Full of rage, neck veins bulging, he assaults his victim. His mind is gone, he behaves like a robot, not thinking. He is out of control. He could hurt, he could injure, he could kill.
He could be a cop, one of those who have killed someone, probably an unarmed black man, who may well be completely innocent. Or he could be Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a Baltimore resident with a long criminal record who went to New York just so he could shoot a New York cop, after which he shot himself. Or he could be one of any number of people who fail to respect others, and have lost control of themselves for the moment.
The lives of all these victims of mindless murder count, but so do the lives of the killers. How is it possible for anyone to become so screwed up that they commit these crimes and atrocities without the slightest compassion for their victims and their families, without even understanding the havoc they create, the great sorrow and endless grief? Without understand how terribly wrong, how unforgivable their crimes.
The lives of victims
of mindless murder count,
but so do the lives of the killers.
It’s not that they automatically become killing machines when they have a gun in their hands. One of the greatest fears of soldiers in every war is that they will kill someone. In the Civil War, every shot required a halt to reload by putting a powder packet, then a ball, then packing, into the breech end of the gun and tamping it down. After one significant battle, some dead soldiers were found to have reloaded as many as eight times without ever having fired a shot, so afraid were they that they might kill someone. During WWII, four out of five infantrymen admitted to faking shooting at the enemy.
In our military, as in most others, considerable effort is made to change the perception of the enemy, soldiers or civilians or children, into sub-humans, so they can be killed without conscience. Wars in Asia involved calling the enemy “gooks”. During WWII, Germans were “krauts”. Supposedly that made for conscience-free killing. But it never really worked, and many of the veterans of every war suffered such severe PTSD they took their own lives. This is especially true today.
Cops who have lost control
over their own behavior
are not necessarily bad persons.
Every serial killer shares a history. This history most probably involves brain injury in the womb from drugs and/or alcohol, so he was born handicapped. It most likely also involves parents who were themselves abused, whose parents were druggies or alcoholics, and who provided a most horrible abusive life for their child. My bet is that this is the history of Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Such a child is largely doomed from birth, and that is why it is so terribly important for society to intervene when a pregnant young woman is compromised by chemical abuse and a lousy family history. Doing so can bring a halt to an enduring cycle. Whatever the cost, the social savings are immeasurable.
Today the most public abuses in the US come from enraged, out-of-control cops. I needn’t mention the ongoing list of unarmed people, mostly African-American males, whose lives have been ended by such cops. And yet…
It is not just the fact that these men are cops. I have personally witnessed two recent incidents in which the San Francisco police were exemplary, managing men who were behaving abnormally without ever raising their voices, and getting them to cooperate with them. No shooting on sight, no screaming at them, no wrestling them down to overcome them.
Cops showing symptoms of severe stress
should be at least temporarily
removed from duty.
I suggest that the cops who have lost control over their own behavior are not necessarily bad persons. Certainly, the demonstrators who refer to all police as “pigs” who should be killed on sight are themselves short on rational thought.
I suggest that a cop who has lost control of his own behavior and reacts with rage to the common conflicts that the police encounter either suffers from a form of PTSD himself, and maybe has a history not completely unlike that of a typical serial killer, that is, abuse as a child. Cops showing symptoms of severe stress, including irrational rage, should be at least temporarily removed from duty where they are likely to experience trauma, lest they create another of the all-too-common murders we have seen lately. They should get an opportunity to depressurize, and to receive counseling.
Those of us who are angry about the ongoing cases of police brutality, as well we should be, should also recognize that police work can be psychologically brutal, and police should be respected even as we rage against police abuses. Most cops, after all, are good people doing a difficult job in which they are sometimes killed.