the first cop to reach him drop-kicked his knee right into the part of the guy's back that is directly between the shoulder blades. That cop kept his entire weight on the perp for about 20 to 25 seconds, until he was all cuffed up and ready to transport. All the while, Greta and friends chatted on about what they thought they were seeing.

But they didn't see what I saw! They even commented on how gentle the cops were being to the poor misguided fellow, and how lucky he was to have been arrested by such understanding and respectful police officers. Meanwhile, this poor bastard was carrying the full, doughnut enhanced weight or one mean, husky, member of L.A.'s finest.

Where do I find my outrage? I surprised myself with the virulence of my reaction to the blithe indifference to the suffering of a fellow human being shown by the talking heads. Members of the thoughtless wing of the law and order right, like Sean Hannity, are always assumed to be insensitive to the suffering of swarthy criminal types. Committed leftists like Colmes and Van Susteren have become even more bellicose in their prescriptions for tough treatment for criminals, Van Susteren's background as a defense attorney notwithstanding. It was their blindness that outraged me. If they had said: "Good for the cops, they got that brown bastard" I would have understood, at least, where they were coming from. But they acted as if it had not even happened. They were absolutely insensitive to the suffering of a fellow human being.

I believe that this is part of a syndrome wherein a large portion of the population can not envision the possibility that such things could ever happen, to them. No cop will ever abuse them, because they will never steal a car. So investing the police with extralegal power to brutalize and otherwise undermine the rights of the accused is ok. They have never been beaten by a cop, so they never will be! Meanwhile, a teacher I know very well was once beaten to within an inch of his life for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I myself have been exposed to the tender mercies of the NYPD during the Giuliani years, and I am no swarthy criminal type. Every black person knows what I am talking about, but last night, the entire party was white.

I prescribe more Dostoyefsky, more Kafka, for the reading lists of those who are confident that "they will never come for me." If there is one thing we have learned, it is that, they just might. What would have those same voices have said on Kristallnacht?